People just won't stop building homes in Nampa, Idaho. Twenty miles west of Boise, this city of 52,000 is sprouting subdivisions so fast that keeping track of new streets is a challenge for police and firefighters, said Rod Collins, Nampa's GIS coordinator.

Not content to remain a bedroom community, city officials and private-sector individuals are working to complement the housing boom with further growth.

"We've recognized the need to diversify and build on our commercial and industrial component," said Todd Bunderson, the city's director of finance and economic development.

Soon Nampa will have a new tool for attracting businesses. Building on its GIS, the city is developing a Web-based application to help site selectors quickly zero in on properties that suit their needs. Entering criteria, such as how much land they seek and what utilities they require, site shoppers can view maps of eligible properties and find detailed information on those lots.

Sleeper Metro

As part of the Boise metropolitan area, Nampa sits in a region that Forbes magazine ranked No. 2 this year on its list of "Best Places for Business and Careers."

"We're kind of a sleeper metro area," Bunderson said, despite the ranking on the Forbes list. "There may be a lot of folks who don't know about us."

Grabbing the attention of businesses today means getting the word out on the Web. "Increasingly site selectors and business shoppers use the Internet to assess the community before they even call someone," Bunderson said. Nampa officials want property details on the Web "so when people are shopping, they can see what we have to offer."

Nampa has been operating its GIS for about two years, said Ronda Halvorsen-Ferns, president of High Desert Geo-Technologies in Bend, Ore., the city's GIS consulting firm. Supporting the system through its general fund, Nampa uses the GIS in several departments, such as engineering, waterworks and wastewater, along with economic development.

For some time, Collins has extracted data from the GIS to help Bunderson deliver information to prospective businesses. "We built an ArcIMS site for internal use, for property searches," Collins said. "It shows aerial photos, building footprints, utilities and other things." A product of Redlands, Calif.-based ESRI, ArcIMS is a tool for delivering GIS and mapping services via the Web.

Supplementing information from this site with data from other sources, Bunderson creates presentations for site selectors. But gathering this information has been a very manual, labor-intensive process. For example, the city recently sent one national retailer a dozen maps of prospective sites, with details about the properties overlaid on aerial photos.

"We spent several days putting that information together for them," he said.

Earlier this year, Bunderson asked Collins how he might create these presentations more quickly and from his desktop. Given the right tool, realtors and engineering firms, and perhaps the public, could investigate sites on their own via the Web.

Collins worked with High Desert on the new economic development application, which he hoped to make available to city employees by October. Nampa might release a version of the tool for public use next year, he said.

The application will draw upon a growing collection of data layers in Nampa's GIS. The city has assessment and taxation data on individual parcels from the Canyon County government. The data has layers that represent building outlines, street centerlines and pavement edges, said Halvorsen-Ferns. Using GPS, city workers have also mapped locations of water valves, hydrants and meters, she said.

High Desert helped create a zoning information layer, said Collins, and further data for the system will come from the U.S. Census Bureau and other government agencies.

Most recently, High Desert has worked on a layer that identifies business locations,

Merrill Douglas  |  Contributing Writer