Posts Tagged ‘data’


Expanding Small Business Owners’ Access to Our Data with Census Business Builder

September 10, 2015

This post originally appeared on the U.S. Census Bureau’s Director’s BlogThis post contains external links. Please review our external linking policy.

Map Depicting Employer Establishments in Fairfax County, Virginia

Map Depicting Employer Establishments in Fairfax County, Virginia

The U.S. Census Bureau is the premiere source of data about America’s economy and businesses, and we’re committed to making our data more accessible than ever before. I’m pleased to introduce our latest tool in that effort: Census Business Builder: Small Business Edition.

Every day, businesses large and small use Census Bureau data to make important decisions. Large companies have sophisticated research staff to do this work for them, but small business owners are often left to their own devices. We’ve talked to many entrepreneurs across the country, and a common request is for more Census Bureau data in an easier-to-use format. We listened, and in response, we developed Census Business Builder: Small Business Edition to provide them with easier access to more data.

Census Business Builder: Small Business Edition combines economic and demographic data in meaningful ways that are useful to the small business owner. Uniquely, Census Business Builder also uses third party data on consumer spending. While not produced by Census, we believe that the addition of this data will help deliver the information that’s most useful for small business owners’ needs. The result is an innovative data tool that will help small business entrepreneurs determine the best type and location for their small business.

To start, select your business type from a list of over 40 categories – such as a restaurant, construction company or beauty salon – and where you’re considering setting up shop.

Once you input this information, you see a map view of your selected location (county, city, town or ZIP code), along with relevant demographic, economic and housing characteristics for that area’s residents. You can pull up features of other businesses like yours – such as number of establishments or similar businesses, average payroll and consumer spending. You can also add filters in order to see cities, counties and neighborhoods with their potential customers’ desired income, education, poverty and employment characteristics.

The combination of economic and demographic data allows small business owners to make an informed decision about what type of business to open and where to locate it. Once you’ve gathered all of the information you want, Census Business Builder generates a detailed report on the characteristics of your desired geography, its residents and businesses. This critical information can be incorporated into a business plan, a business loan application or shared with others.

Census Business Builder increases the availability and usefulness of the statistics the Census Bureau collects, and it’s a valuable tool for small business owners across America. This is the latest in the Census Bureau’s digital transformation effort, along with major upgrades to, an expanding open API, mobile apps and other interactive data tools.

We hope you visit Census Business Builder and give us your thoughts via the feedback button. Ideas for improvements to future versions of the tool will come from you, the user.


Introducing ITA’s Trade Developer Portal

July 14, 2014

Kimberly Becht is the Deputy Program Manager for Web Presence in the International Trade Administration.

ITA's Trade Developer Portal provides APIs for office locations, market research, trade events, trade leads and trade news.

ITA’s Trade Developer Portal.

In support of President Obama’s Open Government Initiative and the Commerce Department’s strategic plan, the International Trade Administration (ITA) has taken a major step in making its data open and accessible to the public through its Trade Developer Portal.

Announced today by Secretary Pritzker, the portal is a collection of application programming interfaces (APIs) that allow software developers to create web and mobile applications using information produced by ITA and other trade promotion agencies.

Making its data public to software developers is one more way ITA is helping U.S. businesses export and enabling foreign investment in American companies through the use of cutting edge technologies.

The Trade Developer Portal helps fulfill the Department’s top priority of making federal data open and available to third party developers in order to foster economic growth.

Currently, the developer portal includes:

  • access to information about trade events;
  • market research;
  • trade leads;
  • locations of domestic and international export assistance centers; and
  • trade news and articles.
Our developer portal can help developers show country-specific pages based on U.S. government data.

Our developer portal can help developers create country-specific pages displaying U.S. government trade data.

Over the next few months, we plan to add APIs around business opportunities, tariff information for goods and services covered under Free Trade Agreements, and frequent questions asked by exporters. We are continuously adding and enriching data sets with the long-term goal of sharing all publicly disseminated information produced by ITA and other trade promotion agencies.

Through the portal, we will engage developers by showcasing applications, providing access to our data owners, and soliciting input to help us improve the quality of public data. The picture on the left is just one example of what can be done using the information currently available in our Trade Developer Portal.

If you have any questions about the portal or need assistance using our APIs, please let us know.  We are excited to partner with you in the next phase of the open data revolution!


4 Ways Understanding Data Can Inform Your Export Strategy

June 18, 2014

This post contains external links. Please review our external linking policy.

Kenneth R. Mouradian is the Director of the International Trade Administration’s Orlando U.S. Export Assistance Center.

Relying on export data can make your international business ventures more profitable.

Understanding the facts behind export data can make your international business ventures more profitable.

Numbers can be misleading, especially when they’re used as a proxy for quality thought in decision making.

