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Cultural Mapping

Municipalities are responding to new economic and demographic realities by building local economies through culture. Creativity and culture are powerful drivers in building local economies and strengthening quality of life.

Attracting People with Culture

The field of investment attraction today is focused on attracting jobs in a knowledge-based economy. Municipalities are working to regenerate downtowns and build healthy neighborhoods so they can market themselves as livable and environmentally sustainable. They know that places that offer lively cultural and entertainment options are magnets that attract and retain creative people. This creative workforce in turn generates wealth.

Culture, then, is a primary measure of economic attractiveness. People are not secondary assets that follow business and investment. For communities that position themselves as places where people want to live and work, business and investment follows people.

Culture is now commonly referred to as the “fourth pillar” of sustainability along with social, economic and environmental aspects of economic development. Its importance is growing with the impact of immigration (see “Marketing to New Immigrants” in this series). People searching the web for economic opportunities want to know at a glance where the resources specific to their cultural group are located within a community.

Does your investment-attraction strategy include promoting your community’s culture? Are you able to succinctly present cultural information in a way that will draw the interest of site selectors, investors, entrepreneurs and creative people?

If not, you might consider the use of cultural-mapping technologies. Cultural mapping is a systematic approach to identifying and recording a municipality’s cultural resources usually using geographic information systems (GIS).

Using GIS to Map Your Cultural Assets

GIS tools enable the presentation of demographic data by graphical means – using charts, graphs and maps that can present a picture that is easily understood without the need for lengthy explanatory texts. Maps are especially helpful to put data in context. Viewers can click on detailed maps and call up relevant data on such matters as transportation, taxation, city planning and more.

A viewer can define the community (and property) characteristics important to his or her search, and the cultural-mapping technologies can find and display locations that are a match. The result is a faster process of site-selection analysis.

A site can incorporate thematic mapping of demographic variables to show the spatial distribution and concentration of specific variables across a geographic view. For example, thematic mapping of population, income, retail spending and workforce characteristics can show the highest and lowest levels of characteristics within a community. They can be shown as a series of colors on the map interface and thus can be grasped effortlessly by the viewer.

Cultural mapping is an example of how technology has made great strides in streamlining the initial stages of a search, and in helping economic development departments to stay abreast of economic and demographic trends.

Communities that post relevant site-selection information online, in readily accessible formats, can save searchers weeks of time. Cultural mapping using GIS makes it easy to get a feel for the characteristics of a community around a site under consideration. A modern site search still requires site visits and work on the ground before a final decision, but a community increases its chances for consideration if it provides searchers with information they can visualize and analyze in their offices before starting to make calls.

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