By Paul Morden, from www.theobserver The Observer
Lambton County has souped up its digital toolbox for attracting new businesses and residents.
Officials with the county’s information technology department and the Sarnia-Lambton Economic Partnership showed off an enhanced geographic information system (GIS) website, www.lambtongis.ca/siteselector, Monday.
“This is the next generation of GIS mapping, and an incredible tool for both economic development and the general public,” said Warden Steve Arnold.
George Mallay, general manager of the economic partnership, said, “When I started in this business, you couldn’t do economic development without picking up the phone.”
Companies looking to set up shop had to call the community for the information they needed, he added.
“Now, before anyone calls you, the first thing they do is go on the computer and do a site search . . . sometime it’s actually surprising how much they know about you.”
Most communities Sarnia-Lambton’s size and larger have similar digital technology and it’s critical to keep it up-to-date, Mallay said.
“I would say now ours would be at the top of the pile.”
Robert Wilks, who heads the county’s information technology department, said its staff used tools Lambton already had from its initial GIS system several years ago for the update.
“We’re trying to keep it simple,” project lead Jason Hannigan said while demonstrating the system that uses aerial photography and other tools to allow users to find addresses, businesses, schools and other locations, as well access Statistics Canada data, zoning and information on local industrial parks.
Users can now customize sections of aerial photography and save them on their computers, or print them.
Hannigan said a potential business developer can see what lands are available, check the zoning, identify nearby competitors, as well as look at income, education and population statistics for potential customers living nearby.
The new system also includes Google Street View, and other existing online tools, but puts them all in one spot and provides update local information, Hannigan said.
It’s also something the public can use, said Edith Wilmot-Quigg, development consultant with the economic partnership.
Examples, she said, are scuba divers mapping shipwrecks or genealogists tracking down old cemeteries.
Or, even just someone wanting to see what their house looks like from the air.
Observer Article ID# 3368687