Now, let’s be clear, here. When I say that numbers can be misleading, I’m assuming that you’re looking at an X and a Y axis with data points and no text except that which is necessary to label the graph. Alternatively, you’re looking at 10 numbers: five years and five corresponding dollar amounts or volumes. That’s where a lot of U.S. exporters begin their market research; and, if that’s where their research ends, that’s a problem.

Potential exporters need to look behind the data points on the graph by asking some important questions:

  • What happened before the trend?
  • What happened after the trend?
  • What caused the trend?
  • Can you compete (i.e., price, quality, terms of sale, features, post-sales support)?

Here’s a hypothetical: Imagine for a moment that you sell building products and the data indicate a 5-year growth trend in Timbuktoo for exactly what you sell. Assume, too, that the data are two years out of date and that you don’t follow soccer. Little did you know that Timbuktoo hosted the World Cup two years ago and that, if you had more recent data, you’d see a drop in demand for building products once the stadium, exercise buildings, dormitories, and tourism infrastructure had been completed.

I should also mention that all the best relationships were probably formed well before construction started. Should you spend much time exploring the Timbuktoo market? Based on what little we know about your company and Timbuktoo from this example, there’s nothing exceptional about Timbuktoo but you wouldn’t know that from statistics alone.

So, what’s a company with limited resources supposed to do to identify potential export markets? Here are a few ideas:

  • Use raw data only as a starting point. TradeStates Express and the UN Comtrade Database are two great online sites where you can find raw data and begin your researching process.
  • Use reports to improve understanding. General reports and information about export opportunities can be found at the Market Research Library.
  • Consult “people in the know” to challenge assumptions. ITA offers business counseling and can provide the inside scoop for companies looking to export. U.S. and foreign trade shows are also a great resource for businesses who want to learn more about the exporting opportunities available to them. The District Export Council can also be a source of information and counsel to those who need.
  • Visit the Market. The U.S. Department of Commerce, World Trade Centers, state and local Economic Development Organizations, and chambers of commerce organize trade missions and can facilitate your visit to the market to make contacts for future deals. Contact your local U.S. Export Assistance Center to get more information.

In addition to your local U.S. Export Assistance Center, more info about government-wide services and resources for exporting are available at


An Economist’s View: Using Trade Data to Predict the Final Four

April 4, 2014

Natalie Soroka is an economist in the International Trade Administration’s Office of Trade and Economic Analysis. She spends more time focusing on international trade statistics and trends than on basketball…

Economist Natalie Soroka used trade data and an unorthodox equation to predict the winner of the Final Four. Her prediction is Wisconsin beating Florida.

Economist Natalie Soroka used trade data and an unorthodox equation to predict the winner of the Final Four.

The emotional whirlwind of March Madness is nearing a close, with the Final Four teams getting ready to face off this Saturday. Brackets have been busted, face paint smeared with tears, hearts have been broken, and our Cinderellas have turned into pumpkins, but it’s not over yet!

Who will be victorious? Is there anything in the trade data that can give us a clue? Let’s give it a try, shall we?


One can reason that there are several aspects (“variables”, if you will) that can help a team attain the title of national champion:

  • skills or talent,
  • nutrition to keep players healthy,
  • healthcare and medicine to take care of injuries, and
  • supplies for actually playing the game.

In other words, to be a little “mathy” about it (just bear with me):

Winning = ƒ(skills, nutrition, healthcare, supplies) + ε

Translation: Winning is a function of the variables listed above, plus that little “ε” at the end, which would be the error term indicating that there are various things we aren’t able to account for (Mercer, anyone?).

So if we were to try and look at these four variables in an extremely simple analysis, using the very same publicly available data we use to counsel U.S. exporters, can we predict a winner?


Skills and Talent:

We may not have data readily available on “skill” or “talent,” but as these players are all represent educational institutions, we can assume that the state’s educational services industry plays a role.

Among the four states represented in the Final Four, Florida has the largest educational services industry by far, amounting to nearly $8 billion in 2012, topping Connecticut’s respectable $4.7 billion. On the Midwest/West side, Wisconsin’s $2.7 billion educational services industry tops Kentucky’s $1.1 billion.

But what about exports? After all, we are the International Trade Administration. The Institute of International Education collects information on foreign students hosted by U.S. universities, which can be used as a proxy for higher education exports. While not all players are international students, one could reason that a school (or state) that has international appeal is also one that would be able to pull the best talent.

Using the IIE’s data (which we also highlighted in a blog post last week), the University of Florida tops the list with 5,961 foreign students. The University of Wisconsin again has the upper hand over Kentucky here, with 5,291 international students. Finally, we can take into account each university’s seed at the beginning of the tournament as an indicator of the team’s record and other skills not captured above. Who comes out on top?


