Economic Snapshot Overview by Dr. Reid Cummings - March 2019

Posted on March 27, 2019 by Dr. Reid Cummings
Dr. Reid Cummings

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Greetings, and welcome to the March 2019 Mobile Bay Economic Snapshot.

As often noted in this column, our staff members are continually working to improve and update the way we track and report information. From the outset, we began tracking the issuance of new business licenses. This month, we introduce our newest feature: tracking renewals of existing business licenses.

As noted in our November 2017 commentary, we track business license issuance as one way to help us understand economic growth at a market level. “Business license data indicate how much business activity is entering or exiting a particular market. New business license issuance data are especially important because over time, increases or decreases point to how fast a region’s economy is growing or declining. This data can indicate areas of large commercial growth, which often leads to an increased need for housing and public services.”

So, a logical question is if new business license issuance is one possible foreteller of future local economic activity, what can be learned from studying the renewals of existing business licenses? Recall there are three primary types of business licenses. Governments issue them based either on industry type (e.g. trucking), product or service type (e.g. wine or personal services), or annual sales (e.g. real estate companies). Because businesses renew their licenses annually, and because fees to renew can amount to hundreds or even thousands of dollars, choosing to renew a license is a serious decision. A reasonable inference for healthy business license renewals is that those on the ground, the actual business owners and operators, are confident about how their product or service will fare in their respective markets in the year ahead.

So, our work in progress in building dashboards that deliver timely, topical, and accurate information and analysis will continue. Yet what has been done, and what is still to come, would never happen at all without the innovative thinking and willingness to endure countless hours of trial and error by everyone who has worked with the Center on this project. We would like to introduce you to two people who have been instrumental in these efforts.

Jana Stupavsky has served as the Center’s Assistant Director for nearly three years. Before joining us, she worked for twelve years in business-to-business marketing, economic development, and project management.

In just the past few years, the fields of data analytics and visualization have experienced exponential growth. We knew a couple of years ago that we needed a new approach to the way we report data. We believed that moving to an open-sourced platform that would be available to consumers, businesses, governments, academic institutions, non-profits, professional associations and others would be the best way we could provide value for the region. In another sense, we also knew we could provide a classroom setting for our student workers interested in learning about data visualization. Jana spearheaded the project, initially developing dashboards for real estate market data. Others have followed and improvements are always in progress. She also initiated a “Data 101” blog series, designed to help dashboard users learn how they can use our data to inform their decision making. Increasingly, employers are looking for employees with data visualization skills. Jana enjoys working with our student workers as they get hands-on experience working with us at the Center. She will also soon teach an undergraduate course in data visualization. 

We also want to introduce Neel Patel. He is close to completing his MBA in the Mitchell College of Business, after completing an undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering at USA. He has worked at the Center for the last year, and has quickly developed a deep understanding of the processes of data analytics and visualization. He routinely takes the initiative in researching and obtaining various data points important to the region. Neel is the creator of our Port-data dashboards, as well as our new and improved real estate dashboards, which allow users more granular control over how they research Mobile and Baldwin County market data.

Neel is a native of Gujarat, India and has been in the U.S. for ten years. He is a founder and a captain of the South Alabama Cricket Team and has had many successes in a number of competitions. After graduating at the end of the summer, Neel intends to start his career focusing on opportunities to work in business analytics, business intelligence, or project management.

Until next time, from everyone at the Center, we wish you and yours all of the best.

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