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The Shrinking of the Middle Class in America

The Shrinking of the Middle Class in America

Even as the economy is reported to be in ‘recovery’ we continue to hear about the long-term impact of the ‘Great Recession’ on the Middle Class, particularly that it is shrinking. Is it true? Take a look at the data, and it’s hard to disagree. Fewer households are falling into the mid-range income levels, and overall median household income is still well below it’s all-time high reached in the year 2000.  

We’ve charted the most recent median income data of all U.S. households, as reported by the Census Bureau, shown in 2012 dollars (i.e. adjusted for inflation). This figure has dropped more than $5,000 from 2000 to 2012. Economic analyst, Robert Reich, has suggested defining the middle class as those who earn 50% above or below the median income. This would mean the range of middle class incomes has also declined in the last decade as well:

  • 2000 middle class income range:  $28,156 – $84,467
  • 2012 middle class income range: $25,589 – $76,769

Median HH Income 1967-2012 ranges

Now, let’s visualize the data on a map utilizing our GeoMetrx online mapping tool. Take a look at how 2000 median household income (by county) compared to 2013 median household income, also adjusted for inflation. Median HH Income ranges from lower to higher (lighter green to darker green), and there is a distinct shift to lighter green from 2000 to 2013. In particular, note the Detroit, Dallas/Ft. Worth, and San Francisco Bay Area regions.

Median HH Income 2000

Median HH Income 2013 highlighted

How will this affect your business concept, franchise planning and sales territory mapping strategies? For more information on how GeoMetrx can help, please call us today at 1.888.848.4436 or request a free demo online. Let our experts help you make the most of your business concept.

Why You Should Franchise Your Business

Why You Should Franchise Your Business

Franchising is all about replicating a well-defined, proven and successful business concept. There are plenty of benefits to reap, both financial and market-based, when choosing to franchise. The Franchise Map - Eastern.Midwest USfranchisor and franchisee each have financial and emotional interest and investment in the business, creating an environment of collaboration and commitment. Choosing the right franchise partners is critical. Not all will have the needed level of motivation and ability to succeed; the selection process must be rigorous and thorough.

Market Benefits:

Expansion – a franchise network can expand more quickly than company owned businesses, as the franchisees are fueling the process with new investment capital without tapping into the parent company’s resources, bankers or other investors.

Talent – in addition to possessing local area market knowledge and a community presence, most franchisees tend to be highly qualified, hardworking people who would prefer to invest in a business in return for profits versus taking a salary as an employee; they share the entrepreneurial spirit.

Exposure – increased ‘natural’ advertising through regional, national or even global presence; consumers in one market often promote interest in your business with consumers in other markets, especially as the power and reach of social media continues to swell.

Financial Benefits:

Set-up Costs – The franchisee pays a fee to become part of your business, and absorbs the cost of setting up the franchise, as well as recruiting and training staff, and day-to-day operational costs.

Revenue – In addition to incurring the operational expenses, the franchisee will continue to pay a percentage of their revenue through royalties for the duration of the franchise agreement.

Economy – Supplier costs can be reduced by obtaining lower per unit prices as volume increases across the entire franchise network, benefiting both the franchisor and franchisees.

Management – the day-to-day running of the business units is managed by the franchisee via a clearly defined franchise operations manual; this frees up the franchisor to focus on managing the overall brand, while monitoring the key performance indicators (KPI) of the business units.

Opposing ArrowsMaintaining a consistent product and level of service, critical to the long-term success of the business, is a goal that is often aligned for both parties.  However, there are some areas where conflict can arise between franchisors and franchisees. Like any business model there are not only benefits, but drawbacks.

A franchisee is an independent business owner, and even with a franchise agreement, enforcing compliance can be challenging when the goals of each are at odds. Coupons and promotions are the simplest example. Coupons (or promotions), while driving in business and increasing sales, don’t always increase profits. Franchisors benefit from increased sales while franchisees benefit from increased profits.

Sharing the costs of advertising campaigns can also be challenging with some franchisees hoping to get a ‘free ride’ off the efforts of other nearby franchise owners rather than participating directly. Additionally, introducing new products or innovations can be tedious as well, requiring the franchisor to negotiate the process rather than simply putting it in place.

GrowthSuccess2If you decide to franchise your business, be sure to consult the experts such as a franchise consultant and a franchise attorney. Additional industry experts can be called on as you move forward such as franchise architects, recruiters, marketers and other operational advisers. Franchising isn’t the right solution for every business concept, but when the advantages outweigh the disadvantages it can be an excellent formula for growing your business exponentially. 

Geo-Targeting Your Website

Geo-Targeting Your Website

Target_Map_GeoTargetingWe are all familiar with Google, Bing and other similar search engines getting in our heads, offering suggested searches based on just a few letters being entered in the search box… did you mean…? Sometimes it’s helpful, sometimes it’s annoying, and sometimes it’s downright scary! Google stores every bit of information it receives from every single user. When you enter a search string, Google will offer the most common searches that match the words you are entering, combined with your location information. What is trending in Los Angeles may be different than what is trending in Memphis, and certainly different than what is trending in other countries. This overwhelming amount of data drives the information and suggested websites Google returns.

Many of us, however, may not realize the information in the settings of a website is equally important and powerful in returning search results to the user. If you want your website, or a particular page, to be found by customers within your geographic area, you can influence how your site appears in search results. Google, Bing and other search engines allow website Dartsowners to set a specific geographic target (geo-targeting) for the site overall or for specific pages. This is in addition to generic, top-level domain address information (IP address, location information, links, etc.), and country-coded domains (.us, .au, .fr, etc.). Geo-targeting allows search engines to return results containing optimized content to users based on their location including country, region, state, city, metro area, and even as specific as a neighborhood zip code. The best way to set geo-targeting for your website is to create separate profile pages for each geographic area you want to target.

To check your geographic target settings on Google, visit the Webmaster Tools Home page, click Site Settings, select Geographic target, and choose your options (click here for instructions). For Bing, the steps are a bit more complicated (click here for instructions). Happy Targeting!!!

Newspaper Map – World Newspapers

Newspaper Map – Web Resource

Okay news junkies and map geeks, check out this fabulous interactive website: www.newspapermap.com! Not only is it visually stunning, it is an excellent online tool for anyone interested in local news.

Newpaper Map All

The developers of the website, located in Sweden, have this motto:

All news is local news
Local perspectives on global news. In your language.

The website is one giant map highlighting the location and language of more than 10,000 newspapers around the world. You can search for specific newspapers, zoom in on a geographical area or filter by language. Mainstream papers are highlighted with a large marker, and regional papers are represented with a small marker. Click on any marker for the name of the paper and a link to its website. A list of translation languages are offered or you can opt to translate the website with the click of a button once there. You can even filter the website by language. Check it out – but be warned, it can be addicting!

Newspaper Map Boston Newspaper Map Boston Globe

ISPCA Emergency Beacon System

ISPCA Emergency Beacon System

Malaysian AirlinesMissing Malaysian Flight MH370 continues to be a mystery. For the families of those aboard, hope remains that the passengers and crew will be found alive. Without any conclusive evidence the plane has been lost at sea, it is easy to understand. A CNN report just released today tells of a beacon (ELT – Emergency Location Transmitter) system aboard the aircraft that did not send a distress signal, further fueling the hope that the plane landed safely, somewhere.  ELTs are designed to activate and transmit a distress signal when a crash is detected. No such signals from any of the four ELTs aboard the flight have been detected.

What’s particularly fascinating about ELTs from a geographic standpoint is how the system came to be and how it works.  A little known group, the International Cospas-Sarsat Programme (ICSPA) was first formed in 1979 as a joint effort by Canada, France, the United States and the former Soviet Union, and was formally constituted as an intergovernmental organization in 1988. The program is a satellite-based search and rescue (SAR) distress alert detection and information system, which ‘listens and watches’ for emergency beacon signals activated by aircraft, ships and backcountry hikers in distress. Whenever a distress radio beacon (ELTs for aviation use, EPIRBs for maritime use, and PLBs for personal use)  is detected, SAR services are immediately alerted, with the objective being to reduce, as much as possible, any delays in the time required to locate the people in distress and provide assistance.

Cospas-Sarsat SystemTo achieve this, the ISPCA utilizes instruments aboard geostationary and low-altitude satellites in conjuction with ground-receiving stations, also known as LUTs (Local User Terminals).  The emergency beacon radio signals are received by the satellites, downlinked to LUTs, which process the signals and generate distress alerts. The distress alerts are then transmitted to Mission Control Centers which forward them to the appropriate SAR services.

GeoStationary OrbitA geostationary satellite orbits in synch with the plane of the equator so that it remains “stationary” in relation to a fixed point on the surface of the Earth. A low-altitude satellite, on the other hand, orbits the earth at a distance of approximately 100 miles above the surface and can make a complete journey around the globe in about 90 minutes. Utilizing both types of satellites increases the probability to quickly intercept emergency beacon signals.

The Cospas-Sarsat program claims to have made its first rescue of three people in 1982, when a light aircraft in Canada crashed. As of December 2012, the program reports having provided assistance in rescuing over 35,000 people in 9,600 separate incidents. With more than 1.2 million emergency beacons around the world, the program states it rescues about 5 people a day. Personal Locator Beacons (PLBs) can be purchased for just a few hundred dollars. For folks who like to venture into the backcountry where no other form of communication is available, these devices can and do save lives.

Painting Industry – Looking Brighter

Painting Industry – Looking Brighter

Paint BrushThe painting industry includes businesses primarily involved in applying paint, special coatings and wall coverings to the interiors and exteriors of buildings for both residential and non-residential customers.  As such, the industry is closely tied with overall trends in home improvement and the construction industry. The past five years have been difficult for most businesses and individuals.

The housing market has been especially hard hit and the effects have rippled through many supporting industries. While the home improvement industry has seen growth (see our post from December 2013), the construction industry has been suffering due to low demand for new housing, and commercial space. However, both residential and non-residential construction is beginning to regain strength, leading to more work for painters and other contractors. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of painters is projected to grow 20 percent (faster than average) from 2012 to 2022. 

Painting the exterior of homes and commercial buildings needs to be done regularly. Exterior paint has a relatively short life span, and many experts recommend repainting at least every five years, particularly to preserve wood siding. Changing trends in colors, both House Paintinginterior and exterior also continue to fuel demand for painting contractors. While there are a great many do-it-yourselfers, there are also a considerable number of folks who’d much rather hire the work done, especially as more Americans return to the work force and disposable incomes increase.

The majority of paint contracting companies are sole proprietorships, often with five employees or less. There are several major painting franchise players in the market as well. Most notable are:

The strong forecast for recovery in both the housing market and construction industry over the next five years is good news for the painting industry. Opportunities for small businesses to expand as well as enter the franchise market also will continue to increase.

Below are two heat maps generated from our GeoMetrx territory mapping application. The first heat map displays the concentration, by county, of homes with repainted exteriors in the last year. The second heat map displays the concentration of those who hired a professional painter or other individual to do the work.

Exterior Painting - House Painted Last Year

Exterior Painting - Professional or Other - House Painted Last Year

Additional data resources available at GeoMetrx include housing types (single family, multiple dwellings, etc.), demographics, competitive intelligence and more. Mapping this data along with our own proprietary customer data is a strong aid in developing your strategy to grow your business. To learn more about how GeoMetrx can help your painting business map its success, call today at 1.888.848.4436 or request a free demo online. Let our experts help you make the most of your business concept.

World’s Largest Oil Spills (25th Anniversary of Exxon-Valdez)

OilDropOn March 24, 1989, exactly 25 years ago today, the Exxon Valdez struck a reef in the Prince William Sound in Alaska. More than 11 million gallons of crude oil spilled into the pristine water. It was the largest oil spill in the U.S. at the time. The disaster had far-reaching effects. With fishermen no longer able to practice their livelihood and local businesses going bankrupt, drug and alcohol abuse, domestic violence and depression dramatically increased in Cordova, the hardest hit town in the aftermath of the disaster. While economically things are better, the environmental recovery is still incomplete. Local resident Michelle O’Leary reminds us “there’s no way to put the oil back once it spills.” (Source: NPR)

Just this weekend, on Saturday, March 22, 2014, a barge carrying nearly 1 million gallons of marine fuel oil collided with a ship in Galveston Bay. The shipping channel was closed between the bay and the Gulf of Mexico, backing up ship traffic as far as the eye could see and bringing business to a halt. How much of the especially heavy, sticky oil from the collision has leaked into the bay is not yet known. Any oil spill, no matter the size is an environmental and economic disaster. How much is 1 million gallons of oil? Well, for comparison, an Olympic size swimming pool holds approximately 660,000 gallons!

Largest oil spills in the world:

• 1991: Gulf War – Persian Gulf – 240-336 million gallons
• 2010: Deepwater Horizon – Gulf of Mexico – 205 million gallons
• 1979: Ixtoc I Oil Well – Gulf of Mexico – 140 million gallons
• 1979: Atlantic Empress –Caribbean Sea – 90 million gallons
• 1992: Mingbulak Fergana Valley – Uzbekistan (land spill) – 88 million gallons
• 1993: Nowruz Field Platform – Persian Gulf – 80 million gallons
• 1991: ABT Summer – Atlantic Ocean (near Angola) – 80 million gallons
• 1983: Castillo de Bellver – Saldanha Bay, South Africa – 79 million gallons
• 1978: Amoco Cadiz – English Channel – 69 million gallons
• 1988: Odyssey – North Sea (Nova Scotia) – 43 million gallons

World's Largest Oil Spills

The Exxon Valdez does not even make this list based on quantity of oil spilled, however, the environmental impact was by far the most damaging of all time affecting more than 1100 miles of coastline.

Minimum Wage in 2014

Minimum WageIn President Obama’s 2014 State of the Union address, minimum wage was once again a hot topic. Obama urged local leaders not to wait for Congress to act, but rather to take matters in their own hands and raise the minimum wage to $10.10, well above the current $7.25 federal minimum wage under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

In December 2011, we published a minimum wage post highlighting eight states raising their minimum wage as of Jan. 1, 2012, along with a tally of how the states stacked up against the federal minimum. Since that time, minimum wage increases have continued to occur across several states, many of them the ten states that adjust the rate annually, based on the Consumer Price Index, to account for inflation. Here is how the state counts stack up from 2011 to 2014.

State vs Fed Min Wage 2014 Table

For a complete table by state for the years 2011 through 2014 click here.

Additionally, the U.S. Department of Labor has an interactive map for tracking the minimum wage in each state as well as other U.S. jurisdictions, as shown in the image below.

Minimum Wage Map 2014

While the great debate rages on about the pros and cons of raising the minimum wage, there is plenty of evidence that the impact of increasing wages effects many aspects of the economy. It puts extra dollars in consumers’ pockets which historically leads to increased consumer spending which leads to job creation. Wage increases stimulate local economies. At the same time, higher wages also impact small businesses that rely on a minimum wage workforce and cannot directly absorb the wage hikes without passing costs on to consumers or reducing workforce.

How will these changes affect your business? How will these changes affect your sales and territory management strategy? It’s important to take income and wage metrics into account when making decisions for 2014 and beyond. Our GeoMetrx mapping software has a wealth of demographic data that can help you map your success. If you’d like to learn more, let us know.

NewsMap – visualizing data on a treemap

Visualizing data… that’s what mapping is all about. At GeoMetrx, our specialty is creating and mapping franchise territories and sales territories. Maps helps us conceptualize the story data is trying to tell in a way that is easy to understand. There is virtually no data World Newsthat cannot be mapped in some way, and while we tend to think of maps as being limited to physical geography, as important and valuable as that is, the truth is the only limit of mapping is our imagination.

Whenever we come across unique data mapping projects, we like to share them with you. Our most recent discovery is the NewsMap app (be patient it can take a moment to load), which visually reflects the constantly changing landscape of the Google News aggregator. Utilizing a treemap algorithm to display a large amount of information, the service has taken the concept a step further. The app divides news stories into bands that are divided by content and location around the globe. Users can view the biggest topics trending around the globe across all categories, or narrow in on a particular news segment in a single country. Below is a view of the current news stories trending across all categories in the U.S. at the time of the publication of this post (2/28/14):

NewsMap Image All

Much like a word cloud, the greater attention by media outlets to a given topic or newstory, the larger and more prominent the placement of the story in the treemap. Hover over a headline for a summary of the topic as well to see how many related articles are out there:

NewsMap Image Top Story

Currently, the app provides trending news for 19 countries grouped by 7 categories:

  • World
  • National
  • Business
  • Technology
  • Sports
  • Entertainment
  • Health

You can quickly register for a free account and customize your news settings. This app is one of the best ways to filter out all the noise on the Internet and quickly get a sense of the hottest topics. Funny, and true, story… a couple of weeks ago my son called home from World Thumbs Upcollege and he mentioned the flap about ‘flappy birds’, the app that was temporarily pulled out of the app stores by its owner. Thanks to NewsMap, I knew exactly what he was talking about. Seeing that it was a trending story that day, I hovered, read the summary and moved on, and enjoyed my son’s surprise that I was ‘hip’ to the latest tech gossip!

Floral Industry – Valentine’s Day Roses

Flower ArrangingOn this day of love, the floral industry is blooming! According to Florint.org (International Floral Organisation), 25% of adults in the U.S. purchased flowers or plants as gifts for Valentine’s Day in 2013. Men outpaced women 2 to 1 on this holiday (64% vs. 36%, respectively). Similar sales levels are expected in 2014.

Men give flowers mostly as a romantic gesture, while women are more likely to give flowers as a sign of caring to their daughters, mothers and friends. Not surprisingly, red roses are the most popular selection. The estimated number of roses produced for Valentine’s Day in 2013 was 233 million.

VDay Flower Type

If you have a desire to be in business for yourself and you have a passion for flowers and floral arranging, this may just be the industry for you. The floral industry has very low barriers to entry. No special education, training or experience is necessary. Start-up costs are relatively low and many begin as a home business providing flowers for weddings and other special occasions. Christmas is the biggest holiday for flowers, followed by Mother’s Day.

Floral Holidays

When opening a florist shop, location is essential to success. It’s important to locate your shop in a high-traffic area, with high visibility. Additionally, fast and efficient delivery is a must. Many florists are either part of a larger, national franchise or are members of a florist association which provides a national delivery network. It is estimated that as much as 25% of floral sales are from people ordering flowers outside the service area of their local shop.

In Philadelphia, the U.S. “City of ‘Brotherly’ Love,” we’ve plotted the location of florist shops (shown below). Combining this information with our demographics, business, and trade area data, including travel time, allows us to help with location analysis as well as franchise territory management through the use of our powerful GeoMetrx mapping software. Contact us today for more information at 1.888.848.4436.

Source: GeoMetrx.com

Source: GeoMetrx.com

2014 Franchise 500 Ranking

5 StarsThe 35th annual Franchise 500, compiled by Entrepreneur.com  reveals the top performers in franchising for 2014. Jumping to the number one spot is Anytime Fitness, a 24-hour gym franchise. The company was ranked #6 in 2013, a remarkable climb considering it first opened its doors in 2002. Based in Minneapolis, the company now has nearly 2,500 units, and boasts 1.9 million members. Over the next 5 years, another 1,500 units are expected to open. The average start-up costs range from $56K-350K.

The top 10 franchises, including average start-up costs are shown in the table below.

2014 Franchise 500 Top 10

The economic outlook for franchising in 2014 is strong, with the IFA expecting the number of franchise establishments to increase by 1.7% in the United States, reaching an estimated 770,368. Having the right tools to maximize territories for new establishments is a key strategy for success. If you’d like to learn more about our territory mapping software, we’re here to help.

Median Income vs. Median Rent Heat Maps

Median Income vs. Median Rent Heat Maps – business site location analysis tools

Income Rent BalanceWe hear a lot about the real estate market these days and how fluctuating costs are impacting local economies. If your business relies on minimum wage employees, for example, it will be more difficult to maintain a workforce if located in an area with high rents. Likewise, your business needs to be accessible to consumers who can afford your products or services. Furthermore, locating your business in a debt-strapped area could suppress earnings potential.

Kwelia, a company that provides competitive intelligence for the real estate market has created an interactive online heat mapping service at the census tract level. The heat maps allow you to quickly visualize median income, median rent per sq/ft., and most importantly, the combined effect of median rent as a percentage of median income. The maps are available for nearly every metro market in the U.S.

Showcased below is the median income / median rent for the southern portion of the Silicon Valley. The highlighted track (pointing cursor) includes Apple’s headquarters in Cupertino, CA. The median rental share of income in this region is a comfortable 16.6%. San Joaquin Valley to the east, on the other hand, at 46.2%, leaves residents with much less disposable income.

Median Income:

Source: Kwelia.com

Source: Kwelia.com

Median Rent/sq.ft.

Source: Kwelia.com

Source: Kwelia.com

Median Rental Share of Income

Source: Kwelia.com

Source: Kwelia.com

We’ve zoomed in on this same area and applied our GeoMetrx 2013 household income by census tract with an overlay of the top computer and electronic product manufacturers (annual sales over $1 million). You can see there is certainly a lot of competition for well-qualified employees which draws talent to the area and keeps salary levels (e.g. income levels) competitive as well. There is a symbiotic relationship between business activity and the real estate market. However, as the balance shifts between these two forces, the impact can be enormous as we saw in 2008, and the years following as the real estate market has struggled to regain its footing amid the long-running economic downturn.

2013 Median HH Income by Census Tract -- Top Computer & Electronic Product Manufacturers (NAICS 3341)w/Sales $1MM+Source: GeoMetrix.com

2013 Median HH Income by Census Tract —
Top Computer & Electronic Product Manufacturers (NAICS 3341)w/Sales $1MM+
Source: GeoMetrix.com

For a complete retail site selection analysis, consumer profiling and/or market analysis, our GeoMetrx web-based mapping software is loaded with rich demographic data, competitive business data and much more. If you are planning to start a new business, open additional offices or retail locations, or expand your franchise offerings, GeoMetrx can help maximize your decision making portfolio. Call us at 1.888.848.4436 for more information or request a custom demo today.

Meal Preparation: “Don’t Have Time” Heat Map – Service Franchise Opportunity

Meal Preparation: “Don’t Have Time”

Busy MomAs a society, time is a commodity of which we never seem to have enough. One of the casualties of lack of time is the shrinking number of families spending time together around the dinner table enjoying homemade meals. Meal preparation businesses are growing in popularity to fill this gap in our lives.

The map below depicts the number of people (Adult Pop 18+, 2013), by county, that have reported they “do not have the time to prepare and eat a healthy meal.” The amount of people in this situation increases from light yellow to dark blue. This is just one of many attitudinal and behavioral data sets available within  our GeoMetrx mapping application.

Combining such data along with demographics and a view of the  competitive landscape is an extremely useful resource for determining market potential. GeoMetrx has a rich database of all three data types.​

2013.12 Meal Preparation No TimeClick here to see a larger version of this map

GeoMetrx has the tools you need to assess the opportunities, locate the ideal site location, and evaluate the competition. For more information on how to obtain access to GeoMetrx tools and datasets, contact us today at 1.888.848.4436.

Meal Preparation Business – A Recipe for Success

Meal Preparation Business – A Recipe for Success

Family MealThe holidays are once again upon us and our busy factor is in overdrive! With the exception of a big holiday meal, we often find ourselves sacrificing time spent with our families around the dinner table. Studies show there are many great benefits of eating together, such as bonding through conversation, teaching children good manners, and more.

 “The family who eats together, stays together” 

A growing trend helping families reclaim time at the table is the meal preparation segment of the food industry. Meal preparation services come in many forms for those who lack the time to shop and prepare dinner each night. While meal preparation businesses may vary Food Preparationin the individual services provided, they all have in common the opportunity for families to purchase homemade meals, whether they will be consumed within several days or frozen for future use. Services range from simply providing the ingredients and work space, which allows customers to assemble their own meals, to preparing entire meals that only require reheating.

Most meal preparation businesses provide 2, 4 or 6 serving meals. Customers can typically purchase a single meal or enough for several weeks at one time. Many of these businesses are taking advantage of the web and allowing their customers to make appointments and order online, which has the added advantage of improved resource allocation and inventory control. Some of the services a meal preparation business may provide include:

  • Recipe creation
  • Menu planning
  • Ingredient preparation
  • Customer workspace
  • Full meal preparation
  • Meal delivery

Homemade MealMany of these services start out as home businesses, with the sole proprietor working out of their own family kitchen, and eventually expanding to a commercial kitchen as the business grows. A successful meal preparation business can easily become a franchise opportunity, as well, for a small business owner. In fact, it is likely the best recipe for success in this market segment as a single meal preparation business location will eventually be limited by its geographical reach.

If you enjoy food and working with others, starting a meal preparation business may be just the right small business choice. At GeoMetrx, our sales and franchise territory alignment application is the right tool to help you start a business or grow an existing business. In addition to managing your business territories, our service can provide an in-depth location and demographic analysis, market opportunity, and a view of the competitive landscape. Call us at 1.888.848.4436 or visit us on the web to request a demo today.

Best Satellite Image of 2013?

Best Satellite Image of 2013?

GlobeCameraWant to vote for your favorite image of the year from Digital Globe? The top 20 images have been narrowed to 5, and you can like your favorite(s) on their Facebook page. Voting is open until the end of the year (12/31/13). These are some pretty neat satellite images. How exactly did the photographer create the optical illusion of the Snake River that makes it look as if it is sitting above the surrounding terrain anyway?

Snake River - Digital Globe Photo Contest 2013

The top 20 images were all pretty neat as well. Click here to see the DigitalGlobe Top 20 Album.

Home Decor – An Improving Market

Home Decor – An ‘Improving’ Market

Home Decor StorefrontWhat many are now calling the ‘Great Recession’ that began in earnest in late 2008, continues to have far-reaching affects on the US and world economies. Signs of recovery are evident in many sectors, including the home decor market, which is ‘improving’ (pun intended!). The improvement is partially in response to the lagging housing market.

Along with many other industries and markets, the US housing market continues to show signs of recovery, yet it is far from what could be considered a full recovery. The number of overall existing home sales is up in 2013, vs. 2012, but the most recent report (Sept. 2013 data) showed a slight reduction in the number of sales over the previous month. Levels are still well below pre-recession activity:

Existing Home Sales Chart

Many Americans have changed their long term outlook on home ownership, and remodeling our current homes rather than upgrading to larger homes has never been more popular. Families are choosing to stay put and rework the spaces they already have. Home DIY Wall Paperingimprovement is something people have long enjoyed, but the desire to stretch our dollars further, combined with a bent for living a more sustainable lifestyle has pumped new life and energy into both the home improvement industry and home décor market. The home décor market, estimated to be a $65.2 billion annual segment, continues to thrive.

Fueled by the popularity of do-it-yourself (DIY) home improvement television shows, people are tapping into their own creativity to maximize and customize their living spaces.  Home improvement, home décor and home furnishing stores have been experiencing tremendous growth in the last decade. In addition to the change in home ownership attitude, another major factor contributing to the Paint Supply Setsuccess of many of these businesses is improved products and marketing, particularly pre-packaged kits with all the needed supplies bundled together. These kits make it easy for inexperienced homeowners to be successful in their projects, and much less frustrated!

As homeowners remodel and update existing spaces, they often choose to refurnish and accessorize these rooms with brand new items to match their freshly painted walls and gleaming new floors. This trend is being reflected through increased sales for home furnishing and home décor stores. Ready-made and attractive decorative accessories are very popular, and homeowners can mix and match pieces together to make unique and affordable spaces. Many direct sales home decor businesses have been booming as well such as PartyLite, Celebrating Home and Rendi, to name a few. These businesses have very easy entrance points for sole proprietors.

Many home furnishing stores are franchises, so whether you are interested in becoming a franchisee of an existing business or starting up your own chain of stores to franchise, GeoMetrx can provide an in-depth location analysis including an understanding of the competitive landscape. Call us at 1.888.848.4436 or visit us on the web to request a demo today.

New Beach Front Property? If all the ice melted…

When it comes to global warming, or rather the new, more PC term, climate change, there is one main theme – rising temperatures of both land and sea. While the debate rages on whether this threat is real or perceived, or whether it’s human induced or a natural geological cycle, one thing is certain, the earth is changing. But then it always has been and likely always will,  and this keeps our scientists very busy indeed!

In the September 2013 issue of National Geographic, a map was created in response to the question many of us have asked in recent years – “What if all the ice melted?” Well, for starters, the sea would rise an estimated 216 feet, and the most dramatic effect in the U.S. can be observed in Florida… er, wait, there would be NO Florida!!! Along with that, we would lose much of the rest of the Gulf Coast, as well as the entire Atlantic seaboard, San Diego, and more.

If All the Ice Melted - US

JASON TREAT, MATTHEW TWOMBLY, WEB BARR, MAGGIE SMITH, NGM STAFF. ART: KEES VEENENBOS.
SOURCES: PHILIPPE HUYBRECHTS, VRIJE UNIVERSITEIT BRUSSEL; RICHARD S. WILLIAMS, JR., WOODS HOLE RESEARCH CENTER; JAMES C. ZACHOS, UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, SANTA CRUZ; USGS; NOAA, ETOPO1 BEDROCK, 1 ARC-MINUTE GLOBAL RELIEF MODEL COPYRIGHT © SEPTEMBER 2013 NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC SOCIETY

But before those of us slightly inland from our current shorelines reassess our property values, it’s going to take awhile to melt the more than five million cubic miles of ice on Earth. According to National Geographic, “some scientists say it would take more than 5,000 years to melt it all. If we continue adding carbon to the atmosphere, we’ll very likely create an ice-free planet, with an average temperature of perhaps 80 degrees Fahrenheit instead of the current 58.” To see more, click on this link, or on the map above to view the affect on each of the continents.