University of Florida v. University of Connecticut: Florida

University of Wisconsin v. University of Kentucky: Wisconsin     


Healthy eating makes for healthy people and athletes. Looking at state import data, Florida tops the list for its imports of products such as meat, fish, fruits, vegetables, and grains. However, isn’t Wisconsin in the Midwest, the home of those “amber waves of grain”? In fact, with its $4.5 billion farming industry in 2011, Wisconsin does come out on top among these states, followed by Florida, Kentucky, and Connecticut.

Finally, we can take a look at who imports the most processed foods, the “bad guy” du jour when it comes to health. Despite being known for its citrus fruits and water springs, Florida blows its competitors out of the water with $1.9 billion in processed foods imports in 2013, worsening its overall nutrition rating. Instead, Kentucky comes out on top with only $233 million of processed foods imports.

So who wins the “healthiness” battle? Looks like those amber waves really help.


University of Florida v. University of Connecticut: Florida

University of Wisconsin v. University of Kentucky: Wisconsin     


As we’ve all seen, injuries sadly do occur. When these unfortunate events take place, good healthcare services and medical supplies are necessary to fix up young players and get them back on the court.

Again, we see Florida rising to the top over Connecticut with its $67.5 billion healthcare services industry in 2012, and Wisconsin topping Kentucky at $23.5 billion. With regards to medical supplies, Kentucky tops the rest of these states when it comes to imports of pharmaceutical products, with $4.6 billion of imports in 2013. However, for medical and surgical instruments, Florida again tops the list with nearly $2.3 billion of imports in 2013, followed by Wisconsin’s $1.5 billion of imports.

Overall, Florida wins on healthcare, driven by its large industry and imports of medical instruments.


University of Florida v. University of Connecticut: Florida

University of Wisconsin v. University of Kentucky: Wisconsin     

Sports Supplies:

What good is a basketball team if there’s no basketball to dunk?

Kentucky topped these states when it comes to imports of inflatable balls (including basketballs), at $35 million in 2013. As for other supplies, Wisconsin rose to the top in imports of athletic footwear, coming in at $70 million in 2013.

Finally, to keep the athletes in shape off the court, Wisconsin again topped the list with $105 million in imports of general gym equipment, pushing the state to the top of this category.


University of Florida v. University of Connecticut: Florida

University of Wisconsin v. University of Kentucky: Wisconsin     

So where does that leave us? If we average out the “scores” for each state/team, we wind up with one state’s economy pushing its team to the top:

University of Wisconsin (Go Badgers!)

However, if my personal bracket is any indication, that “little ‘ε’” isn’t quite so little, so you may be best off just throwing a dart and picking one at random. Generating purely random scores for the Final Four teams, we wind up with (……drumroll…….):

University of Florida (Yay Gators!)

Using random selection, Natalie's bracket points to Florida beating Kentucky in the championship.

How will this analysis fare? Will data help the Badgers win the day, or is the championship at the mercy of the court gods? I suppose there’s only one way to find out.

Enjoy the games!


No economists were harmed during the creation of this off-the-cuff and highly spurious analysis. The author drew on extensive basketball experience gained from middle-school gym class, casual sports viewership, and years of practice using the esteemed “mascot method” of bracket picking.

Domestic production data is the latest available from the Bureau of Economic Analysis’ Regional Economic Accounts. State import data was retrieved from ITA’s TradeStats Express platform:


State Economies Get Boost from Exports

August 8, 2013

Calynn Jenkins is an intern in the International Trade Administration’s Office of Public Affairs. She is studying political science at American University. 

Seventeen states set export records in the first half of 2013, including Connecticut, Indiana, and Wisconsin.

Seventeen states set export records in the first half of 2013, including Connecticut, Indiana, and Wisconsin.

If your business is not exporting, you may be missing out on key opportunities to expand your business and increase your bottom line.

New data released from the International Trade Administration (ITA) on state exports from the first six months of 2013 shows U.S. merchandise exports totaled a record $781 billion. Oklahoma, Georgia, and North Carolina are among 17 states that reached record highs in merchandise exports.

Goods exports from Texas grew the most in dollar terms, rising from $4.3 billion to $134.4 billion. Washington (up $3.8 billion), New York (up $2.8 billion), Kentucky (up $1.4 billion), and Louisiana ($960 million) were the next largest.

Exports are an important driver of U.S. economic growth. Total merchandise exports from all 50 states contributed to a record $2.2 trillion in goods and services exports in 2012, which supported nearly 10 million jobs. According to new data from the first half of 2013, U.S. exports are on track for another record year.

The Obama administration has made exports a national priority, launching the National Export Initiative (NEI) in 2010 to support American jobs. Helping U.S. companies become more competitive internationally is a critical step to shaping an American economy built to last. The Department of Commerce and ITA are committed to continuing the trend of export growth.

More information about individual state contribution to national exports is available through the International Trade Administration’s Office of Trade and Industry Information web page.

