The Census Project, the Tulsa Regional Chamber of Commerce and the Oklahoma Department of Commerce recently helped to compile some examples of the importance of the American Community Survey (ACS) (formerly known as the Census long form) specifically aimed at the Oklahoma delegation.
Macy’s Fulfillment (distribution) Center-Tulsa MSA
Macy’s 1.3 million square foot fulfillment center will be completed in 2016, at which time Macy’s will employ 2,500 year-round employees and at least 1,000 seasonal employees. As part of filling the request-for-proposal, ACS data were required to “get a foot in the door” for consideration for the project. Current Tulsa-area demographics from ACS gave Macy’s assurance that we had the labor force typically required for employment in this $170 million investment.
Tulsa is One of 20 Cities in Lumina Foundation’s Community Partnership for Attainment
ACS data were critical in Lumina Foundation’s selection of Tulsa to participate in its Community Partnership for Attainment, which aims to increase post-secondary degree and certification attainment. There are 148,501 individuals, according to ACS, in Tulsa who have completed only some college. Tulsa will work with Lumina through 2016, receiving technical assistance, targeted funding, planning tools and data, and networking and professional development opportunities to aid in bringing these individuals back to school to get a degree or certification. Progress will be tracked to ensure compliance with Lumina’s guidelines using ACS, the only source of accurate regional demographic data on an annual basis.
Tulsa’s Future III
The economic development function within the Tulsa Regional Chamber is funded by private investors. Tulsa’s Future III is the Tulsa Regional Chamber’s third five-year development program, the results of which will be monitored by an oversight committee to ensure return on investment by the business community from our efforts in Economic Development. Other than tracking new jobs announced and average wage collected internally, quality-of-life and standard-of-living measures from the American Community Survey are the benchmark measurements from which target goals are set for the program’s end and interim annual results reviewed. ACS is the only source with which to track these data regionally on an annual basis.
Targeted Employment Areas
Each state has a designated agency to evaluate requests for Targeted Employment Area designation under the USCIS EB-5 program. The intent of the program is to encourage foreign investors to invest their resources in an area that has high unemployment. In order to receive an EB-5 Visa, the business established by these investors must create jobs. In Oklahoma, the Oklahoma Department of Commerce has been designated as the agency responsible for this program. ACS provides the Census Tract unemployment rates that are required to review applications for Targeted Employment Areas. Without unbiased ACS data, we would not be able to evaluate the soundness of applications for recommending these designations in the state as a whole, including many cities that would be considered as rural areas.
Small Business Development
Many small business owners rely on data from ACS to evaluate market potential for their ventures. While it is feasible that the private market could supply some data, small business owners would not have the resources to invest to obtain these data. ACS provides them a resource to evaluate market potential and provides them with more certainty on which to base their decisions.
Communities in eastern Oklahoma County — a part of the OKC metro, but considered rural areas of the county — would like to connect I-40 to I-44. Connecting the interstate highways would open more areas for development and job creation and support the workforce needs of Tinker AFB, which employs more than 26,000 people and is a national asset in the MRO of airframes that are vital to the USAF mission. As a part of the economic impact, we reviewed ACS data associated with the mainly rural geographies associated with the project.
From the Oklahoma Department of Commerce
The ACS data are vital to Oklahoma’s research, analysis and understanding of the state’s workforce. The data are one of the fundamental sets the Oklahoma Department of Commerce uses to identify, quantify and qualify the current labor supply and project estimates for future workforce. Examples include:
- Sector Strategies: Many regions have identified what industries drive the local economy; however ACS data are vital to understanding the current workforce that supports those industries such as age, gender, educational attainment, commute time, family obligations, etc. Perhaps equally or even more importantly for states with lower unemployment rates, ACS data provide information about the adult population that does not participate in the labor force and clues to why, such as housing, family, child care, transportation/commuting. These data provide the basis for state and regional policy to provide services to increase economic opportunities for people who may previously not have had access.
- Critical Occupations: Once a sector strategy is in place, it is necessary to identify and develop policy to create, nurture and support the labor force that is critical for those industries not only to continue but aggressively compete in a global economy. Good policy is built not only on current data but on having elegant estimates and projections about growth. These include comprehensive data on educational attainment, which needs to include degrees, certificates and credentials. Identifying people who have some college or a particular certificate allows workforce development agencies to identify opportunities for upskilling and career enhancement. Finally, it is critical that we understand households so that we can properly support the development of tomorrow’s youth into the workforce.
- Overall, analysis of ACS data affects how Oklahoma and all states think about career pathways, apprenticeships, projected retirements, and community needs regarding veterans, disabilities, housing, transportation, language barriers, etc.