March 06, 2019

An update on Curate's national footprint

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Curate is now live in 15 states!

We’re scanning hundreds of thousands of municipality meeting agendas and minutes every week across: Arkansas, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, Ohio, Oklahoma, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin.

Although we’re expanding nationally, our focus is local.

By putting a megaphone to municipalities in a way no one has ever done before — only the most relevant snippets of discussion from minutes and agendas displayed on one dashboard feed refreshed weekly — we’re able to track market intel, identify trends, and follow hot button issues anywhere in the country it matters to you.

Most recently we searched the minutes and agendas from our Texas dashboard for discussions surrounding the proposed U.S.-Mexico border wall, and compiled a heat map showing where discussions were most frequent regarding the topic.

Minutes and agendas, however, are also goldmines of market intel before it hits the newspaper.

If journalists are attending these local meetings to report only on the most relevant discussions, we’re doing the exact same thing but optimized without the middle man.

By going to the same municipality websites each week, we’re able to track discussions of construction and engineering projects, updating them overtime on our dashboard.

This is a routine most newspapers don’t have the luxury of consistently doing each week — maybe when it come to reporting the construction of a new hospital in town, but certainly not for something characteristically “un-newsworthy” by journalism standards as, let’s say, a new gas station.

Take, for example, this hit from a February 13th meeting for the Arlington Heights, Illinois Plan Commission:

“MR. COHEN: Yes. I am Andrew Cohen with Vequity. We are the developers on the project. CHAIRMAN ENNES: Okay, would you tell us about your project? MR. COHEN: So, the proposed project is at 1650 West Algonquin Road in Arlington Heights. That is the northeast corner of New Wilke and Algonquin Road. It was previously a Citgo which has now been demolished, the tanks had been pulled, and we plan on building a new construction 7-Eleven. This will be a 7-Eleven with fuel. It will be their new nationwide, new and improved prototype which they're rolling out all over the Chicagoland area.

If you Google News search “‘1650 West Algonquin Road’ Arlington Heights, Illinois” nothing shows up — so perhaps you can say with some degree of confidence that no journalist reported on the “new and improved prototype” of 7-Eleven gas stations that are claimed to launch nationwide after a successful roll-out in Chicagoland.

Regardless of your specialty in construction, it’d be hard to pass up a potential opportunity to build the next best generation of Slurpee establishments.

But only if you knew about it.

This is also just one of the many reasons we built Curate to run on keyword search. By searching for hundreds of industry-focused keywords, like “rezoning” or “certified survey map” for general contractors, we’re able to catch, without human error, every instance of that keyword in discussion, which means we’re also able to search for custom keywords, such as specific names of businesses, developers, architects, or engineers.

Here’s a recent construction hit from a Cedar Rapids, Iowa City Council meeting, with highlighted keywords that made, according to our system, this snippet relevant:

“The Applicant, M & W Properties, LLC and Titleholders, Jay M. Kluesner, Curtis Krambeer, Gary F. Wade, Richard A. and Pamela R. Kolosick and DLB Properties, LLC are requesting an amendment to the City’s Future Land Use Map to allow for development of an assisted living facility. The request would change the Future Land Use Map designation for these parcels from Urban Low-Intensity (U-LI) to Urban Medium Intensity (U-MI). The purpose of the map amendment is to permit the applicant to construct the proposed assisted living facility on 4.20 acres with a density of 24-units per acre.”

Consistency and accuracy is key, and the technology available today — such as natural language processing exemplified above — enables us to pinpoint the intel you want to read, not just the intel a journalist reported on.

So whether you’re a general contractor in Minnesota looking to receive insights on pre-construction activity, or an association in New Hampshire looking to keep tabs on key issues discussed by communities across your state, Curate helps you stay the local expert from anywhere.

Interested in setting up your own Curate dashboard? Fill out our Get Started form.

Current users can contact our data team at reports@curatesolutions.com to add new geography to their dashboard.

February 14, 2019

Texas on the Wall: Where discussion of the U.S.-Mexico border wall has been hot

On the cusp of a second government shutdown, President Trump’s border wall is a hot topic of discussion among Texas communities beelining the U.S.-Mexico boundary.

While national-level media outlets are expected to effectively communicate the current climate anywhere across America at anytime, the telephone-game structure of journalism — especially in recent weeks — sometimes falls short of telling the whole story the way we want to hear it:

Directly from the people who experience it.

Spotlighting the voice of local municipalities is what Curate does every week.

This week, during the most controversial federal fiscal decision of this congressional session, we dove into the local discussion records from municipalities across southern Texas.

Below is a heat map of local discussions in the last two years surrounding keywords related to the proposed U.S.-Mexico border wall, such as “border security”.

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Take, for example, citizens in Alamo, Texas who, in 2017, proposed and approved a resolution against the border wall when it was initially proposed:

“Mr. Ozuna read the Resolution … Whereas, the billions of dollars that have been requested for new border walls could be better spent on improved infrastructure and other needs in the City of Alamo and in the Rio Grande Valley ... Mayor Pro-tem Molly Gallegos motioned to approve the resolution opposing the Border Wall and especially along the boundaries of the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge.”

