PEKIN – The city of Pekin is doing its homework in a business world that is driven by demographics and analytical data.

City Manager Tony Carson said the city now has the tools, “that companies and developers charge many tens of thousands of dollars for.”

“We’re going to have this information at our fingertips and it will be a great marketing tool for us for when we go and try to recruit,” said Carson. “Be it retail, restaurants or other types of industries to the city, this is the information that they want to see to even get the conversation started. If you don’t meet their criteria  they’re not even going to be interested in talking to you.”

The ESRI Business Analyst program sets a drive time from 5, 10 and 15 minutes from the city’s target area. The software is site specific in the community, so the data may be different for various areas of town. The data is forecast out to 2021.

“This is all of the information, that when I’m sitting down with developers, they always will have the (same information) — how many cars are going by and how many people you can serve,” said Carson. “So, this is the exact information that (businesses) are looking for.”

Pekin GIS Mapping Coordinator Dan Newcomb said the demographics are built into the software. The data changes are based on the location and the industry being considered. He said the software takes the data and puts it into an easy-to-use format. 

The data breaks down the population into age and sex and other factors, and compares the site to other communities. It breaks down spending in the area.

The software also breaks down information into “tapestry” segments.

Pekin City Planner Katy Shackelford said the tapestry segments are based on lifestyle patterns, purchasing habits, values and so on. Approximately 27 percent of Pekin’s population have traditional living traditions, 21 percent rust belt traditions and 18 percent heartland traditions. The remaining population is split up into subcommunities.

Crunching numbers and sorting through data is very time consuming.

“There is some proprietary information that (the city) does not have access to, like the secret sauce, but the rest of it is census based,” said Shackelford.  “So, it’s information that everyone has access to, but it’s already fed into the program so we don’t have to do the middleman work of analyzing it.

“... We don’t need to do all of this in-house analysis if we have the software that can be used as a tool.”

Newcomb did a test run using a steak house as an example of how the system works. A Market Potential Index over 100 is an indicator that a company would do well in Pekin. The target area would be Second Street in the downtown area. The data indicated that a Carrabba’s Italian Grill Restaurant would do well in that area. A Logan’s could also do well. An Outback would not do well the software found.

“It gives us the tools and information when we target them to get their attention,” said Carson.

Panera Bread, a company mentioned a lot by Pekin residents as desirable, said Carson, scored a 77 MPI. 

Shackelford said with that score the company would “not even give us a second look.” 

On the other hand, a Cracker Barrel scores a 122 MPI and would be a good candidate, though the company tends to locate near large traffic areas such as interstates.

The MPI score is not the only thing to be considered, said Carson. For example, the MPI for Cracker Barrel is good, but, does the traffic support it? “You have to get that perfect balance of these numbers, plus the traffic, plus (the company’s) internal qualifications that they look for,” said Carson.

Pekin’s tapestry also shows that residents are strong supporters of buying USA and buying local.

“One of the things I like to say about this is that a lot of economic development in the past (has been), ‘We have a hunch, we have a really strong feeling, we have a lot of people talking and excitement,’” Shackelford said. “This is the data that justifies that gut instinct.

“We may be able to say we really, really want a Panera, but we may be better served by Jason’s Deli. But this is just where we’re getting this nuanced into the information. That doesn’t limit us, but it gives us the opportunity now that we know our demographics and we know the data we’re working with. We can influence that data to get better output for ourselves.”

Carson said he will do a presentation to the City Council and showcase the new program in the near future.

Follow Sharon Woods Harris at Twitter.com/sharrispekin