A new tool is now available for use online hosted by Portage Regional Economic Development (PRED). It's for prospective businesses starting up in our area. You can find it on the new PRED website. GIS Planning developer Chris Gillis outlines how it works.

"It's called Zoom Prospector and it gives PRED local businesses and external site selection people a chance to come in and, not only look at property data, but community data," says Gillis. "So, real estate agents might say, 'Why don't we go to realtor.ca and just look up things there?' Well, they may not be in their journey yet for looking at real estate. We give them a sneak peek here. It's another place that PRED has, so we can help move some of the properties."

He notes it's a common means of supplementing what realtors do. Gillis explains it combines property data and community data.

"It's not only in terms of a municipal boundary-type community, but also community data based on radius," says Gillis. "I can come in and figure out what's going on with Portage, and go from there, if I'm in Singapore, Toronto, Denver, or even in Winnipeg. Obviously, access to it is going to be available on the website, so local communities and local businesses will be able to use it."

He notes some specific types of properties are described, and if any given property doesn't fit one of the descriptions, and they match PRED's goal of attracting those sorts of businesses, they're flexible, as well. 

"If I knew something was in Poplar Bluff, or Aspen Bluff, I could type in a keyword, 'Bluff,' and the address, as well. For something on 'Bluff,' hit search results. Search results are here for any property I'm looking at. The 'Share' button is place where you're always going to be able to share something."

When a person looks at a property, they can click through and receive the property description along with plenty of other data. Gillis explains there are about 6 billion data points on the back end. If they're filled in, they show. If they're blank, we don't show them here, obviously. 

"Property data is one thing, but there is a second navigation. This is where the rubber hits the road. A lot of this data is updated annually, sometimes a little more frequently. For example, we have 'Occupation' data here. This is going to be from Emsi Lightcast. We do source this all at the bottom. This gives a general overlook for some very general classifications. You can look at annual and hourly for some of these individual trades here. Statscan data comes into play, as well; Statscan for demographics, labour force, and consumer expenditure. We do what is the most recent update. I know we're in 2024. Our last update was last year. We also look ahead five years. We can map things, too. We can click on anything on the map to show that map."

He notes you can map a 45-minute drive time around any particular site. That's particularly important given that Poplar Bluff is on the Trans Canadian highway. You can click the 'Share' button and you are given a URL. That will provide a property and demographics report with drive-time. 

You can zoom out to 25 kilometres for someone looking for this specific location to learn what's nearby. You can zoom out to 60 kilometres to the edge of Winnipeg, making it quite a handy tool to see where other locations of interest are. Clusters are built up showing colour distinction in the form of dots to determine where customers are as well as competition.

He explains 'Talent' is another option to select. It's to access talent that's independent of the community and covers degrees in trades. Local talent that's being produced in the region is indicated. It all starts with the Property Report. 

You can also go into 3D mode and draw with a tool to indicate a building that is planned to be built in a location or on the map. There's the option to quickly draw and give a structure some decoration and apply that to another building, also. PRED can insert those properties for you. 

At a certain zoom level, you can also see what's existing in the Google 3D building footprints, even including the building height of a structure. 

When you click on Explore Communities, you can choose the specific community to search, or the entire PRED region. In our second navigation, instead of looking at a radius-around a site, in terms of a drive time, it can be based on a boundary. This is adding up the Statscan data that's shown, and you can click on Report, keeping in mind that all of this is sharable. 

Community Profile is likewise very important in this search. This is going to be an important starting point for telling the story about the community. 

In the Map tools, a Pinpoint icon exists that can be clicked and placed anywhere on the map. If you place it in the east, for example, in an intersection, you can place it as a building and get data around this part of the region. It shows Business Support, as well as Labour Force. If I want to look at something that has a 45-minute drivetime, I can draw that up and it will tell me what's going on there. 

You can make multiple reports. If I want to see the Labour Force report at a 45-minute drive time, but my demographics is 35 minutes, you can see that, as well. 

Eve O'Leary noted that map layers have the ability to inidcate utilities and sewers that align with municipal plans. 

GIS data is also loaded into the system. Under each municipality, you can turn the development plan or zone off and on. You would likely want to look at one of those options at a time, so you can turn the other off. 

The tool allows you to turn on water mains, and some are zoom-dependent. If you don't see it, just zoom up closer for it to appear. Many options exist under Map Layer that are sorted by Community. 

This is one of perhaps four tools they're launching this year as part of the service that they provide for investment attraction and business retention and expansion. If you do have a commercial or an industrial property, and you'd like to see it listed, you can contact PRED and provide the information.