Economic development is a priority for municipalities to increase growth, employment opportunities, diversity within the local economy and productive land use. Check out how the City of Kingston in Ontario effectively promotes economic development with its informative and interactive story map.
City-owned industrial lands, also known as employment lands, are vital to local economic development and job creation. With cities competing for investment dollars, it’s important to have an efficient tool to showcase the availability of shovel-ready industrial land that can be immediately developed. This is the focus of the City of Kingston’s City-Owned Industrial Lands story map, our App of the Month for May.
This story map is the result of a collaboration between the City’s GIS team and the Real Estate & Environmental Initiatives Department. The main goal of this app is to reduce the time it takes the City to respond to queries, and increase awareness and marketability of City-owned employment lands. Since its release in December 2015, the app has helped businesses shortlist desired lots of land, increase customer satisfaction and eliminate duplication of effort by various agencies involved in the sale of industrial lands.
Since Kingston’s City-Owned Industrial Lands story map was released in 2015, the app has received more than 4,000 views.
The City has a diverse variety of vacant lots available located in four well-planned and fully-serviced business parks that have state-of-the-art infrastructure: Cataraqui Estates Business Park, Clyde Industrial Park, Alcan Business Park and St. Lawrence Business Park. Prior to the publication of the app, prospective clients, real estate agents and developers had to call or email City staff to obtain information about potential lands based on their specific criteria. Often, City staff would receive identical queries for one location from many different clients.
“Now we direct all preliminary interests to the app” explains Saru Bajwa, Land Development Specialist. “Prospective purchasers interested in employment lands in Kingston can quickly look up the information they need via the story map, evaluate which site is best for their requirements, and then contact us to seek more details. This has saved us a lot of time and energy which we are utilizing in providing better and timely customer service to clients interested in pursuing a purchase. This has proven timely as the City is entertaining unprecedented employment land sales activity in the past 18 months, and was recently nominated to be the number one small city in the Americas for direct foreign investment”.
A focused, purpose-driven app
The story map was built using ArcGIS Online, which was readily available to Kingston’s departments through the City’s Esri Enterprise License Agreement (ELA). The City used the Map Journal template, which is ideal for when you want to combine narrative text with maps and other embedded content. This template contains sections that users can easily scroll through, with each section having an associated map, image, video or web page.
When you first launch the app, the home section provides shortcuts to information on Kingston’s business parks, which is helpful if you already have a specific location in mind. If you’re like me and want to explore everything that’s available, then you can scroll down to view each section.
As you scroll through each section, the story map effectively provides a detailed description of each business park and provides high-resolution photos of the lands. Actions are also incorporated into the sections to show more detailed maps of the business parks. The app also includes links to PDFs of lot sketches that prospective clients can view and print to obtain more information about the lands.
Kingston’s story map takes advantage of the abundant functionality available in the Map Journal template. Actions are incorporated into the sections to show more detailed maps of the business parks, hyperlinks to PDF lot sketches and high-resolution images are available to help prospective investors visualize the area.
“We wanted to move away from the ‘one size fits all’ approach to developing mapping applications, towards more focused, purpose-driven apps,” explains Chris Taylor, GIS Web Developer. “The breadth of template options in Esri Story Maps and the simplicity of their presentation, while at the same time allowing us to engage our audiences in a very visually-pleasing way, was attractive to us. The reduced development time through configuration as opposed to coding, as well as the ability to host the app in the cloud, were also significant factors for choosing to use story maps.”
Kingston has certainly discovered the versatility of story maps. In addition to the City-Owned Industrial Lands app, the City has also released other story maps – including Kingston Waterfront Master Plan, Capital Projects and the Planning and Development Map.
As I listen to the Barenaked Ladies classic, If I Had A Million Dollars, endless ideas of what I would do with the employment lands available in Kingston come to mind. Check out the app and provide your feedback below.