Hurricane, Typhoon, or Cyclone? Location, Location, Location!

Philippines Map Haiyan

Weather around the world continues to be wild and unpredictable. Our hearts go out to everyone in the Philippines affected by super-Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) that made landfall on Nov. 8, 2013. The death toll has reached 4,000 and continues to climb. An estimated 9 to 13 million people have been affected by the storm in 44 provinces, 536 municipalities and 55 cities. The hardest hit city was Tacloban on the island of Leyte. The storm is one of the most powerful ever recorded.

The Western Pacific has the highest frequency of tropical cyclones (typhoons) north of the equator and experts fear more storms of similar magnitude are likely in the future. According to the Asian Development Bank, while the average number of cyclones per year has not risen significantly, the severity of individual events has increased due to rising temperatures of both the air and sea. The impact of damage from storm surge has increased as well given rising sea levels in the region.

In the aftermath, and from halfway around the world, my daughter asked what exactly was a typhoon. I explained to her it was just a different name for a hurricane, which got me to thinking, why are they different, and how does one know? I went searching for answers and found this graphic from David Simmer II’s Blography site.

TropicalStormNameMapDavid had this to say about his map: “It’s not a perfect map, of course… but it basically boils down like this: Historical British colonial regions like India and Australia use “Cyclone.” The Americas use “Hurricane.” Asia uses “Typhoon.” There are variations on all those. And, of course, local languages have many different names in their native tongues.”  The NOAA defines the location of these storms similarly: “In the Atlantic and Northeast Pacific, the term “hurricane” is used; a similar disturbance in the Northwest Pacific is called a “typhoon” and “cyclones” occur in the South Pacific and Indian Ocean.”

All these storms are initially referred to as tropical storms once winds reach a sustained 39 mph. The tropical storms are then given an actual name by the World Meteorological Organization, using forenames familiar in each region. The Philippines has its own naming system as well, hence Haiyan to the world, and Yolanda locally. Tropical storms become either a hurricane, typhoon or cyclone when winds reach a sustained 74 mph. As the storms escalate they can range from Category 1 (weakest) to Category 5 (strongest), except in Australia which has its own system for categorizing strength.

But back to the question… Why the different names (hurricane, typhoon, cyclone) for these storms? Well, it comes down to the same thing: location, or more precisely the regional influence on the local language. In a nutshell, here is the basic etymology of the three storms from dictionary.com:

Hurricane – Spanish (1545-55) huracán, and the Taino (an extinct Arawakan Indian tribe of the West Indies) hurakán 

Typhoon – Chinese (1580-90); akin to Chinese dàfēng, meaning great wind; altered by association with Greek typhôn, meaning violent wind.

Cyclone – introduced by British meteorologist Henry Piddington in 1848, perhaps from the Greek kyklôn, meaning revolving, and apparently confused by Piddington with kýklōma, meaning wheel or snake’s coil

While these storms are the same in cause and nature, there are some other interesting differences among hurricanes, typhoons and cyclones:

hurricane – The direction of the rotation of the storm depends on whether they occur north or south of the equator – clockwise if north and counter-clockwise if south.

– Seasons vary by location with the Atlantic and central Pacific hurricane season ranging from May to November; the south Pacific and Australia cyclone season ranging from November to April; and the northwestern Pacific typhoon season ranging nearly year-round.

– Frequency of northwest Pacific typhoons is the greatest with an average of 27 storms per season, while the average number of Atlantic hurricanes per season is 11.

No matter what you call them or where they occur, these storms can pack a real punch and are very dangerous. The power of Mother Nature is awesome and should never be underestimated.

 

 

 

 

Youth Sports Industry – A Growing Opportunity

Youth Sports Industry –  A Growing Opportunity

Fall BaseballOctober brings with it many wonderful happenings. The leaves are changing colors; kids, both young and old, are partaking in Halloween festivities; and sports are in the air. Baseball fans are enjoying the post-season with its play-offs and World Series match-ups; and football fans are gathering on weekends to root for their favorite teams. There are few things more American than fall baseball and football.

Professional sports is big business. Inspired by their idols in the big leagues, many kids hope to become the stars of tomorrow, and as a result the youth sports industry is growing by leaps and bounds. Kids have always participated in games and sports; however, the face Basketball Driveway Idleof youth sports has changed greatly over the last decade or two. Gone are the days of pick-up ballgames in empty sandlots, two-on-two in the driveway, or playing hockey in the street with sticks and rocks. Youth sports have become a network of independent organizations, competitive regional leagues, travel teams and tournament play, with parents, coaches, league organizers, referees and tournament operators organizing both practices and competition.

The National Council of Youth Sports (NYCS), reports more than 60 million boys and girls are registered in programs across the country. The most recent data from the Sports and Fitness Industry Association (SFIA) estimates nearly 70% of children (age 6-17) in the U.S. are playing team sports and three out of four teenagers are playing at least one team sport. While there is much debate surrounding the direction youth sports have taken, there is no arguing that opportunities to score big are rampant for innovative entrepreneurs. The team travel segment of youth sports is estimated to be $7 billion alone. Local communities are benefactors of the economic activity generated by the growing travel team phenomenon as well.

The “travel team” stratum of youth sports in particular has exploded in the last twenty years.Travel teams grew out of recreational league play, as players, parents and coaches sought more and better venues in which to compete. The teams mushroomed in Winning Teampopularity as new leagues were formed to promote their play, tournaments proliferated to match the best against the best and large indoor facilities multiplied in suburban areas permitting year-round training and competition. (Fullinwider, 2006)

Many leagues are grassroots organizations formed and operated by parents through local schools, churches or other community outlets. However, that too is expanding with companies such as i9, a youth sports league franchise. Based in Tampa, Florida, i9 provides sports leagues, camps and clinics for children ages 3-17, including flag football, soccer, basketball, T-Ball and even cheerleading. The company’s tagline: “traditional kids sports leagues without the traditional headaches!”

Parents are often overwhelmed by the demands on their time, and for many, the option to pay a participation fee and let others run the show can be a welcome opportunity. It also removes parents from coaching and refereeing positions, which can be a source of tension for many.

Today’s parents are busier than ever because in most households both work.  Additionally, we live in a world where all of our kid’s activities are scheduled and supervised.  Parents are constantly looking for new activities to engage, educate, exercise, and entertain their kids.  Today’s parent also demands great service, a great product, and great communication AND is willing to pay for it. Meanwhile, legacy youth sports leagues operate the same way they did twenty-five years ago. As in any industry today, there is room for an innovator. (Steve Cox, i9 Sports Franchise Owner)

Other opportunities to capitalize on the growing youth sports industry include:

  • Sporting Good AssortmentNew and Used Equipment Stores
    • ​as kids outgrow their equipment or change sports, there is plenty of used equipment deserving of a second wind
  • Photography/Videography Services
    • parents also enjoy capturing their kids’ big moments and team membership on film — weekend photographers can carve out a very lucrative niche taking team photos, individual portraits and live action shots
  • Online Management Tools/Apps
    • managing registrations, fees, scheduling, logistics, team stats, rosters, and even background checks for volunteers can be cumbersome, and innovate thinkers are providing powerful online tools to help grassroots organizations
  • Local / Regional Sports Media Content Providers
    • streaming video of local and regional games is becoming big business, especially in rural communities where high school sports teams often take on a bigger role in the absence of professional sports found in larger metro areas

Sports PhotographerHere is a great article highlighting some specific companies within these niches of the growing youth sports industry. Another group, The Sports & Education Expo, is planning to hold shows around the country to bring resources and information about youth sports to athletes, parents, coaches, directors and more. The first show is scheduled for Dec 13-15, 2013 at the Pennsylvania Convention Center.

For any current or prospective entrepreneurs interested in the youth sports industry, GeoMetrx can provide an in-depth location analysis including an understanding of the competitive landscape. Call us at 1.888.848.4436 or visit us on the web to request a demo today.

Daylight Saving Time – Why do we do it?

DST FallMany of us are spending this week adjusting to the end of Daylight Saving Time (DST), having moved our clocks back one hour this past weekend.  Some of us are able to leap out of bed a little more easily in the morning when the alarm clock blares, with the rested feeling that comes from sneaking that “extra” hour, only to find ourselves battling the eyelids during the nightly news. Soon enough, however, our systems will adjust. In the meantime, we once again question the whole concept of shifting time. When did it begin and why do we do it?

Well, for starters, we aren’t alone. The United States, along with 70 other countries, observe some form of daylight saving, and the practice of adjusting our daily schedules to that of the sun can be traced back to ancient civilizations. The purpose, then and now, was and is to get the best use out of the daylight hours. As the earth rotates around the sun annually, the length of daylight grows and shortens accordingly.

Burning CandleBen Franklin is credited with the idea of instituting an actual daylight saving program. In 1784, during a stay in Paris, he published an essay “An Economical Project for Diminishing the Cost of Light,” in a local paper.  Despite his experiments with electricity, this essay was not aimed at saving electricity, but rather economizing the use of candles! If you have a few moments, the essay is highly entertaining.

DST WWI PosterOther proposed plans followed over the ensuing years and decades. World War I brought about the first official observance of a DST plan in Germany, such that fuel could be diverted from providing artificial light and saved for the war effort. Many countries on both sides of the conflict, including the U.S. and Britain, adopted similar plans. However, these were eliminated following the war. It wasn’t until World War II that DST plans were once again used by many countries in an effort to ration vital energy resources.

Here is an interesting WWII historical tidbit about time zone naming conventions from Time and Date.com:

‘President Franklin D. Roosevelt instituted year-round DST in the United States, called “War Time” during World War II from February 9, 1942 to September 30, 1945. The law was enforced 40 days after the bombing of Pearl Harbor and during this time, time zones were called “Eastern War Time”, “Central War Time”, and “Pacific War Time”. After the surrender of Japan in mid-August 1945, the time zones were relabeled “Peace Time”.’

Following the war, the concept of DST was not uniformly adopted in the U.S., and much confusion ensued. States and local municipalities could choose when and if they wanted to participate. Finally, Congress passed the the Uniform Time Act of 1966 and DST was officially established to begin on the last Sunday of April and end on the last Sunday of October. Though still optional, most of the U.S. observes DST except for Hawaii, Arizona*, and the US insular areas of Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands, American Samoa, and Guam.

*Arizona’s Navajo Indian Nation observes DST.

Time Zone Map

Of course, nothing ever stays the same, and there have been myriad changes to the DST schedule since its inception. In the mid-70s, DST was expanded in hopes of saving energy during the 1973 oil embargo. When the crisis was over, DST reverted to its original schedule. In the late 80s, DST was expanded one month (first Sunday in April). And most recently, in response to the Energy Act of 2005, DST was once again expanded starting in 2007. It now begins on the second Sunday in March and ends on the first Sunday in November.

The biannual ritual of ‘springing ahead’ and ‘falling back’ remains controversial. Besides the struggle to adjust and that one person in your life who invariably misses an event in the spring or shows up ridiculously early in the fall, many complain for other reasons. Ironically, one of the more widely held concerns is that dark winter mornings endanger the lives of children School Bus Darkgoing to school. Winter hours, however, are STANDARD time, not DST!!!  Others believe that changing times affects humans negatively and that in the initial period following the adjustment there is an increase of car accidents, workplace injuries, heart attacks, and cluster headaches. Why, you ask? Experts report that our circadian rhythms, which control the release of certain hormones that affect our moods, hunger patterns, and desire for sleep, get thrown out of whack by just a one hour adjustment, just think about that ‘jet lag’ feeling you get when you travel to another time zone. Eventually, we adjust, but many argue we should either adopt DST year round, or do away with it all together. What do you think?

Climate Data – Particulate Matter Index

Climate Data: Particulate Matter Index

Location – Location – Location; the age-old advice when opening a business is just as true today as it has ever been. There are many factors to take into consideration from property accessibility to a well-matched customer base to operating costs and more. Additionally, environmental conditions and regulations can also play a significant role when making location decisions.

If you have an outdoor business concept, your customers and employees can be impacted by air pollution. Our climate dataset includes five air pollution indexes: Carbon Monoxide; Lead; Nitrogen Dioxide; Ozone; and Particulate Matter. Below is a map of the US depicting areas of particulate matter pollution at the county level. Areas with a lower propensity for this type of pollution are shown in light yellow, while those with higher propensities are shown in dark orange.

2013.08 Particulate Matter Index

GeoMetrx has the tools you need to assess the opportunities, locate the ideal site location, and evaluate the competition. For more information on how to obtain access to GeoMetrx tools and datasets, contact us today at 1.888.848.4436.

Tutoring Services – An Inspiring Opportunity

School Bus Loading2Labor Day has come and gone and in its wake new clothes are being donned, lunch boxes are being packed, yellow school buses are rolling by, crossing guards are providing safe routes, kids are toting backpacks, and bells are ringing in school halls everywhere, officially ushering in a new school year; and with it comes the competition to be the best. In fact, competition to be accepted into the best schools continues to escalate, and not just at the collegiate level. The desire for parents to have their kids earn a place in highly sought after public and private middle schools and high schools is a growing trend in the U.S.  The trend is spurring the growth of the educational service industry, particularly tutoring services; an estimated $5-7 billion market.

In 2012, there were just over 78 million Americans, ages 3 and older, enrolled in school. That amounts to 1 out of every 4 people, or 26.4% of the population. (Source: U.S. Census, Current Population Survey Data on School Enrollment). According to the U.S. Department of Education, about 55.3 million students will attend PK-12 in the fall of 2013. Public schools account for 50.1 million of those students, and private schools another 5.2 million. That number is expected to reach 58.4 million by the year 2021.

There are many opportunities available for entrepreneurs and franchisees that go well beyond traditional remedial tutoring services in math, science and English, including early education, music, dance, art, and language, as well as a growing demand for standardized and state testing preparation. Barriers to entry are low and anyone with an education has the potential to enter the field. In the wake of decreased public education funding, there is a growing number of unemployed educators, providing a trained talent pool of individuals already devoted to inspiring the next generation. Nearly 350,000 teaching positions were lost from 2009 to 2012 alone, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Education Enrollment Chart

While tutoring services once focused on helping students who were falling behind or those who were challenged with a learning disability, they are now being sought after to give non-struggling students that extra boost. Parents, anxious for their children to do well in Tutorschool, to score well on standardized and state tests, and to be accepted into the best schools and programs, are hiring tutors at very young ages. Many parents want to ensure their children are performing on par or above the level of their peers. Adults returning to school are also looking for a leg-up on their competition.

How and where tutoring services are accessed is also changing. In-home tutoring services was once the most common method of connecting tutors to students. Tutoring and learning centers were the next evolution, allowing service providers to establish centralized locations, increasing efficiencies as well as profits. Most recently, parents and students are turning to online services. While some tutoring services cater to just one of these delivery methods, others are using a combination to reach their audience. While this field is competitive, the opportunities are many. Any tutoring service can tailor these options to best fit their market niche, and are likely to find it to be quite lucrative.

For any current or prospective entrepreneurs interested in the education services industry, GeoMetrx can provide an in-depth location analysis including an understanding of the competitive landscape. Call us at 1.888.848.4436 or visit us on the web to request a demo today.

Air Quality – Measurement Industry Opportunities: The Sky is the Limit

Air Quality – Measurement Industry Opportunities:
The Sky is the Limit

Air PollutionOn December 31, 1970, President Richard Nixon signed into law the Clean Air Act intended to “foster the growth of a strong American economy and industry while improving human health and the environment.” In the 40 years plus since, the EPA has been working to improve air quality across the nation. While significant improvement has been made in many of our cities and communities, there remains much more to be done, and opportunity abounds. Read on…

Even before the passing of the Clean Air Act, the government introduced the AQI (Air Quality Index). The AQI is a measurement of how clean or polluted the air is, along with any potential health impacts, based on these five major air pollutants:AQI Map 082713

  • ground-level ozone,
  • particle pollution
    / particulate matter
  • carbon monoxide
  • sulfur dioxide
  • nitrogen dioxide

AQI Table

In the dog days of summer, for those living in areas particularly susceptible to poor air quality, daily air quality index warnings are broadcast through the media and along heavily traveled thoroughfares. Electronic signs encourage residents to drive less, carpool if Air Quality Alertpossible, and reduce overall energy consumption. Daily AQI ratings and forecasts for over 300 cities, can be found here on the EPA’s AirNow website. Links to more detailed state and local air quality data are provided as well.

What does all this have to do with business opportunities? We’re glad you asked… “Next Generation Air Measuring,” that’s what! Traditionally, measuring air quality has required complex and expensive equipment. However, the EPA states, “…as air quality management problems become more complex, there is a need for enhanced air quality and exposure monitoring capabilities.”

Monitoring personal air quality in community settings is of growing interest to the EPA. The door to innovation is wide open. The EPA is collaborating with not only other government agencies and academic groups, but also with community groups and innovative do-it-yourselfers. This is an opportunity for entrepreneurs to get in on the ground floor to develop and market the next cutting edge technology solution company.

Innovation Quotes

Entrepreneurs with an interest in developing affordable air sensors, as well as creative ways for the public to interact with the equipment, are in demand. From cell phone apps to wearable sensors to mobile sensor platforms, such as this solar-powered, air-monitoring bench at a library in Durham, NC, and beyond, the “sky is the limit.” Innovation and entrepreneurship in air quality measurement tools will benefit the health and wealth of our nation, and further the achievement of the goals of the Clean Air Act set nearly a half century ago.

Particular areas of interest in air sensor research at the EPA include:

Air Measurement ResearchTable

For any current or prospective entrepreneurs interested in the air quality measurement industry, GeoMetrx can provide an in-depth site location analysis including an understanding of the competitive landscape. Call us at 1.888.848.4436 or visit us on the web to request a demo today.

Satellite Imagery Firm Requests Lift on Resolution Limits

DigitalGlobe LogoDigitalGlobe, of Longmont, Colorado, is a commercial vendor of space imagery and geospatial content, and operator of civilian remote sensing spacecraft. Recently, the firm requested the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to lift restrictions and allow the company to provide higher resolution images.

The current regulation limits images to a resolution of a half meter (approx. 20 inches); which means an object needs to be at least that size or larger to be clearly visible. Any images taken at a higher resolution have to be made blurrier before they can be sold. Satellite ImageryDigitalGlobe would like the regulation changed to a quarter meter, or slightly less than 10 inches. The company hopes to gain business in international markets where other satellite imagery providers operate without such restrictions.

According to the NOAA spokesman, John Leslie, the limits are part of a government-wide effort “…to protect U.S. national security and or foreign policy obligation,” (source: The Hill). However, the limits were set more than 10 years ago, and industry experts feel this is a classic example of the regulatory environment not keeping pace with technological innovation; and they expect the restriction to be lifted. Leslie stated the government “periodically examines the limits on resolution to ensure there is a balance between keeping the U.S. industry as the global lead and taking into account national security concerns, foreign policy concerns and international obligations.” A decision is expected soon.

According to company founder, Walter Scott, “We’re seeing a lot of demand for higher resolution imagery,” (source: The Hill). One particular application of higher resolution images, noted by Scott, would allow for the identification of specific minerals or crops, which would be of value to a range of commercial interests. Additionally, reduced restrictions would allow American satellite companies to remain the top industry leaders.

40 Maps that Explain the World

We’d like to share with you a blog post from Max Fisher and the Washington Post Foreign Staff. Max wrote a great post including both existing and newly created maps that each give a unique view of the world.

WARNING: Do not click on the link to Max’s post unless you have some time to spare! If you love maps and you love data, you WILL get caught up in the fascinating 40 maps provided.

Here is a sneak preview of Map 3:  The world’s major writing systems:

Source: Wikimedia Commons; Max Fisher and the Washington Post Foreign Staff

Source: Wikimedia Commons; Max Fisher and the Washington Post Foreign Staff

Says Max… “This map is a reminder that the world’s divisions and commonalities go much deeper than national borders. It also helps to tell the stories of a few major events that still shape the globe, the echoes of which you can see in almost every map on this page:European colonialism, the Arabic-speaking Islamic conquests of the 7th century, the Russian expansions of the 19th and 20th centuries, and the (still-ongoing!) unifications of India and China.

Okay, now you’ve been warned, so here is the link: 40 Maps that Explain the World. Enjoy… because we sure did!

Reinventing the Modern Book Store: A New Chapter Begins

Reinventing the Modern Book Store: A New Chapter Begins

The digital age has brought about a vast amount of change in how we live our everyday lives and it has had a major impact on the business world as well. One of the most tangible changes has been in the media industry. The increasing interest and reliance on electronic publications and less reliance on traditional paper and ink has taken a toll. Many small, local newspapers have shuttered their windows across the country, while larger, major metropolitan newspapers have become hybrid publishers offering both electronic and hard-copy products. Magazines and book publishers have become hybrids as well. Meanwhile, the book store industry has had to begin an entirely new chapter.

Speculation that physical books will one day disappear, thanks to e-books, is a frequent topic among avid readers, many fearing the worst. Fueling the fire, industry giant Borders filed for bankruptcy in February 2011, and reported it would be turning to sales of e-readers and e-books to save the company. E-books have advantages over real books such as the ability to carry thousands of titles in the palm of one’s hand, but they have disadvantages as well and will never be seen as an ideal replacement for those who prefer ‘real’ books.

Book fans tend to echo one another when defining, nay defending, their passion for ‘real’ books…

“…the touch, the feel, the smell, the texture; the joy of browsing the shelves, viewing covers and brightly colored spines; the wonder of opening to a random page; and most importantly the ability to ‘curl up’ with a really good book…”

E-books are here to stay, there is little doubt of that, but printed books are here to stay as well. E-books, while the fastest growing segment of the publishing industry, account for just 20% of all sales reported by publishers. Growth of the segment was 43% in 2012; very respectable indeed, but down from the triple digit growth seen in the years 2008 through 2011, when they burst into the mainstream. Michael Pietsch, CEO of the Hachette Book Group, cites a survey from 2012 that found half of all readers had no interest in buying e-books and, further, the vast majority of people who buy e-books continue to buy print books as well.

According to IBIS Research, book stores are collectively an $18 billion industry which includes companies selling, “a broad range of book and newspaper merchandise including trade books, textbooks, magazines, paperbacks and religious books, and excludes “retailers that operate primarily as used merchandise stores or electronic shopping and mail-order houses.”

In recent years, the traditional book store industry has suffered as a result of the weak economic climate during the recession, increased competition from e-commerce and mass merchandisers, as well as changing consumer behavior. Industry consolidation and an overall printed book sales decline is expected to continue.

What does all this mean for retail book stores? Will they simply cease to exist and become a quaint throwback, nostalgically remembered as part of the ‘old days?’ Hardly! The industry is certainly undergoing change, but the experts don’t anticipate that happening any time soon. Rather, book stores across America, from small towns to large cities, are writing a new chapter, and reinventing themselves along the way.

Successful book store owners are finding new ways to become an integral part of their communities, providing more than just shelves to browse. They are becoming a community resource, offering space and services for many activities, including:

  • poetry readings
  • game nights
  • book club meetings
  • events (weddings, parties, etc.)
  • young reader activities
  • local author book signings
  • local artist and musician exhibitions
  • writer’s work shops
  • book publishing services
  • printing services*

*”The patented Espresso Book Machine® (EBM) makes a paperback book in minutes, at point of need. Through its EspressNet® digital catalog of content, over seven million in-copyright and public-domain titles are available on the network. The technology is also ideal for self and custom publishing.”

Book stores are expanding their product offerings as well. In addition to the growing trend of on-site coffees shops and cafes, book stores are now providing a wide array of book related merchandise, self-branded items, and even vintage used books right alongside new books of the same genre. In some communities, book stores are partnering with and opening shops inside local libraries!

Book stores provide an experience that digital technology cannot replace. They connect readers to the topics, people and places they love and enjoy the most. People, by and large, believe in book stores, but they need a compelling reason not to order from a faceless online entity just to save a few dollars. As the Huffington Post so eloquently stated in its HuffPost Books blog, “Bookstores will only survive if they make the most of the very attributes that make them not Amazon.”

For any current or prospective business owners interested in the book store industry, GeoMetrx can provide an in-depth site location analysis including demographic, income and traffic data as well as a view of the competitive landscape. Call us at 1.888.848.4436 or visit us on the web to request a demo today.

Map of US Rivers

Map of US Rivers

What an incredible Map of US Rivers! Using USGS data, Nelson Minar has created a vector tile map of all the water flowlines in the 48 contiguous states.  While he cautions that he includes all the flowlines available in the dataset (i.e. “lots of seasonal creekbeds, arroyos, etc.”) it’s still a pretty incredible depiction of all the flowing water sources in the U.S.

Minar also cautions that there is some missing data as well as some nuances of the data and software that causes some blue rectangles and variable density, particularly north of Texas and west of the Mississippi. For those who are technically adept and interested in trying their own hand at creating vector tile maps, Minar has provided detailed information thru this link: https://github.com/NelsonMinar/vector-river-map

Golf Industry on the Upswing

Golf Industry on the Upswing: Market Entry Opportunities

Golfing in the U.S. is estimated to be a $25 billion industry – $20 billion in greens fees, $4 billion in equipment and $1 billion in apparel sales. In addition to operating golf courses and country clubs, other industry activities include providing food and beverage services, equipment rental and instruction. Not included are driving ranges which are part of the $9 billion Golf Driving Ranges and Family Fun Centers industry, which we will highlight in a future newsletter.

As has been the case for many industries, the serious and lingering economic downturn has had an impact on the golf industry as people have cut back on discretionary and recreational spending. However, in 2012, there was a measurable rebound in the number of golf outings with golfers playing about 490 million rounds on U.S. courses, up 5.7% from 2011, according to the National Golf Foundation. Industry analysts estimate that U.S. golf course revenues will grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 3.75% by 2016.

Successful companies in the industry are those who drive up demand through strong marketing and maintain efficient operations as many costs are fixed, whether players are on the fairways or not. Some of the most successful US companies include American Golf, ClubCorp, Evergreen Alliance, and KemperSports. Small companies can be successful as well using location and unique marketing strategies to their advantage.

There are approximately 15,500 golf facilities in the US, both public and private. Nearly three-fourths are public courses, and of those about 20% or, 2,450, are municipal courses. Much of the revenue for private courses is generated from annual membership dues, while public courses rely mainly on “daily fees.” While the total number of golf courses has dropped from its all-time high of 16,000 set in 2004, IBISWorld reports that interest in golf continues to grow.

In order for the golf industry to remain strong, the sport must not only continue to appeal to the retiring baby-boomer generation, it must also engage young new players. Creating affordable entry points for players, especially juniors, is a must. One group doing just that is the Wadsworth Golf Charities Foundation. The organization is partnering with a variety of community and business organizations to build ‘feeder short courses’ of three, six or nine holes.

Golf courses come in many different sizes and settings, offering a variety of price point opportunities for market entry.

Sizes

  • 18 hole: standard, full-size course with a mix of par 3,4 and 5 holes
  • 9 hole: half a standard course with a mix of par 3, 4 and 5 holes
  • Executive: 9 or 18 holes, shorter than standard course, with more par 3 and fewer par 4 and 5 holes
  • Par 3: 9 or 18 holes, shorter than an executive course, with all par 3 holes
  • Approach or “Pitch and Putt”: 30-40yd length holes used by players to practice pitching and chipping and by beginners (drop a ball, pitch it to the green and putt it in)

Settings

  • Links course: built on sandy coastlines, open to the wind, few trees, natural watering of rough and fairways, fast fairways, slow greens, large and deep bunkers
  • Parkland course: typically located inland, built in park like atmosphere, plenty of trees, manicured fairways, fast greens
  • Desert course: built in the desert, tees, fairways and greens are lush, but often the only grass in the area

Source: about.com guide

For any current or prospective business owners interested in the golf industry, GeoMetrx can provide an in-depth site location analysis including demographic, income and traffic data as well as a view of the competitive landscape. Call us at 1.888.848.4436 or visit us on the web to request a demo today.

Discovering the True Shape of the Earth

Discovering the True Shape of the Earth

One of the first geography lessons we learn is that the Earth is round and not flat, but that was not always the case. The history of discovering the earth’s true shape is long and complex. There were many theories and beliefs about the shape of the Earth and its place in the universe, both scientific and religious, over the course of human history.

In the early 1700s, there was a great debate raging between the Newtonian and Cartesian theorists. The Newtonians believed the Earth was flattened at the poles and bulged along the equator. The Cartesians believed it was elongated at the poles and cinched, as if wearing a belt, along the equator. Which group was right?

