In both the private and public sectors, locating useful and reliable information about the past, present and future trends of different characteristics of society is a necessity. In order to make informed policy decision, write compelling grants or plan effectively for growing a small business, access to data is essential. Yet, collecting such useful information is not always easy or affordable. Finding exactly what you are looking for without research expertise can take time and money that many organizations do not have to give. This struggle between the need and the lack of availability of easy-to-use data is one reason why the U.S. Census Bureau strives to provide free, innovative tools that everyone can use for their purposes.
In partnership with Congressman Bradley Byrne and Coastal Gateway, Coastal Alabama Partnership hosted a U.S. Census Bureau Data Workshop on Monday, November 9th specifically targeted at educating Coastal Alabama’s communities on these tools and resources. It was designed to give participants firsthand knowledge on how to use the Census database to meet their specific goals, such as economic data statistics for businesses or local demographic information for grant proposals.
The workshop was presented by the Bureau’s Data Dissemination Department, and specifically focused on our region and highlighted innovative social-economic, demographic and business tools including:
- Census Business Builder – which “allows small business owners a way to easily navigate to and use key demographic and economic data to help guide their research into opening a new or expanding their existing business.” (U.S. Census Bureau)
- American Fact Finder – where “you can find popular facts (population, income, etc.) and frequently requested data about your community.” (U.S. Census Bureau)
- On the Map – which is “a web-based mapping and reporting application that shows where workers are employed and where the live. It also provides companion reports on age, earnings, industry distributions, race, ethnicity, educational attainment, and sex.” (U.S. Census Bureau)
The Census Bureau workshop also informed the group on old tools that have been revamped to greater benefit the user, including Quick Facts. Quick Facts now displays not only tables but also graphs, maps and side by side comparisons of the data you are interested in.
“My office was pleased to partner with the Coastal Alabama Partnership for a recent workshop with the Census Bureau. The workshop helped expose many of our local communities to some new and helpful tools the Census Bureau offers. These tools will help our region remain competitive when it comes to securing grants and federal funding. The workshop was just another effort to bring our communities together for the betterment of Southwest Alabama.” – Congressman Bradley Byrne (R-AL)
Beyond in-person workshops, the U.S. Census Bureau offers a variety of free, online webinars that review each of these tools, as well as many others. A list of these webinars, along with additional trainings, can be found at http://www.census.gov/mso/www/training/training_events.html.