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June 2003

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New Government Information Portals are Online


by Glen Emerson Morris

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Over the last few months the Department of Commerce has reorganized several of its Websites, and in addition, put a lot of new data online. Much of this data could be very useful to advertisers, but as usual, few advertisers will hear about it since the DOC is prohibited by law from advertising about its products in anything but DOC publications.

Fortunately for the DOC, and for advertisers, several other Federal Government Departments and agencies have banded together to launch Websites to promote business use of government collected data, and the DOC data is finally getting some well deserved promotion and visibility on the Internet. The government is following the example of commercial portals like Yahoo!, MSN and AOL, and setting up gateways that make it easy to find related information from vastly different sources. So far, the results look very promising for advertisers.

The best example is FirstGov.gov, which has undergone major restructuring designed to make it the primary portal to government information for both citizens and businesses. The business section "Getting it Done Online," provides links to information about filing taxes and wage reports online, obtaining state business licenses online and how to become a Federal Government contractor. The section "Information by Topic" includes links to sites with information on how to sell to the Federal Government, data and statistics, developing a business, financing, exporting, state programs and taxes. Another section, "Especially for," includes sections for exporters, minority businesses, nonprofit organizations, small businesses and women owned businesses.

The "Data and Statistics" page has links in the following categories, Business Data and Statistics Portals and Agencies, Banking Statistics, Data and Statistics About and for U.S. Businesses, Demographic Data, Earnings Data and Labor Statistics, Economic Analysis Data, Economic Conditions by City, State and Region, and Trade Data and Statistics.

Another portal, FedStats.gov, is specifically designed to provide businesses with statistics. "FedStats is the new window on the full range of official statistical information available to the public from the Federal Government. Use the Internet's powerful linking and searching capabilities to track economic and population trends, education, health care costs, aviation safety, foreign trade, energy use, farm production, and more. Access official statistics collected and published by more than 100 Federal agencies without having to know in advance which agency produces them."

Though not as slick as FirstGov.gov, FedStats.gov manages to present a great deal of information in a limited number of pages. It also offers information in several formats, which FirstGov.gov doesn't, including a section organizing links into different 400 topics and another offering a popup menu for searching for data based on state.

To keep up with the changes at the DOC, and the emergence of Government portals, we've substantially reorganized the AMR Website. We now organize data into three sections including state, national and world marketing. The state marketing section is now modeled after our world marketing section and features a table cross-referenced by state, and has links to over 250 different data sets and reports.

In addition, we've added several search engines to the website so that it's possible to use several of the major Government search engines from one page.

We've also added a Zip Code Business Patterns search feature to our homepage. As the DOC puts it, "ZIP Code Business Patterns presents data on the total number of establishments, employment and payroll for more than 40,000 ZIP Code areas nationwide. In addition, the number of establishments for nine employment-size categories is provided by detailed industry for each ZIP Code." To use the search, you just type in a ZIP code and hit Go.

For instance, doing a search on Zip Code Business Patterns for 80401, home of AMR, returned a page with the information that as of 2000, there were 1527 establishments in Golden, employing 27,900 people with a payroll of $1.3 billion dollars. Also shown was a detailed breakdown of statistics for 21 industry classes, and the option to get further details on each industry. Selecting details for the Information industry category returned a page showing that there were 6 periodical publishers, three with 1-4 employees, two with 5-9 employees and one with 20-49. In comparison, Evergreen, 80439, has two periodical publishers, one with 10-19 employees, and the other with 20-49 employees.

In our State Marketing section, we've also added links to the County Business Patterns publication, which provides economic data for every county in the nation. "The divisions of the economy covered are agricultural services, forestry, and fisheries; mining; contract construction; manufacturing; transportation and other public utilities; wholesale trade; retail trade; finance, insurance, and real estate; and service."

In our latest reorganization, as always, we have attempted to cherry pick the best information available from several different sources and integrate it into a site just featuring the most useful information in the most accessible format. The AMR Website now exceeds 500 pages, and is averaging about 450 visitors and over 1,100 pageviews a day. Our site also features links to thousands of economic statistical reports at the city, county, state and Federal level.

Regrettably, there are limitations about what we can post on our Website. While DOC data is Public Domain by law, that law only applies within the United States. The DOC holds the international copyright on the data so the data can't legally be made available to people outside of the United States. This includes the Internet, and this explains why we can't post complete Country Commercial Guides on our site. There is a certain logic to this position. A CCG on how to sell to Greece might be just as useful to a Canadian or British business, and there's no point in educating other countries in how to compete with American businesses for export markets.

Glen Emerson Morris has been a senior consultant for Yahoo!, Ariba, WebMD, Inktomi, Apple, and Adobe.

Copyright 1994 - 2010 by Glen Emerson Morris All Rights Reserved

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