October 4, 2018, by Erik Larson

How Many Businesses Do We Really Have?

Why answering this simple question has been so difficult. Until now.

We hear from cities everyday about the challenges they have obtaining accurate business counts in their city overall, as well as specific districts. This was a little surprising at first, but as we learned about some of the causes for this seemingly basic issue, it became clear that it was more complicated.

Never shying away from a challenge, our data team set out to help solve the problem of creating a current, defensible picture of the number and type of businesses in any area.

Below we outline a few common reasons why collecting accurate business data has been historically difficult (or simply not possible), and how eImpact can help you get the results you need.

3 Reasons Collecting Business Data is Difficult

1. Lagging Source Data

In a world that changes quickly, especially in urban and suburban environments, a lag in reported business data makes it only marginally useful. By the time much of the publicly available data is published your city or business district looks very different than the data would suggest. The result we see most frequently are economic development groups learning to survive without the data, a source of anxiety and in some cases an inhibitor to effective planning.

2. Place of Registry

Some small businesses are registered at the home address of their owners, while larger ones may be registered from a central location other than the local operation. In between, there are numerous variations on the question of place of registry. Businesses may change locations, open or close different sites – there's a wide range of potential factors impacting place of registry. Registration data, on its own, is generally not a trusted source. This isn't to say it isn't helpful, it simply isn't a reliable solution on its own.

3. Business Tenants and Property Owners

Most businesses lease their space. Some estimates indicate that only 10% of businesses own the bricks and mortar they operate within. When looking at some data sources, you may be misled by this skewing factor, for example the company that owns a mall versus the dozens of shops within it. Even more challenging is collecting information on employees in these shops.

So what to do?

eImpact has developed a proven solution for producing reliable counts of businesses and employees in any area. We can even provide industry specific breakdowns, helping you understand key dimensions such as how many small businesses do we have compared to larger employers?

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