Economic Census coming

May 14th, 2018

By Sherry Slater | The Journal Gazette

Business owners should look twice before pitching this month's mailing from the U.S. Census Bureau. It's legit.

What's more, it's important.

About 3.7 million businesses are being asked to participate in the 2017 Economic Census, the first that is being conducted primarily online. Instructions on how to complete the form will arrive by mail, however. 

Responses are due June 12.

Officials have collected economic data every five years since 1967. The current request is for 2017 year-end numbers. 

Ellen Cutter, Greater Fort Wayne Inc.'s director of strategy and research, has relied on the data over the years, including when she was director of the Community Research Institute at IPFW.

“I cannot stress enough the importance in our residents and businesses participating in Census surveys,” she said in an email. “Having timely, accurate data about the size, welfare, and attributes of our community shapes how we approach community development.”

Greater Fort Wayne, which incorporates the area's chamber of commerce, also encourages its members to participate, Cutter said.

“It adds deep value to our collective understanding of how our local economy is growing and changing,” she said. “We use this data alongside qualitative information we hear directly from the over 500 business visits we conduct annually.”

The Census Bureau has appointed a liaison for this area. Illeana Serrano has cultivated relationships with many researchers who use Census data throughout Fort Wayne, Cutter said.

Serrano “keeps us informed on changes and seeks our input. (Her work) localizes a national effort,” Cutter said. 

The data are used at national, state and local levels by various professionals.

Elected officials rely on it when passing tax laws. Economists use it to track growth in business sectors and other trends. Economic Census data are one way to document the shrinking number of small retail operations with the explosive growth of online sales, for example.

Sara Keltsch, who owns the Monogram Shoppe and More, has completed her share of Economic Census forms. Her specialty gift shop in Covington Plaza has been in business 38 years.

Keltsch hadn't received this year's mailing as of the middle of last week but recalled the task from previous years as “not too labor intensive.”

The retailer, who employs five, tracks industry trends carefully. They help her adjust the merchandise assortment that fills her 3,258-square-foot shop.

“You can't be everything to everybody,” Keltsch said. “You have to have a niche.”

The Monogram Shoppe specializes in custom orders, including engraved wedding invitations, which customers prefer ordering with experienced guidance. 

Last week, Keltsch helped a couple order wedding invitations 20 years after she'd helped the bride's parents order their invitations.

“Isn't that great?” she asked.

Economic Census data help business owners in numerous industries. The form seeks information such as business location, number of employees, annual payroll and annual revenue.

Specific industries are asked to complete additional questions seeking information on, for example, inventories and raw materials, in the case of manufacturers. The Census Bureau has created hundreds of versions of the form.

Federal law forbids the government from publishing information about an individual company. But the number of companies in a specific industry or region may be released.

Aspiring entrepreneurs use Economic Census data when deciding whether there are enough potential customers in an area to justify launching a business.

Existing businesses use the information to help choose locations, gauge the competition, evaluate new business opportunities, calculate market share, design sales territories and set sales quotas.

The first set of data from the 2017 Economic Census is scheduled to be released in September 2019. All data will be released by December 2021.

Categories Regional Leadership