ACBJ’s growth projection data stories help its small business readers
The American City Business Journals papers across the country have been publishing stories this week showing their readers projected population growth for their markets — as well as other cities.
The project is the brainchild of G. Scott Thomas of Buffalo Business First, who has been with the ACBJ paper since 1990. Although his title is projects editor, Thomas reports and writes on demographic and economic trends.
“I write numbers-oriented stories here on a daily basis — and I also put together several bigger projects for ACBJ each year,” said Thomas in an email to Talking Biz News. “This was one of the latter.”
ACBJ had made it a goal recently of producing more data-heavy stories that can be used across its 40-plus papers.
A large number of ACBJ readers operate small businesses, and the business news publisher wanted to provide them with access to information that can be useful for long-range planning — information more commonly used by large corporations and government agencies.
“Our goal was simply to offer a plausible look into the future, which in turn might inspire speculation about a given area’s ability to handle its projected growth,” said Thomas.
The raw data came from the U.S. Census Bureau and the University of Virginia Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service.
Getting those statistics was the easy part. The more difficult part was developing a realistic formula, which essentially has been a matter of trial and error over the years. Thomas did his first set of projections for ACBJ back in 2001.
“I like the way the formula has evolved, though I guess we won’t have a good handle on its accuracy until 2040,” said Thomas.
Thomas then worked with the ACBJ national content desk in Charlotte to come up with a way to provide the stories and data to its papers across the country.
ACBJ had to “file it in a way that gave each of our markets an opportunity to localize it,” said Craig Douglas, director of editorial data analysis for ACBJ. “[Thomas] did all of the heavy lifting in terms of collecting and arranging the databases and rankings.”
The projected results in stories like this one in the Austin Business Journal, where Thomas wrote that the Texas city’s population is projected to nearly double by 2040. Other papers, such as the Silicon Valley Business Journal, posted the entire database of population growth projections for 933 markets.
ACBJ also published this story explaining how the data was collected and how the projections were made.
“There’s always a leap of faith involved when you make projections,” said Thomas. “You assume that some of your forecasts will prove to be dead-on accurate, while others will be wildly off the mark. That’s inevitable, given the 25-year timeframe.”