The French expedition had traveled to Quito to measure the distance of one degree of latitude at the equator. As a first step, they measured a baseline nearly eight miles in length by placing measuring rods end to end. Source: www.robertwhitaker.org

In 1735, two groups of French scientists set out to put an end to the debate once and for all. The first group traveled to Lapland, an area near the Arctic Circle, to measure degrees of latitude.  A second group, led by Charles Marie de La Condamine, traveled to South America to perform similar measurements at the equator. Condamine’s expedition lastedn early 8 years, and became much more than just determining the shape of the Earth. It was the first real view of colonial South America for the European community. Much like the Lewis and Clark expedition more than a half century later, Condamine compiled an amazing collection of the geography, flora and fauna of the area as well as cultural observations. But there was more…

In 2004, Robert Whitaker’s book “The Mapmaker’s Wife” was published. The book’s subtitle is “A True Tale of Love, Murder, and Survival in the Amazon.” The first half of the story alternates between the details of the scientific journey and the relationship between Jean Godin and Isabel Grameson. Godin joined the expedition as a cartographer and naturalist. While in Riobamba, Peru (now Cajabamba, Ecuador) he met and married Isabel, a member of the elite class in colonial Peru. Through some twists and turns of fate and the complicated politics of the time, the couple became separated when Godin traveled to French Guiana. They remained separated for nearly 20 years.

Isabella’s life-long desire was to be reunited with Jean, and on October 1, 1769, she set off on a 3,000 mile journey through the Amazon. Hers was a most perilous course and one that only and few men and no woman had ever attempted. The enormity of the challenges she faced as she ultimately became lost and abandoned are best left to the pen of Whitaker.

I read his book shortly after its release, and nearly a decade later it is a story I will never forget. It is truly a remarkable biography, and the daunting task faced by the scientific team as they struggled to triangulate their measurements high up in the Andes is nothing short of fascinating. If only they had GPS in the 1700s.

The Winning Ticket – State Lotteries are Big Business for Authorized Retailers

The Winning Ticket
State Lotteries are Big Business for Authorized Retailers

If you saw the 1998 movie “Waking Ned Devine,” you’ll never forget the opening scene when poor Ned dies of shock with a smile on his face and the winning lottery ticket firmly grasped in his hand. The remainder of the movie is filled with the hilarious high jinks of his fellow townsfolk as they attempt to claim the money.

We all dream of that magical moment when all five little white ping-pong sized balls match our numbers and then, to our absolute amazement, the red Powerball (or gold Mega Millions ball)  pops up and matches too!!! And that’s exactly what happened in Florida earlier this month for the lucky ticket holder of the one winning ticket sold at a Publix grocery store in the highest Powerball jackpot in history; an estimated $590.5 million. The winner can take an annual annuity payment over 30 years for the $590.5 million, or a one-time cash payment of approximately $370 million (the present value of the installment payments). In addition, the retailer where the winning ticket was sold will also receive an $85,000 bonus commission. The ticket holder hasn’t come forward yet to claim the prize; let’s hope they are more fortunate than poor Ned Divine!

The 43 states where lotteries were legal in 2012 earned more than $19 billion in profit from lottery ticket sales of nearly $68.8 billion. Authorized lottery retailers earn commissions and bonuses worth an estimated 4% of annual ticket sales. Business establishments such as convenience stores, grocery stores, drug stores, bowling alleys, sports bars, and even hotels are excellent locations for lottery retailers. Lottery retailers often experience increased foot traffic and higher revenues as result of being lottery locations as well. These businesses share the following ideal attributes:

  • Location has high in-store traffic;
  • Discretionary income or impulse products are sold at the location; and
  • Point-of-purchase materials are prominently displayed to build product awareness

​There are 6 states that do not have lotteries of any kind. The other 44 states (Wyoming passed a bill to allow for a lottery starting in the summer of 2013), has its own lottery board, rules and regulations and game offerings. In addition, there are two large multi-state lotteries organizations which administer Mega Millions and Powerball in 45 jurisdictions (soon to be 46). The Mega Millions Consortium is operated by 12 states and the Multi-State Lottery Association (MUSL), which oversees Powerball, is owned and operated by 31 states, Washington D.C. and the US Virgin Islands.

Prior to 2010, retailers could only sell tickets for the multi-state lottery of which their state was a member. Since 2010, the two organizations signed an agreement to allow cross-sales in one another’s jurisdictions. Together, Powerball and Mega Millions offer jackpot lovers the chance to play four times a week with Powerball drawings on Wednesdays and Saturdays and Mega Millions drawings on Tuesdays and Fridays.

On January 15, 2012, the cost of a Powerball ticket increased from $1 to $2. There was much speculation how the increase would affect ticket sales, with some believing players would simply cut their play in half. However, the response has been positive and five of the biggest jackpots have occurred since the increase.

For any current or prospective business owners interested in becoming an authorized lottery retailer, GeoMetrx can provide an in-depth site location analysis including demographic, income and traffic data as well as a view of the competitive landscape. Call us at 1.888.848.4436 or visit us on the web to request a demo today.

Where are the Microbrewers?

Last year we published the blog post below showcasing our data mapping in response to the question: Where are the Beer Drinkers? 

We’d like to update our post with a great map that was created to showcase the abundance of Microbrewers around the U.S. from the great folks at CraftBeer.com in celebration of American Craft Beer Week celebrated earlier this month.

Where are the Microbrewers?

Data Mapping: Where are the Beer Drinkers? 

In recognition of the merry month of March, including the onset of Spring, NCAA March Madness and the good ol’ Irish St. Patrick’s day celebration, our thematic map is dedicated to beer!

We have plotted domestic beer drinkers across the nation.The light colored areas (think light beer) have the lowest concentration of domestic beer drinkers, whereas the darker (think stouts) represent the areas with the highest concentration of domestic beer drinkers.


Click to see a larger version of this map.

​Next we plotted the percent of micro-brewed beer drinkers across the US. When contrasting the two maps there is more than meets the eye. One might conlcude that dark areas on the domestic map that are now light on the micro-brew map would indicate folks in those locations prefer national domestics to local micro-brews. We would suggest the difference is actually due to the lack of availability of micro-brews. In fact, the dark areas on the micro-brew map align with regions that sport a lot of micro-brew activity.


Click to see a larger version of this map.

A great website, The Beer Mapping Project, is a compilation of locations of micro-breweries, brewpubs and other craft beer outlets. Accessing the site’s regional maps, we’ve taken a closer look at three areas where there is clearly a difference between our domestic and microbrew maps: north central Michigan, south central Florida, and the greater Denver, Colorado corridor. The three maps, shown below, reveal that in Michigan and Florida, there is a complete absence of micro-breweries and brew pubs in the disparate areas. The Denver corridor, on the other hand, shows a comparitively high volume of craft beer activity.

As we noted in our previous post, expanding into new markets is an excellent way to increase sales of exisiting products and services. It’s essential to conduct thorough market research which includes identifying markets with heavy concentrations of potential customers who fit your company’s target profile. As this example illustrates, it’s important to consider many factors and utilize all your resources of information to find the best new markets.

“If you build it, ‘they’ will come.”

Memorial Day • Honoring our Vets

Memorial Day – Honoring our Vets

Today we’d like to take a moment to remember and honor all of our servicemen and servicewomen who have made the ultimate sacrifice to protect our freedoms. We’d also like to remember and honor their families who have also sacrificed so much as well. Remember to thank these brave men and women when you see them.

Think Warm Thoughts – World’s Unique Beaches

Think Warm Thoughts: World’s Unique Beaches

As we head into Memorial Day Weekend, often considered the start of the summer season, much of the country continues to endure cold temps and even winter-like conditions in some areas. Snow is expected in parts of the Northeast.

Perhaps if we think warm thoughts we can turn around this crazy weather. Yet, keeping with the strange weather, perhaps we should plan our vacations at some of the world’s most unique beaches.

  • Anjuna Beach (Cow Beach), Goa, India – “Don’t have a cow, man!” Birds, dogs, and horses are all fairly common creatures to see on a typical summer day at the beach, but cows? Only in India!
  • Boulders Beach, Simon’s Town, South Africa – Famous for its colony of African Penguins, this beach is a sheltered cove, protected by massive granite boulders
  • Bowling Ball Beach, Point Arena, California – Sand volleyball is one thing, but sand bowling is probably not a sport that will catch on anytime soon; this beach is littered with large pre-historic boulders that have been smoothed and eroded into round shapes about the size of bowling balls
  • Champagne, Pink and Red Sand Beaches of Prince Edward Island, Canada – The brightly colored red sands are a result of the breakdown of surrounding sandstone that is high in iron-oxide and “rusts” upon exposure to the air
  • Glass Beach, Fort Bragg, California – As the name suggests, this beach consists almost entirely of sea glass, while sadly created by years of dumping garbage off the coast nearby, the surf eventually cleansed the beach leaving behind the smoothed shards of glass that comprise the beach today (the annual Glass Festival is held on Memorial Day Weekend)
  • Hot Water Beach, Cormandel Peninsual, New Zealand – At this unique beach you can dig up your own personal spa pool in the sand thanks to an underwater river of hot water flows heated deep below the surface of the earth
  • Hyams Beach, New South Wales, Australia – The Guinness Book of Records reports Hyams Beach as having the whitest sand in the world
  • Lyme Regis, Dorset, UK – Dinosaur enthusiasts will enjoy a journey back in time to the Jurassic period at this beach where explorers can search the shore for fossils
  • Maho Beach, St. Maarten – If you are an avid fan of watching airplanes land or have a desire to reach out and touch one in flight, this is the place for you, as planes continually fly over the beach at minimal altitude before touching down at neighboring Princess Juliana International Airport
  • Punaluu Black Sand Beach, Hawaii – Formed from lava flows, the ‘beach’ consists of basalt. Located on the southeastern Kau coast of Hawaii Island, Punaluu Black Sand Beach is one of the most famous black sand beaches in Hawaii
  • Shell Beach, St. Barts (Caribbean) – A fortuitous combination of abundant marine life, strong currents and the odd hurricane has, over the centuries and millennia, driven countless seashells onto the sands of this eponymously named beach
  • Zlatni Rat, Brac, Croatia – Like a large tongue sticking out into the water, this sandbar beach actually changes shape and location depending on the direction and speed of the wind

A footnote to this list is what has been dubbed the “Refrigerated Beach” which is under construction as part of the Palazzo Versace Hotel in Dubai – The revolutionary beach will sit next to the new hotel and will include a system of heat-absorbing pipes built under the sand and giant wind blowers, designed to keep tourists cool in the searing 40-50C (104-122F) heat. Crazy!

Ice Tsunami – Say What?

Ice Tsunami – Say What?

Mother Nature sure has some interesting tricks up her sleeve. Wind, rain, snow, sleet, floods, mudslides, earthquakes, volcanoes, droughts, dust storms, tornadoes, hurricanes, and much more. But have you ever heard of an ice tsunami? Okay, that’s not the real name of the weather phenomenon, it’s actually an ice shove, but ice tsunami is how many described just such an event that occurred earlier this week in Minnesota, and neighboring Canada.

Powerful wind gusts drove giant sheets of ice on Lake Mille Lacs, located about 100 miles north of Minneapolis-St.Paul, across the surface and onto shore. The sheets of ice surged toward homes along the shoreline. The scene was surreal, seemingly a Hollywood special effect, but it was all very real indeed. The ice moved surprisingly quickly, sounding both like breaking glass and an approaching train as it creeped ever forward. Several homes were damaged or destroyed. Click here to check out this news report from CNN to really appreciate this weather phenomenon.

Tax Preparation Industry

Many tax professionals can be found relaxing on beaches around the globe, basking in the sunshine and the relief of making it through yet another frenzied tax season. The vast majority of Americans rely heavily on these professionals, especially as the annual impending approach of tax day on April 15th creates a ‘sinking’ feeling for many of us. The Titanic also sank on April 15th, 1912… coincidence??? Maybe, maybe not! The 16th amendment permanently establishing the federal income tax was ratified the following year in 1913, though it wouldn’t be for another 41 years, in 1954, that  April 15th would officially become tax day; it had previously been March 15th.

Thankfully, this industry of tax professionals, more than 1.2 million strong, is there to take the helm and steer us safely through each year. Over 140 million individual and family tax returns are filed annually. Of those, three out of five, or 60%, pay someone else to fill out the forms, and another 29% turn to software to help navigate the complexity of the tax code. In the last decade alone, the U.S. tax code has more than tripled in size, comprising over 73,000 pages, and containing more than 3.8 million words. In comparison, War and Peace consists of 1,440 pages, and just under 600,000 words. The average adult reads 300 wpm – that’s more than 210 hours of reading to get through all of the rules and regulations. 

This is why so many Americans turn to tax professionals. Not keeping up with the latest tax code changes can be costly, whether as a result of not taking advantage of all eligible tax deductions and credits, or by filing an inaccurate return that may result in an audit by the IRS.  In 2013, some of the biggest changes included payroll tax hikes, Medicare and Social Security wage ceiling shifts, and Affordable Care Act surcharges on unearned income, just to name a few.

The tax preparation industry was estimated to have generated $7.7 billion in revenue last year. According to Franchise Help, the majority of tax preparations are performed by individuals (37%) or small mom and pop firms operated by less than ten employees (53%). The three largest tax preparation franchises are:

  • H&R Block
  • Liberty Tax
  • Jackson Hewitt

While Americans and politicians continue to clamor for a flat tax, or at least a simplified tax code, industry experts don’t expect this to happen any time soon, if ever. The reasons for this are myriad, and accordingly, the tax preparation industry is expected to continue growing at an estimated rate of 4%, compounded annually, through 2015, and most likely beyond.

Under our current system, there will always be a demand for competent tax preparers, despite the fear that an increase in tax preparation software will displace the experts. According to Franchise Help, “…the data is contrary to this perspective. Studies confirm that no magic tax calculator has enabled people to easily find all their deductions and hiring someone with a tax preparer certification translates into larger tax refunds. As Americans reach higher tax brackets they become more willing to outsource this stressful task.”

It should be noted, however, that under new IRS rules, tax professionals are now required to have specific credentials. For those who have been in the profession for the past several decades, many are opting to leave the industry rather than go through retraining and certification. This is creating an opportunity for new and energetic entrepreneurs to enter the market.

There are many opportunities for entrepreneurs and franchisors within the tax preparation industry. As with any business, location is important, and our GeoMetrx web-based mapping software is loaded with rich demographic data for retail site selection, consumer profiling and market analysis. For more information or a demo call us at 1.888.848.4436.

Wireless Charging – A Magnetic Future

Wireless Charging – A Magnetic Future

If you are sitting at your workspace take a look around you. How many wires and cords do you see? As our lives become more and more dependent on electronic devices (iPods, cell phones, laptops, digital cameras, wireless routers, modems, dvrs and more), we need an equal number of wires and plugs to either power or recharge them. The result can be a tangled, twisted and overwhelming mess. And when we are on the go, finding power sources can also be a challenge. Have you ever had to sit on the floor at the airport to charge your laptop?

Well, meet MIT physics professor and WiTricity founder Marin Soljačić. In 2007, he found WiTricity with the vision of making wireless electricity a reality. The basis for the technology is the concept of resonant coupling where the magnetic fields of two properly designed devices with closely matched resonant frequencies can couple into a single continuous magnetic field. According to the companies website:

Resonant coupling is a well-understood concept illustrated by many everyday examples. A child pumps her legs at the resonant frequency of a swing to fly through the air, or an opera singer shatters a wine glass by singing a single note at a frequency that matches the acoustic resonance of the glass.

The real world result of all this science is that many of our everyday electronic devices can exchange energy with a nearby wall unit via magnetism. The company envisions a future where these magnetic power sources are embedded in the walls and carpets of homes, making for a truly wire-free environment. The company believes that with a big enough power supply source and a network of wireless repeaters that office buildings, retails stores and many other buildings could also become wire-free.

But is this technology safe? The human body responds to electric fields, but it does not absorb energy generated by low-level magnetic fields. WiTricity CEO Eric Giler says, “If you are okay living on Earth, then you should be okay with what we are doing at WiTricity. Our technology generates less radiation than the Earth’s magnetic field; it is one hundred times safer than a cell phone and generates a million times less radiation than an MRI machine.”

Beyond the simplicity and convenience this technology has to offer, the electric auto industry is expected to make huge strides. One of the largest entry barriers for consumers is the need to constantly plug in their vehicles. Imagine, instead, a world in which dynamic, wireless charging stations are installed at stoplights, parking lots, etc. Drivers can ‘charge on the go.’ The possibilities of this technology are limited only by our imaginations.

The Boston Marathon Course

The Boston Marathon Course

Source: Washington Post – Boston Marathon 2013

Our hearts and prayers go out to all those affected by the tragic events at this year’s Boston Marathon, as 2013 marked the 117th running of the world’s oldest annual marathon, and one of the most renowned races of all. Held on the third Monday in April, also known as Patriot’s Day in Massachusetts, the Boston Marathon is one of six World Marathon Major events which include: Tokyo, Boston, London, Berlin, Chicago and New York. The city,  participants, and fans of the sport vow to return in 2014, a sentiment echoed by President Barack Obama in his speech during the interfaith service held in Boston on April 18, 2013.

The hilly terrain and varying weather make the Boston Marathon course a challenge for both professional and amateur runners. The race begins in the town of Hopkinton, passes through eight cities and towns (Hopkinton, Ashland, Framingham, Natick, Wellesley, Newton, Brookline, Boston) and ends in the center of downtown Boston at Copley Square on Boylston Street; a location now woefully familiar to all around the world. The most challenging part of the course, Heartbreak Hill, faces participants between the 20 and 21 mile mark, just about the time in a typical marathon race that runners experience the phenomenon of “hitting the wall.”

The average time to finish the race historically is just under 4 hours, although in 2012, the average time was 4 hours and 18 minutes. For more race results visit www.marathonguide.com. The first race held in 1897 sported just 18 runners. The event now has capacity for 27,000 participants, and has averaged more than 22,000 finishers annually in the last five years. The Boston Marathon was the first major marathon event to include a wheelchair division (1975). For more fun facts visit the Boston Athletic Association website.

A marathon is a daunting race; 26.2 miles is a lot of ground to cover on foot. Below is a map of the course, which still doesn’t put things in perspective. To get a better view of the course from end to end, check out the time-lapse video also shown below. Wow! Boston 2014!!!

Grocery Store Expenditures

Weekly Grocery Store Expenditures:
Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is!

Food is one of the most basic necessities of life along with water, shelter and clothing. Meals and snacks are a major component of our day to day existence. One of the first things we do each day is ‘break’ our overnight ‘fast,’ hence the meaning of the term breakfast. Just a few short hours later we are thinking about lunch, only to return home at the end of the day for yet another meal; some call it supper, some call it dinner. And in between all those meals, many of us pepper our day with snacks to keep us energized. With all this eating, it’s no surprise that our weekly grocery bill can be quite large, especially the larger our families or the more eclectic our tastes.

At GeoMetrx, we have a variety of grocery spending datasets including the one depicted below showing the distribution of households spending $150 or more per week on groceries. The darker the green, the higher the percentage of households doing so within that geographical region. Additional data sets include a range of weekly grocery spending as well as money-saving coupon usage.

For more information on how to obtain access to GeoMetrx datasets, contact us today at 1.888.848.4436.

Real-time Earthquake Map

Real-time Earthquake Map

Most of us don’t give much thought to earthquakes if we don’t live in California, Alaska or Hawaii, but you might be surprised to learn that earthquakes pose a significant threat to 75 million Americans in 39 States, according to the United States Geological Survey (USGS).

The two most common questions following an earthquake are “Did you feel that?” and “How big was it?” The answer to the first often depends on who you ask, unless it was so huge nobody could have missed it. The answer to the second is typically available within 30 minutes or less on the USGS’s Earthquake Hazards Program website. The website has recently been updated and includes a nifty interactive mapping application. There are so many different setting options for the Real-time Earthquake Map that it comes with its own navigation map:

One of the many features of the application is a running count of current earthquakes. This running count can be set based on the chosen data feed options which include:

• 7 days, Magnitude 2.5+
• 7 days, All
• 30 days, Significant
• 30 days, Magnitude 2.5+
• 30 days, All
• Custom (select time range, magnitude range and more)

You can also choose which region you want to observe whether it be worldwide, the US , any of the most common earthquake states or simply zoom into a region within the map window. The list of displayed earthquakes will adjust to match the view option you choose. If you are a mapping geek/geography buff, check out the site and have fun trying out all the different option settings. And may the ground beneath your feet hold steady!

The Evolution of the Grocery Store Industry: Newly Emerging Niche Market Opportunities

The Evolution of the Grocery Store Industry: Newly Emerging Niche Market Opportunities

Back in the 1800s, long before we had cars and refrigeration, food shopping was a much different task than it is now in the modern era. In order to gather all the food items needed, shoppers had to visit several different shopkeepers. Grocers at that time sold mostly canned goods and non-perishable staples (‘dry goods’), while greengrocers sold produce and butchers sold meat. These shopkeepers were separate entities, though they often clustered together for convenience.  Additionally, these shops were not self-serve as they are today. Employees worked behind the counter and filled customers’ orders. Many offered delivery services as well.

“The only constant is change”

And the grocery industry is no exception! After years of little change, the 1920s ushered in a new trend for grocery stores. Owners began establishing regional networks, or chains, of stores. The result was a newly realized economy of scale, offering lower prices for customers than the many small ‘mom and pop’ owned stores could provide. By the 1930s, these grocery store chains not only continued to expand their market areas, they also began to expand their stock.  This new supermarket concept encompassed selling a wider variety of food items beyond just dry goods, as well as offering health and beauty products and more, all under one roof.

The Great Depression further influenced the grocery industry with supermarkets focusing less on personal service and becoming more utilitarian in nature.  Store owners sold goods by placing the stock on shelves and leaving the work of selecting and handling prodcuts to the customer. In some stores the goods were simply left in the packing crate in a no-frills format. By the end of the decade the expanding grocery chains began consolidating their locations. Industry leaders, such as A&P, were replacing five or six smaller stores with one large super store wherever possible. This created even greater profit margins on an inverse scale – sales were increasing as the number of actual stores was decreasing.

By the 1950s, as the advent of the automobile contributed to the redistribution of the population from city centers to suburban communities, so too did it increase consumers’ choices. Competition among neighboring grocery stores made it necessary to increase advertising and introduce customer loyalty programs such as trading stamps, games and contests.  However, these programs increased overhead at a rate faster than gross margins and eventually most if not all of these programs were abandoned. In order to remain competitive and profitable in the following decades, supermarkets chains tried a new approach – discounting – by expanding their offerings with additional general merchandise and cutting prices.  Many chains accomplished this by either placing grocery and discount stores side by side or housing both under one roof. A new customer loyalty tactic, an evolution of price-cutting, was the introduction of savings card programs  which provide loyal shoppers with sales prices and reward points.

As we’ve entered a new millennium, the grocery industry continues to carve out creative strategies to maintain growth and profitability. These strategies include offering private label brands, larger store sizes, and specialty services such as delicatessens, ready-to-eat dishes, bakeries, pharmacies, etc.  Some grocery stores rent space to other businesses such as banks, barbershops and other consumer services.

“Everything old is new again”

As technology infiltrates our lives, many of us long for a simpler and more nostalgic way of life. There is a growing demand among consumers for local, community-oriented businesses. The grocery industry is responding. Small business owners are popping up in communities everywhere to fill niche markets including ethnic food, natural and organic foods and locally produced goods.  As with any business, location is important. Our GeoMetrx web-based mapping software is loaded with rich demographic data for retail site selection, consumer profiling and market analysis. For more information or a demo call us at 1.888.848.4436.

A Valentine from the Heart

A Valentine from the Heart

In February 2012, Payam Rajabi, who had recently moved to San Francisco for a new job, pumped out a ‘Valentine from the Heart’ for his girlfriend Clare, who was still living in Toronto, by cycling and mapping his route via GPS. How sweet is that?!!!

27.0 Miles - 2:39:48 Moving Time - 1,891 ft Elevation - 1135 Calories

This love story came to us via Mission Bicycle Company. To read more about this story and how it became an internet sensation as well as a Verizon TV spot (below), please visit their blog.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Cartograph Much?

Cartograph Much?

When we’re fascinated by something more than the average bear, how do we define ourselves? What would Yogi say about his obsession with stealing picnic baskets, for instance? Is Yogi a geek, dweeb, dork, or nerd? Perhaps we could ask Boo Boo. Better yet, this Venn diagram circulating the web provides a visual representation of these terms and the subtle differences between them.

Nerd Assessment: Venn Diagram

DWEEBS combine social ineptitude with intelligence; GEEKS combine obsession with intellect; DORKS lack both intelligence and social skills; and NERDS simply manage to rank on all three attributes

Yogi Bear is certainly obsessed with filching picnic baskets, so he can’t be a labeled a dweeb. Yogi is also quite clever and he speaks, so dork isn’t the right label either. One could argue his social ineptness – he’s a bear after all – however he can usually wiggle out of any scrape with Ranger Smith AND he has a girlfriend! This takes nerd out of the running too, which leaves geek. We think Boo Boo would  agree that Yogi is, indeed, a picnic basket abducting geek.

At GeoMetrx, we are admittedly mapping geeks which was recently reconfirmed by the humor we found in the video clip below. In a recent episode of The Office: Suit Warehouse (airdate 1/17/13), Dwight and Carl pose as a father/son paper sales team to try and win an account at a father/son owned suit business. Trading ‘familial’ insults back and forth resulted in a funny exchange about cartography involving a reference to Riker’s Island and Boring Island. We hope you enjoy the clip, we certainly did!

“Cartograph Much?”

 

 

Movie Rental Kiosks: A “Reel” Opportunity

Movie Rental Kiosks: A “Reel” Opportunity

Hollywood has long held a special place in the hearts of Americans, and watching movies has become one of our most beloved pastimes. A good movie catapults us into another world and allows our imaginations to run free, creating an almost hypnotic-like state of being. For a couple of precious hours we can leave the realities of our own world behind whether sitting in a darkened theater or in the comfort of our own living room. Regardless of how we obtain access to movies our hunger for them is likely to never be satisfied, as we’re  always anxiously awaiting our next escape.

It’s amazing to think how far the movie industry has come in such a short time – just a little over a century – and it boggles the mind to imagine where it will be in another century.  The changes in the movie distribution marketplace are gradual as one technology eventually replaces another, such as “talkies” signaling an end to the Silent Era with the release of The Jazz Singer in 1927. Next, televisions began to appear in living rooms little by little, creating the first real competition for the big studios. By 1962, more than 90% of American homes had television sets, pushing the motion picture industry to create more spectacular entertainment in order to keep audiences filling the theaters.

In 1976, JVC marketed the first VHS (Video Home System) device and forever changed the motion picture industry. Audiences could now rent movies from the myriad of neighborhood video stores that popped up overnight, and gave rise to industry giants such as Blockbuster, Hollywood Video and Family Video. The VHS era had nearly a 30 year run before being outmoded by digital technology. The last major motion picture on VHS was A History of Violence, released in 2006. Digital technology has swept away the industry, and ironically, the first major motion picture to be released on DVD (digital video disc) was Twister in 1997.

The digital era offers a wide variety of options in addition to DVDs for the home audience including:

• DVR (digital video recording) of broadcast and cable programming
• Instant streaming access to free and subscription programming
• On-demand viewing – rent from home/pay-per-view

Americans have become accustomed to convenience and control, and the digital era of home entertainment provides both in abundance. Online streaming has come a long way in the past few years and continues to be the wave of the future. Full-length, high resolution movies can now be downloaded in just a few moments to smartphones or any other electronic device – wow!  We can watch nearly anything, anywhere, anytime.

Despite instant access, DVDs are still a major aspect of the industry and distribution channels are the name of the game. DVDs can be rented from a video store, a stand-alone kiosk or through a mail order subscription. Brick and mortar stores are becoming dinosaurs. While physical stores can offer a large variety both locally and in-network, the overhead cost makes them much less competitive with newer distribution channels. Video rental giant, Blockbuster, continues to struggle in the brick and mortar format.  At its peak in 2004, there were more than 9,000 stores around the world; now less than 500 remain. New owners, Dish Network, plan to keep these stores operating as long as they remain profitable.

Netflix and similar companies dealt the first blow to brick and mortar stores by offering mail-order subscriptions at a much lower per movie cost. Mail-order rentals allow customers to ‘rent from home’ at their convenience by selecting movies online, waiting for delivery and simply returning the movie in a pre-paid envelope when finished viewing. Many of these subscription services offer a variety of monthly plans with different levels of concurrent rentals and exchanges. The biggest advantages of these programs are low cost and a large inventory of movie selections, while the biggest disadvantage is waiting for delivery.

DVD kiosk rentals delivered a second  blow to brick and mortar stores offering the advantage of both lower prices and increased convenience. Industry leaders such as Redbox, with its nationwide network, as well as regional giants such as DVDXpress, have greatly penetrated the market. DVD rental kiosks can be found in variety of locations including gas station/mini-marts, grocery stores, restaurants, and more. Customers can select and rent movies at any kiosk through an interactive display or movies can be selected and reserved online, guaranteeing the movie will be available at a chosen location until a specified time. The disadvantages of kiosks are two-fold. Kiosks have a limited amount of storage and therefore offer a reduced inventory selection. As a result kiosks run the risk of being out of stock of specific titles, especially popular new-releases.

The DVD Kiosk business is still booming despite the competition of online streaming and instant downloads. Entry into the market is fairly low cost compared to other start-ups which require more space and overhead. Check out this infographic from www.onlinedegrees.com for a more detailed review of the DVD rental vs. online streaming landscape. The GeoMetrx online territory mapping application can assist new and existing entrants into the market with territory mapping and management as well. Contact us for a demo today at 1.888.848.4436.

