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Johns Creek Opens Map-Based Data to the Public for Free

May 23, 2016

To help encourage private-sector innovation and growth, the City of Johns Creek has created an OpenData portal to provide the public with free access to data it uses for maps. The initiative makes Johns Creek one of the first city governments in Georgia to open its map-based data without restrictions.

“People can use that information to build business plans, find new markets, and make better decisions for their own business,” said Mayor Mike Bodker. “The City creates and maintains substantial amounts of map-based information. We use this information to help us visualize the relationships between things like roads, parcels, and business locations. Anyone can now use this same information to test new ideas, find new markets and customers, and maybe even develop the next big thing right here in Johns Creek.”

Other cities with map-based Open Data programs include San Francisco, Boston, Austin, and Savannah-Chatham County. 

“These cities are major incubators of tech companies that rely heavily on this type of geographic data,” said Courtney Bernardi, chief executive officer for Johns Creek Advantage, the economic development arm for the city. “Some cities in Georgia charge for their data. Others allow people to use the data if they promise they won’t make money from it. We want to encourage economic growth in our city. This gives JCA another tool to help foster new businesses in Johns Creek and keep existing companies grow.”

Johns Creek’s new OpenData initiative will help level the playing field between mom-and-pop entrepreneurs and deep-pocketed companies who could better afford the information. This information has always been available, but the Open Data program makes it accessible to more people.

“For years, large corporations have poured millions of dollars into ‘big data’ and teams of statisticians to analyze and derive insights into their market,” Bernardi 
said. “Now, small businesses in Johns Creek have the same access to quality data, thanks to the OpenData portal.”

Map-based data includes a wide range of material, including information on parcels and plats, permits, businesses, and demographics and census data. Even more City data will be available through inter-connected portals in the future. The City’s data is also used by large tech companies and mapping firms.

The program means people can readily find information to create customized spreadsheets that they can then convert with certain software into maps. The data can be focused on specific addresses, infrastructure, geographic areas or physical features.

“It’s kind of like walking into a 5-star restaurant and being given free access to everything in the refrigerator,” said Nick O’Day, Johns Creek’s Senior GIS Manager.  “Now that you have the ingredients, you can start slicing and dicing, creating what you want, but without the price tag at the end.  It’s a no-risk way to test an idea, research a market, or just find someplace to have lunch.”

The new OpenData portal, or web site, ties into the City’s geographic information system (GIS) but is supported by the larger Open Data framework developed by Esri, which is the world’s largest GIS software company.  The portal’s “How-To” videos demonstrate real-world examples like finding restaurants or vacant commercial property.

The data is also useful to information technology companies like TomTom, which use the data in a wide range of applications to deliver the most up-to-date and accurate information in its global map database.

Local companies benefit as well. Travis Pruitt & Associates, a civil engineering, land surveying and land design firm in Norcross, has used the portal to better understand flood data in the City.

“The portal was easy to use and the flood data we required for multiple projects in Johns Creek was downloaded in just a few seconds,” said Barron Dunn, a survey technician with Travis Pruitt & Associates. “Being able to directly import the data in a 3D application was a time-saver for us, and it also provided a much more accurate representation of the flood data versus traditional digitizing methods.”

Instructional videos
How to locate potential customers video
How to find vacant, commercial sites video
How to discover restaurants along your commute video