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Geographic Information Systems (GIS) in Economic Gardening

Jan 05, 2009

The following is a "Biz Tips" article I wrote a while back for Wyoming newspapers and gives information on why we use GIS.


According to the United State Geological Survey, a GIS (Geographic Information System) is “a computer system capable of capturing, storing, analyzing, and displaying geographically referenced information; that is, data identified according to location. Practitioners also define a GIS as including the procedures, operating personnel, and spatial data that go into the system.” That’s a kind of long-winded way of saying that GIS takes information and puts it on a map.


Why? Because most people understand maps much better than spreadsheets, databases or columns of figures and numbers. If you are a business owner, chances are most of the information that you have available about your business has a geographic component.


For example, if you have a pizza shop you might want to create a map that shows your delivery area. This is an important thing to have since you know that if your drivers have to travel more than 15 minutes from your store, the pizzas will not be hot for your customers. You could take your car and drive around town trying to figure out how far 15 minutes is…or you could do the same thing with a GIS system in a few minutes.


Using computer software, the GIS would figure out where your store is (this is called geocoding), and then from there it would combine that information with your local street map and figure out exactly how far a car can travel in 15 minutes. The end result will be a clear map showing your delivery area, and even more importantly, happier customers with hot pizzas!


Another use would be to figure out where your customers are. If you have a customer list that includes street address information, a GIS can create a map that will show you exactly where each customer lives. Sure, you can look at a spreadsheet or database table, but a map will quickly and clearly show you the area that you are serving. To take this a step further, an advanced GIS can then look at where those customers live, and tell you about who they are and where there may be more of them.


GIS is a powerful tool and it could be something that would be useful to your business. However, remember that GIS is really a set of tools that must be applied by people who use it to solve problems.


Do you have any experiences in using GIS in your business?

Michael Lambert

Mike Lambert

Mike Lambert is the manager of the Wyoming Market Research Center in Laramie, WY.

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