Pop vs Soda – A Soft Drink by any other name is…

Pop vs Soda

A soft drink by any other name is… just as bubbly, or is it?

I remember a funny story my mother shared with me years ago. She and some college friends at a school in the upper Midwest stopped in at a local diner for lunch. One of her friends ordered an orange soda. The server dutifully jotted it down, but when she brought the orange soda to the table, the friend was stunned. There before her was a large glass filled with vanilla ice cream and an orange soft drink. It took a little bit of discussion to sort out the misunderstanding, which came down to a regional variation.  You see, her friend grew up on the East Coast where soft drinks are typically called sodas. In the Midwest, folks refer to soft drinks as pop, so had she ordered an orange pop, there wouldn’t have been a funny story to share! In the South, soft drinks are often referred to as cokes, no matter the flavor. If you want an orange soft drink while visiting there it is advisable to order an orange coke… seriously!

I recently came across a fun website, the Pop vs Soda Page, where this difference in word usage is being surveyed and mapped by Alan McConchie. Anyone visiting the site can participate by entering their hometown ZIP Code and selecting which version of the word they first learned to describe soft drinks. Here is a look at the most current map.

The actual website map is interactive and by mousing over the map you can view just the areas in which a particular word is most prevalent – Pop vs Soda vs Coke vs Other. A map for Canada is said to be coming soon. What do they call soft drinks in the Great White North?

Digital Globes: More than just a Map

Hollywood has long been a source of imagination and awe, incorporating some pretty amazing and futuristic ideas, particularly in SciFi movies. Holographs and other virtual imagery (think Matrix and Avatar) come to mind. And for all of the Star Wars fans out there, you may recall Admiral Ackbar utilizing a digital, touch-controlled globe as he briefed the Rebel Alliance about the looming Battle of Endor.

As technology advances, digital globes are no longer just a Hollywood prop, and while still the stuff of Science Center displays due to cost, that too is changing. Sooner than not digital globes will likely become the norm in classrooms, offices and living rooms everywhere, replacing those static icons of our youth that are frozen in time. How many of us have globes at home from our childhood that are simultaneously useful and useless – land forms and the lat/long system remain the same, but so many country boundaries have changed in the past 30-50 years, especially in Africa and the Balkan Peninsula? Imagine a dynamic globe that can display not only a traditional view of the earth, but so much more, and with the most current information available.

The NY Times recently reported on digital globes and the varied information these spherical display screens can exhibit:

“Controlled by a keyboard or tablet computer, a digital globe can toggle between familiar, static images, like the world’s political boundaries, topography or vegetation. It can animate complex phenomena, like the formation of weather systems, the effect of global warming on wolverine habitats or the annual pulse of sea ice. It can display the surface of the moon, the churning azure cloudscapes of Neptune or the celestial globe — the night sky.

A digital globe can illuminate the human planet: wars, colonization, the formation of diaspora [movement/migration/scattering of people], modern trade flows or air traffic. It can also help teach math, play games, show movies or serve as a blank canvas for one’s inner, spherical artist.”

4ft Magic Planet - San Diego Air & Space Museum - Courtesy of www.GlobalImagination.com

There are still some challenges to overcome. When trying to map the earth cartographers have been challenged for centuries to display a round planet as a flat image with as little distortion as possible. Conversely, digital globe techies have to project flat images undistorted onto a round screen while maintaining equal brightness and focus. Another challenge to overcome is optimizing the placement of the projectors (whether internal or external) and the mounting base so as not to cast shadows or block portions of the globe, a particular problem for the South Pole on many current models. The next biggest challenge is cost: prices currently range from $21,000 to $43,000. Through improvements in technology, market leader Global Imagination, is developing a much lower cost model aimed at educational institutions which it hopes to offer for approximately $2,500 in the next one to two years.

China is leading the way in the use of digital globes as a teaching tool in social sciences like the geography of religion, language and history. Global Imagination says shipments to China account for 80% of sales. Other common subjects include earth sciences and astronomy, however, many organizations are beginning to use the spherical screens as a generic interface to teach art, math and more. Lawrence Mascotti, director of the planetarium at May High School in Rochester, Minn. believes the digital globe overcomes the learning challenges some students face through more traditional text book studies, “It’s simple; the mind follows the eye.”

Corporations and government entities have much to gain from the use of digital globes beyond their “oh-wow” impact. Digital globes can be used to display sales data, resource allocation, military deployments, facilities, distribution networks, emerging weather threats, transportation, and much more. Just imagine when these products reach a price point where they are a common feature of every home. Global Imagination CEO Mike Foody said the iPad has set the bar high for digital displays, “but flat.” Let’s hope they get a-”round” to making this new technology obtainable for everyone very soon.

Charitable Contributions Heat Map

Charitable Contributions Heat Map

America is a generous country. In 2011, $298B was donated to charities by individuals, corporations and foundations. With 65% of households giving annually, individuals accounted for the lion’s share of donations at $217.8B. Additional information on charitable contributions can be found by visiting the National Philanthropic Trust website.

At GeoMetrx, we have variety of charitable contribution datasets including overall giving as reflected in the map below. Other charitable contribution datasets include:

• Arts/Culture/Humanities
• Education
• Environmental
• Health
• Political Organizations
• Private Foundations
​• Public Radio
• Public Television
• Religious
​• Social Services/Welfare
• Other

Charitable Contributions Heat Map (U.S. Adult Pop 18+ – Last Year)

For more information on how to obtain access to GeoMetrx datasets, contact us today at 1.888.848.4436.

Arctic Paradise: Lofoten Norway

Arctic Paradise: Lofoten Norway

As winter approaches our thoughts drift to warm tropical Caribbean getaways. The sound of the Beach Boys’ Kokomo playing softly in the background…

Aruba, Jamaica, ooh I wanna take you,
Bahamas, Bermuda, c’mon pretty mama…

…as we dream of golden beaches and translucent blue waters. From December 2011 to March 2012, more than 7 million tourists visited these island paradises*. Others imagine themselves taking advantage of the winter weather and escaping to snowy mountain ski resorts, slushing downhill at daring speeds. See our blog post, National Geographic: World’s 25 Best Ski Towns.

The island chain must have looked like a paw to early settlers as its name translate to ‘foot of the lynx.’ www.visitnorway.com

But what about something altogether different? A place far north in the Arctic Circle? Too cold? Too frozen? Think again! The Lofoten region in Norway is the largest ‘weather weird spot’ on Earth and despite its location temperatures rarely drop below freezing, even in the winter. Lofoten is a polar archipelago and has the unique characteristic of being the meeting place for three underwater currents (Gulf Stream, North Atlantic Current, Norwegian Current) thusly creating its very mild weather.

There is plenty to do while visiting including fishing, rafting, skiing, kayaking, hanggliding, caving, wildlife viewing and much more. Visit The Lofoten Islands official tourist site for more information and stunning pictures.

Winter at Sakrisoy in Lofoten, Norway. Photo: Robert Walker

* Based on Tourist Arrivals for the following destinations as reported by www.onecaribbean.org:
Anguilla • Antigua & Barbuda • Aruba • Bahamas • Barbados • Belize • Bermuda • British Virgin Islands • Cayman Islands • Cuba • Curacao • Dominica • Dominican Republic • Grenada • Guyana • Jamaica • Martinique • Montserrat • Puerto Rico • Saint Lucia • St. Maarten • St. Vincent & the Grenadines • Suriname • US Virgin Islands

Mapping Drought Predictors

Mapping Drought Predictors

Mapping data is a powerful tool, not only allowing us to analyze what has occurred, but helping us predict future outcomes.  A perfect example is the use of satellite data by the U.S. Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS) to map plant stress in conjunction with drought.  Drought induced plant stress is caused when soil moisture falls below sufficient levels. Early results of the research being conducted with the satellite images shows the data may provide some early warning potential, improving existing forecasts that predict drought out to weeks or months. While this won’t stave off drought it may give farmers a chance to better prepare by purchasing supplemental feed for their livestock in advance, or adjusting other crop-related and business decisions to dampen the blow of an impending drought.

The satellite images measure vegetation temperature, and hotter plants are an indication of limited water in the soil. Plants cool themselves in much the same way humans do. The roots extract water from the soil and deliver it to the leaves. The water is then ‘sweated’ out and the process of evapotranspiration from the leaf surfaces provides a cooling effect. When access to water is limited this process slows and the leaf or canopy temperature of the plant increases. If humans get dehydrated, we sweat less and our internal temperature rises as well. This change in plant temperature is detected by thermal sensors on the NOAA’s (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) geostationary weather satellites. The satellites can detect early warning drought conditions in areas where radar networks are sparse, and the images can be scaled to individual fields. Wow!

Plant stress on June 24, 2011, (top) indicated significant drought in southern U.S. states, while plant stress on August 28, 2012, (bottom) indicated significant drought in the U.S. Midwest. (Credit: NASA/Goddard Scientific Visualization Studio/USDA-ARS)

The research to date indicates that plant stress is apparent on the satellite vegetation temperature maps before the more tell-tales signs, such as wilting, are visible in the plants themselves. The drought of 2012 has been one of the most severe and extensive, record breaking events in the past 25 years. By July, farmers across the Midwest and Plains watched as their crops wilted and died following unusually low rainfall and sustained above average high temperatures. The maps began showing signs of water depletion and plant stress as early as the summer of 2011 with the warming of the vegetation.

An animation of the plant stress maps compiled by NASA shows how drought has progressed across the U.S. over the last three years from January 2010 through September 2010. The green areas indicate healthy plants and above average moisture in the soil while the red areas indicate stressed plants and below average moisture. Click here to see the animated images and listen to the expert analysis.

The maps are one of many analytical tools at our disposal, and certainly should not be overlooked. How can mapping your data help predict the future of your business? Call us at GeoMetrx, 1-888-848-4436, or schedule a demo today to learn more about the power of mapping.

Hunting Heat Map

Hunting Heat Map

Hunting is a popular recreational activity in the U.S., with 13.7 million (aged 16+) taking part in 2011. As wildlife habitats continue to shrink due to expanding urbanization, the balance of hunting on public vs. private land is shifting. Hunting on public land decreased 19% between 1996 and 2006. Figures for 2011 are expected later this month. The trend toward hunting on private land is expected to continue.

Each of the 50 states has primary responsibility and authority over the hunting of wildlife within its boundaries, managing both hunting seasons and areas open or closed to hunting. It is estimated that hunting is permitted on approximately 60% of our nation’s wildlife areas. Hunting of migratory birds is managed cooperatively between state agencies and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The hunting heat map below depicts the location of those who hunted last year, with the darker areas representing the greater concentration of hunters. There is a much higher concentration of hunters in the northern half of the U.S., and along the Appalachian Trail.

For more information on how to obtain access to GeoMetrx datasets, contact us today at 1.888.848.4436.

Hunting Industry Overview

Fall is in the air and our thoughts turn to a bountiful harvest table. The leaves have turned beautiful and brilliant colors and now gently drift downward landing softly and creating nature’s most amazing carpet. In yards everywhere the leaves are raked into piles readied for composting or burning. In the forest they remain undisturbed except for the wildlife foraging among them… and those hunting the foragers.

Hunting, while once a necessary means of survival, is now predominantly considered a recreational activity or sport, albeit a hotly debated one. There are two distinct and strongly opposing sides. Hunters believe that we are part of the food chain and that the animals have lived a better and freer life than those raised in captivity. Hunters are living off the land like their ancestors; hunting one’s own meat, it is argued, is no different than maintaining one’s own garden, and is considered a healthier dietary source in place of purchasing domesticated meat from the butcher or industrially-farmed vegetables from the grocer. The loudest argument against hunting is animal rights, but this article is not about the debate, and rather about the hunting industry itself.

Hunting is a $34 billion industry, according to the 2011 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation (FHWAR). The survey is conducted every five years. A preliminary report was released in August 2012, and the final report is due out later this month. The survey gathers data on participation and expenditures for hunting, fishing and other wildlife activities including photography, observation, feeding (birds and other small animals), and maintaining natural areas for the benefit of wildlife.

In 2011, more than 6% of the population, 13.7 million Americans (16 and older) went hunting. Another 1.8 million Americans, aged 6 to 15, also hunted. Participation increased 9% since 2006, when there were a reported 12.5 million active hunters in the U.S. Big game, such as elk, deer and wild turkey, is the most common prey which drew 11.6 million hunters, 85%, in 2011. One-third, 33%, hunted small game including squirrels, rabbits, quails and pheasants. Less than one-fifth of hunters, 19%, went after migratory birds: geese, ducks, doves, etc. Fewer yet, just 16%, hunted other game such as coyotes, groundhogs and raccoons.

The $34 billion spent on hunting in 2011, was comprised of:

• Equipment – 41% ($14.0B)
• Travel – 31% ($10.5B)
• Other – 25% ($8.5B); e.g. land leasing and ownership, and conservation
• Licenses and Fees  – 3% ($1.0B).

The industry grew by 30% compared to 2006, when spending totaled $22.9 billion.

It is estimated that the hunting industry supports more than 1 million jobs in the U.S.  The major industry segments include: Manufacturing and Distribution; Gear and Equipment Retail Sales; Industry Services (guides, clubs, ranges, private and commercial game reserves, trade shows, etc.); Publications and Associations. There is no single industry giant, though some retailers are growing rapidly such as Bass Pro Shops, Cabella’s and Gander Mountain. Opportunities for entrepreneurs and franchisors alike are plentiful.

A Real Lego Land: “Cargotecture”

A Real Lego Land: “Cargotecture”

Resourcefulness: the ability to solve a difficult problem with creativity.  Or perhaps, stated differently, an essential quality of an entrepreneur. One such team of entrepreneurs, Robert Humble and Joel Egan of Hybrid Architecture in Seattle are exactly that – resourceful. For the past decade they have been refurbishing old storage containers, the type used to transport goods by ship, rail and truck, into usable office, retail and residential space. Joel Egan coined the term “cargotecture” to to describe the method of stacking and linking retired containers together like Legos to create new and usable spaces.

Three Squared, a Detroit firm, has announced they will begin construction in early 2013 on a condominium project known as Exceptional Green Living on Rosa Parks. The result will be a 4-story, 20-unit,  energy efficient complex including amenities such as balconies and landscaped patios. The structure will be built utilizing 93 discarded containers, stacked and interlocked to form the first such multi-family housing unit in the U.S.

Other notable cargotecture projects around the country include:

The Box Office in Providence, Rhode Island – a 3-story, 12,000 sq. ft. office complex designed by architects Peter Gill Case and Joe Haskett, and builder Joshua Brandt

 

Dekalb Market in Brooklyn, New York – a community setting that includes a collection of eateries, work-sell spaces, entrepreneurial office space, and a performance venue developed by Urban Space, ORE Design & Technology, Youngwoo & Associates, Jennifer Lyon, and Joann Kim-Nunez 

 

Lei-Sui Residence in Kirkland, Washington – a 2,500 sq.ft. home on Lake Washington with an adaptable floor plan, rainwater catchment and filtering system, hydronic heating, and photovoltaics designed by HyBrid Architecture and built by HyBrid Assembly

 

Muvbox in Montreal, Toronto, Paris and New York – this innovative group has designed movable restaurants from recycled steel storage containers that “pop” open for business in  under 90 seconds, whether serving simple and traditional street fare or a more refined menu including drinks and lobster

This is a growing space and the possibilities are only limited by imagination. It just goes to show you’re never too old to play with Legos!

US Turkey Industry – Let’s Talk Turkey

US Turkey Industry – Let’s Talk Turkey

In 2011, the US turkey industry raised 248.5 million turkeys and earned nearly $5 billion in gross farm income. The same number of turkeys is expected to be raised in 2012 as well. The U.S.  is the biggest consumer of turkey. Last year the average amount of turkey eaten per person was 16.1 lbs. Dating back to 1970, nearly half of all turkey was consumed during the holidays; today that number is just 31%. The industry has greatly expanded turkey processing, providing a wider variety of cuts and parts, thus making it easier for consumers to enjoy turkey year-round.

Turkey is now the fourth most common protein choice in the U.S. The top three meats per capita consumed in pounds are:

• Chicken – 82.9 lbs
• Beef – 57.3 lbs
• Pork – 45.7 lbs

Our Canadian neighbors to the north are the next biggest turkey fans, consuming 9.2 lbs. per capita, followed by the European Union at 7.9 lbs. per capita. The U.S. exported more than 300,000 tons of turkey in 2011, valued at $599.5 million, an increase in value of 29% from the prior year.

The top turkey producing states are:

Source: National Turkey Federation

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The map below, from the 2007 USDA Census of Agriculture depicts the location of turkey farms in the U.S.:

For more information about turkey production in the U.S., please visit the National Turkey Federation website.

Geography Games

Web Resources: Geography Games

How well do you know your geography? Can you find your way around a world map? When reading about world events in the paper, or catching up on the evening world news, how well can you place the countries and cities from where the top stories are being reported? Do you ever find yourself thinking you should brush up on the topic you once knew so well back in middle school?

Well, today, we are bringing you a host of online interactive geography game sites that turn learning into fun.

Sheppard Software: Geography games progress by level of difficulty; country facts supplement the educational nature of the site

Purpose Games: more than 70,000 interactive user-created geography games

Sporcle: timed quizzes in a variety of formats include fill in the blank, matching, and more

Lizard Point: point map quizzes with decreasing point value for wrong answers

Addicting Games – Globe Game: challenges players to identify countries, flags and landmarks

Geography Map Games: flash based games covering countries, cities and flags

Geosense: challenge yourself or play against others to accurately locate places around the globe

Cool Math-Geography Games: snap together the countries of each of the continents

Owl & Mouse: map puzzles of the US and World

What are your favorite geography websites? There are certainly a great deal more website offering a host of geography trivia questions and interactive game-style learning. We’ve only listed the top map-based sites.  Visit these sites often in your spare time; and, remember, repetition reinforces memory!

ZIP Codes – Then and Now

ZIP Codes, those handy little five digits (okay, sometimes nine… ZIP+4) are something we use regularly, yet probably don’t think much about. They’ve existed since the beginning of time, right? Or at least since the inception of the Postal Service (USPS), right? Wrong! In fact, they have only been in existence for about 50 years. Since then, their use has reached far beyond the intention of their initial purpose, which was simply to improve the efficiency of mail delivery, but more on that in a bit.

The Zone Improvement Plan – ZIP Code system – has roots that reach back to WWII. In 1943, the Postal Service implemented postal zones for large cities as a way of making mail sorting easier for the new and inexperienced postal clerks who were filling in for those who had gone into military service. Cities were assigned a two-digit code. For example:

• Rochester, NY – 11
• Minneapolis, MN – 16
• Boston, MA – 24
• Los Angeles, CA – 54

This system remained in place until July 1, 1963, when the current ZIP Code system was implemented. The country is divided into ten geographical regions (groups of states), and the first digit of the codes designate the area: zero in the Northeast all the way to nine in the West. The second and third digits, combined with the first, identify a sectional center facility (SCF), which is a postal facility that serves as a processing and distribution center for an area. In most cases there is one SCF for every unique 3-digit ZIP Code range, although some SCFs cover several. The fourth and fifth numbers identify a much more specific area whether a district, city, town, village or a smaller area within these. There are currently over 42,000 ZIP Codes in use today.

Within a 3-digit ZIP Code region, the main town or city is typically assigned the first, or lowest, ZIP Codes in the region, with subsequent towns being assigned ZIP Codes in alphabetical order; which would explain why ZIP Code numbers often are not numerically adjacent to one another. ZIP Codes were introduced to streamline mail delivery only, and there are some exceptions to ZIP Code assignments based on the confines of geographical features and mail delivery routes. Therefore, ZIP Codes cannot be used to pinpoint exact locations, such as can be done with the lat/long system used in mapping and GIS technology.  One such anomaly, for example, is 00501 which is assigned to the IRS center in Holtsville, NY; most other NY ZIP Codes begin with 1.

There are four types of ZIP Codes: Unique; P.O. Box; Military; and Standard. Unique ZIP Codes are assigned to a high volume address including government agencies, universities and even some businesses such as 12345 for General Electric in Schenectady, NY (note: thousands of children send letters to this ZIP Code each year that are addressed to Santa Claus, because it’s the most logical ZIP Code for the North Pole, of course!). P.O. Boxes, which are located at post offices around the country are assigned a ZIP Code that is only used for those P.O. Boxes. Military ZIP Codes are assigned to a US Military Institution APO/FPO/DPO. The remainder of ZIP Codes are Standard, which are the most common and assigned to home and business addresses in the areas surrounding SCFs and other Post Office facilities.

During the 1960s and 70s, the USPS heavily promoted the usage of the new ZIP Codes, and even utilized a cartoon character mascot, Mr. ZIP, to encourage the adoption of the system by everyone. Ironically, the only time the USPS ever issued a stamp promoting the use of ZIP Codes, they didn’t utilize Mr. ZIP, though he was often depicted on the covers of stamp booklets, and in the selvage portion of stamp panes. Use of ZIP Codes was not required at first, however, beginning in 1967, mailers were required to pre-sort second and third-class bulk mail by ZIP Code.

Today ZIP Codes are required on:

• Express Mail
• Commercial First-Class Mail
• First-Class Package Service
• Periodicals
• Standard Mail
• Package Services and Parcel Select
• U.S. Military Addresses
• APO and FPO Addresses
• Official Mail
• Business Reply Mail
• Merchandise Return Service Mail

The only mail not required to have ZIP Codes is single-piece First-Class mail, Priority Mail, single-piece Parcel Post, and pieces with a simplified address (i.e. addressed to “Postal Customer” or other generic recipient) that do not fall in a category listed above.

In 1983, the system was expanded one more time with the introduction of the ZIP + 4 codes, which use the basic five-digit codes, plus four more digits to further segment geographic areas such as city blocks, apartment complexes, and in some cases individuals, such as a particular business, that receive high-volumes of mail, but do not have their own Unique ZIP Code. The ZIP + 4 is not mandatory except for certain presorted mailings. In a further effort to provide even more specific delivery point information, the USPS, through the use of sophisticated optical readers, applies an 11 digit Postnet barcode to most mail pieces, greatly increasing the speed and accuracy of mail delivery.

Image Courtesy of www.neodynamic.com

ZIP Codes have become more than a string of numbers placed on an envelope to speed up delivery.  Though it was unintended, the use of ZIP Codes in sales and marketing applications, internet technology, data collection and analysis, GIS and more is far reaching.  Delivery companies such as FedEx, UPS and others require USPS ZIP Codes for routing their deliveries, rather than developing their own segmentation systems. ZIP Codes are also used in online applications such as locator software, which returns business and store location results and distances calculated from the lat/long center-points of ZIP Codes.

However, the most prolific use of ZIP Codes outside of delivery and location sourcing is marketing and data applications. The U.S. Census Bureau and many other statistical collection agencies use ZIP Codes as a way of tracking and amalgamating data. Direct mail campaigns use ZIP Codes to target potential customers (“birds of a feather flock together”). Retail stores regularly collect ZIP Codes as a way of determining the location of their customer base, and will often use this data when selecting new sites. When used in combination with credit card numbers, even more data can be collected by businesses. While many of us hesitate to share our ZIP Code at point-of-sale transactions, doing so enriches the data we use in our businesses to better serve our customers and to develop sound business strategies. So don’t be selfish – share that ZIP!

Electoral Vote vs. Popular Vote

Electoral Vote vs. Popular Vote

The popular vote is pretty simple to understand – every vote cast counts. The presidential candidate with the most votes is the winner of the popular vote. But that does not mean that candidate will win the presidency. For that we have to wait until the Electoral College votes. What exactly is the Electoral College? It is a group of 538 electors that represent each of the states as well as Washington D.C. The number of electoral votes per state is equal to the number of U.S. Representatives and U.S. Senators for each state. Washington D.C. currently has 3 electoral votes as determined by the 23rd Amendment.

Long before the popular vote takes places on Election Day the Electoral College for each party is chosen. Each state has its own process for choosing Electors, though generally they are nominated at their State party conventions or by a vote of the party’s central committee. Electors often have a track record of service and dedication to their political party and can be anyone including general members, officials, party leaders, or even people with a personal or political connection to the presidential candidate.

On Election Day when we go to the polls and cast our vote for president, we are actually voting for the Electors for that candidate in our state. In that sense, the popular vote in each state does count (except in Nebraska and Maine) such that the winning candidate’s party is awarded all of that state’s electoral votes. In Nebraska and Maine, the state winner receives the two senate-based Electors, and each district Elector is determined by the popular vote within that district.

Once the nationwide popular vote is completed, the Electoral College meets in mid-December and casts its votes for President and Vice President and the votes are tallied by Congress. It is not until this time that the election results are actually official. While there is no Constitutional provision or Federal law requiring Electors to vote for their party’s candidate, it is generally expected that they will, and some states do require that the Elector vote according to the popular vote. Over the years there have been some Electors who have not voted as expected, but nothing significant enough to have changed the outcome of an election. Likewise, no Elector has ever been prosecuted for failing to vote as pledged.

There have only been four presidential elections in which the winning candidate did not win the popular vote: 1824, 1876, 1888, and 2000.

6th President  – John Quincy Adams (Election of 1824): won neither the popular vote nor the electoral vote – with four candidates in the running it is the one and only time in our history so far, following the passage of the 12th Amendment, in which the election was determined by the U.S. House of Representatives since no candidate managed to receive a majority of the Electoral votes.

19th President – Rutherford B. Hayes (Election of 1876): one of the most contested elections in our history, Hayes not only lost the popular vote, his opponent, Samuel J. Tilden, actually received a true majority (51%).  Twenty (20) contested Electoral votes from 3 states (Florida, Louisiana, and South Carolina) were awarded to Hayes after an intense legal and political battle earned him the presidency by one Electoral vote (185-184).

23rd President – Benjamin Harrison (Election of 1888): with a difference of just under 100,000 votes, Harrison lost the popular vote to Grover Cleveland, but carried two key swing states, with a margin of 1% or less, and thus secured enough Electoral votes to win the election (233-168). Had Cleveland won those two states instead the results would have been  219-182 in favor of Cleveland.

42nd President – George W. Bush (Election of 2000): the first election within our lifetimes (unless you were 112 or older at the time) in which the winning candidate did not win the popular vote (47.9% vs 48.4%, a difference of just 0.5%). The 27 Electoral votes in Florida were hotly contested with the Al Gore Campaign demanding a recount. Still hotly contested in some circles, each side has reason to believe they were the true winner of the Florida Electoral votes.

If you’d like to see the results of all the U.S. Presidential elections, along with maps showing the voting results of each, visit www.electoralmaps.org.

Another fun and interactive map we found is hosted on the U.S. National Archives and Records (NARA) site which allows you to make your own predictions for the 2012 Election. No matter what your prediction, be sure to vote, because every vote can and does matter.

GeoMetrx Common Ground News: Volume 1: Issue 10 – ZIP Codes: Then and Now

See the newsletter with all graphics at COMMON GROUND VOLUME 1 : ISSUE 10 NEWSLETTER ARCHIVE LINK.  Text only version provided below, links only work in the full archived version via the link above.

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Volume I : Issue 10

October 2012

Welcome to Common Ground News

In this issue:

* Feature Article – ZIP Codes: Then and Now

* Tips & Techniques – helping you get the most out of our online mapping
application at [1]GeoMetrx “Creating Territory Reports: a video tutorial”

* Thematic Map – ZIP Code Overlays – understanding the difference between
boundaries, polygons and points; plus how to research valid and invalid ZIP
Codes

* Trivia Challenge​​ – Average ZIP Code Populationl

This and all our future newsletters are available through our Knowledge Center
resource listed on our website. We encourage you to share our Common Ground
News with your friends and colleagues and we welcome your feedback. Visit our
website and make a comment on the [2]contact us page or send us an email at
[3]info@geo-e.com.

—-Kent Hargesheimer,

Managing Partner

Geo-Legend

Phone: 1.888.848.4436

Web: [4]www.geo-e.com

[5]www.geometrx.com

[6]www.geoprinter.com

[7]www.gis4less.com

Email:

[8] [9]info@geo-e.com

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Blog: [14]Common Ground Blog

Newsletter Archives:
• [15]September 2012
• [16]August 2012
• [17]July 2012
• [18]Previous Issues

ZIP Codes: Then and Now

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ZIP Codes, those handy little five digits (okay, sometimes nine… ZIP+4) are
something we use regularly, yet probably don’t think much about. They’ve existed
since the beginning of time, right? Or at least since the inception of the
Postal Service (USPS), right? Wrong! In fact, they have only been in existence
for about 50 years. Since then, their use has reached far beyond the intention
of their initial purpose, which was simply to improve the efficiency of mail
delivery, but more on that in a bit.