If your business is ready to take advantage of opportunities overseas, ITA is here to support. We helped U.S. businesses achieve more than 14,000 export successes in 2012. Visit your local Export Assistance Center today.


Why Companies Choose the United States: Beyond Incentives – Part 2

April 17, 2013

Rebecca Moudry is a Manager with SelectUSA, part of the International Trade Administration. This post is a follow-up to an earlier post published on the Tradeology blog. 

This chart shows that businesses are looking increasingly at proximity to markets, market growth potential, availability of skilled workers, and industry climate as reasons to choose a location to set up shop. Financial incentives matter less now than in the past, according to the study done by fDi Markets.

Based on data from fDi Markets.

In the SelectUSA session at the 2012 International Economic Development Council (IEDC) Annual Conference, Gene DePrez of Global Innovation Partners described the multiple tradeoffs companies consider as they make a global location decision. We discussed some of the considerations they make in an earlier post.

Sharing insights gained through over 30 years of experience advising businesses on global location strategy and site selection, DePrez concluded that incentives are just one factor among many that drive a transaction decision. According to DePrez, access to markets, talent, innovation, strong intellectual property rights, and key suppliers are among the critical fundamentals a company considers when determining where to invest. This jibes with data gathered by fDi Markets. They then weigh these against the costs and risks, and unique opportunities of each location.

In the end, there is not a uniform recipe for how or where a company decides to locate.

“The advantages of each candidate location will be traded against the one-time and long term costs and potential risks among other alternatives,” DePrez said. “Particularly when comparing global candidates, costs are just one piece, and incentives may be more or less important depending on the sector, type of operation, company culture and priorities of the CEO.

“Often they are important to offset one-time costs for training, or relocation, or to level the playing field through infrastructure improvements,” he added.

The Toshiba International Corporation is an example of the location decision process for a global firm. In 2011, this Japanese-based company began considering multiple locations to expand U.S. manufacturing to produce high-performance drive motors for hybrid electric and electric vehicles. Matthew Bates, a Plant Manager, says Toshiba’s motivating need was to be closer to their primary customer. A skilled and highly trained workforce was also critical, along with the need to maintain or reduce production costs.

After considering multiple locations and weighing tradeoffs, Toshiba settled on reconfiguring their existing Houston plant to accommodate the hybrid electric motor line. Their decision has paid off through:

  • Shorter lead times (from six weeks to four days)
  • Reduced currency risk
  • Decreased shipping costs
  • Decreased overall costs through eliminating duties, inventory holding and warehousing costs

“Not only are we saving money, but we have improved communication with suppliers, are more responsive to our customer, and have been able to preserve and even grow the Toshiba company culture in our Houston production site,” Bates said.

“Expanding in the U.S. has been a huge success for this product line and our company.”

SelectUSA is the government-wide initiative to promote and facilitate investment in the United States. Contact SelectUSA at or +1-202-482-6800.


Why Companies Choose the United States: Beyond Incentives

April 12, 2013

Rebecca Moudry is a Manager with SelectUSA, part of the International Trade Administration.

With the largest economy in This chart shows that businesses are looking increasingly at proximity to markets, market growth potential, availability of skilled workers, and industry climate as reasons to choose a location to set up shop. Financial incentives matter less now than in the past, according to the study done by fDi Markets.the world, the United States has always been a natural choice for companies from around the world to invest and grow. But with increasing global competition, what are the drivers that continue to rank the United States as the largest recipient of foreign investment in the world?

Reading many local U.S. news stories, it may sometimes appear that financial incentives are the decisive factor in many international or domestic business location decisions, but business location experts and companies themselves indicate that incentives, though important, are seldom the sole or even primary driver in a company’s strategic decision regarding where to locate operations.

According to information collected by fDi Markets, financial incentives (including tax or funding incentives) have played a minor role in company location decisions over the last nine years and are decreasingly important. Between 2003-2006 only about 10 percent of foreign companies that invested in the United States identified incentives as a primary motive or determinant for their U.S. investment decision. From 2007 through 2012, that number dropped to just below six percent of companies citing incentives as a motive for investment.

Proximity to customers and the growth potential of the U.S. market continue to be the most important motives cited by companies of why they invest in the U.S. In the last few years, the availability of a skilled workforce has grown as a critical determinant for company location; from 2003-2006 to 2007-2012, that factor grew by nearly 70 percent. In 2007, companies began citing a favorable business climate as a motive for investing in the U.S. some 152 percent more than in 2003-2006.

SelectUSA, located within the International Trade Administration of the U.S. Department of Commerce, leads the federal government efforts to promote the United Sates as the premier global investment destination and facilitates investment in the United States. SelectUSA provides information assistance to the global investment community, serves as an ombudsman for investors, and advocates for U.S. cities, states, and regions competing for global investment.

Contact SelectUSA at or +1-202-482-6800.


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