Secret from 018: Analyzing Smaller Communities Without Big Data

Nathan Tafoya, Executive Director of the Lamesa Economic Development Corporation, shares economic development strategy in comparing large and small communities. He also suggests some ways in which smaller communities can be analyzed when big research fails to expose their whole story.

La Mesa has a population of about 9,300 folks. [In regards to] research, your changes in numbers aren’t going to be as drastic year to year, as they would be in say Dallas, San Antonio or Albuquerque where you have a larger influx of people, in migrations and out migrations. Your demographics aren’t changing as quickly. On a day to day basis, I wouldn’t say I need to do a lot of day to day research here. What I do is a lot of one on one talking to people to make sure that I have a good finger on the pulse of the economy. You actually can have your finger very much on the pulse of the community in a smaller community. You can’t in a bigger city, you kind of have to rely on data to tell you what is happening in your community.

If you’re [in a large community of] 5-600,000 people, you can’t talk to everyone. You should have a BRE program, where you have some understanding and you’re reaching out to them. That doesn’t tell you about schools. That doesn’t tell you what’s happening with hospitals, with healthcare, some of you major industry sectors. That doesn’t tell you about so many different things. It doesn’t tell you about your labor force, what’s happening, what jobs are needed, what wages are. You really have to keep a really good eye on that or forces the paramount topic, post recession. Knowing about your high schools, your workforce pipeline and your community colleges, and what your colleges are doing and offering as far as education goes. Being able to tie that to employers, to target sectors, to target industries that you’re going after, are really important and those are constantly changing. They drop programs, they add programs. They’re getting their information from somewhere.

In a smaller community, it’s not stagnant, but there’s less distance between the troughs and those peaks.

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