Emsi Case Study (Full Archive)
Kansas State University’s Advanced Manufacturing Institute (AMI) helps Kansas businesses and communities innovate and grow — businesses and communities that are often in rural parts of the state. Because of this, AMI realized it needed to step back to help its clients understand their regional economies. This is why Emsi’s unsuppressed county-level data was a “no-brainer” for AMI.
When Critical Connections Trump Critical Mass
The Advanced Manufacturing Institute has been doing traditional technology-based economic development and outreach since 1985. Part of K-State’s College of Engineering, AMI helps connect university faculty with industry, and it also has a staff of engineers and technologists that focus on business development and integration.
As it began providing technical assistance to companies, AMI sought ways to help its mostly rural business partners “connect to resources and expertise and things that they don’t normally have access to because of their location,” said Jeff Tucker, AMI’s executive director.
What started as one-off help to companies mushroomed into helping regions across Kansas expand and advance their economies. AMI’s work spawned Innovate Kansas, a project funded by the EDA through its University Center (UC) program aimed at helping businesses innovate and grow in rural Kansas.
For rural regions that lack critical mass, Innovate Kansas seeks to give them critical connections. This includes helping them understand and map their assets: the industries that drive their economies, the companies that make up those industries, and how those industries and companies are trending.
“This is information that is just generally not readily available in rural spaces, sometimes not even in urban spaces depending on the thinking process,” Tucker said. “So we keep stepping back and saying, ‘With our limited resources, we want to make sure we are having an impact.’ What industries should we be involved in on the technical side? What companies should we be trying to work with because they are drivers of the regional economy? Those are things that we’re trying to begin to understand.”
When they went searching for answers to those questions, Tucker and his colleagues discovered they were hard to find.
Turning to Emsi for Comprehensive Industry Data
AMI’s Manveen Saini and Dale Wunderlich started their search for regional industry and economic data with the Bureau of Labor Statistics and its Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (QCEW) dataset. They soon ran into nondisclosure issues, though — data that’s only available at the aggregate level for confidentiality reasons. These suppressed data points crop up most frequently in small, rural areas or in industries with few establishments or those dominated by a single employer.
“It just became a no-brainer for us to make that investment.” — Jeff Tucker, AMI executive director
Nondisclosed (or suppressed) data wasn’t the only problem. AMI quickly figured out that hunting for data from the BLS, among other sources, and updating it was going to be a major time commitment. “We realized that if we were going to have to do this all over again to update our database,” Tucker said, “then we were going to spend all our time collecting information instead of doing the analysis work.”
That’s when AMI found Emsi and its labor market research tool called Analyst, which harmonizes more than 90 federal and state sources and provides unsuppressed industry and occupation data for every county in the U.S., updated four times per year.
“It just became a no-brainer for us to make that investment,” Tucker said.
Added Saini, AMI’s economic development project manager, “It was just what I needed. It has been a good experience using the data.”
Regional Reports Help Spot New Opportunities
As part of the Kansas Opportunity Innovation Network (KOIN), researchers at AMI have released a series of regional economic reports. The purpose of the reports is to give partners in different parts of the state an overview of their regional economy — an asset map, in other words — to aid them in decision-making.
Saini has used Emsi data to complete these reports and help regional practitioners uncover new potential opportunities for expansion or investment. AMI works most often with economic development groups to compile these reports, but the benefits of its research and analysis bleed into higher education and workforce development.
“Right now I have a project going on where I use everything: industry, occupation, and education data,” Saini said. “We have been using [EMSI] data to do industry analysis, to do occupational cluster analysis, and right now we are doing a skills gap analysis. At the same time we are also trying to figure out for the local education institutes in the region, what kind of programs do they offer? Is there a need for them to work together, and if so what would make sense for them to focus on?”
AMI’s Innovation Analytics
In addition to regional reports, the Innovate Kansas team is delving deeper into the innovation ecosystem of each region in the state. The goal is to find out what’s driving regional growth and to spot the best opportunities in each region.
A sampling of the data that AMI researchers have visualized for all 105 Kansas counties at InnovateKansas.org includes:
- A tree map of important Kansas manufacturers
- An interactive chart on commuting patterns
- County-by-county statistics on employment and population.
- The state’s employment vs. exports mapped out
- Entrepreneurial capacity by region and inventors by industry
Tucker calls these and other datasets “innovation analytics,” and they go a long way in helping connect companies and regions to critical resources.
“We are trying to create data and visualizations that help people see things below the surface that they may not be able to see by looking at traditional charts and tables,” Wunderlich said.
Tucker and his colleagues are also branching out into larger projects, like one in the Kansas City area that will focus on food processing and animal health. They hope to use Emsi’s supply-chain data to see the linkages throughout the Kansas-Missouri economy to those two primary industries.
Emsi turns labor market data into useful information that helps organizations understand the connection between economies, people, and work. Using sound economic principles and good data, we build user-friendly services that help educational institutions, workforce planners, and regional developers (such as WIBs, EDOs, chambers, utilities) build a better workforce and improve the economic conditions in their regions. For more information, email Josh Wright (email@example.com) or visit www.economicmodeling.com.