The Zone Improvement Plan – ZIP Code system – has roots that reach back to WWII.
In 1943, the Postal Service implemented postal zones for large cities as a way
of making mail sorting easier for the new and inexperienced postal clerks who
were filling in for those who had gone into military service. Cities were
assigned a two-digit code. For example:

• Rochester, NY – 11

• Minneapolis, MN – 16

• Boston, MA – 24

• Los Angeles, CA – 54

This system remained in place until July 1, 1963, when the current ZIP Code
system was implemented. The country was divided into ten geographical regions
(groups of states), and the first digit of the codes designated the area: zero
in the Northeast all the way to nine in the West. The second and third digits,
combined with the first, identify a sectional center facility (SCF), which is a
postal facility that serves as a processing and distribution center for an area.
In most cases there is one SCF for every unique 3-digit ZIP Code range, although
some SCFs cover several. The fourth and fifth numbers identify a much more
specific area whether a district, city, town, village or a smaller area within
these. There are currently over 42,000 ZIP Codes in use today.

Within a 3-digit ZIP Code region, the main town or city is typically assigned
the first, or lowest, ZIP Codes in the region, with subsequent towns being
assigned ZIP Codes in alphabetical order; which would explain why ZIP Code
numbers often are not numerically adjacent to one another. ZIP Codes were
introduced to streamline mail delivery only, and there are some exceptions to
ZIP Code assignments based on the confines of geographical features and mail
delivery routes. Therefore, ZIP Codes cannot be used to pinpoint exact
locations, such as can be done with the lat/long system used in mapping and GIS
technology. One such anomaly, for example, is 00501 which is assigned to the
IRS center in Holtsville, NY; most other NY ZIP Codes begin with 1.

There are four types of ZIP Codes: Unique; P.O. Box; Military; and Standard.
Unique ZIP Codes are assigned to a high volume address including government
agencies, universities and even some businesses such as 12345 for General
Electric in Schenectady, NY (note: thousands of children send letters to this
ZIP Code each year that are addressed to Santa Claus, because it’s the most
logical ZIP Code for the North Pole, of course!). P.O. Boxes, which are located
at post offices around the country are assigned a ZIP Code that is only used for
those P.O. Boxes. Military ZIP Codes are assigned to a US Military Institution
APO/FPO/DPO. The remainder of ZIP Codes are Standard, which are the most common
and assigned to home and business addresses in the areas surrounding SCFs and
other Post Office facilities.

During the 1960s and 70s, the USPS heavily promoted the usage of the new ZIP
Codes, and even utilized a cartoon character mascot, Mr. ZIP, to encourage the
adoption of the system by everyone. Ironically, the only time the USPS ever
issued a stamp promoting the use of ZIP Codes, they didn’t utilize Mr. ZIP,
though he was often depicted on the covers of stamp booklets, and in the selvage
portion of stamp panes. Use of ZIP Codes was not required at first, however,
beginning in 1967, mailers were required to pre-sort second and third-class bulk
mail by ZIP Code.

Today ZIP Codes are required on:

• Express Mail

• Commercial First-Class Mail

• First-Class Package Service

• Periodicals

• Standard Mail

• Package Services and Parcel Select

• U.S. Military Addresses

• APO and FPO Addresses

• Official Mail

• Business Reply Mail

• Merchandise Return Service Mail

The only mail not required to have ZIP Codes is single-piece First-Class mail,
Priority Mail, single-piece Parcel Post, and pieces with a simplified address
(i.e. addressed to “Postal Customer” or other generic recipient) that do not
fall in a category listed above.

In 1983, the system was expanded one more time with the introduction of the ZIP
+ 4 codes, which use the basic five-digit codes, plus four more digits to
further segment geographic areas such as city blocks, apartment complexes, and
in some cases individuals, such as a particular business, that receive
high-volumes of mail, but do not have their own Unique ZIP Code. The ZIP + 4 is
not mandatory except for certain presorted mailings. In a further effort to
provide even more specific delivery point information, the USPS, through the use
of sophisticated optical readers, applies an 11 digit Postnet barcode to most
mail pieces, greatly increasing the speed and accuracy of mail delivery.

Image Courtesy of [19]www.neodynamic.com

ZIP Codes have become more than a string of numbers placed on an envelope to
speed up delivery. Though it was unintended, the use of ZIP Codes in sales and
marketing applications, internet technology, data collection and analysis, GIS
and more is far reaching. Delivery companies such as FedEx, UPS and others
require USPS ZIP Codes for routing their deliveries, rather than developing
their own segmentation systems. ZIP Codes are also used in online applications
such as locator software, which returns business and store location results and
distances calculated from the lat/long center-points of ZIP Codes.

However, the most prolific use of ZIP Codes outside of delivery and location
sourcing is marketing and data applications. The U.S. Census Bureau and many
other statistical collection agencies use ZIP Codes as a way of tracking and
amalgamating data. Direct mail campaigns use ZIP Codes to target potential
customers (“birds of a feather flock together”). Retail stores regularly collect
ZIP Codes as a way of determining the location of their customer base, and will
often use this data when selecting new sites. When used in combination with
credit card numbers, even more data can be collected by businesses. While many
of us hesitate to share our ZIP Code at point-of-sale transactions, doing so
enriches the data we use in our businesses to better serve our customers and to
develop sound business strategies. So don’t be selfish – share that ZIP!

Tips & Techniques –

Creating Territory Reports

Visualizing your territories is extremely valuable, and being able to combine
that with data output is exponentially even more useful. In our most recent
video tutorial, we show you how to create territory reports step by step.

Reports allow you to see the your data both visually and in table format
simultaneously. Once you have created your report you can either download the
information to a spreadsheet for analytical purposes or send it to other team
members directly via email. Reports can include information from any of the
variable data sets in [20]GeoMetrx including data you have uploaded.

[21]Click here to view the video.

[22]

ZIP Code Overlays: Boundaries, Polygons and Points

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In [23]GeoMetrx there are three ZIP Code Overlay options: Boundaries; Polygon;
and Point.

– The Boundaries overlay provides exactly that, a visible boundary, or border,
around a polygon shape representing a STANDARD ZIP Code area, which is assigned
to a particular geographic area of homes and businesses.

– The Polygon Overlay adds the STANDARD ZIP Code Number to the map.

– The Point Overlay adds ZIP Code numbers to the map that are assigned to
either P.O. Boxes or UNIQUE addresses. UNIQUE addresses are ZIP Codes that have
been assigned to a single high-volume mail recipient such as a business,
university or government entity.

In the above example 75208 is a Standard ZIP Code assigned to all the homes and
businesses within the blue polygon boundary surrounding it, while 75285 and
75263 are assigned to a Unique entity and P.O. Box, respectively, and are
represented as points.

When uploading data to [24]GeoMetrx it’s important to understand the difference
between the polygon ZIP Codes and point ZIP Codes. If your dataset includes any
Unique or P.O. Box ZIP Codes, and you only select ZIP (Polygon) the software
will treat those codes as invalid. However, if you choose the ZIP (Point/Poly)
option when uploading all the ZIP Codes in your dataset will upload properly.

If you still bump up against and invalid ZIP Code when uploading data, it may
truly be invalid. Our [25]GeoMetrx ZIP Code database is updated regularly in
conjunction with USPS changes. The USPS regularly realigns ZIP Codes in an
effort to accommodate population growth and operational needs. The USPS
maintains an up-to-date online look-up tool which is the best resource to check
the validity of a ZIP Code. To access this resource
visit: [26]https://tools.usps.com/go/ZipLookupAction_input. If you click the
“Cities by ZIP Code” tab, you can input individual ZIPs without also providing
an address. The look-up results are displayed immediately in the dialog window
as shown below:

For more information on how to obtain access to [27]GeoMetrx datasets, contact
us today at 1.888.848.4436.

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❀ ❀ ❀ ❀ ❀ ❀ ❀ ❀ ❀ ❀ ❀ ❀ ❀ ❀ ❀ ❀ ❀ ❀ ❀ ❀
❀ ❀ ❀ ❀ ❀

October 2012 – Trivia Challenge

1) What is the average population per ZIP Code according to the 2010 Census?

[28]Click here for the answers!

References

1. http://here.mappingresources.com/
2. http://here.mappingresources.com/contact-us/
3. mailto:info@geo-e.com?subject=October%202012%20Newsletter%20Feedback
4. http://www.geo-e.com/
5. http://here.mappingresources.com/
6. http://www.geoprinter.com/
7. http://www.gis4less.com/
8. mailto:info@geo-e.com
9. mailto:info@geo-e.com
10. http://www.facebook.com/GeoMetrx
11. https://twitter.com/#!/geometrx_
12. http://www.linkedin.com/company/691866
13. http://here.mappingresources.com/feed/
14. http://here.mappingresources.com/blog/
15. http://here.mappingresources.com/2012/09/geometrx-common-ground-news-volume-1-issue-9/
16. http://here.mappingresources.com/2012/08/geometrx-common-ground-news-volume-1-issue-8/
17. http://here.mappingresources.com/2012/07/geometrx-common-ground-news-volume-1-issue-7/
18. http://here.mappingresources.com/category/newsletters/
19. http://www.neodynamic.com/
20. http://here.mappingresources.com/
21. http://here.mappingresources.com/2012/10/creating-territory-reports-with-geometrx/
22. http://here.mappingresources.com/2012/10/creating-territory-reports-with-geometrx/
23. http://here.mappingresources.com/
24. http://here.mappingresources.com/
25. http://here.mappingresources.com/
26. https://tools.usps.com/go/ZipLookupAction_input
27. http://here.mappingresources.com/
28. http://here.mappingresources.com/newsletter-trivia-answers/

ZIP Code Overlay Options: Boundaries, Polygons and Points

ZIP Code Overlays: Boundaries, Polygons and Points

In GeoMetrx there are three ZIP Code Overlay options: Boundaries; Polygon; and Point.

– The Boundaries overlay provides exactly that, a visible boundary, or border, around a polygon shape representing a STANDARD ZIP Code area, which is assigned to a particular geographic area of homes and businesses.

– The Polygon Overlay adds the STANDARD ZIP Code Number to the map.

– The Point Overlay adds ZIP Code numbers to the map that are assigned to either P.O. Boxes or UNIQUE addresses. UNIQUE addresses are ZIP Codes that have been assigned to a single high-volume mail recipient such as a business, university or government entity.

In the above example 75208 is a Standard ZIP Code assigned to all the homes and businesses within the blue polygon boundary surrounding it, while 75285 and 75263 are assigned to a Unique entity and P.O. Box, respectively, and are represented as points.

When uploading data to GeoMetrx it’s important to understand the difference between the polygon ZIP Codes and point ZIP Codes. If your dataset includes any Unique or P.O. Box ZIP Codes, and you only select ZIP (Polygon) the software will treat those codes as invalid. However, if you choose the ZIP (Point/Poly) option when uploading all the ZIP Codes in your dataset will upload properly.

If you still bump up against and invalid ZIP Code when uploading data, it may truly be invalid. Our GeoMetrx ZIP Code database is updated regularly in conjunction with USPS changes. The USPS regularly realigns ZIP Codes in an effort to accommodate population growth and operational needs. The USPS maintains an up-to-date online look-up tool which is the best resource to check the validity of a ZIP Code. To access this resource visit:

https://tools.usps.com/go/ZipLookupAction_input

If you click the “Cities by ZIP Code” tab, you can input individual ZIPs without also providing an address. The look-up results are displayed immediately in the dialog window as shown below:

For more information on how to obtain access to GeoMetrx datasets, contact us today at 1.888.848.4436.

Tips & Techniques – Creating Territory Reports

Tips & Techniques – Creating Territory Reports Anchor

Visualizing your territories is extremely valuable, and being able to combine that with data output is exponentially even more useful. In our most recent video tutorial, we show you how to create territory reports step by step.

Creating Territory Reports allows you to see the your data both visually and in table format simultaneously. Once you have created your report you can either download the information to a spreadsheet for analytical purposes or send it to other team members directly via email. Reports can include information from any of the variable data sets in GeoMetrx including data you have uploaded.

Click here to view the video.

Bicycling Heat Map

GeoMetrx Data in Action: Bicycling Heat Map

This is a follow-up post to our Bike Sharing article. Bicycling is a great activity. It promotes a healthier lifestyle and provides zero-emissions transportation. In addition to our GeoMetrx data used to create the heat map below, here are some more bicycling statistics:

• Bicycling is the second most popular outdoor activity in the U.S. after running/jogging (Outdoor Foundation, Outdoor Recreation Participation Topline Report 2011)

• 83% of Americans want to maintain or increase the small percentage of funding that helps build sidewalks, bike lanes and bike paths (Princeton Survey Research Associates International, 2012)

• The number one reason given for not bicycling is lack of access to a bicycle (National Survey of Bicyclist and Pedestrian Attitudes and Behavior, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 2008)

Further anecdotal information reveals that men outnumber women 3 to 1 when it comes to cycling, and those with lower incomes tend to ride bikes more often for utilitarian purposes while those with higher incomes are more likely to ride for recreation. New immigrants to the U.S. ride bicycles more frequently than native born U.S. citizens, and most European countries do not report significant differences in frequency or purpose by gender or income level.

Below is a heat map depicting the percent of U.S. Adults (18+) that have ridden a bicycle within the last year, whether riding a mountain bike or a road bike. The southeast region dispalys the lowest level of activity (yellow) while the rest of the country has greater participation (green).

Click to see a larger version of this map.

For more information on how to obtain access to GeoMetrx datasets, contact us today at 1.888.848.4436.

Franchising Opportunity: Bike Sharing

Franchising Opportunity: Bike Sharing

We are living in an age of increase – increasing population, oil and gas prices, pollution, traffic congestion, infrastructure crisis, and even our waist lines. You might think the last item on that list is out of place; however, many of our modern conveniences have a direct link to our lack of exercise. Beyond walking the halls of the office, many of us get little to no meaningful regular exercise. We drive to and from everything: work, shops, school, church, kids’ activities, even the gym… when we go. Some of us even use the car to travel to the end of the driveway to retrieve our mail! In the United States, we own 30% of the automobiles produced in the world and yet we account for just 5% of the worldwide population. Can we reverse this trend of being so heavily car-dependent?

Bicycling is a growing industry as the activity is gaining popularity across our nation. Bicycling has the ability to decrease all of the negatives listed above. One particular new trend within the industry in the United States has the potential to transform our sedentary, gas-guzzling ways – bike sharing. Bike sharing has become very popular in European cities. It’s a straightforward, green commuter concept which replaces short trips ordinarily made by car. Large fleets of bicycles are made available at closely spaced rental stations. Bikes can be rented on the spot for a low hourly or weekly rate by tourists or other occasional riders, and low-cost affordable membership packages can be purchased by frequent users. Bike sharing is ideal for cities of any size, corporations with sprawling facilities and school campuses. Participants need not be troubled with bike maintenance, storage or even theft.

Anderson Corporation in Bayport, MN is a leader in bike at work programs. With more than 3 million square feet of ground to cover within their plant, everyone from maintenance mechanics to executives utilize company supplied bicycles to get from place to place. This innovative program not only saves time and money by increasing the efficiency of getting from one end of the factory to the other allowing for quicker response times, it also promotes a healthier environment and a healthier lifestyle. Many companies are now making bicycles available for employees to use during breaks to run errands in town as well.

New York University is a leader among campus programs. As of 2010, nearly 90 universities have introduced bike sharing programs for their students. Demand is coming from the students and in the case of NYU, as well as others, the actual programs have been developed by the students themselves.

        “The NYU Bike Share provides free short-term bicycle rentals
to NYU students, faculty, and staff. The program was proposed
and developed by a student-led Green Grant team, with
funding, organizational and planning support from the NYU
Office of Sustainability. It’s founded on the idea that
bicycling can be a safe, healthy, sustainable, and fun way
to get around New York City. The Bike Share seeks to lower
the barriers to entry (such as cost and inexperience)
that prospective cyclists face at NYU.”  

The Bikes Belong Coalition, founded in 1999, is an organization of bicycle retailers and suppliers who have banded together to promote bicycling. According to their 2011 report on bicycling trends in the U.S., there has been a large increase in funding for bicycling. Many cities are incorporating bicycling into their urban planning including bike sharing programs. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, half of all trips made are less than 3 miles. This behavior lends itself well to bicycling and bike sharing programs. Leading the way are groups such as B-Cycle, a collaborative effort of Humana, Trek and Crispin Porter + Bogusky, with locations in over a dozen cities; Nice Ride, a non-profit organization in Minneapolis, MN; and companies such as Alta Bike Share and DecoBike, consultants and partners with several local municipalities.

In the 70 largest cities in the U.S., the League of American Bicyclists reports that bicycle commuting has risen 63% in the last decade, yet this only accounts for 1% of urban commuters. Tim Blumenthal, president of Bikes Belong would like to see that number rise to 5%. Bike sharing programs will play a big part in achieving this goal, along with continued bike friendly improvements, such as safer and more plentiful bike lanes. There are currently an estimated 15 bike sharing programs in operation in our cities with 17 more planned for this year alone, according to CNN Money.

In America, we are used to being the leaders. For now, Europe is well ahead of us, but the yellow jersey is within our grasp if we choose to stay in the chase. If you are interested in starting a bike sharing business, our GeoMetrx territory mapping application can help you stay ahead of the competition.

Astronauts Punch the Clock

Astronauts Punch the Clock

The Big Bang Theory is one of the top ranking sitcoms on television and is now in its 6th season, which began airing last Thursday (9/27/12). The season opens with one of the main characters, Howard Wolowitz, aboard the International Space Station.  I have to admit this got me to thinking once again what it would be like to live aboard the ISS. As it turns out, NASA publishes the daily schedule, or timeline, for the crew. And we thought our work schedules were regimented?!!! Practically every minute of each 24 hour period is scheduled in some way.

The little bit of time that is unscheduled for today (10/3/12) ranges from 25 minutes to 85 minutes for each of the three crew members listed: FE4; FE6, CDR.  They do get about 30 minutes in the morning and about 2 hours in the evening for post-sleep and pre-sleep activities. They also have 1 to 2 hours of alloted exercise time and an hour and half or so split between breakfast and lunch. If they sleep 6.5 hours, and have about 5 hours of eating, exercise and personal prep time, that still makes for a 12 hour work day. Curiously, dinner is not scheduled, they can opt to eat during their pre-sleep period.

While being an astronaut seems like a glorious career in some ways, I think I’ll stick to my earth-bound job which allows me much greater control over my time. I’m also happy to avoid being assigned the  IFM Waste and Hygiene Compartment (WHC) Pre-Treat Tank Remove & Replace task just prior to my scheduled lunch break! Check out this schedule:

Presidential Map by State of Birth

Presidential Map by State of Birth

Election day is just a few weeks away and the campaign efforts of both candidates are in full swing. For those of us who are addicted to data and maps, these are exciting times. How many red and blue states will there be? How will the popular vote map compare to the electoral vote map? Will we stand at 44 presidents, or will we have elected our 45th? And, more importantly, will we at GeoMetrx need to update our Presidential Map by State of Birth? Will Michigan join this elite group of states?  We will have to wait until after November 6th to learn the answers to these pressing questions.

In the meantime, we’d like to share with you the current version of our Presidential Map by State of Birth. It’s a fascinating look at the political history and ancestry of our country. To date, 21 states have given rise to a president, while 29 have not. Virginia holds claim to the state with the most presidents at 8 including four out of the first five. Ohio is second with 7, all of whom were Republican, fascinating! Massachusetts and New York are tied at 4, followed by North Carolina, Texas and Vermont, with 2 apiece. Thirteen states have each produced 1 president.


FAA Airport Delay Map – It Wasn’t the Weather

This past weekend I had the pleasure of making one of those late Sunday night runs to the airport to provide a ride home for my husband. Now, I couldn’t really say no, and it certainly was cheaper than leaving a car parked at the airport all week, but, ugh, it was late! And then the dreaded text message… the flight is delayed! No! How long? Why?

Air travel has to be one of the most frustrating activities on the planet. One of many factors that makes air travel frustrating is the LACK of information. It’s much easier to deal with a delay if you know the cause. Being left to sit and wonder is maddening.  Once my husband arrived at the gate for his flight he asked about the delay. The plane was coming from San Francisco he was told, and delayed due to weather. Weather? Really? The first thing I had done was check the weather when I received the text. There was no weather at SFO. Maybe it was fog? No, I tracked that down too, it was not fog.

I suppose it’s just easier to blame the weather, people won’t question that right? The airlines certainly don’t want to take the blame for a late crew or a mechanical problem (both crossed my mind as being the real cause). Swell! I never like to be connected to a flight that requires repairs to be done on the “fly!” With my ever-curious nature in full swing I decided to Google airport delays, and in so doing, not only did I find the real truth behind the delay, I also discovered a nifty little website tool with a map and everything!

The FAA hosts a website titled Flight Delay Information – Air Traffic Control System Command Center. Each airport is represented by a dot. The dot is color-coded denoting the status of each airport. Green represents general arrival/departure delays of 15 minutes or less; yellow 16-45 minutes; and red 45 minutes or more. And then there is orange, which means that flights are being delayed at their originating airports due to delays at their destinations.

On Sunday, when I discovered this handy tool, every dot on the map was green, except SFO, which was orange! As it turns out, SFO was taking advantage of the lighter weekend air travel to do construction work on the taxiways. Thus, they were holding flights at their departure points up from 45 to 90 minutes. Oh yay, lucky me! At least it was better than worrying about what piece or part of the aircraft was faulty, or if the crew was suffering a nasty hangover!

The FAA map is interactive, allowing you to hover or click on the dots for more information about the delay. Additionally, while the main map only depicts major airports, you can select a region of focus, lest you should think they slighted the regional airports! 

Forest for the Trees

Never before have we been able to see the forest for the trees in such detail.  Scientists at the Woods Hole Research Center in Falmouth, MA compiled the “National Biomass and Carbon Dataset for the year 2000” (NBCD2000) generating a high-resolution, spatially explicit map, that will form the baseline for future studies. The dataset and map, which were part of a project funded by NASA, were pieced together using 2000-2001 data from NASA satellites and ground-based forest surveys. This map is the most precise representation of the height and coverage of U.S. forests and woodlands of its kind.

Woods Hole Research Center is an organization dedicated to advancing scientific discovery and seeking science-based solutions for the world’s environmental and economic challenges through research and education on forests, soils, air, and water.  Josef Kellndorfer, of the WHRC who led the study, said in a statement the data will provide a baseline for understanding both forest resources and carbon flux, and should help researchers monitor changes in forest cover over time.

For more information about how the map was compiled as well as to zoom in, click on the map image below.

Customer Spotlight: Medafor, Inc.

Customer Spotlight: Medafor, Inc.

We would like to welcome our newest customer, Medafor, Inc., to our GeoMetrx family. Having been in business for more than a decade, Medafor is a rapidly growing medical technology company providing products to the major surgical hemostatic markets around the world including the United States, China and Japan. Based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, the company has built itself from the ground up based on its expertise in hemostatic technology and has developed groundbreaking products that have met with resounding success in the surgical world.

Originally, the company’s products were focused on the OTC, Military and pre-hospital EMT markets, and then, in September 2006, Medafor received FDA approval for ARISTA®AH for use in surgical applications. ARISTA®AH is a sterile, absorbable hemostatic powder consisting of Microporous Polysaccharide Hemospheres (MPH®), Medafor’s patented blood clotting technology, derived from purified plant starch. Usage of the product begins clotting the blood on contact, accelerating the body’s natural processes. Hospitals will occasionally administer a bleeding time test prior to certain surgical procedures. If a patient is not suffering from a bleeding disorder, the test generally takes less than ten minutes. Ten minutes, however, is a long time to bleed on the operating table, which helps emphasize both the importance and the popularity of this breakthrough product in a surgical environment.

According to Millennium Research Group (MRG), the global authority on medical technology market intelligence, “the United States market for surgical hemostats, internal tissue sealants and adhesion barriers will grow strongly, reaching a total of $1.7 billion by 2016. In particular, the market for combination surgical hemostats will grow at an average of nearly 15 percent per year.” Medafor is well-positioned in this market, and with its continued excellence, and focus on marketing and business strategy development, the company is expected to continue increasing its market share in this high growth industry.

Currently, Medafor has a growing team of over 120 independent sales representatives in the United States and an equally impressive distribution network around the world. By joining forces with GeoMetrx, Medafor has put our online application to use to optimize its sales territories. Optimizing sales territories creates many efficiencies including territory alignment, elimination of overlap, minimized travel time, balanced workload, increased productivity and much more.

Another valuable feature offered by GeoMetrx is the ability to upload and assimilate a company’s proprietary data. Medafor is taking full advantage of this opportunity as well and can now aggregate, compare, rank and map its own customer data, in addition to utilizing the many other strategic planning benefits of visualizing one’s own data.

Medafor team members, Neil Hauger, Shawn Perry, and Joe Schmitzer, recently traveled to Bend, Oregon to meet with GeoMetrx’s Rich Mithoff and Patrick O’Neill for a custom training session of our online mapping application. During their visit, they experienced the scenic beauty and charm of this small town that has become an international mecca for outdoor enthusiasts. They wrapped up their stay with a visit to one of Bend’s many microbreweries, 10 Barrel Brewing Company. Cheers and welcome to the family!

Health Insurance Ownership – Heat Map

Health Insurance Ownership – Heat Map

The Health Insurance Industry continues to be a major topic of discussion in the U.S., particularly with the passing of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“Obama Care”).  Despite the challenges faced by this industry and the continued rocky road toward economic recovery, the industry is holding its own.  According to S&P, the 2012 Outlook for this sector is stable, “…reflecting our belief that industry risk is moderating, business conditions have improved, and health insurers’ financial fundamentals are now relatively strong.

Current ownership of medical, health and hospital insurance is displayed in the map below by percentage of the U.S. Adult Population (18+). Areas of the least coverage are shown in red, while those with the greatest coverage are shown in green.

Health insurance coverage is only part of overall health care spending.  Each month, the Altarum Institute releases its HealthCare Spending Brief. The most recent publication reveals the following findings based on data collected through June 2012:

• Hospital spending was $910 billion seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR) and represented 32% of total health spending
• Physician and clinical services spending was $547 billion, remaining at 19% of total health spending
• Prescription drug spending was $281 billion, 10% of total health spending
• Nursing home and home health spending combined were $230 billion, 8% of total health spending.
• Spending on personal health care goods and services accounted for 84% of total health spending (other major components include public health, research, construction, and net cost of private insurance)

What do these figures mean? According to the Washington Post, health care spending in the last two years has been slow, much slower than in previous decades. Take a look at health care spending for June 2012 vs. June 2011, showing a continued decline in overall growth.

For more information on how to obtain access to GeoMetrx datasets, contact us today at 1.888.848.4436.

Interactive Weather Map

Web Resources: Interactive Hurricane Tracker

Last night I was ‘half-watching’ the news waiting for the weather report, and when it finally came on I not only got the information I wanted, but also a sweet extra… more on that in a moment.  Why was I so anxious for the weather report? Well, we are supposed to be in the path for Isaac eventually, and living in the unbelievably drought-ridden Mississippi River Valley, we are actually looking forward to a good, long soaking. At first we expected Isaac as early as this morning, but then he decided to stall over the Gulf Coast for awhile. Isaac is still slowing making his way north toward us before taking a turn and pushing northeast, but just exactly when will he get here and how will he impact our Labor Day weekend plans? And how many more times will the forecast change before the rain arrives?

I’m one of those people that has the weather channel not only bookmarked, but also pinned on my bookmark bar. I click that link – a lot! I like to know what to expect, as much as the weather can be predicted. And there is something about the merger of weather and maps that really speaks to the ‘mapping geek’ in me. So as I turned my attention to the weather report last night, our meteorologist casually mentioned this nifty little tracking tool he likes to use that the viewers could check out online. “Weather?” “Map?” “Online?” “Utility?”  Can you hear my voice getting higher pitched and more excited with each passing second?  I had to check it out immediately and I have to say it totally rocks!

This utility, http://imapweather.com/, offers four different map views, 15 different weather layers (you can choose to view any or all of them at the same time), live streaming video links plotted directly on the map, zoom tools, measurement tools and even a drawing tool that allows you to mark up the map to your heart’s content! Another really nice feature is the fullscreen setting… so many utilities overlook such a simple feature, but this one got it right! I’ve pinned this one to my bookmark bar, too! Check it out, I think you’ll really enjoy it.

Book Release: Mapping the Nation

Geography in the News: Book Release

Susan Schulten, a self-proclaimed map enthusiast, author and history professor at the University of Denver, has recently published her second book, Mapping the Nation: History and Cartography in Nineteenth-Century America, (University of Chicago Press, July 6, 2012).

For the past two centuries, maps have been an important part of our history. The Lewis and Clark Expedition (1804-1806) mapped much of the Northwest, as the team attempted to discover a water route to the Pacific. Maps were also used to understand and prevent epidemics, track weather patterns, analyze the demographics and psychographics of the south at the end of the Civil War, and much more. By the end of the nineteenth century, Congress authorized a national archive of maps, recognizing the historical importance of old maps in tracing our nation’s history.

From the publisher’s page: “All of these experiments involved the realization that maps were not just illustrations of data, but visual tools that were uniquely equipped to convey complex ideas and information. In Mapping the Nation, Susan Schulten charts how maps of epidemic disease, slavery, census statistics, the environment, and the past demonstrated the analytical potential of cartography, and in the process transformed the very meaning of a map.”  In addition to the book, Schulten has created Mapping the Nation, a companion site showcasing some of the spectacular maps from this important era.

Below is a map from the book depicting the Electoral College results from the very first presidential election of George Washington in 1789 through Rutherford B. Hayes in 1876.

