The Greater Fort Bend Economic Development Council (Fort Bend EDC) was selected as the recipient of the Global Innovator’s Award given each year by CoreNet Global, the world’s premier professional association for corporate real estate leaders. At the CoreNet Global Fall Summit in Atlanta, Georgia October 14, the award was presented to the Fort Bend EDC in front of over 3,000 attendees, including 750 corporate real estate executives. From more than 100 applicants, twelve finalists were selected to present their innovations in August 2003 at Harvard University before a panel of senior corporate real estate professionals and leading educators. And from the finalists, five winners were chosen, including Toyota, Sprint, Ford Land, the US Army and the Fort Bend EDC, the only Texas contender. The Fort Bend EDC won in the Innovations by Communities/Economic Development Organizations category with its one-of-a-kind Geographical GIS innovation as applied to the site selection process in economic development.
The Council has used its knowledge of technology and economic development and “bundled” software, hardware, and data, creating its own innovative methodology for doing economic development work. The award-winning GIS software application is fitted with a 72-inch, touch-sensitive “SMART” screen connected to a customized computer system. The GIS system uses a base map, which is a digitized aerial photograph of Fort Bend County, and displays selected “layers” of information on top of the color aerial. This economic development tool assists site consultants, brokers, corporate real estate executives, and developers in performing site selection and feasibility research. Site-specific research that used to take nearly three weeks to complete can now be accomplished in a matter of minutes; therefore, saving its clients time and money. The user can select and overlay multiple layers at a time and decipher in minutes whether or not a specific site is suitable for a particular development. A few of the 50-plus layers include roads, highways, city limit and extraterritorial jurisdiction boundaries, topography, water features, county mobility plan, pipelines, electrical distribution lines, potential hazards, traffic counts rail lines, utility districts, potential wetlands, flood zones, school district boundaries, soils, property ownership abstracts, planned communities, historical sites, multi-family complexes, retail big box availability and office buildings.
The volumes of information needed for this innovative tool were provided by the Fort Bend County GIS Consortium, a public/private partnership of governmental entities and private businesses with geographic data to share. George Culver, a GIS specialist at LJA Engineering & Surveying, Inc., served as a consultant on the project and installed the numerous data layers into the system.