Philadelphia, PA: The City of Asheville, North Carolina, won the prestigious ‘Excellence in Economic Development’ award in the ‘New Media Initiative’ category from the International Economic Development Council (IEDC) for its mapAsheville Priority Places, an interactive economic development mapping tool created to strengthen investment within their region. The City of Asheville’s Office of Economic Development selected Avencia Incorporated, a Philadelphia-based geospatial software design and development company, to design Priority Places to help business owners, citizens or government agencies weigh multiple geographic factors and generate web-based heat maps that highlight optimal locations for their activities. IEDC’s annual professional economic development awards recognize excellence in the economic development profession. The City of Asheville competed with other organizations serving areas with populations between 50,000 and 200,000.
Priority Places utilizes Avencia’s DecisionTree technology—a set of web-based geographic planning and prioritization tools— to enable the public to search and analyze key location factors by choosing weighted priorities and preferences from a list established by officials at the Asheville’s Office of Economic Development. The City of Asheville selected DecisionTree for their Priority Places application for its versatility, flexibility, and because it is highly customizable. It is also extremely easy to use: users are able to prioritize locations by assigning weights to the criteria of significance to them, using sliding bars. DecisionTree calculates the locations best meeting the weighted criteria and returns a heat map on the fly. DecisionTree is designed to address the challenge of processing and analyzing a large amount of geographic, demographic, and economic data with sufficient speed to run the weighted raster overlay calculations on a website. Its simple user interface and distributed geoprocessing architecture enable anyone to set up a model and see the results in seconds. It uses Adobe Flex technology for greater user interactivity.
“As a technologist, I’ve been very pleased with the application and its ability to rapidly return analytical results to the user. As a government employee looking for new and creative ways to leverage existing operational data, it’s a treat to see so many things come together within Priority Places. Existing data, created and maintained to support operational requirements of the City, was leveraged to create the decision factors and additional locational context regarding both crime and development activities were provided via ‘smart links’ to existing applications.” —-Jason Mann, GIS & Application Services Manager for City of Asheville.
The City of Asheville selected Avencia based on an early economic development prototype Avencia created for the City of Philadelphia’s Neighborhood Transformation Initiative. The Philadelphia project led to a research grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program to develop the high performance algorithms that enable DecisionTree to operate with sufficient speed to run on the Internet. In addition to supporting economic development applications, DecisionTree can now support real estate decisions, business siting, and geographic prioritization of government services.