US Electoral College results for 1789-1876 w/inset portrait and facsimile signature of each President. States participating in each election are color coded by party voted. Beginning with 1824, the current President of Mexico is also listed. ~Susan Schulten, Mapping the Nation, July 6, 2012, University of Chicago Press

Click here for a close-up view of the election of Abraham Lincoln in 1860.

Click here to learn more about Schulten’s first book, The Geographical Imagination in America, 1880-1950.

Money Map Poster

Geography in the News: Money Map Poster

Heraclitus (535 B.C. – 475 B.C.), is the Greek philosopher credited with coining the phrase, “nothing endures but change,” which has often been translated to the saying we are more familiar with “the only constant is change.”  Isaac Asimov (1920-1992), a Russian-born, American author, brought the concept into the mainstream with the following quote:

“The only constant is change, continuing change, inevitable change, that is the dominant factor in society today. No sensible decision can be made any longer without taking into account not only the world as it is, but the world as it will be.”

Regardless of its source, this is an age-old adage that will remain true until the end of time, and perhaps even beyond that. Geographies and economies are two excellent examples of this constant change, and thanks to the power of the Web, the latest and most up-to-date information is just a click away. With millions of web-surfers constantly trolling and services such as Reddit to keep us all in the loop, new, unique and intereting postings go viral very quickly. Just this week, a clever Reddit user, The310Investigator, created a fun map, combining both geography and the economy.  The map depicts each country around the globe by the paper currency in use. If you haven’t seen it yet, here it is:

It’s very cool, but how long will it be before this map is already outdated? Only time will tell, but one thing is certain, it will “change,” especially if this clever mapper creates a coin version!

Train Travel Heat Map

GeoMetrx Data in Action: Train Travel  Heat Map

Our GeoMetrx online mapping application excels in creating rich demographic reports, demographic mapping, aligning & mapping sales or franchise territories, performing market analysis, retail site selection and much more. You can use our available current year demographic datasets or upload your own company data to aggregate, compare, rank and map data on demand.

Below is a heat map depicting Domestic Railroad Travel, generated from our GeoMetrx mapping application. The data is depicted at the county level and population percents increase from the light yellow to dark green areas.

For more information on how to obtain access to these datasets, contact us today at 1.888.848.4436.

High Speed Rail: A Vision for the Future

High Speed Rail: A Vision for the Future

The U.S. owes much of its early growth and prosperity to the railroads, and if the visionaries of our country persevere, they may once again regain their prior glory attained during the “Golden Age” of railroading.  Railroads enjoyed the height of their popularity for more than a half-century during the 1880s to 1920s, before other modes of transportation, such as automobiles and airplanes, began to compete in moving goods and people across vast distances.  According to American-Rails.com, “…1916 saw peak mileage at over 254,000 [miles of track] and railroads held virtually 100% of all interstate traffic, both passenger and freight.”

By the end of WWII, the railroad industry was in serious decline, and by the time the 1970s arrived, railroad operators had to cut back so severely that the trains, and even the tracks themselves, were in serious disrepair. Many of the famous railroad companies collapsed during this era, and out of the ashes arose what is now Amtrak (National Railroad Passenger Corporation), a government owned corporation.  The industry was deregulated in 1980, and has slowly been making a comeback ever since. Today, the industry is experiencing a rebirth as many industry leaders and politicians are pushing for the advent of a high-speed US rail system equivalent to those now operating in the European Union, and parts of Asia.

While our passenger system is lacking, our freight rail system is widely held to be the best in the world. The freight rail system, surprisingly perhaps, is running out of capacity as the demand has surged in the last decade to levels that have not been seen since WWII.  Other factors contributing to the revival of the railroad industry are:

• our aging infrastructure
• roadway traffic congestion
• eventual depletion of fossil fuel reserves
• a growing eco-consciousness to reduce our impact on the earth

The challenges facing the industry are great, yet many believe they can be overcome.  These include the varying interests of policy-makers, land rights, the financial obligation of project development and construction, and the lack of connecting local public transportation in many metropolitan areas. Visionaries see the need today to build a passenger rail system that can free us from our utter dependence on the automobile tomorrow. America has long been a world leader and it is, therefore, somewhat baffling that the installation of a high speed rail system is not a higher national priority.

Passenger routes in the US, both current and proposed, are a patchwork of many private regional systems. California is in the midst of long-term planning to build a high speed rail corridor through its central valley that will connect northern cities to southern cities with trains that will travel at 200mph. The northeast is host to the fastest trains currently in operation with the U.S. Amtrak’s Acela service traveling from Boston to Washington at speeds up to 150mph. Improvements are planned that will take the top speed to 160mph.  In comparison, most high speed trains in Europe travel at approximately 110 to 185mph.  The Chinese Shanghai Maglev Train, operating via magnetic levitation, has a top speed of 268mph.

European rail companies are wrestling one another for future control of the industry and the lion’s share of billions in profits, while back in America, we continue to argue whether high speed rail should even exist. One organization, US High Speed Rail Association, an independent, nonprofit 501(c)(6) trade association is focused on “advancing a state-of-the-art national high speed rail network across the country.” The organization hopes to “organize and mobilize the industry with a shared vision for a 21st century, 17,000 mile national high speed rail system built in phases for completion by 2030.” The map below depicts their vision.

While the future of railroads in the US is unknown, one thing is certain – how people will travel in the future impacts long term strategies for many businesses. In the heydays of Route 66, many businesses popped up overnight along the popular east-west corridor. However, as the new Insterstate Highway System eventually bypassed the road, many businesses either closed down or relocated. A national high speed rail system will certainly change the face of America in much the same way, disrupting traffic patterns businesses currently rely upon.

Businesses in large cities with well-established public transportation will fair better than those in metropolitan and suburban areas that are predominantly car-dependent. As local markets develop public transportation to support high speed rail traffic, consumer shopping behaviors will change as well. People who rely on public transportation tend to shop more often and purchase smaller amounts of goods compared with people living in suburbs and driving large vehicles who tend to make fewer trips but purchase greater amounts.

Olympic Games Host Cities

Olympic Games Host Cities

“The thrill of victory, the agony of defeat…,” the ultimate sporting competition is just days away! The 27th Summer Olympics are set to open this Saturday, July 27th, in London. This will be the third time London has been bestowed with the honor of hosting the summer games, having previously done so in 1908 and 1948.  The 1944 summer games were slated to take place in London, however, they were cancelled due to World War II.

In fact, the games, have been cancelled 5 times (3 Summer Games and 2 Winter Games) since 1896 when the official  Games of the I Olympiad were held in Athens, Greece. The summer games were cancelled in 1916 due to World War I, and both the summer and winter games were cancelled in 1940 and 1944 due to World War II. 1924 was the first year the winter games were held.

Being selected as a host city is a tremendous honor and a tremendous undertaking. Despite the challenges of hosting the games, cities around the world vie for the honors. Host cities are typically selected about 7 years in advance. The upcoming games are:

• 2014 Winter Games – Sochi, Russia
• 2016 Summer Games – Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
• 2018 Winter Games – Pyeongchang, South Korea
• 2020 Summer Games – Currently, three cities (Istanbul, Tokyo, and Madrid) are under consideration for the 2020 Summer Games, with the winning city to be announced on September 13, 2013.

The 2016 games in Rio de Janeiro will mark only the third time games will be held in the Southern Hemisphere, and the first time they will be held on the South American continent. Besides Antarctica, the only other continent yet to  host the games is Africa. London leads the list of cities to host the most Olympic games at 3, and the United States is the leading country, having hosted the games 8 times. Whether it’s medal counts, or the bragging rights of host cities, the competition marches on. Let the games begin!

COUNTRY
(# times hosted
by Country)
CITY
(# times hosted
by City)
YEAR HELD
(S=Summer)
(W=Winter)
Greece (2) Athens (2) 1896-S
France (4) Paris (2) 1900-S
United States (8) St. Louis (1) 1904-S
United Kingdom (3) London (3) 1908-S
Sweden (1) Stockholm (1) 1912-S
cancelled (5) (Berlin, Germany) 1916-S
Belgium (1) Antwerp (1) 1920-S
France (4) Chamonix (1) 1924-W
France (4) Paris (2) 1924-S
Switzerland (2) St. Moritz (2) 1928-W
Netherlands (1) Amsterdam (1) 1928-S
United States (8) Lake Placid (2) 1932-W
United States (8) Los Angeles (2) 1932-S
Germany (3) Garmisch-Partenkirchen (1) 1936-W
Germany (3) Berlin (1) 1936-S
cancelled (5) (Sapporo, Japan) 1940-W
cancelled (5) (Tokyo, Japan) 1940-S
cancelled (5) (Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy) 1944-W
cancelled (5) (London, United Kingdom) 1944-S
Switzerland (2) St. Moritz (2) 1948-W
United Kingdom (3) London (3) 1948-S
Norway (2) Oslo (1) 1952-W
Finland (1) Helsinki (1) 1952-S
Italy (3) Cortina d’Ampezzo (1) 1956-W
Australia (2) Melbourne (1) 1956-S
United States (8) Squaw Valley (1) 1960-W
Italy (3) Rome (1) 1960-S
Austria (2) Innsbruck (2) 1964-W
Japan (3) Tokyo (1) 1964-S
France (4) Grenoble (1) 1968-W
Mexico (1) Mexico City (1) 1968-S
Japan (3) Sapporo (1) 1972-W
Germany (3) Munich (1) 1972-S
Austria (2) Innsbruck (2) 1976-W
Canada (3) Montreal (1) 1976-S
United States (8) Lake Placid (2) 1980-W
Soviet Union (1) Moscow (1) 1980-S
Yugoslavia (1) Sarajevo (1) 1984-W
United States (8) Los Angeles (2) 1984-S
Canada (3) Calgary (1) 1988-W
South Korea (1) Seoul (1) 1988-S
Spain (1) Barcelona (1) 1992-S
Norway (2) Lillehammer (1) 1994-W
United States (8) Atlanta (1) 1996-S
Japan (3) Nagano (1) 1998-W
Australia (2) Sydney (1) 2000-S
United States (8) Salt Lake City (1) 2002-W
Greece (2) Athens (2) 2004-S
Italy (3) Turin (1) 2006-W
China (1) Beijing (1) 2008-S
Canada (3) Vancouver (1) 2010-W
United Kingdom (3) London (3) 2012-S

 

Long-term Health Impacts of the Fukushima Nuclear Disaster

Long-term Health Impacts of the Fukushima Nuclear Disaster

A new report on the long-term global health impacts of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, as a result of the devastating March 2011 earthquake and tsunami, were released earlier this week in the journal of Energy and Environmental Science. The research study was conducted by Recent PhD graduate John Ten Hoeve and Stanford civil engineering Professor Mark Z. Jacobson, a senior fellow at the Precourt Institute for Energy and the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment.

The report estimates that in addition to the initial 600 deaths* caused by the evacuation of the area, another 15 to 1300 deaths are possible, along with 24 to 2500 cases of cancer. Most of these are expected in Japan. While the ranges of the estimates are large, they stand in contrast to prior claims that the radioactive release following the meltdown was not expected to cause any severe health effects.

Fukushima is the worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl, and has created a “dead zone” of several hundred square kilometers around the plant. However, while radioactive materials have been detected as far away as North America and Europe, the Pacific Ocean took the brunt of the disaster, and only 19% of the fallout was deposited over land. This has kept the number of people exposed relatively low, but certainly the exposure was not eliminated entirely.

The coolest part of the research is the method applied by the researchers. They used a 3-D global atmospheric model and combined that with a standard health-effects model. The output from the use of the models reveals the majority of those affected are in Japan, with only a very small number of possible deaths (0-12) and cancer cases (30) expected in the U.S., alleviating fears for some, especially among people living along the west coast of California.

Visualizing data is one of the most effective ways to draw meaningful conclusions and increase our understanding of any given situation. To that end, the researchers opted to analyze the immediate and long-term health effects of a hypothetical, yet identical nuclear disaster if it were to occur at the Diablo Canyon Power Plant near San Luis Obispo, CA. Although the population density near the Diablo Canyon plant is only about one-fourth of that in the area near the Fukushima plant, the projected health effects would be much greater due to both weather patterns and geography. A much greater percentage of the fallout would be deposited on land including very heavily populated areas such as Los Angeles and even San Diego.

The researchers stressed that the long-term impacts reach well beyond health concerns alone from disasters such as Fukushima and Chernobyl.  In the Fukushima disaster, Jacobson cited other impacts such as “soil and water contamination, displacement of lives, confidence in government oversight, cost and anguish.” The national, and global, debate over the continued use and development of nuclear power wages on.

The U.S. is the leading producer of nuclear power, according to the World Nuclear Association:

  • The USA is the world’s largest producer of nuclear power, accounting for more than 30% of worldwide nuclear generation of electricity.
  • The country’s 104 nuclear reactors produced 807 billion kWh in 2010, over 20% of total electrical output.
  • Following a 30-year period in which few new reactors were built, it is expected that 4-6 new units may come on line by 2020, the first of those resulting from 16 licence applications made since mid-2007 to build 24 new nuclear reactors. However, lower gas prices since 2009 have put the economic viability of some of these projects in doubt.
  • Government policy changes since the late 1990s have helped pave the way for significant growth in nuclear capacity. Government and industry are working closely on expedited approval for construction and new plant designs.

It will be interesting to see how much or how little of this issue is raised by the political candidates in the upcoming election season.

*The initial 600 deaths were reported as a result of the evacuation process itself, mostly due to fatigue and exposure among the elderly and chronically ill.

Online Shopping – Heat Map Data

Online Shopping – How Widespread is it?

There is little evidence in America, and even the world for that matter, that we will outgrow this computer and Internet fad-thingy.  Instant and constant access to information has changed, and continues to change, the way we live our lives both personally and professionally. One of the many offshoots of the Internet has been the development of online shopping.

Online shopping is the modern version of the age-old mail order services that gave rise to such industry giants as Sears Roebuck. If you are scratching your head and saying “Sears and who?,” you are likely a member of the younger generation! Sears not only had a thriving mail order business, but also established itself as a brick and mortar retail giant across the land, becoming the largest retailer in the U.S.  by the mid-20th century. While many of us in the older generation mourn the loss of the Sears’ catalogs, they really haven’t disappeared… they’ve just morphed into electronic catalogs.

Harris Interactive, a leading custom market research firm, conducted an online poll in the fall of 2010, measuring the amount of time spent doing various activities online.  Nearly one-quarter of adults (24%) reported they have increased the amount of time they spend shopping online. The poll also revealed the increasing amount of influence online reviews and opinions shared through social media have on people’s decisions. But will all of this really make physical stores obsolete?

For years Sears Roebuck thrived in both its mail order and retail store businesses. One of the biggest changes affecting Sears, was not the advent of online shopping, but rather the mass migration of Americans moving out of city centers and into vast sprawling suburban regions in the post WW2 era. Businesses are constantly adapting to the changing needs and interests of their consumers. Online shopping is the latest revolution, but many believe it can and will continue to exist alongside traditional shopping outlets. Today’s retail giants such as Walmart and Target, tailor their services to meet the needs of both arm-chair shoppers and hands-on shoppers.

Take a look at the heat map below of the penetration of online shopping in the U.S. generated from one of our many databases in GeoMetrx. While online shopping clearly has a presence, and more strongly in some areas, it doesn’t appear as if retail businesses are going to be boarding up their storefronts any time soon.

Earth Album

Web Resources: Earth Album

If you enjoy maps and photography, we have a great website for you: Earth Album. This website combines the power and detail of Google Maps with some of the most beautiful photography from around the world, courtesy of Flickr. The top images on Flickr are used, and therefore the images change every few weeks, bringing you a new experience every time you visit.

There are several ways to narrow in on an area of interest. You can simply click anywhere on the map and an image thumbnail bar will appear. You can zoom in to a very specific location and click on the map (note the small yellow rectangle outlining the area of the map where pictures have been pinned). You can also select from a drop down list of famous landmarks, or enter a specific search of your own.

Grand Prismatic Spring, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming • Photograph Courtesy of Peter Kovacs

Take your time and scroll through the images on the thumbnail image bar. More popular destinations feature more pictures. You can click on the green arrow in the upper right corner of the thumbnail bar to access additional photos. The site was designed with the “armchair tourist” in mind, so take a moment now to enjoy some spectacular locations, whether you’ve been there, plan to go there, or just want to see the sights online. Check out images of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, the beauty of the geothermal features of Yellowstone National Park such as the Grand Prismatic Spring (above), or take an online journey to Antarctica. Clicking on the images will link you to the Flickr page where the pictures are hosted.

May the FOURTH be with you

Happy Fourth of July

!!! May the FOURTH be with you !!!

Domestic Travel Heat Map

GeoMetrx Data in Action: Domestic Travel

Our GeoMetrx online mapping application excels in creating rich demographic reports, demographic mapping, aligning & mapping sales or franchise territories, performing market analysis, retail site selection and much more. You can use our available current year demographic datasets or upload your own company data to aggregate, compare, rank and map data on demand.

 

Our extensive travel industry data includes the following categories:

• Domestic Travel (Traveled Last Year; 11+ Roundtrips)
• Mode of Travel (Boat/Ship; Bus; Car; Plane; Railroad; RV; Other-Truck)
• Cruise Ship – Areas Traveled (multiple locations)
• Foreign Travel – Country Visited (multiple countries)
• Foreign Travel – Reason for Trip (multiple options
• Travel Agent Services Used
• Hotel/Motel – Stay; Loyalty Program
• Average Spent
• Travel Preferences (Organized Activities; Prefer Travel Abroad; Prefer
   Travel Domestic; Prefer Different Location Every Trip; and more)
• Business Establishment Data and Retail Potential (Travel Services;
   Hotels and Other Accomodations)

Below is a heat map of the point of origin of domestic travelers last year, generated from our GeoMetrx mapping application. The data is depicted at the county level and population percents increase from the lighter to darker areas. Demographic data, such as population density, combined with competitive business data is an extremely useful resource for determining market potential.

Travel and Tourism: A Panorama of Opportunity

Travel and Tourism: A Panorama of Opportunity

Humans are curious by nature. From the moment we are born we begin to explore the world around us and as soon as we gain mobility we just keep on moving. For many, this curiosity develops into a lifelong passion to travel the world and experience life to the fullest, creating memories that last a lifetime. We travel for many reasons, both business and pleasure. Personal travel is often motivated by the desire to meet new people, reconnect with friends, spend time with loved ones, escape the daily routine, discover new things, see breathtaking vistas, gain a sense of freedom, relax, enjoy, ponder… the list is endless.

Our desire to see the world has a tremendous economic impact. In 2010, the U.S. travel industry amassed $1.8 trillion in spending by domestic and international visitors; $759 billion in direct travel expenditures and another $1 trillion in other industries (Source: The U.S. Travel Association) Direct spending by travelers averaged $2 billion a day, $86.6 million an hour, $1.4 million a minute and $24,000 per second.

Travel and tourism accounted for an impressive 2.7% of our nation’s 2010 GDP (gross domestic product), supporting 14 million jobs in the U.S, and it ranks among the top 10 industries in 48 states for employment.  The reach of the industry is global. According to the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), travel and tourism accounts for 9% of GDP globally and supports 255 million jobs around the world, or one in 12 jobs. The WTTC expects the industry to grow about 3% in 2012, and eventually account for one out of every 10 jobs. As the U.S. economy continues pulling out of its long downturn, Jan Freitag, a senior vice president at Smith Travel Research cited a 4.1 percent gain in first-quarter hotel bookings. The number of hotel workers increased 3.2% in March, and hotel occupancy levels have reached 63.6%, which is close to the historic average. (Source: Bloomberg Business Week)

U.S. travel and tourism industry data can be further divided by leisure vs. business travel, with leisure travel accounting for the lion’s share of activity. More than 1.9 billion person-trips were made in 2010.  Of those, 1.5 billion were for leisure travel, and 448 million were for business purposes. A person-trip is defined as one person traveling away from home overnight in paid accommodations or traveling to places more than 50 miles from home, one-way. The U.S. Travel Association cites the top five leisure travel activities for domestic travelers as follows:

•  Visiting Relatives
•  Shopping
•  Visiting Friends
•  Rural Sightseeing
•  Beaches

The broad reach of the travel and tourism industry combined with the needs and interests of the individual traveler makes it ideal for small business owners and franchisors to enter the market. Travelers come in many varieties and desire a broad spectrum of offerings. Some prefer eating and lodging at well-known national chains while others seek out local mom and pop establishments. Some prefer adventurous outdoor treks, while others opt for full-service destination resorts. Some like to repeat the same vacation year after year, while others have a long list of places they’d like to visit within their lifetime, never visiting the same location twice.

The travel industry, despite its size, can be very competitive. Whether offering trip planning services, transportation, lodging, activities or other travel services, specializing in a niche market can help limit the competition. There is a vast panorama of opportunity for business owners who can combine their passion with sound business decisions and thorough market research; they have the road map to success laid out before them.

Airfare Pricing Map

Web Resources: Airfare Pricing Map

The cost of airfare often determines travelers’ vacation destinations. Searching for airline prices city by city can be time-consuming and simply reviewing a list of “special offer” fares can be very limiting. At GeoMetrx, we strongly believe in the power of visually mapping data, which makes this website resource, www.kayak.com, a win-win! The cofounders of Expedia, Travelocity and Orbitz started the website in 2004. Of the many features available, our favorite is the Explore tool.  KAYAK’s Explore visually maps current airfare prices around the globe.

Powered by Google, the user enters the departure city from which to provide airfare prices to any destination. Additional filters are available for selecting a travel window, weather preferences, and activities available. The user can then search every continent and zoom in on particular countries, regions or even cities. Prices are displayed on the map, and when selected, a pop-up window offers further details as well as linking to a ticket pricing application. The site even offers a free mobile app that is compatible with nearly every phone platform. Check it out before your next trip, whether for pleasure or business.

Unique Travel Destinations

Unique Travel Destinations

Kicking off our travel series, we bring you some of the world’s most unique places to visit. We recently discovered a terrific website, The Atlas Obscura, which defines itself as “the definitive guidebook and friendly tour-guide to the world’s most wondrous places.” The content of the web-site is generated by users and edited by the website owners, creating “… a collaborative compendium of amazing places that aren’t found in your average guidebook. If you’re looking for miniature cities, glass flowers, books bound in human skin, gigantic flaming holes in the ground, bone churches, balancing pagodas, or homes built entirely out of paper, the Atlas Obscura is where you’ll find them.

The website can be searched in one of two ways, either by region or by category. You can even let the site choose a random place for you to learn about and potentially explore should you choose it to be your next travel destination. Sites are listed in one of the following categories:

• Natural Wonders – whether wind, earth, water or fire this list of possibilities is extensive

• Museums and Collections – this is a self-explanatory category, but the entries are vast and very unique

• Unusual Monuments – strange statues and peculiar fountains round out this list

• Miniatures – the discoveries may be tiny but this list of sites is not

• Momento Mori – Latin for ‘remember your mortality’ this category include cemeteries, remnants, mummies, catcombs, crypts, and many more macabre locales

• Inspired Inventions – from the musical to the scientific and everything in between, including our favorite “marvelous map”, this is one rousing category

• Intriguing Environs – featuring ghost towns, optical illusions and a multitude of other mystifying spots

Cultures and Civilizations – if you enjoy local and perhaps even quirky performances, or spectating at cultural rituals, this is the category for you

• Commercial Curiosities – from the most curious of knick-knack souvenirs to unique accommodations to the most bizarre of local eateries and drink holes, look no further

• Architectural Oddities – creativity spans the globe as do the locations of the unique structures listed here

One thing to note is that each of these wondrous places is assigned to just one category, yet sometimes just which category is the best choice is not always clear. For instance, the three-dimensional, five-block long, model of the Mississippi River on Mud Island in Memphis, TN is found in Miniatures: Small Worlds and Model Towns, rather than Intriguing Inventions: Marvelous Maps and Measures. Our advice is to really dig deep into the listings so you don’t miss any of the “World’s Wonders, Curiosities, and Estorica.” And last but not least, if you know of a curious place, you’re encouraged to add it to the atlas.

 

Deepwater Horizon: Continuing Impact

This past April marked the two-year ‘anniversary’ of the Deepwater Horizon disaster, when the offshore drilling rig being leased by BP exploded and sank off the coast of Louisiana. The disaster resulted in 4.9 million barrels of oil being spewed into the Gulf of Mexico over a period of nearly three months, and covering an area roughly the size of Oklahoma. This was, unarguably, the worst oil disaster in U.S. history. The methods used to stop the spill, along with the clean-up efforts that followed, have met with much criticism. The long-lasting effects of the spill are under no less scrutiny and debate.

BP maintains that it has gone to a lot of effort to help people affected by the disaster as fisherman are fishing again, offshore drilling is slowly coming back on line, beaches are open and the Gulf Coast economy has surpassed itself prior to the accident. However, not everyone agrees that all is well as many who live along the gulf-shore complain of health issues caused by the spill and the ensuing clean-up efforts.  The Government Accountability Project (GAP) found that the cleanup workers have also suffered a long list of health issues. Reports of deformed seafood are raising great concerns for scientists and fishermen as the long-term effects on marine life are far from known. When the oil leak was finally capped in September of 2010, Samantha Joye, a professor in the Department of Marine Sciences at the University of Georgia, reported that a substantial layer of oily sediment stretched dozens of miles in all directions. Subsequent research has revealed the thickness of the layer to be much greater than originally thought.

While the Gulf Shore continues to recover, there is no argument that the Deepwater Horizon disaster caused immense damage to marine and wildlife habitats and to the Gulf’s fishing and tourism industries. Just how far into the future the impact will be felt remains unknown. The U.S. Travel Association estimated that the economic impact of the oil spill on tourism across the Gulf Coast over a three-year period could exceed approximately $23 billion, in a region that supports over 400,000 travel industry jobs generating $34 billion in revenue annually. Many marine populations may continue to suffer the effects of the disaster for years to come, especially those populations that take years to reach maturity such as tuna. How the spill will affect future generations is not known. Crab fishermen in the area claim that many of the crabs they catch come up dead, discolored and riddled with holes. The disaster has had a significant impact on the real estate market along the Gulf Shore as well.

Pest Control Heat Map

GeoMetrx Data in Action: Pest Control

It’s certainly been a warmer than average spring across much of the U.S., and add to that a mild winter for much of the country as well, and you have ideal conditions for a very buggy summer.  According to Ron Harrison, an entomologist with Orkin, “the mild winter in most areas did not kill many of the pests or reduce their populations, and then the real warm spring, which we’re experiencing, has triggered their development” (source: weather.com).

A survey of more than 1,300 homeowners, conducted by Home Team Pest Defense, a residential pest control company, found that 84% of homeowners have had pest problems in the last year, and just over half (51%) think it is essential to use professional pest control services (source: PCTOnline.com). The survey also reported that while 54% of homeowners attempted to treat pest problems on their own, over two-thirds of those were unable to completely resolve their issues. When looking for a pest control company, the top two priorities cited by homeowners are a company that guarantees its work (95%), and the use of treatments that are not harmful to children and pets (80%).

Bugs and critters are everywhere, affording pest control companies the opportunity to establish businesses throughout the country. Warmer climates, as well as highly populated areas, reveal a higher demand for the use of professional exterminators and pest control services. The heat map below, from GeoMetrx, depicts the usage of these services in the U.S. (lower 48 states).  GeoMetrx can also yield competitor locations and help pest control franchisors to establish, develop and maintain strategically aligned franchise territories.

Pest Control – Industry Overview

Franchising Opportunities: Pest Control

The pest control industry provides a variety of services to homeowners and businesses, such as locating, identifying, destroying, catching, controlling and repelling pests. These services are provided in a variety of ways including applying chemicals, installing physical barriers, and setting traps. Some pest control service companies cater to the humanitarian customer base by capturing and releasing critters back into the wild.

The U.S. pest control industry generated an estimated $11 billion last year, as reported by IBISWorld, the largest independent publishers of U.S. industry research. The report, released in April 2012, reveals the industry has grown an average of 2.9% over the last 5 years. Over 21,500 business establishments provide nearly 110,700 jobs. Most of these are small firms with only a few employees, while there are several national giants as well, such as Terminix (part of ServiceMaster) and Orkin (a subsidiary of Rollins). These larger companies benefit from brand recognition as well as national advertising, and offer franchise opportunities. Smaller companies have the advantage of providing high-quality personal service and growing customer loyalty.

As the economy continues to recover, the housing market is recovering as well. This alone is increasing demand from homeowners for regular inspections and treatments of termites and other pests. Hotel and restaurant industry standards and regulations are also creating increased demand for pest control services. The recent uptick in bed bug outbreaks has further propelled the demand for professional services. Whether opting to start a franchise or your own business, the pest control industry has relatively easy market entry, though training and licensing is required before offering services to customers, particularly those that involve the application of chemicals and other pesticides. Watch for our next post featuring a Professional Exterminator Usage heat map and the expected impact of this season’s warmer than average temperatures.