Some may say national media outlets tend to communicate a hot issue, like the border wall, as a metaphor for taking a stance on extremes: anti-immigration versus pro-immigration, a safe America versus an unsafe America.

But at Curate, our focus is to simply, and unbiasedly, find those hot issues important to local communities verbatim from their municipality meeting minutes and agendas.

And each community is different, with unique challenges, priorities, and opportunities that don't fit to print in the national media, or even some local media.

In a perfect world there’d be enough journalists to document every issue brought up in every town across America — but, in reality, not enough of us care to know about each one. 

The absence of the journalist, however, does not equate to the absence of an audience who does care, like associations.

By tapping into local discussion records of the communities themselves, Curate is able to provide the story to people who are directly impacted by the decisions these municipalities make on a daily basis.

January 11, 2019

Where construction was hot in Q4

DOWNLOAD HERE

Midwest - blog
If you attend your local city council, you might get a complimentary agenda for showing up.

Do you read it word-for-word? Maybe not.

But, chances are you skim for anything that catches your eye to give you peace of mind for sticking it out for the next 59 minutes or more.

Whether it be land getting rezoned for new use, such as Agriculture to Manufacturing, or a certified survey map to combine a few parcels of land, certain keywords just scream CONSTRUCTION!

Worth the stay if you're a general contractor, banker, or engineer.

But, it's not humanly possible to attend every city council, and no one has the time to skim through every agenda or minutes document posted online by every municipality in every county you care about.

That's why we built Curate.

Curate mines hundreds of thousands of those minutes and agendas documents posted each week on municipality websites for specific keywords mentioned in discussion, just like you a human would.

Gathering this geographically-sensitive data over time, we're able to piece together the big picture of construction activity across an entire state.

See where construction was hot in Q4 throughout Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Illinois' Chicagoland in our latest heat maps:

DOWNLOAD HERE

December 13, 2018

Expert Take: Why chambers of commerce should be involved with their local municipality government

Q&A with Scott Manley, Vice President of Government Relations at
Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce

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Tell us about your role at Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce.
I’m the Senior Vice President of Government Relations. I oversee our team of lobbyists who communicate with legislators, their staff, and executive branch agency staff and explain to them our position on issues that impact businesses when they are attempting to change policies.

Why is it important for chambers of commerce to be involved in their local municipality governments?
The most important reason is that local governments make a lot of decisions that significantly impact businesses and impact whether or not their business will be profitable. One of the biggest taxes that a business pays every year is the property tax. The property tax is 100 percent a local-government tax and businesses pay almost $3 billion per year every year in property taxes to local governments. There are also a lot of other types of fees that local governments asses against businesses. For example, about 120 or so municipalities in Wisconsin have established what’s called a stormwater utility and they pay for it by enclosing fees on their property owners, which almost always fall the heaviest on businesses.

How much attention should chambers of commerce be paying to municipality governments?
I think they should be paying a lot of attention because municipal governments make a lot of decisions that significantly impact businesses. I would argue that there is less and less attention being paid in traditional-print media outlets to what is happening at the local-government level. So, it’s increasingly difficult for businesses to keep tabs on what is going on at the local government level and really know what’s happening. The local chamber of commerce could be watching that on behalf of their members, and communicating what is happening to their members. That would be a significant value to their membership. 

Who in the government should chambers of commerce be involved with?
I think certainly at the local-government level. If it’s a city, they should be involved with the mayor; if it’s a village, then the village president; if it’s a town, then the town board chair; and at a county level, then there is a county executive. Either way, they would want to have a relationship with those individuals because they are the top decision-makers at the local level. However, they also need to have a relationship with the actual members of the decision-making body. So, in the case of the city, we would be talking about the city council. In the case of a village, we would be talking about a village board of trustees; if it’s a township, then the town’s supervisors; and at the county level, it would be the county board of supervisors. 

Can you talk through actionable steps that associations can take when they see issues that impact businesses?
For chambers of commerce, I think that one of the most important things they can do is to make sure that their members are aware of what’s going on. If businesses don’t know that it’s happening, then they’re not going to be able to participate in the decision-making in any kind of meaningful way. So, I would say the first step is awareness — make sure businesses know what’s going on. I think it’s about being an advocate, communicating, and making sure that the people who are elected to make the decisions at the local-government level understand the perspectives of the businesses that are going to be impacted. 
 

Scott Manley joined WMC in 2005 after serving more than ten years as a policy advisor in the Wisconsin State Senate. He now serves as chief lobbyist for WMC, and oversees the government relations program by directing a team of lobbyists and policy experts. Manley also currently serves as Vice President of the Wisconsin Civil Justice Council and serves as Vice Chairman of the Great Lakes Legal Foundation.

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