NACo recently unveiled its latest interactive map tool, the County Explorer, available at www.naco.org/countyexplorer. It is a one-stop-shop for county data and profiles for each of the 3,069 U.S. counties, while incorporating city-county searches and other queries.
This is an upgraded version of the previous NACo database, County Intelligence Connections (CIC), with the addition of the familiar "Find a County" searches available on the NACo website.
The map is available for free to NACo members and other users interested in county information. It is easy to access either through the NACo website at www.naco.org/countyexplorer or by going directly to explorer.naco.org. The interactive feature allows users to map county data from more than 70 datasets and 500 county indicators, or variables, for the latest year available. The indicators range from county finances and demographics to the number of bridges and roads in a county.
What's There to Explo re? (See Image A)
What users notice first when accessing the County Explorer is a colorful, interactive U.S. county map. The interactive feature allows users to visualize data and benchmark counties quickly by color. First, the user needs to select an indicator by clicking on the top left-hand side corner "Map an Indicator." For example, how many county-owned bridges are in each county?
By selecting the Transportation category in "Map an Indicator," then hovering over "Bridges" and clicking on "All Bridges County Owned," the user can see the map of the number of county-owned bridges, and click on any county to see specific data at the county level.
Beyond the individual county data, the map shows how counties compare on a specific indicator. The darker the color on the map, the higher the county is in the rankings on that indicator. Generally, the five colors in the legend show the bottom 20 percent, the following 20 percent up to the top 20 percent of counties for the mapped indicator.
The legend placed at the bottom right-hand side of the map explains not only what the colors on the map represent, but also the year of the data and the name of the indicator. Further, below the map, County Explorer has the list of the definitions for the indicators shown on the map.
Flexible Data Access Key Feature (See Image B)
The County Explorer allows users to see two indicators for a county simultaneously. For example, a user might want to see the number of county-owned bridges and the share of county households within $10,000 $24,999 income bracket. To see the second indicator, the user needs to click on "Compare an Indicator" tab in the top right-hand corner and select the appropriate category, in this example, "Economy," then "Household Income," and click on "Percent of Households with Income Between $10,000 $24,999."
The interactive tool also incorporates the information available through NACo's "Find a County." The user may locate a county on the map directly by clicking on the location of that specific county or typing in the name of the county in the search box in the top right-hand corner. In case the user wants to find the county in which a city or a township is located, he or she would click on the top right corner on the "City Search" and type in the name of the city in the search box and the interactive tool will pinpoint the county on the map.
The "State Search" button enables the user to see a list of all the counties in a state with some of the basic county information. In addition, by double-clicking on any county on the County Explorer map, a user can find the names of the county officials and other county government information.
County Explorer is a do-it-yourself tool, allowing any user who has a computer or a tablet and an Internet connection to access county information and maps any time of day.
County elected officials and staff can use the County Explorer in their daily work or strategic planning, communication and advocacy activities. The data provided for each county for the wide range of available indicators and the ability to see the figures for any of the other county in the country can help county officials in making decisions in their activities.
Also, users can incorporate map images into their materials and presentations, as long as they attribute all images to NACo Research.
The County Explorer can print particular county profiles on specific topics such as Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT), the estimated cost for counties of the removal of the federal exemption of municipal bond interest and profiles of county economies. For PILT profiles, the user would select "Map an Indicator," select "County Profiles," then "PILT" and click on "PILT Profiles." Clicking on any county on the map or typing the name of a county in the search box in the top right-hand corner, will allow the user to see the one-page printable PILT profile for the selected county. Because these PDF profiles show up as an additional webpage, the user needs to ensure that his or her Web browser allows pop-ups. County-specific profiles can prove a useful tool for county leaders and decision makers with in-depth looks at specific areas of concern.
County Explorer Extraction Tool
The County Explorer map has a companion data query tool County Explorer Extraction Tool useful for more sophisticated data users. For a paid annual subscription, users can access files of the data shown on the map as well as previous years of data starting with 2000, to build their own trends and rankings.
A user interested in purchasing a subscription would need to click on the top right corner "Access more data" button, click on the "here" button in the following pop-up and fill out his or her information in the box showing up by clicking "Contact for Price for an Account." The user will receive a follow up email with the price of the subscription and the license agreement.
CE Updated Monthly (See Image C)
Every month, NACo updates the County Explorer map and the extraction tool with new years of data and additional datasets. Users accessing the County Explorer page are met by the latest monthly update and the announcement for the following month update. For example, in November, the NACo Research Department which maintains the database, added to County Explorer 2013 Secure Rural Schools (SRS) funding and the 2014 number of arts-related establishments. This month, the County Explorer will include 2013 education attainment data. To be alerted when new data has been added, users should plug their email addresses into "Sign up for our monthly update here" in the welcome box which shows up on the County Explorer.
"The County Explorer is one of the latest NACo products and it is a continuous work-in-progress. This is a product that can bring added value to our members and others who work on behalf of counties," NACo Executive Director Matt Chase said.
"Our hope is that as many NACo members will utilize the County Explorer and join us in building a more useful and effective tool."