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New NACo research releases set for Annual Conference

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In preparation for the 2014 Annual Conference, NACo will unveil three new research products focused on counties' needs, challenges and best practices.

In partnership with the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin, NACo prepared Strong Economies, Resilient Counties: The Role of Counties in Economic Development, the first report in a new NACo Why Counties Matter paper series.

The study dives into the details of county involvement in economic development activities, outlining county administrative structures, financial support and partnerships in this policy area. In addition, the study addresses the main challenges counties face with their economies and identifies some of the current county practices in economic development.

The research draws upon the answers of 480 counties responding to a 2013 NACo survey and the 35 case studies developed for this research. The report, together with a companion interactive data tool and 35 case studies will be released July 7 and it will be available at

The implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act commonly referred to as the Affordable Care Act (ACA) offers an opportunity for counties to assess their current health benefits, changes over the last five years and potential effects of and barriers to ACA implementation. In partnership with the Carl Vinson Institute of Government at the University of Georgia, NACo conducted County Health Benefits 2014, an analysis of two surveys in April 2009 and March 2014 of the same group of nearly 1,000 counties.

This study creates a baseline for understanding county health benefits for employees, dependents and retirees, before all changes resulting from ACA implementation take place. The variations in the data illustrate the tensions that are inherent to the county government role in the health system.

At the same time, the survey respondents register resistance to complicated regulations and federal preemption of local control. The report will be released before Annual Conference and it be available at

CIC.jpgThe County Intelligence Connection (CIC) 2.0 is a big-data tool to help counties make informed policy decisions that will be unveiled at the NACo 2014 Annual Conference. The CIC 2.0 features a user-friendly interactive map to view and explore the latest data available for nearly 70 datasets and more than 500 unique indicators for all 3,069 counties. Whatever your interest or issue, from federal funding to county employment, CIC 2.0 is a one-stop shop for information on counties.

Members participating at the Annual Conference will have the opportunity to interact with NACo research staff who will have the data tool ready for use at two stations in the conference center.

There will also be demos of the tool at different meetings during the conference and a workshop and discussion with members about how they can use the tool for advocacy.

Starting with the Annual Conference, members will be able to access the CIC 2.0 interactive on the NACo website and the full version through NACo's County Innovation Network (COIN) at

Infrastructure and transportation remain hot issues for counties this year, with the impending expiration of the federal surface transportation funding law, Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21). Building upon the Road Ahead: County Transportation Funding and Financing report released in February, NACo will have updated profiles at the state level in time for the Annual Conference.

These profiles detail the sources of funding for counties in each state for roads and bridges, and challenges and solutions with funding and financing transportation.


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About Dr. Emilia Istrate (Full Bio)

Managing Director, NACo Counties Futures Lab

As NACo Counties Future Lab managing director, Emilia Istrate leads policy analysis, analytics and knowledge sharing efforts, as well as thought leadership to support and advance the interests of county governments. She is part of NACo’s executive leadership team.

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