Mobile & Desktop Maps

Web Resources:  Mobile & Desktop Maps

Have you ever needed to find a location on Google Maps using just latitude and longitude coordinates? It can be tricky if you don’t enter the information in just the right format.  Or perhaps you’ve needed to know the coordinates of a particular location or address? Well, we have discovered a great online resource with an interactive lat/long feature you’re sure to appreciate at iTouchMap.com. Simply enter an address and get the lat/long of any point. Conversely, you can enter your lat/long coordinates whether in decimal format or in degrees, minutes and seconds and see the location pinpointed on Google Maps.

iTouchMap.com has a variety of other handy utilities as well. The map tool utilizes full search functionality for addresses, cities, points of interest, businesses and organizations. At any time you can relocate the yellow “stickman” to the center of the current map view, a very handy feature. The map also includes additional viewing options such as Streetview and Traffic, effectively creating a hybrid between Google Maps and Google Earth.

Streetview, when selected, displays a street level image to the left of the map that changes as the location marker is relocated. The Traffic view displays real time construction, lane closures, accidents and other impediments, with the time of onset to the expected-to-end time. Driving directions are available in five different languages: English, French, German, Japanese and Spanish.

Another handy feature of the website is the ability to measure distances. If you run, bike, or walk and want to know how much ground you covered, it’s easy to calculate. Enter your starting point and then click on the map to add additional points. Once points are placed they can be adjusted simply by clicking and dragging the markers. If you’ve ever been curious about the distance of the perimeter around the New York City Central Park Reservoir, wonder no more, it is just under 1.6 miles.

If you love maps as much as we do, visit iTouchMap.com and have fun exploring! But remember, when you need the power of data to enhance your mapping, GeoMetrx has you covered. Call 1.888.848.4436 for more information, or schedule a free online demo at a time that fits your schedule.

Geography Lists For Fun

Facts & Figures:  Geography Lists

Looking for a fun book to read this summer? We’ve discovered a must have for any true geography buff, “The Largest U.S. Cities Named After a Food: and Other Mind-Boggling Geography Lists from Around the World” published by Santa Monica Press.  The book contains more than 500 lists of geographic trivia including topics such as ‘Strange U.S. Place Names’ (Boogertown, Buzz, Tightwad, etc.); ‘Ten Largest Countries without Railroads’; ‘Most Extreme Locations’; ‘Ten Most Populous Countries without a McDonalds’; and ‘Most Tomatoes per Capita’, just to name a few.

The namesake list of the book along with its intro is as follows:

Despite America’s love affair with food, not that many cities are named after food. Fruits are the most commonly used food in city names, while meats are rarely used. Somehow, “Porktown” just doesn’t seem like an appealing place to live.

This book was published in November 2004, and as statistics are very fluid, some of the lists, such as countries without any FM radio stations, have become obsolete.  All 192 independent nations are now reported to have at least one FM station, even Vatican City, the smallest nation in the world.  Other lists, such as weird place names are less likely to change. The author, Brandt Maxwell, regularly updates his website and adds bonus lists available only online. The most recent list was added on May 8, 2012 and catalogs ‘Countries That Don’t Use Coins.’ None are in the Americas, but can you guess them before following this link for the answers? And remember to check in again in a few days when the next online mystery list is posted on June 16th.

Understanding Latitude and Longitude

Understanding Latitude and Longitude

The map grid system of coordinates, latitude and longitude, can pinpoint any location on earth. The system was developed back in the middle ages and is still in use today. When looking at a map, latitude lines (also referred to as parallels) run parallel to the equator while longitude lines (also referred to as meridians) run perpendicular. If you find yourself forgetting which is which, think of latitude as the rungs of a ladder (“ladder-tude”). To precisely locate points on the earth’s surface, latitude and longitude are divided into degrees (°). Degrees are further divided into minutes (‘) and seconds (“). There are 60 minutes in each degree; 60 seconds in each minute, and seconds can be further divided into tenths, hundredths, or even thousandths

The equator is located exactly halfway between the north and south poles, dividing the earth into the northern and southern hemispheres, and thus is the baseline for latitude, denoted as 0° Latitude. Latitudes are imaginary lines that circle the earth horizontally and are stacked on top of one another, each one having a smaller diameter until finally reaching the north and south poles at 90°N and 90°S. Latitudes north of the equator are also written as positive values, while latitudes south of the equator are written as negative values (North Pole = 90°; South Pole = -90°).

The baseline for longitude is located along the prime meridian, an imaginary line that runs atop the British Royal Observatory in Greenwich, England from the North Pole to the South Pole, and is denoted as 0° Longitude. Unlike latitude, longitude lines are only half circles, running vertically between the two poles, each being equal in length. Longitudes east of the prime meridian are written as 0 to 180°E or as positive values, while latitudes west of the prime meridian are written as 0 to 180°W or as negative values.

So why then are the degrees further divided into minutes and seconds, besides providing the ability to precisely pinpoint a location? Well, longitude is also an important tool in measuring time. The earth makes one complete rotation on its axis approximately every 24 hours. The earth turns about 15° of longitude, or 1/24th of 360°, every hour. The world’s time zones are generally divided into 15° of longitude and the time in each zone is based on its distance from the prime meridian.

U.S. Child Population Density Map

U.S. Child Population Density Map

Children’s interests are broad. Parents are constantly looking for new avenues of exploration to fuel their offsprings’ natural inquisitiveness and enthusiasm. With the large variety of children’s enrichment franchise opportunities currently available, a thorough market analysis can help determine which activities are abundant in a market and which are lacking a substantial presence. As this industry continues to burgeon, introducing new and innovative services for children is limited only by one’s imagination.

Below is a density map of the population count of children (ages 0-17) in the lower 48 states generated from our GeoMetrx mapping application. The population counts increase from the lighter to darker areas. Demographic data, such as population density, combined with competitive business data is an extremely useful resource for determining market potential.

Successful franchisors utilize these data and mapping tools to create highly refined territories, which is important in both sparsely and densely populated areas. The location of competitors can be overlaid on the map and enhanced by distance and drive-time radiuses. Being able to visualize data geographically, rather than merely presented in tables and charts, allows for a greater understanding of market opportunities and risks.

Summertime Fun: Children’s Enrichment Franchises

Children’s Enrichment Franchises

Across the nation, the last school bells of the year are ringing and kids are celebrating the arrival of summer break. Swimming pools, park outings, ball games, summer camps, backyard barbecues and so much more await them. On average, kids are out of school for 6 to 12 weeks and parents are scrambling to finalize their children’s summer activities schedules while balancing the child’s interests with the family budget. Fortunately there are many children’s enrichment franchises in operation offering parents and kids a wide variety of choices. The growing number of children in the U.S. keeps this industry among the top franchise trends in America, and not just during the summer, but all year-round.

The number of children in the U.S. has been steadily rising since the mid-1980s and is projected to continue well into the future. By the year 2030, it is expected the number of children under 18 will reach nearly 88 million.

Further driving demand for summertime activities as well as extracurricular activities during the school year is the number of households with working parents. In 2010, the estimate for the number of households with children under 18 reached 35.2 million. The following pie charts reflect the employment status in two-parent married households and single-parent households.

The most common categories for children’s enrichment franchises are:

Art Programs: painting, cooking, music, drama, photography, etc.
Education / Tutoring: mathematics, science, technology, early childhood
development, foreign languages, etc.
Sports and Fitness: sports clubs, dance, martial arts, children’s gyms, etc.

Traditionally businesses offering child enrichment programs operate from a fixed location with families providing transportation to and from the activity venue. However, a growing trend in the industry is the advent of mobile activities, in which the main program or supplementary programs are brought to the children in after-school care programs, day care facilities, summer resident programs and more. Whether operating from a fixed location, providing a mobile activity or offering private instruction, the opportunities are boundless. (For a comprehensive list of children’s products and services franchise opportunities visit Entrepreneur.com.)

Working with children can be a very rewarding experience, yet it’s not for everyone. It takes a special mix of business and personal skills including patience, flexibility, a sense of fun and wonderment, empathy, and a lot of energy!  Finding the right franchise opportunity is also a special mix combining the business owner’s skills and interests with the best opportunities within a market. The GeoMetrx business database, along with our demographic data, can help franchisors evaluate territories to reveal the competitive landscape, market size and ROI potential. Whether expanding into new markets or realigning existing territories, it’s vital in today’s economy to map your success.

Word Cloud Generators

Web Resources: Word Cloud Generators

 
Turning data into a visual representation is a highly effective way to communicate concepts and share information. We typically think of a map as a representation of geographical information, but we can also “map” data. Today’s blog is about mapping words by creating word clouds, also known as tag clouds or text clouds. Word clouds are an ideal way to visualize the key words of any piece of writing. The more frequently a word appears in the writing, the larger and bolder it appears in the word cloud. The interactive word cloud below was created from this blog post using Tagul.



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Word Clouds can be used in presentations, as images on a website or perhaps a cover photo for a social media site. Some businesses have them printed in large format* for display in the office or reception area, or on other promotional items such as shirts, bags, mugs, etc. Word Clouds can be created from reports, lists, product reviews, customer feedback, twitter feeds, blogs, newletters and more. Start opening your mind to the possibilities and get creative!

Three very customizable and free online word cloud resources are:

Tagul (http://tagul.com/)
This tool allows the user a tremendous amount of control over the final result from selecting font colors to case preference to individual word inclusion/exclusion. Interactive images can be embedded on web pages. Tagul requires you to create a free account in order to access the service. Maintaining an account allows you to save and edit word clouds.

Wordle (http://www.wordle.net/)
This tool allows the user to control colors, fonts and layouts, though it does not generate shapes.  You can also delete individual words directly from the cloud image. You can print your images or save them in a gallery to share with others.

Tagxedo (http://www.tagxedo.com)
This tool has a large selection of shapes as well as the ability to upload a custom shape. Control over colors and fonts is somewhat limited.

There are many other online word cloud and imaging tools. What are some of your favorites?

*For Large Format Printing visit our GeoPrinter service website.

Space Taxis

Geography in the News: Space Taxis
 

The reality of vacations to outer space and checking in at a hotel on the moon is closer than one might think, though some of the first private businesses to operate in the ‘final frontier’ are likely to be International Space Station taxi services and those harvesting rare metals from asteroids. This past week marks a new and historic step forward in the exploration of space. As we speak, the first private spacecraft is preparing to link with the International Space Station. The unmanned SpaceX Dragon launched Tuesday, May 22nd, from Cape Canaveral, Florida. It is carrying a payload of 674 pounds of food, clothing and supplies, along with additional supplies for science experiments, cargo bags for future flights and computer equipment. After remaining attached to the space station for two weeks, it will return to Earth bringing with it science experiments, hardware and used gear.

What does this mean for the future? NASA Administrator Charles Bolden sees this is as a step toward a new future of private innovation in the space industry. It has taken more than six years of preparation to pave the way for commercial flights to link the space station. With the retirement of NASA’s space shuttle fleet last year, the US is dependent on the Russian space agency to transport U.S. astronauts and supplies to and from the space station. Bolden stated, “What’s really important is not control, as much as it is the fact that the United States will once again be in the lead, will be providing our own vehicles to take our own astronauts and cargo to the International Space Station. It’s fine to rely on partners, but that’s not where the greatest nation in the world wants to be.”

SpaceX Dragon capsule was securely bolted to Harmony module of International Space Station at 12:02 p.m. EDT. Photo Courtesy of www.nasa.gov

Backed by entrepreneur Elon Musk, the founder of PayPal, SpaceX is one of several companies receiving funds from NASA to develop a space taxi system. “I hope and I believe that this mission will be historic in marking that turning point towards a rapid advancement in space transportation technology,” said Musk. The company hopes to build a spacecraft to carry astronauts to Mars. Other companies participating in NASA’ Commercial Orbital Transportation Services program include Orbital Sciences Corporation, Blue Origin, Boeing, and Sierra Nevada. Another company, ATK (Alliant Techsystems Inc.) is developing plans to launch humans into orbit by 2015.

As private industries gain a foothold in the space program by providing cargo services to NASA, it allows them to fund projects with much greater goals including space ‘vacations’ for paying tourists, mining asteroids for rare elements, and even human colonization of space.  Celestis, Inc. has already found a business opportunity in space – for $2,995 families can launch 1 gram of the cremated remains of their loved ones into the universe. The rocket used to launch the SpaceX Dragon carried the remains of more than 300 deceased individuals into outer space on Tuesday. Among them were James Doohan, best known as Scotty on Star Trek and Gordon Cooper, one of the famous Mercury seven astronauts who was portrayed by Dennis Quaid in The Right Stuff.

To keep up with all the developments of the Dragon, visit NASA’s website.

Public Transportation: The Savings Add Up

GeoMetrx Data In Action: Public Transportation

 
Each month the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) publishes the Transit Savings Report. This report calculates the average monthly savings for individuals in a two-person household who ride public transportation instead of driving a car. The report factors in the costs of owning a vehicle, the national average gas price, the national unreserved monthly parking rate, and the average cost of a monthly public transit pass.

The most recent report released on May 10, 2012 indicates the usage of public transportation can save, on average, $823 this month, which adds up to $9,880 annually. That’s some big savings for those who are able to take advantage of the opportunity. Taking the train or bus to work is much easier to manage for residents in densely populated cities such as New York, Chicago and San Francisco. In many other metro areas, utilizing public transportation requires more careful planning and for many the cost savings are not worth the headache.

The map below depicts the percent of adults (U.S. Pop 18+) who have used public transportation in the last 30 days.

According to the APTA:

     •  In 2011, Americans took 10.2 billion trips on public transportation
     •  35 million times each weekday, people board public transportation
     •  Public transportation is a $54 billion industry that employs more than 400,000 people
     •  Access to bus and rail lines reduces driving by 4,400 miles per household annually
     •  Americans living in areas served by public transportation save 785 million hours in travel
        time and 640 million gallons of fuel annually in congestion reduction alone

The need for additional and improved public transportation in America is fueled by rising gas prices, increasing population, and congested roadways. Our collective desire to be more conscious of our impact on the environment also plays a role in many public policy debates.

What local public transportation initiatives are present in your market? Is your local and state government doing enough, too much or do they have it just about right?

Remember When We Used to Walk Everywhere? Honda Unveils UNI-CUB

Honda Unveils UNI-CUB

 
Getting from Point A to Point B is something we do all day, every day without much thought. We navigate the halls of our homes, half awake each morning as we prepare for the day. We slip behind the wheel of our car and drive to the office, the store, church, and a myriad of other destinations. Some of us rely on public transportation, or pedal around town on a bicycle. Motorcycles, scooters and even riding horseback are alternative modes of transportation. And once we are at our destination, most of us get around on foot whether in a shop, an office or really just about anywhere, with the exception of those who need assistance for medical reasons.

A little over a decade ago, we saw the advent of the Segway, a two-wheeled, self-balancing, battery-powered, electric vehicle invented by Dean Kamen and manufactured by Segway Inc. The Segway has met with mixed reactions and while initially banned from sidewalk use in many states, all but a few municipalities now allow them. The main concern of their usage is the safety of other pedestrians. Segways have a max speed of 12.5 mph, which is about three times faster than the average pedestrian. Others saw the invention as one more excuse to get less exercise than we already do. Segways are most commonly used by security companies, police departments, and tour groups. Overall, the concept has not really taken off, which is due in large part to the public perception that people riding them appear to be “smug” and “lazy.”

Despite these market barriers, Honda has just unveiled the new UNI-CUB “… a personal mobility device, designed for harmony with people. Featuring a compact design and comfortable saddle, UNI-CUB offers the same freedom of movement in all directions that a person enjoys while walking.”  This device has a top speed of 6km/h (3.7mph), about the same speed the average person walks. Furthermore, it’s designed so the user is situated about halfway between someone standing and someone seated in a normal chair.  Hmmm, wouldn’t it be just as easy to walk? And given all the recent focus on obesity and the need to walk more, not less, how popular will these become? Watch this promotional video and tell us what you think.

 

Mapping Your Success: Online Mapping Resources

Web Resources: U.S. State Maps

 
At Geographic Enterprises, we love maps. All of our services and applications are geared toward ‘mapping your success’ with our many online mapping resources.

GeoMetrx – Our web-based territory mapping software platform that allows you to dynamically aggregate, compare, rank, and map thousands of preloaded attributes along with your own proprietary data so that you can load and analyze it on demand, all without the need to install or maintain any local software.

GeoPrinter – Our Custom Wall Map and Large Format Graphics Printing service providing you the ability to select your own custom design area, or upload your existing CAD drawings and business graphics printed in high resolution on large format media, and shipped as soon as the next day.

GIS4Less – GIS Software, GIS Data, and GIS Services for Less offering you desktop mapping and custom map web services.

Whenever we find other online mapping resources we like to share them as well. Today we are featuring Geology.com. This website hosts a wide array of U.S. State Map views including: City; County; Rivers & Lakes; Physical; Satellite; and Road. Check it out!

Blowing in the Wind: The Pros and Cons of Wind Farms

Geography in the News: Wind Farms

 
Mention ‘wind farming’ and you are likely to whip up a debate faster than Dorothy’s house was whisked away in The Wizard of Oz!  Wind is generally considered to be the second largest renewable energy source behind solar, and the use of wind turbines is the most common method of harnessing the kinetic energy of wind. However, while wind power is a popular alternative to fossil fuels, coal and nuclear energy, the construction of wind farms to harness this vast resource is not wholly welcomed; wind power has its pros and cons.

Advantages of Wind Power: (Source: Energy Informative.org)

 Wind turbines generate clean electricity. The motion of the wind turns the blades, which then spins a shaft that leads to a generator, which turns the energy into electricity. Wind turbines simply transfer energy from one medium to another without generating harmful CO2 in the process.

Wind is renewable and available in virtually every reach of the planet. Without getting into a science lesson, we can thank the sun for this – as long as the sun continues to shine there will be wind.

Costs are decreasing rapidly due to technological advances, though some areas are more financially viable for developing wind farms than others.

Increased demand for renewable energy is further driving down costs.

Residential systems and DIY wind power kits are increasingly affordable and available. Individuals have a greater potential than ever before to become energy self-sufficient.


Disadvantages of Wind Power
: (Source: Energy Informative.org)

Wind is unpredictable and until further technological advances are made in energy storage, wind power is not as reliable as other energy sources.

The development of wind farms is an expensive proposition. Nearly 80% of the cost is in machinery, with the remaining 20% being site preparation and installation. Incentives are often required for wind farms to be built.

While technological advancements are resulting in quieter turbines, noise pollution is a chief complaint from residents who live near wind farms. The aesthetics of wind farms is also a negative for many people. (While building wind farms in low-density population areas is one compromise, off-shore wind farms are a much better alternative; Off-shore wind farms not only eliminate noise and visual pollution, they also benefit from strong and more stable winds.)

The impact on wildlife is also a concern as flying creatures, such as birds and bats, don’t mix well with spinning rotor blades.

Many feel the advantages outweigh the disadvantages, yet if the wind blows the next wind farm project in your direction you may be whistling another tune. Windmills often conjure up images of Don Quixote attacking his imaginary giant enemies, and for those who live within sight of wind farms, their sentiments towards modern day wind turbines are probably much the same.

Where will the future take us? Can your business benefit from becoming energy independent? Should individual businesses and home-owners install smaller and less unsightly wind turbines? Should wind farms remain in concentrated areas? Should wind farms remain off-shore? What if off-shore is in the Great Lakes and interferes with natural vistas? A great debate is raging among five states on that very topic (click here to learn more). The answers to these questions and many more, my friend, are blowing in the wind.

Gardening: A Growing Hobby

Gardening: A Growing Hobby

 
In the hustle and bustle of our everyday lives, we often seek refuge in our hobbies and interests in hopes of maintaining balance and finding purpose. Gardening has long been a favorite leisure time activity for many Americans, allowing us to reconnect with nature and providing many a sense of peace and harmony with the world.

A fast growing trend in gardening is the participation of the younger generation taking part in home and community gardening projects. According to Dr. Charlie Hall, Professor of Horticulture at Texas A&M, “Gen Y’s are embracing a connection with plants based on economics, environmental impact, health and wellness,” as reported by the Garden Media Group in their latest Garden Trends Report. GMG’s research also shows that vegetable gardening has increased by 20% and community gardening by 60% over last year. In 2010, the average household spent $600 on their yards and gardens.

Below is a heat map of gardening across the lower 48 generated from our GeoMetrx mapping application. The dark green areas show the highest concentration of leisure gardeners. What’s of particular note is that every county across the country has some level of participation ranging from 13.6% to 55% of the population.

The Growing Locavore Movement: A Ripe Opportunity

The Growing Locavore Movement: A Ripe Opportunity

 
Whether you tout the philosophy of the locavore movement or stand behind the economic theory of free trade, your defenders as well as your detractors will be on hand, ready and willing to share their opinion. Yet, no matter which side of the debate you are on, one fact cannot be denied – the locavore movement is growing, and the opportunties for entrepreneurs are ripe. Based on research conducted by the USDA Economic Research Service, the movement was estimated to have generated $4.8 billion in sales in 2008, and it is projected that locally grown foods will generate nearly $7 billion in sales in 2012.

It’s a movement that is gradually reshaping the economics of the agriculture industry and spurring a revival of small farms, something many thought would never happen. Prior to WWII, nearly two out of five Americans lived on farms and food was locally grown and marketed. Rarely was food transported further than a day’s distance. After WWII our infrastructure expanded greatly, transportation costs decreased and refrigeration became more accessible. These changes allowed meats and produce to be transported greater distances at competitive prices. The increasing eco-conscious focus on sustainability has fueled the locavore movement and caused a major shift in how food is being grown and sold in America.

The term locavore was introduced in 2005 on World Environment Day when four women in Northern California kicked-off a month-long dietary challenge “Celebrate Your Foodshed: Eat Locally”, and began calling themselves “locavores.” A locavore is someone who either exclusively or primarily eats foods from their local or regional foodshed. There is no single definition of what defines a local foodshed as distances vary regionally and are also impacted by population density; yet many locavores use a 100-mile radius as a general guide. Produce sold within 24 hours of harvest is usually considered local as well. In comparison, mass-market food items consumed in the U.S. travel an average of 1,300 to 2,000 miles from farm to store according to ATTRA – National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service.

Locavores have a wide variety of beliefs in support of the movement. In the minds of many, local foods are those that come from small farms that have developed social and economic relationships within the local community. A national study conducted by the Food Marketing Institute in 2009 uncovered the top three reasons for participation cited by consumers:

• 82% – freshness of the products
• 75% – support for the local economy
• 58% – knowing the source of the product

While pinpointing exactly how many people are joining the locavore movement is difficult, there are many signs that it’s gaining mainstream attention. Nearly 80% of respondents in a 2006 national survey said they occasionally to always purchased fresh produce directly from growers (Source: USDA, ERR-97 May 2010). Increased demand is creating opportunities for farmers and growers to expand their marketing channels. Local foods are being sold through farmer’s markets, roadside stands, winter markets, food co-ops, CSAs (community supported agricultural groups), supermarkets, specialty stores, restaurants, hospitals, schools and more.

There are numerous public programs and policies that support local food initiatives and provide financing for local food systems. An example is the farm-to-school programs in which some or all of the produce needs of the school cafeteria are met by nearby farms. The National Farm to School Network, which began with just a handful of farm-to-school programs in the late 90’s, and climbed to 1,000 in 2005, is now estimated to have reached 2,518 programs as of 2012.

Farmers Markets are increasing in numbers across the nation as well. According to the USDA, there were 7,175 farmers markets in 2011, a 17% increase from 2010.

Large retailers are yielding shelf space to meet consumer demand for locally grown foods. Stores such as Walmart, Safeway, Meijer and Weis Markets are participating in local food initiatives. Local restaurants are meeting the demands of their patrons to provide local foods as well. According to a survey conducted by the National Restaurant Association, 89% of fine-dining and nearly 30% of fast food operators served locally sourced items in 2008; while both believed these items would become more popular, 90% and nearly 50%, respectively.

In St. Louis, Missouri an innovative partnership is bringing “Mobile Markets” to commuters using public transportation for the March-October growing season. Whatever the motivation of individual locavores, the movement is gaining momentum and the opportunities for entrepreneurs are ripe, whether choosing to enter the market by starting a small urban farm, becoming an intermediary, selling direct-to-consumer, or any of the other numerous entry points. As always, any market entry or expansion should be backed by thorough research to develop a solid strategy.

Franchise Times Spring/Summer 2012 SuperBook

Web Resources: Franchise Times Spring/Summer 2012 Superbook

 
The Spring/Summer 2012 SuperBook of Franchise Opportunities, published by Franchise Times is out. This free resource is available in digital format online, putting a substantial amount of information at the fingertips of anyone interested in the franchising industry.


The SuperBook includes a comprehensive list of franchise opportunities ranging from Automotive Services to Retail Businesses, and everything in between. Additionally, the SuperBook contains advice columns covering topics such as site selection, how to read a franchise disclosure document (FDD), and some ‘do’s-and don’ts’ every franchisee should review. Also inside, you’ll find a glossary of terms and an upcoming events calendar.

Franchise Times is a leading news and information source for the franchising industry, publishing 10 issues each year. The company provides a variety of directories including financing, vendors, and legal resources (see the annual April issue). Other publications include the Restaurant Finance Monitor and Foodservice News.

Earth Day 2012: NASA Unveils Updated “State of Flux” Website

Earth Day 2012: NASA Unveils Update “State of Flux” Website

 
Earth Day 2012, which is observed each year on April 22nd, took place this past weekend and was marked by celebrations around the world. Earth Day is an opportunity for environmentally conscious groups and organizations to raise ecological awareness locally, nationally and globally. Even NASA made the most of the day by unveiling an updated version of its sensational photo gallery, “State of Flux” on its Global Climate Change website, for which it won a Webby Award-Science in 2010.

The images, taken mostly from space, offer a visual tour of the transformations that have taken place on our ever-changing planet over periods of time ranging from just days to centuries. Images are paired together to show the before-and-after impact of change. More than 160 comparison views are posted depicting extreme events, such as wildfires and floods, the effects of the retreating glaciers, our human impact including urban expansion and population growth, and more. The images are organized by categories and can be sorted and searched.

Of course, we think the best new feature of the upgraded site is the map view, which puts the images in geographical context. This interactive feature allows visitors to select a region or zoom in to a specific location to see where specific changes are occurring. Below is an example of one the high-resolution image sets that can be shared or downloaded:

Delta restoration, Louisiana Wax Lake Delta, Louisiana. Left: January 13, 1983. Right: January 2, 2011. The delta, where the Atchafalaya River flows into the Gulf of Mexico, was formed by sediment following the construction of a canal through Wax Lake in 1941. Since Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the delta has served as a model for restoring wildlife habitat and protection against storm surge in the Mississippi River delta region. mages taken by the Thematic Mapper sensors aboard Landsat 4 and 5. Source: USGS Landsat Missions Gallery, U.S. Department of the Interior / U.S. Geological Survey.

Amber Jenkins, editor of the Global Climate Change website, who established the gallery in 2009, says, “Seeing our planet from space gives us a global view that we can’t get elsewhere. It underscores how fragile and interconnected our planet is, and how it is constantly changing. With this new version of the gallery, we want people to be better able to immerse themselves in the images, and gain that sense of perspective.” For more on NASA’s Earth Science activities, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/topics/earth/index.html.

Baby Boomers on the Move

Baby Boomers on the Move

 
At the conclusion of World War II, the United States experienced an explosion of births for nearly two decades, as more than 76 million Americans were born between 1946 and 1964.  Improved living conditions, medical care and disease control have all contributed to greater life expectancies and, as a result, the Boomers are projected to live an average of seven years longer than previous generations. The impact of the aging Baby Boomer generation on our economy will be enormous.

As Boomers reach retirement age they don’t plan to simply find the nearest rocker and watch the world go by, but rather to remain active both in the workforce and the community.  The communities in which they choose to live are expected to prosper; and opportunities to provide products and services that will appeal to this generation will be plentiful. Del Webb, a leading brand of communities for active adults (age 55+), conducted its most recent Baby Boomer Survey in 2010. The survey covered many topics including where retiring Boomers intend to settle.  The top states my surprise you:

50 Yr Olds 64 Yr Olds
South Carolina 20% North Carolina 19%
North Carolina 16% South Carolina 16%
Florida 15% Florida 15%
Tennessee 9% Tennessee 12%
Arizona 8% Virginia 10%
California 8% Arizona 6%
Virginia 8% California 6%

The survey also tracked the motivations for moving to a particular location:

How important are each of the following in deciding where you will move (amongst those who plan to move)? 50 Yr Olds 64 Yr Olds
Cost of living there 81% 81%
Access to preferred health care programs 66% 70%
Cultural/recreational amenities offered 61% 59%
More favorable climate 60% 59%
Community/networking opportunities 54% 53%
Being close to children 46% 49%
Being close to grandchildren 38% 45%
Being close to parents/in-laws 30% 14%

We have created a heat map of the Adult 65+ population based on 2011 U.S. Census Projections using GeoMetrx. It’s important to know where today’s opportunities are as well as to track the migration of the Baby Boomers as they transition into retirement age.

Our mapping tool and data can provide a wealth of information both nationally and locally. Uploading additional data for mapping is an even more powerful advantage. Call us today at 1.888.848.4436 for more information or request a demo online.

