This past summer, the National Association of Counties (NACo) unveiled its latest map interactive tool, the County Explorer available at www.naco.org/countyexplorer. It is a one-stop-shop for county data and profiles for each and every 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 familiar “Find a county” searches available on the NACo website. NACo provides the following update on the new County Explorer:
What can I find on NACo’s County Explorer?
What users notice first when accessing the County Explorer is the colorful, interactive U.S. county map. The interactive guides 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 publicly-owned roads are in each county? By selecting the Transportation category in “Map an Indicator”, then hover over “Road Ownership” and click on “County Highway Agency Road Miles”, the user can see the map of the number of county-owned road miles and click on any county to see specific data at the county level. Beyond the individual county data, the map shows how counties compare with each other on a specific indicator. The darker the color on the map, the higher up is the county in the rankings on that indicator. Most often, 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.
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. By double-clicking on any county on the County Explorer map, a user can find the names of the county officials in a county and other county government information.
County Explorer is a do-it-yourself tool, allowing any user that has a computer or a tablet and an Internet connection to access county information and maps any time of day.
County elected 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 use the map images in their materials and presentations, as long as they attribute all images to NACo Research. On Windows computers, the user should press the “Print Screen” button on the computer keyboard to copy an image of the screen with the County Explorer map displayed. Then paste it into Paint, MS Word or another program to crop the map part of the image. On a Mac computer, the user should press the “Cmd” key plus the “Shift” key plus the number “4” key and then click and drag across the area they want to copy. After releasing the mouse, the image is saved to the desktop.
For advocacy purposes, the County Explorer includes a category of printable county profiles on specific topics such as profiles of county economies. For county economic profiles, the user would select “Map an Indicator”, select “County Profiles”, then “Economic Conditions” and click on “County Tracker.” 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 profile for the selected county. Because these PDF profiles show up as an additional webpage, the user needs to ensure that her web browser allows popups. County specific profiles can prove a useful tool for county leaders and decision makers with in-depth looks at specific areas of concern.
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 December, the NACo Research Department who maintains the database, added to County Explorer 2014 Marketplace and Internet Fairness Tax Act (MITFA) state profiles, as well as current and projected county Ozone concentration levels. In January, the County Explorer will gain 2013 education attainment data. To be alerted when new data has been added, users should plug in their email address in “Sign up for our monthly update here” in the welcome box showing 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 value-added to our members and others who work on behalf of counties. All of Maryland’s counties are members of the National Association of Counties. NACo’s hope is that many members will utilize the County Explorer and join them in building a more useful and effective tool.