About Marcy Phelps

Marcy Phelps is the president of Phelps Research (www.phelpsresearch.com), which provides market analysis for strategic business decisions. She blogs about turning information into insights at MarcyPhelps.com. She is the author of Research on Main Street: Using the Web to Find Local Business and Market Information. Follow Marcy on Twitter (@marcyphelps) and LinkedIn (www.linkedin.com/in/marcyphelps).

Author Archive | Marcy Phelps

To Pay Or Not To Pay?

Like most things in life, when it comes to local-level business and market information, you definitely get what you pay for. A lot can be found through the free web, but sometimes we need more.

For example, if you want a general comparison of the cost of living between two cities, Sperling’s Best Places  will suit your needs. But if you’re comparing several locations or need more details, than you probably want to try ACCRA Cost of Living Index (www.coli.org). At $7.95 for the first comparison and $4.95 for each one after that, it’s well worth the investment.

Generally, I turn to fee-based sources for local-level information when I need:

  • Specialized content
  • Searching/downloading content from multiple sources
  • Advanced search and/or filtering options
  • Alerts
  • Added analysis, opinions
  • Maps, charts or other visual formats

To save money, I always look for free trials, pay-as-you-go options, and low-cost annual or monthly subscriptions. If you don’t see these options on a company’s website, call customer service. They might consider selling you a single report on a one-time basis.

The next time you need hard-to-find information about cities, towns, and other small geographic areas, consider some fee-based sources. To help you make that decisions, I’ve listed some of my favorites on my website, and–after seeing what they offer–it’s clear that sometimes it pays to pay for information.

What are your favorite fee-based sources for local business and market insights?


For more valuable tips from Marcy Phelps, sign up for ResearchNOTES, a monthly email bulletin for internet research: www.phelpsresearch.com/ResearchNOTES

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Tips for Finding Insights Into Local Politics

In my book, some of the most talented researchers in the business contributed their Tips from the Pros. This tip from Monnie Nilsson is explores the intricacies of researching local politics – a topic that’s especially relevant during this election season in the U.S.

Who Has Jurisdiction for a Political Issue?
Monnie Nilsson, The Denver Post

All politics is local.”  —Thomas P. (Tip) O’Neill, Jr., former Speaker of the House, quoting his late father.

Researching local politics can be tricky. Politics at this level is unique because it’s largely subnational, yet it’s subordinate to higher-level governing bodies. This means that federal and state laws regulate many things that take place at the local level. In those instances, researching a political issue usually means gathering information from state and national resources.

However, local governing bodies retain jurisdiction over a broad range of other issues that impact local life and shape the local political landscape, such as economic development, traffic patterns, and zoning. To effectively research local politics, you must first know who has jurisdiction over the issue you’re studying. A zoning- related political issue could be handled at the federal, state, or local level—or by a combination of governmental entities.

So how can you find out which level or levels have jurisdiction over the specific issue you’re researching? A governing body’s website usually offers insight into an issue’s governing process, pinpoints facts and fallacies, and occasionally serves up a list of political players. It’s a good place to start.

I recommend going to State and Local Government on the Net, a directory of links to specific state, regional, county, city, and town governing bodies. Here you can pinpoint local decision-making entities and their structures. You may learn that decision making resides at the national level or outside a formal government entity altogether—perhaps with a nonprofit, economic, or religious organization.

Other research resources for local political issues include the following:

  • Local (city/town/neighborhood) newspapers: They cover local politics with greater range and depth than most major newspapers can.
  • State representatives’ individual websites: Here you’ll often find insight into local issues and concerns. State representatives tend to be responsive to their local constituents’ concerns, and they like to advertise that fact.
  • City council websites and meeting minutes: Land use, traffic problems, and city budget issues often incubate locally prior to becoming news stories. Most meeting minutes can be obtained online.
  • Cyburbia Forums: These electronic discussions offer a broad perspective on current problems and solutions on a range of local government issues, many in the areas of urban planning, economic development, sustainability, zoning, and budgeting.
  • Stateline: This site compiles state-oriented news and opinion about various political issues, many of which originate at the local level.


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Update on Local Resources

For an upcoming presentation at the Internet Librarian conference in Monterey, California, I’ve been taking a closer look at some sources of local business and market information that I’ve discovered since the publication of Research on Main Street. Here are a few of my favorites:

The Regions and Cities section of the Eurostat website provides a single access point to sub-national statistics (epp.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/portal/page/portal/region_cities/introduction) for EU countries. Look for data on a variety of topics, including economy and finance, population and social conditions, trade and industry, and much more.

The SBA SizeUp Widget (www.sba.gov/sizeup) is a handy benchmarking tool for small businesses. Just enter a city and industry to compare revenues and salaries in your area or map your competitors, customers, and suppliers.

From the Urban Institute, MetroTrends (www.metrotrends.org) offers insights into the state of metropolitan economies. At this site, you can download the latest data, create interactive maps, and read expert commentary on the top 100 U.S. metro areas.

I’m always looking for new ideas for researching local demographics, economics, companies, people, and issues and will soon add a page to the Research on Main Street website for the latest resources. Let me know if you have any sites that should be included on this list, especially for non-U.S. local information. (mphelps@phelpsresearch.com)

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