Home Health Care Industry – Franchise Opportunities

Home Health Care: The Aging of America

 
The fastest growing demographic in the U.S. is the 65+ age group.  By the year 2030, it is projected that one out of every five Americans, 70 million people, will be over the age of 65. As the “boomers” continue to age, this figure is expected to reach as high as 88.5 million. Kids born today will just be reaching adulthood in 2030. How will our changing population affect their career choices and options? One thing is for certain, there will be many more opportunities in the senior care industry, including both products and services such as:

Housing Pharmaceuticals Financial Services
Home care Medical equipment Insurance
Home safety Personal healthcare Legal Services
Mobility Physical therapy

According to Franchise Help, home health care is the largest segment of the senior care industry among franchises, both medical and non-medical.  The most common medical services provided are private nursing, administering antibiotics and rehabilitation assistance. Non-medical services most often include aiding seniors with chores, preparing meals, overseeing medication schedules, bathing and general companionship.  First Research estimates that US home health care is a $57 billion industry.

As much of the financing for seniors is provided by Medicare, Medicaid and private insurance, all of which must function under set prices, businesses compete on quality, reputation, referrals and other subjective measures rather than price. Companies that excel at putting people, processes and systems together to provide top notch customer care and a positive customer experience will have ample opportunity to succeed in this industry now and well into the future.

A Barrel of Oil… give or take 31 Billion

Facts & Figures: A Barrel of Oil

 
Have you ever wondered how much oil is consumed every day? The answer, as you probably suspected, is a lot – more than 31 billion barrels (85.3m/day) were consumed worldwide in 2010. The United States is the largest consumer of oil in the world, using more than double that of China every single day, yet we constitute just 5% of the world’s population while China makes up 20%.

What do all these numbers actually represent? A barrel contains exactly 42 gallons of crude oil, which has to be refined before it is useful. U.S. refineries produce approximately 19 gallons of gasoline and 10 gallons of diesel from each barrel. The remainder yields heating oil, jet fuel, propane and other liquefied gases, as well as many other byproducts.

Nearly everything in our lives is made in some part from oil. Many items are well known such as plastics, paints, and inks. Others are more surprising including toothpaste, shampoo, food preservatives, medicines and cosmetics. As we continue to strive toward a world that operates on 100% renewable energy (wind, solar, hydro, etc.), the idea of being completely oil-free is hard to imagine given our overwhelming dependence upon it.

Energy consumption is a large part of the operating budget of any business. Local, state and federal regulations can impact where a company chooses to locate its operations. The cost and availability of energy sources, both fossil fuels and renewable, should be part of a thorough site selection analysis. GeoMetrx is here to help you with your site selection needs.

Gas Prices, Sanctions and Speculations

Gas Prices, Sanctions and Speculations

 
One thing almost every American is acutely aware of these days is the price of a gallon of gasoline. Up until the last two weeks, prices had been steadily rising, fueling fears that prices wouldn’t level out until they reached the $5.00/gallon mark or more. However, prices appear to have peaked with the national average having now dropped to $3.92/gallon. In 2011, we reached a high of $3.99/gallon, with the record high of $4.11/gallon set in July of 2008.

The pushes and pulls that effect gas prices are a complicated web mainly interweaving the financial markets and the political landscape. Prices are also affected by hurricanes, massive oil leaks, terrorists and other such events that disrupt the flow of oil. Financial speculators have been blamed for more than half the spike in oil prices as they have been buying up futures contracts, judging them as good investments. Much of these future speculations are being driven by the belief of the U.S. and its allies that Iran is pursuing a nuclear bomb; an accusation Iran denies.

Oil futures are agreements to buy or sell 1000 barrels of oil at a specific date in the future (anywhere from 1 month to 7 years) at a specific price. Traders bid on the price of oil based on what they believe the future price will be by estimating supply and demand. Once locked into a futures contract, the buyer will get the barrels of oil for the price paid regardless of whether the price per barrel has changed or not.

Speculators who buy oil futures at higher than current market (spot) prices cause oil producers to stockpile their oil supply and sell it at the higher (future) price. Stockpiling of oil effectively reduces the supply and drives up both present and future prices, and continually puts pressure on future prices… and so on, and so on and so on. Bloomberg had this to say about the current oil futures situation:

“Talk to oil analysts these days and chances are they’ll tell you that more than half the spike in the oil price is due to speculators—specifically noncommercial users. That’s jargon for investors who are buying up futures contracts not because they intend to use the oil, but because they think it’s a good investment. These aren’t airlines or refining companies; these are money managers betting that the price will go up. And so far they’ve been right, thanks to themselves.”

Much of the world’s oil supply is located in regions that have historically been prone to political instability, often fueling the decisions of the oil futures speculators. Iran, the world’s 5th largest producer of oil, at more than 4.2 million barrels per day, continues to pursue its nuclear ambitions, causing much uncertainty in the region and around the world. The U.S. and its allies have been playing a game of cat and mouse, threatening everything from economic sanctions to military intervention as tensions between Iran and the west mount.

President Obama, with the recent approval of Congress, is moving forward with tough new sanctions aimed at isolating Iran’s central bank from the global economy. The sanctions, which go into effect at the end of June, will be placed on foreign banks that continue to purchase oil from Iran. The decision to go forward with sanctions was based on a February report from the Energy Information Administration which revealed there is enough crude oil available on the world market to put the squeeze on Iran’s oil exports without harming the U.S. and its allies.

Only time will tell if these political moves and the reactions of the financial markets will keep gas prices steady and even possibly continuing to drop or if they will start another upward journey, steadily marching toward that oft promised $5.00/gallon.

Pet Services: A Growing Industry

Pet Services: A Growing Industry

 
Every two years the American Pet Products Association (APPA) conducts its in-depth National Pet Owner’s Survey. The most recent 2011-12 study reveals a growing industry, with an estimated 72.9 million households (62%) reporting pet ownership, up from 71.4 million from the 2009-10 study.

The types of pets covered in the study include:

  • Birds
  • Cats
  • Dogs
  • Equine
  • Fish
  • Reptiles
  • Other Small Animals

As a nation, we spent $50.96 billion on our pets in 2011, an increase of 5.4% over the $48.35 billion spent in 2010. Our total expenditures are estimated to reach nearly $53 billion in 2012. The lion’s share of these expenditures covers food, supplies, medicines, vet care and pet services.

Perhaps the phrase ‘it’s raining and cats and dogs’ may have something to do with the sheer number of them in our lives. Cats and dogs, by far, account for the majority of pets, 86.4 million and 78.2 million, respectively. Yet the number of dog owning households is greater than that of cats, 46.3 million vs. 38.9 million. The maps below, from our GeoMetrx application and data, help visually represent the distribution of dog and cat households in the U.S.

For small business and franchise owners there is opportunity for growth and expansion in the Pet Services industry segment, which includes grooming and boarding. This segment accounted for $3.79 billion of expenditures in 2011 and is expected to reach $4.11 billion in 2012. The basic annual expenses for dog and cat owners in dollars include:

Dogs Cats
Surgical Vet Visits  $        407  $        425
Routine Vet  $        248  $        219
Food  $        254  $        220
Kennel Boarding   $        274  $        166
Vitamins  $          95  $          43
Travel Expenses  $          78  $          48
Groomer/Grooming Aids  $          73  $          34
Food Treats  $          70  $          41
Toys  $          43  $          21

To learn more about the opportunities in your area, contact GeoMetrx today at 1.888.848.4436 or schedule a demo of our application at your convenience.

Making Taxes Less Taxing for Small Business Owners

Tax Tips for Small Business Owners

 
It’s that dreaded time of year when taxes are due… again! If only we could sweep them under the carpet and pretend they didn’t exist, right? However, it’s best to simply tackle them head on and get them done. If you’re one who waits until the last minute to file, at least you’ll be glad to know the IRS filing deadline has been extended to April 17th this year.

For Small Business Owners taxes can be especially challenging. There are so many rules, and exceptions to those rules, and endless interpretations. We certainly are not experts on the subject, but one thing is for sure, none of us want to pay a penny more than we have to. We’ve come across a posting from the American Institute of CPAs that provides ten words for Small Business Owners to keep in mind when thinking about taxes throughout the year.

  • Expenses – keep a daily log of expenses all year long
  • Deductions – be sure to apply for all you are entitled to including: entertainment, travel, meals, capital assets, home office and health insurance
  • Traps – be careful not to trigger red flags such has claiming deductions that exceed your income
  • Retirement – funds from income paid into a retirement plan are deductible
  • Equipment – deduct up to $500K for equipment (if you spent $2M or less); repairs are also deductible
  • Payroll – don’t rob Peter to pay Paul; in other words, do not use withheld payroll taxes to finance other business expenses – if you are late or short on payroll taxes the penalties can be enormous
  • Insurance – there is a small business health care tax credit for which you may be eligible
  • Veterans – tax credits are available for businesses that hire certain unemployed veterans
  • Contributions – keep records of all goods, services, and financial donations made to charitable organizations throughout the year
  • Help – meet with your CPA quarterly to keep your tax situation in check

Keeping these words handy and your paperwork up-to-date will hopefully reduce the amount of stress tax season brings for many. While taxes, like death and shipping & handling, can’t be avoided, we can at least make the process less ‘taxing’ for ourselves!

 

Shopping Centers in the U.S. – Expansion Continues

Facts & Figures: Shopping Centers in the U.S.

 
As the national conversation continues to focus on the concerns of the economy both local and global, subtle yet positive signs keep popping up here and there that buoy our spirits. One of those signs is the continued growth of shopping centers. Shopping centers are defined as establishments that are architecturally unified and provide on-site parking. They are planned, developed, owned and managed as an operating unit comprised of three or more stores. They range in size from small convenience centers to community strip malls to large super-regional malls.

At the end of 3Q-2011, there were approximately 109,500 shopping centers in the U.S. providing more than 7.9 million square feet of leasable retail space collectively. While recent growth has been slower, the number of units and square footage has grown by more than 20% since the year 2000. The following graphs depict shopping center growth over the past 25 years:


According to Chainlinks Retail Advisors U.S. National Retail Report, there is more good news as vacancy rates fell in 3Q-2011 from 11.0% to 10.9%. Fast casual dining concepts continue to be the biggest driver for leasing activity as well as one of the hottest franchise growth opportunities.

Shopping centers are often excellent sites to establish a new franchise location as other retail outlets and service providers help draw a steady flow of potential customers, creating a symbiotic environment for all the businesses situated together. The International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) reports that U.S. shopping-center retail sales total more than $2.26 trillion, accounting for over half of all retail sales.

If you are considering expanding into new markets and are interested in a piece of that pie, give us a call at 1-888-848-4436 or schedule a demo at your convenience to discover how the GeoMetrx online application can provide you with all the information you need to evaluate the shopping center options in your market.

EARTH Platinum – World’s Largest Atlas

EARTH Platinum – World’s Largest Atlas

 
At a whopping 6 ft. tall by 4.5 ft. wide (9 ft. when opened) and weighing in at 264 pounds, the Millennium House publishers of Sydney Australia created the World’s Largest Atlas: EARTH Platinum. And they didn’t just do it once; 31 individually numbered copies were published in January 2012 of this extraordinary feat in cartography. The price tag on the book jacket: $100,000(US).

The atlas is the culmination of the efforts of more than 100 cartographers, geographers and photographers from around the world, and took more than 4 years to complete. The book contains 128 pages of maps, flags and breathtaking images of famous landscapes and more, such as Machu Picchu pictured at left. A word of caution, don’t try to read it alone – it takes two people to turn the pages!

The prior record for the largest atlas dates all the way back to the 17th century when the famous Klencke Atlas was gifted to Charles the II by a group of Dutch merchants. The book, measuring an amazing 5 ft. x 3 ft. was presented in recognition of his restoration to the English throne in 1660. The atlas, now in the safekeeping of the British Library, was put on public display with its pages open for the first time in 350 years at the 2010 Magnificent Maps exhibition.

If the price tag of one of these fabulous atlases is a little more than you have budgeted, but you’d still like a really large wall map, we can help you out! Our GeoPrinter service provides custom wall maps ranging in size from 3’ x 4’ all the way up to 9’ x 12’. Report and desktop sizes are also available. In addition, we can print any .PDF file with a resolution of 600dpi or higher in our large format sizes.

Where are the Beer Drinkers?

Data Mapping: Where are the Beer Drinkers? 

In recognition of the merry month of March, including the onset of Spring, NCAA March Madness and the good ol’ Irish St. Patrick’s day celebration, our thematic map is dedicated to beer!

We have plotted domestic beer drinkers across the nation.The light colored areas (think light beer) have the lowest concentration of domestic beer drinkers, whereas the darker (think stouts) represent the areas with the highest concentration of domestic beer drinkers.


Click to see a larger version of this map.

​Next we plotted the percent of micro-brewed beer drinkers across the US. When contrasting the two maps there is more than meets the eye. One might conlcude that dark areas on the domestic map that are now light on the micro-brew map would indicate folks in those locations prefer national domestics to local micro-brews. We would suggest the difference is actually due to the lack of availability of micro-brews. In fact, the dark areas on the micro-brew map align with regions that sport a lot of micro-brew activity.


Click to see a larger version of this map.

A great website, The Beer Mapping Project, is a compilation of locations of micro-breweries, brewpubs and other craft beer outlets. Accessing the site’s regional maps, we’ve taken a closer look at three areas where there is clearly a difference between our domestic and microbrew maps: north central Michigan, south central Florida, and the greater Denver, Colorado corridor. The three maps, shown below, reveal that in Michigan and Florida, there is a complete absence of micro-breweries and brew pubs in the disparate areas. The Denver corridor, on the other hand, shows a comparitively high volume of craft beer activity.

As we noted in our previous post, expanding into new markets is an excellent way to increase sales of exisiting products and services. It’s essential to conduct thorough market research which includes identifying markets with heavy concentrations of potential customers who fit your company’s target profile. As this example illustrates, it’s important to consider many factors and utilize all your resources of information to find the best new markets.

“If you build it, ‘they’ will come.”

Expanding Distribution Channels and Exploring New Markets

Every business, no matter how large or how small, wants to sell more of its existing products and services. In order to do so, businesses must expand their market reach to acquire additional customers. Increasing sales in existing markets through advertising and marketing strategies is certainly not to be overlooked; however, the most effective way to gain new customers is to create new distribution channels that reach untapped markets. This can be accomplished by such methods as:

• adding retail locations (corporate and/or franchised)
• establishing more production facilities
• developing reseller relationships (wholesaler, dealer, consultant, etc.)
• providing online sales opportunities

Placement (a.k.a. distribution) is one of the “4 Ps” of marketing: product, promotion, price, placement. Gaining new customers through expanding distribution channels has many benefits including: a) boosted profits through increased revenues and reduced per-unit production costs; b) raised awareness among consumers improving brand recognition; and c) reduced market risks by spreading the risks over multiple channels.

The most critical step of any expansion strategy is to evaluate potential markets by comparing their attributes to those of your target market. If you are not certain of your target market, begin by examining your current customer base for common characteristics and interests. Characteristics (demographics) are things such as age, gender, ethnicity, income, education, occupation, marital status, presence of children, pet ownership, owners vs. renters, etc. Interests (psychographics) are things such as attitudes, behaviors, values, hobbies, leisure activities, lifestyles (health/diet/exercise, etc.), politics, religion, media choices, etc. Be sure to evaluate the data that connects your customers to your products and services.

Defining your target market is the hard part. Once you’ve identified who you are targeting the next step is to locate those markets with the highest concentrations of potential customers. Visualizing your data on an interactive map is one of the best ways to evaluate potential markets as well as site locations. Maps allow you to assess a variety of attributes in addition to your target data including traffic patterns, travel times, competitor locations, business establishments and more. Take a look at this month’s thematic map below to see mapped data in action.

Neighborhood Walkability Score

Watching the Web: Walkscore.com

 
How walkable is your neighborhood?  How walkable is the area surrounding your business?  What makes a neighborhood walkable?  Walkscore.com, a web resource that has scored thousands of neighborhoods across the U.S., has the answers.  Scores are assigned with values ranging from 0 to 100 based on the following criteria listed on the website:

  • A center: walkable neighborhoods have a center, whether it’s a main street or a public space.
  • People: enough people for businesses to flourish and for public transit to run frequently.
  • Mixed income, mixed use: affordable housing located near businesses.
  • Parks and public space: plenty of public places to gather and play.
  • Pedestrian design: buildings are close to street, parking lots are relegated to back.
  • Schools and workplaces: close enough that most residents can walk from their homes.
  • Complete streets: streets designed for bicyclists, pedestrians, and transit.

The higher the score, the more walkable the neighborhood.  Neighborhoods are then classified by type:

Walk Score Type Description
90-100 Walker’s Paradise Daily errands do not require car
70-89 Very Walkable Most errands can be accomplished on foot
50-69 Somewhat Walkable Some amenities within walking distance
25-49 Car-Dependent A few amenities within walking distance
0-24 Car-Dependent Almost all errands require a car

Would your business thrive in a more walkable neighborhood or a more car dependent neighborhood? How does the walkability of a neighborhood affect your site selection?  GeoMetrx allows you to evaluate locations on a wide variety of included data as well as allowing you to upload your proprietary data and additional outside data as well; we are here to help you in mapping your success!

For a full list of walkability scores by city along with an interactive map click here.

 

U.S. Solar Energy Potential

U.S. Solar Energy Potential

 
Solar energy is clean, renewable and abundant in the U.S., especially in the lower 48 states. In the shadow of global warming and rising fossil fuel prices, harnessing the power from the heat and light of the sun is once again returning to the forefront of our national conversation. Advances in technology continue to make the possibility of becoming a fossil-fuel free society more realistic. Our biggest remaining challenge is to produce and distribute the captured solar energy on a large enough scale to be available and affordable to everyone.

So, which states have the greatest solar energy potential in the U.S.? Here are two graphics, the first depicting average annual sunshine, and the second the quality of annual killowatts per square meter in the U.S.

Source: How Stuff Works.com

Source: Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA)

Spain and Germany are also included on the above graphic, as these are two of leading countries in solar energy.  As of 2010, the three leading European countries in solar energy capacity were Germany, Italy and the Czech Republic.

The cost of energy effects every aspect of our lives, both personal and professional. For many businesses, site selection analysis practices are taking into account renewable energy sources. Read our previous post to see the top 10 solar energy friendly states.

The GeoMetrx online mapping application encompasses a wide variety of weather data as well as the ability to upload outside data sources. For more information, call today at 1.888.848.4436 or schedule a custom demo any time.

Solar Energy Industry Flares in 2011

Geography in the News: Solar Energy Industry Flares in 2011

 
The Solar Energy industry in the U.S. is experiencing tremendous growth.  2011 was a record breaking year for installations of photovoltaics (PV), which convert sunlight directly to electricity.  The overall US capacity of PV has now reached 3,954 MW (megawatts), enough to power 800,000 homes.  A whopping 1,855 MW were installed in 2011 alone, an increase of 109% over 2010.  The US global market share now stands at 7% and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA)® anticipates growth to continue over the next five years, reaching a nearly 15% global market share by 2016.  Installations for 2012 are forecasted at 2,800 MW.

A quarterly report published by the SEIA and GTM Research cites one of the major contributors to the rapid growth was the 20% price decline of PV systems over the course of the last year, due in large part to lower component costs as well as improved installation efficiency, expanding financing options, and a shift toward larger systems nationwide. Additionally, some good news/bad news for the industry was the expiration of the federal government’s 1603 Treasury program (on 12/31/11) which impelled developers to commission projects before year end; the industry will need to revert back to tax equity financing.

The solar energy industry market segments are: Residential, Non-Residential (mainly commercial), and Utilities.  While installations for the residential segment were up 11%, non-residential grew by 127% and utilities showed the most gain at 185%.  The top ten states with the most US Grid-Connected PV Capacity (MW) are:

State Approx. MW
California 1564
New Jersey 573
Arizona 383
Colorado 212
New Mexico 159
Nevada 149
Pennsylvania 143
New York 116
North Carolina 95
Florida 94

The interest in solar energy gained in popularity during the energy crisis of the 1970s. Market entry was prohibitive as prices were nearly 30 times greater than today, making large scale usage impractical. However, through much research and development, harnessing the energy of the sun has become a great deal more feasible. Will 2012 be the year your business goes solar?

March Madness Fans

March Madness Fans:

Basketball Fever is upon us and what better way to embrace March Madness than to ‘post up’ some fun fan data?!  The four number one seeds in the 2012 NCAA Championship are Kentucky (South), Syracuse (East), Michigan State (West), and North Carolina-Chapel Hill (Midwest).  There’s plenty of commentary about the prospects of each team making it into the Final Four, but what about the fans, how do they stack up?

We took a look at the behaviors of residents within a 10-mile radius of each of the teams during regular and post season play including watching on TV, listening on the radio, and attending games. Kentucky and North Carolina residents follow college basketball in both the regular and post-seasons in numbers above the national average across all categories.   Syracuse residents put up some of the lowest scores, particularly for attending regular season games. Syracuse Orange fans are often ranked as being huge supporters of their team, so what might account for these results?

It’s important not to jump to conclusions when looking at data, but rather to drill deeper and consider other factors.  What is the seating capacity in each of the arenas for basketball games? (Syracuse Carrier Dome = 33,000; NC-Chapel Hill Dean Smith Center = 21,750). Does Syracuse have more season ticket holders? (this could result in sold out games yet yield a smaller percentage of the total population attending due to a higher concentration of repeat fans). What is the population density of each area? (Syracuse has the second most dense 10-mile radius of the four schools). What happens to the data when we cast our net out over a 5-mile radius or a 15-mile radius? What is the tipping point?

While this comparison is all in the spirit and fun of the 2012 NCAA Championships, it is a good example of how complex the issues can get when conducting a site analysis and comparing locations. The GeoMetrx territory mapping application allows you to analyze a wide variety of data as well as upload your own data in order to make the most informed business decisions and lay up some excellent game strategies. If you’d like to learn more, give us a call at 1.888.848.4436, or request a demo that fits your schedule.

International Franchise Expo (IFE) Moves to New York City

International Franchise Expo (IFE) Moves to New York City:

For the past 20 years the International Franchise Expo (IFE) has been held in our nation’s capital.  This year, however, the big event will take place in the Big Apple!  The IFE is America’s biggest franchise event showcasing franchise concepts from every imaginable industry both domestic and international.  In addition to franchise opportunities available at every investment level, product suppliers, industry service providers, and trade publications will join the exhibitors.

The expo boasts 40 free seminars including topics such as “Getting Ready to Franchise Your Business,” “Taking Your Franchise System to the Next Level,” and “Best Practices for Start Up & Early Stage Franchisors.” New York City is touted as being an excellent location for the event, drawing from a diverse population of 28 million as well as being the media capital of the world.

The event, which is organized by MFV, also conducts annually the West Coast Franchise Expo (WCFE) in Los Angeles (October 12-14, 2012) and the Franchise Expo South (FES) in Miami Beach (January 11-13, 2013).  For more insight from Blue Mau Mau on the move of the IFE to New York City, click here.

U.S. Custom Wall Maps

U.S. Custom Wall Maps:

We wanted to share a couple of great websites for U.S. Maps  The first site is Geology.com, which features a variety of online maps from all 50 states including, cities and roads, elevations, physical features, rivers and lakes, and more.  The maps are provided by a variety of contributors.  Here is an example of a drought map courtesy of the USGS:

We’d also like to share our affiliated website GeoPrinter.com.  Here you can create your own custom tailored wall maps ranging in size from 3′ x 4′ to as large as 9′ x 12′.  You can select the level of detail as well as determine which features you would like printed including zip code or county boundaries, streets indexes, radius rings,  and more. Standard maps are laminated and additional finishing options are available.  Dry erase markers are a perfect companion for laminated maps.

Custom wall maps are a great resource for many businesses and organizations that need a detailed reference map of their trade areas, delivery boundaries, competitor / service provider locations, construction zones, real estate planning, etc.  Prices start as low as $195.  Check out the site today and if you have any questions please contact us at 1.888.848.4436.

10 Great Cities for Starting a Business

So you’re ready to jump in and start a business, making your entrepreneurial aspirations come to life; that’s great! Where should you set up shop? Well, Kipplinger’s recently published a list of the top ten best cities for entrepreneurs based on several factors.

The criteria they used to assess cities across the US were four-fold and included: 1) high concentrations of small businesses and good track records of incubating start-ups; 2) patents issued above the national average of 1.8 per 10,000 residents; 3) a healthy amount of private venture capital investments in start-ups; and 4) a cost-of-living score calculated for the self-employed.

The top ten cities after completing the evaluation are:

  • Houston, TX
  • Indianapolis, IN
  • Raleigh-Cary, NC
  • St. Louis, MO
  • Seattle, WA
  • Minneapolis, MN
  • Oklahoma City, OK
  • San Francisco, CA
  • Washington, DC
  • Tampa, FL

No matter whether you select one of these cities or another, it’s extremely important to conduct a complete and detailed site analysis of your exact location. GeoMetrx has the tools and the expertise to help. Give us a call today at 1.888.848.4436 or request a demo any time.

Neighborhood Pride – ZIP Code Humor

Did you catch The Office last night? Did you catch the geography humor? Do you have neighborhood pride?

Scranton, PA 18505… wait, that’s way too vague, you need ZIP+4, and don’t forget the “dash”!

Enjoy the clip ; )

Overfishing – “Keep One-Third for the Birds”

Geography in the News

We learn from a young age that our oceans are one of our most valuable resources.  They cover more than two-thirds of the Earth’s surface (71% and rising) and contain 97% of Earth’s water (1% is fresh water and 2% is contained in glaciers and ice caps, for the moment anyway).  It is estimated that our oceans contain as much as 80% of all life on earth, much of it unexplored and undiscovered.  In addition to this incredible biodiversity, millions of people around the world depend on the oceans for their daily livelihood, while fish supply the greatest percentage of the world’s protein consumed by humans.

Our oceans face many threats today from pollution to the effects of global warming to overfishing and more.  Overfishing is taking place in certain regions where the fishing levels are well above their maximum sustainable yield.  Many fish species are endangered due to the rising demand of an ever-growing human population combined with advances in fishing technology. Massive commercial factory fishing boats indiscriminately catch everything in their path with nets that continue to decrease in mesh size as catch sizes also gradually diminish. This approach captures and kills many fish that are too small to be used for food and too young to have bred.  Worldwide, about 25% of forage fish stocks, smaller fish that are preyed upon by large predators such as seabirds, marine animals and even humans, have collapsed, and it is doubtful some will ever recover.

A recently released international study published in the magazine Science and coordinated by Philippe Cury, a researcher with the IRD (Institute of Research for Development in Sète, France), has revealed that overfishing also threatens seabirds.  The study, which is based on nearly 450 years of cumulative observation of 14 species of coastal birds, found a startling similarity among every species; when the supply of fish drops below the “magic” one-third of maximum capacity, birth rates plummet. Measuring seabird populations is relatively easy and one of the best ways to judge the health of marine ecosystems. These coastal seabird species are among the most endangered due in great part to the lack of food, but also as a result of climate change and the destruction of their coastal habitats where they are in competition for space along the water’s edge.

The authors of the study have coined the phrase “keep one-third for the birds” which they believe should be used as a guide for managing forage fisheries around the globe. Maintaining this level would preserve seabird populations, while also ensuring the survival of the fish species themselves, claims biologist Steven Murawski of the University of South Florida in Tampa.  While his focus is on the fish, he likes the phrase as it “gets at the notion that we need to leave a healthy margin of fish in the water. It surely is a great bumper sticker!” Below the critical level of one-third of the fish biomass, not only the birds, but the stability of the entire ecosystem, come under threat.  For more on this story read here.

Fitness Center Franchises

Even before the launch of the Let’s Move campaign by First Lady Michelle Obama, aimed at raising a healthier generation of kids, the fitness center industry has shown steady growth and solid profits for more than two decades.  The campaign, targeting childhood obesity, recognizes that parents play a key role in making healthy choices for their children. Parents are encouraged to adopt a lifestyle of healthy eating and regular exercise for the entire family. Fitness Center franchises offer a variety of opportunities and expertise to help families reach their healthy lifestyle goals.

Fitness Center franchises also have proven to be a profitable business opportunity for many. According to a study published by First Research in November 2011, the US fitness centers industry consists of about 22,000 companies and non-profits operating more than 30,000 centers across the US.  Annual revenues total nearly $22 billion, with the 50 largest companies accounting for approximately 30% of revenue. Some of the major players include Planet Fitness (434 locations), Gold’s Gym (690 locations), Snap Fitness (1,190 locations), Curves (7,263 locations) and Jazzercise (8,181 locations).

Entrepreneur.com provides a list of 45 Fitness Center Franchises including detailed information about each opportunity.  Entry fee investments start as low as $2,500 for Platoon Fitness and can reach as much as $3.9 million for Gold’s Gym ($898.5K to $3.89M).  The average investment ranges from $180K to $325K. Opening a fitness center requires careful planning and research and many factors should be considered. Finding the right location hinges on selecting an area heavily comprised of target market customers. Below is a GeoMetrx map depicting the percent of the adult population that exercise at private facilities across the country.

Source: GeoMetrx 2012

GeoMetrx has a vast array of data to help franchisors and franchisees identify markets and define territories based on targeted customer profiles, including up-to-date demographics, business data, competitor profiles, lifestyle behaviors, segmentation, and more. Company owned data can be uploaded as well to further enhance any site analysis by radius, drive-time or custom drawn areas.  Call us today at 1.888.848.4436 or click here to request a demo.

Site Selection: CherryBerry Self-Serve Frozen Yogurt Bar