This data user group made “OpenSiouxFalls” happen.  Back row, L-R: Lon Clemensen and Mike Lynch, Forward Sioux Falls; Russ Sorenson, SF Planning and Building Services; Al Roettger, SF Community Development; Thane Barnier, Chamber of Commerce. Front row, L-R: Pam Homan, Augustana University; Mike Gray, SF Community Development; Nicole Hansen, SF School District; Karen Ruhland, Development Foundation. Not pictured: Mike Cooper, SF Planning and Building Services; Bob Jensen, SF School District; Christina Riss, United Way; and Ryan Sougstad, Augustana University.

A formal announcement of the Augustana University Data Warehouse and “OpenSiouxFalls” is a few weeks out, but it’s clear that the new enterprise will be a big bang for the Sioux Falls area.

As leaders from Thrive’s founding organizations were discussing its need for a data hub, Dale Froehlich, then chair of the Sioux Falls Development Foundation, suggested that Thrive think big.

Thrive was looking for a way to collect and analyze data used to measure its progress toward improving student success from cradle to career. But to conduct research, maintain their websites, and make informed business decisions, the founding organizations’ staff also gather data about the Sioux Falls area, especially its workforce. Why not bring a group together and look for a solution that could meet all of these needs?

This past year, representatives from Augustana Research Institute, the city’s departments of Community Development and of Planning and Building Services, and the Sioux Falls School District joined United Way, the Chamber of Commerce, Development Foundation, and Community Foundation ─ Thrive’s four founding organizations ─ and formed what they dubbed a Workforce Data User Group. Facilitated by Sioux Falls Thrive, the group explored the feasibility of creating a shared data hub.

“For any one of the groups, the time their staff spend gathering data seems incremental,” said Froehlich. “But when you think about our community as a whole and all of the businesses doing similar research, the loss in productivity may exceed thousands of hours of labor force activity.”

After identifying its design standards, the user group endorsed development of the Augustana University Data Warehouse ─ a central repository of community indicators reflective of the workforce, economic vitality, social services, education, and quality of life of the Sioux Falls MSA that will be used as a resource for study and research.

The breakthrough came when user group member Dr. Pam Homan, Executive Director of Augie’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, tapped into ICONZ, Inc., a local technology development team that specializes in the creation of dynamic database-driven websites.

ICONZ also encouraged the user group to think big. They suggested a warehouse with two data hubs, “OpenSiouxFalls”, which will hold information open to the public, and a “Partners Hub”, which will be used for proprietary research conducted on behalf of groups such as Thrive, United Way, and other partners. Beta test of Phase I of the project is planned for late summer.

“The OpenSiouxFalls site is a big win for the community,” said Froehlich. “Local businesses, government, and nonprofits that search the internet to get current demographic and socio-economic data they use to report news, write grant proposals, and develop marketing and business plans will have easy access to the information they need.”

Working with a local development team brought the cost of the warehouse down to an affordable price. Development and two years’ maintenance costs will be shared by contributions from five founding partners ─ the Chamber of Commerce, city, Development Foundation, Thrive, and United Way ─ and matched by Augustana University. Augie will manage the project in accordance with direction from a council composed of the warehouse’s founding partners.

“Augustana University’s willingness to engage with the community and expand its research capacity was essential to success,” Froehlich said. “The user group couldn’t have done it without them.”

─ Candy Hanson, Thrive

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