Mapping project to provide marketing tool for county

Audrey Fletcher

When developers are looking to build, they need to know what land is available and if it will meet their needs.

The Portage County Regional Planning Commission is making sure that information is easily accessible through an asset-mapping project that converts information from geographic information systems (GIS) into an easier read Microsoft Excel document.

Todd Peetz, director of the Portage County Planning Commission, said until this transfer, GIS data weren’t available to everyone.

“Only the people who knew GIS could have access to the data,” Peetz said. “There was just so much data in there; it’s crazy no one else can access it.”

GIS is used to map and capture geographical data. Users can then use these data to manage and analyze the information.

When the transfer is completed, each community will be able to access its piece of the program and link to it on its own website for anyone’s use.

For any given piece of property, the maps will show where things like floodplains and water and sewer lines are. Distances to the nearest trains, roads and the county airport will also be mapped.

The project, which focuses on mapping economic assets, will also allow the county to see what kind of businesses are coming and going because of different classifications for each parcel of land.

Peetz said the classifications are specific. For example, for a manufacturing parcel, the system also makes note of what that company is making.

The project is being funded by a $94,000 grant from the Local Government Innovation Fund. Peetz said the grant was awarded in September of 2012.

Before applying for the grant, the Portage County Regional Planning Commission had already completed a similar project for Ravenna.

Kerry Macomber, the economic development director for the city of Ravenna, said the program has been useful to her both conceptually and practically. She said conceptually it has allowed City Council to better understand what land in the city is being used for.

Practically, it helps her when people approach her about finding a site in the area.

“It really helps me as an economic developer to know what is available, know what is vacant — both buildings and land,” Macomber said.

Claudia James, a GIS specialist and planner at the Portage County Regional Planning Commission, has been working to make the data available to the public.

She said because this project deals with economic assets, the county can use it to help understand and further its economic benefits and developments.

“Certainly internally this will provide a huge opportunity for us to set the stage for understanding changes in the economy or maybe understanding how our economy fits into the bigger picture in Northeast Ohio,” James said. “That’s a huge plus.”

Much of the data used are from the county auditor’s office. Peetz said when that data are updated each January, the data in the Excel document will update automatically.

However, the auditor’s data are organized for taxing and appraisal purposes, which James said doesn’t suit her purpose very well.

“The parcel data doesn’t help us very much in understanding really what the economic use of that building is,” James said. “So we have been trying to get point data to help us better understand that.”

Point data tell users about the specific businesses and their purposes. It gives users a better understanding of what a parcel of land is actually being used for and pinpoints each business location.

James said another aspect of this project is clearly identifying vacant parcels of land that could provide expansion opportunities for businesses.

Peetz said the final product will be a great marketing tool.

“We’re hoping it will be not only information for the community but information for people looking to invest in the community,” Peetz said.

Contact Audrey Fletcher at [email protected].