Week of October 25, 1999
  Editor's Choice Web Pick
   of the Week

Econdata.Net: A Lollapalooza of a Gateway
for Local and Regional Economic Analyses

Hard facts are at the heart of smart real estate decision-making. Hunting for them on the Web, though, can prove to be extremely frustrating.

You likely know the frustration drill here, which is right out of Sisyphus: You burrow down to a single information source only to find that it doesn't have what you need. And that means you have to go back and find yet another source that hopefully has the information you're looking for. Miss again, start again, etc., etc., etc.

That's where Econdata.Net (www.econdata.net) comes into play. The site is a potent gateway for sources of socioeconomic data that can be used in analyzing local and regional economies. All told, Econdata.Net contains links to more than 125 data sources on the Web. And most of those sources are very solid ones that care about the quality of their data.

That praise, though, comes with a significant caveat. This rich compendium of data sources is the result of a study that was funded by the U.S. Economic Development Administration. That study was designed to assess the adequacy of existing socioeconomic data sources for use in economic development analysis. Accordingly, as you might expect, the information is exclusively U.S.-focused.

Categories and Descriptions Speed Site Navigation

If it's U.S. economic data you're looking for, though, this is one lollapalooza of a gateway.

The Econdata.Net site also gets high marks for making navigable a vast stretch of data sources that could have been impenetrable.

The sources are broken down into four general categories: "Federal Data Sources," "State and Local Data Sources," "Commercial and Nonprofit Data Sources" and "Socioeconomic Data Collections Online."

The latter category is made up of directories and synopses of economic development-related information available on the Web. Some of those sites you've likely never heard of. Many, though, are solid. For example, the "Socioeconomic Data Collections Online" section of the site includes a master link to the regional Federal Reserve Banks; the Dept. of Commerce's "Stat-USA" site; the University of Southern Mississippi's "Resources for Economists on the Internet" site; and the University of Alabama at Birmingham's "Economic Chart Dispenser."

If you're not familiar with some of those data sources, don't despair. Econdata.Net provides considerable assistance, when you need it, in letting you know what you're about to click on before you click on it. For example, users can click on topic headings to pull up a page of short descriptions for each source listed under that topic. Or they can go to the "Detailed Descriptions of Data Sources" portion of the site to get more lengthy accounts.

Virtually Graphics-Free Approach Is Appropriate

Though Econdata.Net's value clearly rests in being a gateway to so much information, the site also offers some original content. For example, there's a "User's Guide to Socioeconomic Data for Understanding Your Regional Economy" that users can view or download in Adobe Acrobat format.

Econdata.Net also lists the results of a survey used to compile a list of "10 Most Popular Web Sites of Economic Data Users." (And since we're all suckers for top 10s, the top 10 are listed at the end of this column.)

If you're a graphics lover, though, this site won't push your buttons. In fact, it's almost graphics-free.

But that's probably for the best. With as many links as this site will be loading on your machine, you don't need fancy graphics slowing down the process. And the site's minimal graphics subtly remind users that this one is all about information, not visual bells and whistles.

And, speaking of information, here's that top 10 list that we promised: economic data users' most popular Web sites

 1. Census Bureau 
 2. Bureau of Labor Statistics 
 3. Bureau of Economic Analysis 
 4. Stat-USA
 5. Fedstats 
 6. Federal Reserve Branches 
 7. Dept. of Commerce 
 8. Government Information Sharing Project 
    (Oregon State University) 
 9. Dept. of Labor 
10. University of Virginia 



©1999 Conway Data, Inc. All rights reserved. Data is from many sources and is not warranted to be accurate or current.