Emsi Case Study (See Full Archive)
As part of its ongoing mission to help Georgia’s communities grow and attract business, Georgia Power knows how important it is to make data-informed decisions. That’s why it’s made Emsi data a key part of its decision-making process, promoting economic development in its state by presenting businesses with reliable data about labor market realities.
A History of Community Involvement
It may seem unusual for a utility corporation to also be a leading player in the economic development world. But for almost a century there’s been nothing run-of-the-mill about Georgia Power. Of course, Georgia Power has never neglected its primary role as its state’s leading electricity provider. But in the 1920s, the company’s then-president Preston Arkwright declared that Georgia Power had a higher calling, a calling to “be a citizen wherever we serve.” In other words, the company needed to work for the benefit of Georgia’s communities, not simply to make money. Since then, Georgia Power has worked to present Georgia’s cities and towns as attractive locations for business expansion and relocation.
The Present Day — Economic Development in the Information Age
Today, however, economic development is a very different world than it was in the 1920s – or even a decade or two ago. In a presentation at the 2013 Emsi Conference, Jennifer Zeller talked about how the work she and the Georgia Power Community & Economic Development (C&ED) team do depends on having instant, data-informed answers to questions that once could have waited weeks or even months. “Back in the ’90s, when I started in economic development, people said, ‘Oh, you know, a week, two weeks, whenever you can get it to us is good.’ Now it’s, ‘Can you get it tomorrow afternoon?’”
That’s why the C&ED research team makes heavy use of a wide range of data sources. In this day and age, they need to be able to quickly present a data-informed case to potential investors and others with whom they work. To do that, Georgia Power has developed a groundbreaking suite of data tools that combine a wide range of sources — including Emsi — to provide them with the trustworthy evidence they need.
Using Data For Site Selection — Different Approaches For Different Needs
So how does the range of data that Georgia Power uses play into the realities of economic development and site selection? Fundamentally it’s very simple — one of the primary drivers for site-selection decisions is the characteristics of the local workforce, the kind of characteristics that labor market data describes. What kinds of workers are there in the region? What do they earn, and how far are they commuting in order to earn it? What skills do they offer? Are there more workers available than the economy can use in a specific field, or fewer than it needs? These are the questions economic developers ask, and which Georgia Power uses LMI to answer.
Data In Action: Cox Enterprises
Georgia Power’s C&ED team works with a large number of clients. But one great example that Zeller cited at the Emsi Conference was its work with Cox Enterprises. Cox is a major communications conglomerate with whom Georgia Power worked on a site selection project. Cox was in the process of consolidating its Atlanta workforce, moving from a number of small locations into a single large campus. As it did so, Cox needed to know that this risk was going to be sustainable for the long term.
In order to help Cox make an informed decision about locating in Atlanta, Georgia Power’s research group used its data tools to provide a thorough analysis of the supply chain for skilled workers in the area. That meant beginning by showing Cox ZIP-level occupation data on the area — data that demonstrated how many relevant workers there were in the area, what industries they were working in, what they were earning, and whether their numbers were projected to grow or shrink.
From there, C&ED’s presentation evaluated the talent pipeline, showing Cox current data on education programs and completions in the Atlanta MSA — data that gave Cox an even better sense of the future supply of workers, and of which institutions they could partner with. And, to top it off, Georgia Power provided Cox with data on where the workers in specific occupations lived, and how far they were currently commuting to work, to give Cox a sense of how flexible the workforce was, and how far afield it should realistically be extending its search for talent. As a package, this data provided Cox with a uniquely powerful argument for reinforcing their reason to move to a single campus would benefit both the community and the company.
The work Georgia Power does with Emsi data and the other sources it uses is among the most exciting we’ve seen. To learn more about how Jennifer Zeller and Georgia Power’s Community & Economic Development department make labor market work for their state, watch this video of Zeller’s presentation at the 2013 Emsi Conference.