Good decisions are built on good information. Good information is readily available to local governments and to leading community agencies and therefore more readily available to the individual consumer of information.
El Dorado County has teamed up with the City of Placerville and Marshall Hospital to share the services of Buxton Customer Analytics. For about $1,000 a month, the county and its partners can access a treasure trove of information about their residents, consumers and patients. Demographics, purchasing habits and product preferences are all analyzed and fashioned into reports that the program users can pull up at the click of a finger.
Megan Arevalo, an administrative technician in the county’s newly restored Economic Development Division and Karen Feathers, assistant to Chief Administrative Officer Terri Daly gave a special demonstration of the Buxton Analytics programs to Mountain Democrat staff recently. Focusing on a 15-mile radius from downtown Placerville, Arevalo ran comparison data for 2012 and projections for 2017. The printed report included figures from 1990 and the censuses of 2000 and 2010.
In just moments, the information shows that the population of the study area is 37,705, and the single largest age range within that number is 55 to 64 (17.7 percent). The next largest cohort is 45 to 54 (16.1 percent) followed by the 65-74 year-olds (11.1. percent). By 2017, Buxton foresees a slight decline in the second group, a slight increase in the first and statistically significant increase (nearly 1.5 percent) in the third category. Overall those residents between ages 45 and 74 will remain the predominant age group within 15 miles of town. The median age will rise from a current 48 to 49 by 2017.
That matters to the city, the hospital and the county as a whole and when joined by many other pieces of the data, each entity can better plan its programs, services and products from today into the near and not-so-near future.
Of the 31,895 individuals ages 15 and up, 56.5 percent are currently married; 12.1 percent are divorced, and 23.4 percent have never been married. Eight percent of the folks over 15 are widowed.
Buxton reports there are 15,027 households in the 95667 Zip Code with a population density of 177.44 individuals per square mile. Those individuals are composed of 18,360 males and 19,345 females. Women tilt the total by 51 percent to roughly 49 percent.
A sizable number of the households in the study area (nearly 22 percent) live in “owner occupied free and clear” homes. About 50 percent live in owner-occupied homes with a loan or mortgage and almost 30 percent rent their homes or apartments.
How it works
Age, sex, marital status and home ownership data would be invaluable to anyone or any organization who does business or wants to do business in that area. And that is just the tip of the Buxton iceberg, Arevalo explained. The information can be tweaked literally to find out what percentage of the area’s population buys Pampers rather than some other brand of diaper. Likewise, residents who purchase sensible four-door sedans as opposed to fun and flashy, foreign sports cars can be identified — not personally — but by spending trends within the area.
The Buxton system includes a somewhat whimsical list of nearly 70 “Mosaic Profiles” that tells the program operator a wide range of characteristics found within the target area. The two categories most prevalent in 95667 are the “Unspoiled Splendor” with 1,727 individuals and the “Town Elders” with 1,383. Both designations represent people who are upper middle-age or above, with relatively comfortable income levels and higher than average educational attainment. The next highest Mosaic (951) is called “Senior Discounts,” and the name probably describes that group well enough. Other Mosaic titles are less self-explanatory.
For example, there are three residents within a 15-minute drive of Main Street who are classified as “Gotham Blend,” while not one gets the title “Urban Edge.” The definitions and descriptions of each Mosaic are available on the program. “Rooted Flower Power, Destination Recreation, Sports Utility Families, True Grit Americans, Aging of Aquarius, Birkenstocks and Beemers (and) No Place Like Home” account for over 30 percent of the total target population. There are two people who are in the “Gospel and Grits” brigade, but not one local soul in “Jet Set Urbanites,” “American Royalty,” “Everyday Moderates” nor “Hope for Tomorrow.” Contact Arevalo for details.
An issue that the county, city and even the hospital have grappled with is known by the unhappy moniker of “Retail Leakage.” At the county level, former District 3 Supervisor Jack Sweeney regularly bemoaned the $1-2 billion in annual sales that “went down the hill” and the resulting loss of sales tax to the region. The current board consistently debates the issue, and the Buxton programs were explored by the county several years ago as a way to quantify and perhaps reverse that level of fiscal hemorrhaging. Much of the data on retail activity is provided by credit card companies, again not by name but by purchasing trends, Arevalo explained.
Using an index that describes a state of equilibrium, that is a balance between demand and sales, as a starting point, the program surveys many dozens of retail categories and services. The 95667 Zip Code shows “black” in very few of those categories. Only three out of 11 categories called “Major Store Types, Building materials and garden equipment;” “Food service and drinking places” and “Miscellaneous Store Retailers” show actual sales above the point of equilibrium which is charted as (1.0) on the Buxton documents.
Potential annual sales in the Major Store Types currently located in 95667 could and should be more than $540 million, according to the data. Actual sales in all 11 types are just above $492 million. The difference between the two numbers represents the “leakage.”
Arevalo and Feathers noted that in just the past few months the Economic Development Division has received “a huge number of referrals” from entities such as the county’s Community Development Agency and local chambers of commerce. Some are from out-of-county considering moving their businesses to the area. Others are locals looking for concrete information about any number of things. Arevalo said typically there is one “right question” to ask the customer — “What do you want to do?”
Continuing that theme, Feathers said, “They don’t really know what to do with all the information. We’re a resource center for them, giving (state and local) information to the next step to keep their business moving forward.”
Pulling the Economic Development Division out of the CAO’s office and installing it in its own space at the county government center’s Building A has led to greater visibility for the program, and Arevalo said she is seeing a marked increase in “walk-ins” to her office.
Feathers added that the County Economic Development Advisory Committee (CEDAC) has been instrumental in upgrading the program and called its outreach efforts “amazing.”
The CAO’s office is located at 330 Fair Lane in Placerville. For details on the program, call 530-621-5567.
Contact Chris Daley at 530-344-5063 or [email protected]. Follow @CDaleyMtDemo.