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‘Heat Map’ Shows Global Influence on North Carolina

Web-based tool combines 53 data points to provide a snapshot of how immigration, foreign-owned businesses and other factors are reshaping the state’s 100 counties.

by / May 21, 2012

A new Web application is providing a closer look at the impact of international migrants and businesses on North Carolina.

Launched on May 16, the Global North Carolina Heat Map culls the global demographic, education and economic data of all 100 counties in the Tar Heel State and puts it in one central location. Users can examine 53 international data points, including the number of foreign-born residents, students and companies specific to each region in the state.

The tool was developed jointly between the University of North Carolina’s Center for International Understanding (CIU), which promotes awareness and expands understanding of global populations’ and SAS, the North Carolina-based business analytics software and services provider.

CIU Executive Director Adam Hartzell said the concept behind the application was born several years ago out of a desire to do a better job of tracking and measuring how well North Carolina was doing toward the goal of being more globally engaged and aware.

“We’ve seen dramatic differences in our communities in the last 10 to 20 years that are impacting our schools, creating new opportunities for businesses that are attracting folks from around the globe to North Carolina,” Hartzell said. “One use of this tool we think is for policy leaders and economic development folks to really begin to see what those trends are and how those trends are working together.”

Work on the Global North Carolina Heat Map took about a year. The data is pulled by the CIU from a variety of sources, including census data, the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, the North Carolina Department of Commerce and the PIERS Global Database, a trade intelligence firm that the CIU uses to view import and export information from local ports.

The assemblage of data provides statistical information, such as the number of jobs provided by foreign-owned companies in North Carolina and foreign-born population fluctuations over the past decade.

Hartzell said CIU is most interested in seeing what the greater long-term economic impact is from those communities that are planning ahead and implementing polices that give educational opportunities to and are focused on the international population in the state.

The heat map isn’t an automated process. The CIU manually collects the data, puts it into a spreadsheet and it’s given to SAS. The company then updates the online application. Hartzell said the tool will be refreshed periodically with new data as funding and resources become available.

For now, however, Hartzell believes the CIU has the resources to continue work on the application. Helping fund the initial project were sponsorships from SAS — which provided the in-kind technical work on the tool — Quintiles, Local Government Federal Credit Union, and the Moise and Vera Khayrallah Fund for the Triangle Community Foundation.

But Hartzell hopes to find further support for it and additional input from other universities and educational institutions.

“We realize there [are] probably lots of other opportunities to expand this and add new data points we weren’t aware of,” Hartzell said. “So we see this as a starting point, not an end point. We want this to be a dynamic tool that will grow in its ability to measure international activity in North Carolina.”


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Brian Heaton

Brian Heaton was a writer for Government Technology magazine from 2011 to mid-2015.

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