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With Business Atlas, NYC Analytics Office Looks to 2014

BY Miranda Neubauer | Thursday, January 2 2014

A recently released tool from the City of New York seeks to level the playing field for small businesses looking to learn more about economic conditions of neighborhoods and possible business locations.

The NYC Business Atlas is a project from the NYC Department of Information Technology & Telecommunications, the Mayor’s Office of Data Analytics (MODA), and the Departments of Small Business Services.

"When a major national retailer looks to open a new storefront, they often commission sophisticated neighborhood market research that helps the company decide where to locate the new business," the Data Analytics Office's December 2013 annual report states. "While retailer entrepreneurs are experts in their trade (e.g., restaurateurs; chefs; hair stylists; florists), they often lack access to high quality information about economic conditions in the neighborhoods they’re considering for storefronts. The NYC Business Atlas is designed to help solve that informational gap by providing a public tool that gives small business entrepreneurs access to high quality information that helps them decide where to plan their new business or expansion."

The tool combines business filing data from the Department of Consumer Affairs, sales tax data from the Department of Finance, demographic data from the census and traffic data from Placemeter, a New York City start-up focusing on real-time traffic information.

For an area in Midtown East, close to Bryant Park, for example, the map shows that 21 percent of the population is between 25 and 29, 51 percent of households have moved within the past eight years, and 33.8 percent of the area is zoned for commercial use with restaurants outnumbering laundry places, grocery stores and child care facilities.

"Data transparency means better information for those that live and work in our neighborhoods, and that means more than just raw numbers," NYC Chief Analytics Officer Mike Flowers said according to a DoITT Tumblr post. "The Business Atlas is an easy-to-use visualization that shows that you don’t need to be a data scientist to make good use of NYC data."

Small Business Services also plans to use the tool to help analyze the ability of city Business Improvement Districts to help drive economic growth, according to the annual report, with the goal of replicating BID best practices across the city.

With Chief Digital Officer Rachel Haot leaving for a position with New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, Mayor Bill de Blasio has not yet made any personnel announcements specifically focused on technology or analytics.

The Business Atlas is just one of the subjects touched on in the annual report of MODA, which former Mayor Michael Bloomberg officially established with an executive order in April 2013. The report also highlights how MODA has been offering analyses to support legislative deliberations, such as coming up with an estimate of the percentage of businesses that would be affected by various composting proposals, and the amount or organic matter that would be generated under those proposals.

The report also details how the office helped to implement a DataBridge warehouse system and a Data Element Exchange Program to help facilitate analytics work across agencies and within various agencies to improve city operations and response times, especially through predictive analytics programs. Those programs included creating a more effective model to identify and inspect buildings at risk for fires or buildings with dangerous living conditions following 311 complaints about illegal building conversions. In addition, MODA helped analyze how the New Business Acceleration Team effort helped reduce the time it takes for new businesses to open.

The report points to several projects that MODA has planned for 2014. Among those are working with DOiTT to establish a "publication to subscribers" that would allow users to receive a real-time feed of 311 activities, adding additional information to the Sandy tracker platform, conducting an analysis of city contractor performance, analyzing food availability in neighborhoods with a high concentration of SNAP recipients, helping to build a single, streamlined platform to collect information from residents during disasters and share the data with relevant agencies, verifying the city's street directions using GPS data from snowplows from the city's last snow event, improving the Business Atlas to include more information, such as subway rider data, and a function that would help entrepreneurs identify appropriate locations based on an input of business data, and working with Microsoft's smart cities platform and the Office of Emergency Management to conduct a "proof-of-concept" of Microsoft's new city management dashboard in New York City.

Earlier, the New York City Economic Development Corporation announced an updated version of the city Broadband Map, detailing the availability of broadband infrastructure in commercial buildings.