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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.

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:! 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 (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.



2014 Franchise 500 Ranking

5 StarsThe 35th annual Franchise 500, compiled by  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.