The Importance of Being Counted: Prosper Q&A with Katherine Graham

Katherine Graham has worked for Oakland County for 25 years in various capacities. Functioning as the Market Research Analyst for Oakland County’s Planning and Economic Development division over the last 11, she currently oversees the market research unit in the development of research-based informational and marketing products promoting business opportunities and quality of life in Oakland County and the surrounding region. She has an extensive background in public health doing program planning and evaluation, data analysis, and application development.

Question: You’re position is that of a market research
analyst for Oakland County. Give us a sense of what that position means
to the County and how business benefits from the work you do?

Answer: My job requires me to wear many hats across
the course of a typical month. At times I will act as an economic
analyst, demographer, database manager, survey developer, product
designer, class instructor, the list goes on. A core function of the
Market Research Unit is to develop information materials and
professional networks that promote Oakland County as a place to live,
work and raise a family.

Typically, research consultants will charge
upwards of $100 an hour for providing many of the services and
information that Planning & Economic Development Services offer to
residents and resident businesses for free. Examples of the information
products and reports produced in the Market Research Unit can be found
on our signature websites and
Although our unit is small, we service over 200 specialized information
requests per year in addition to community membership commitments. This
would not be possible if not for my technical assistants Dan Riley and
Dana Belanger who are research experts in their own right. They keep me
on track and above water.

Q: You have two essential
responsibilities in your work for Oakland County. One
of them is the
2010 Census. Where are you with the census planning right now?

A: As a State Data Center affiliate office, we have
been involved with 2010 Census activities almost since the 2000 Census
data was published. Things really started to pick up about two years
ago when local development activity is submitted for Census purposes.
Yearly Consolidated Boundary and Annexation Surveys (BAS) are compiled
and submitted to the U.S. Census office, and Oakland County completed
their Local Update of Census Addresses (LUCA). In addition, I and
others in Oakland County government have been involved in:

  • Retracting of Census boundaries
  • New Construction Program
  • Assist in recruiting census workers
  • Display and distribution of census materials
  • Providing space for testing and training of census employees
  • Sponsoring community events to promote the census

Q: Why is it important to be counted?

A: The U.S. Constitution requires a national census
once every 10 years. The census will show state population counts and
determine representation in the U.S. House of Representatives. It is important
to be counted in your home state of residence (the place you reside
most of the time) so that accurate and equal representation is achieved.

Q: How can the county benefit from the 2010 census?

A: Businesses use demographic and economic census
data to determine where to locate retail stores, new housing and other
facilities. Census data guide local decision-makers on where to build
new roads, hospitals, schools and other public service facilities.

Every year, the federal government allocates over $400 billion to
states and communities based, in part, on census counts. We figure
that’s over $1,000 per person per year. I’d say it’s worth 10 minutes
of your time.

Q: The second responsibility is the Oakland County Virtual
Databook. It is, in some ways, linked to the census. What exactly is
the Databook?

A: The Virtual Databook is Oakland County’s Holy
Grail to information about life and business in our region. There are
over 150 pages of facts, lists, comparisons, charts, maps, directories
and website references complete with hot links to:

  • People and the Economy
  • Quality of Life Style
  • Community and Visitor Resources
  • Education, Labor and Workforce Development
  • Current Business Environment
  • Economic Growth Initiatives
  • Available Services and Site Location Assistance

Q: What benefit is a publication like the Virtual Databook to the residents of Oakland County?

A: The
Databook was first published in 1999 as a way for the Planning and
Economic Development office to effectively respond to the majority of
inquiries received from business, government, students, community
groups and the general public. Many common information requests require
an intricate knowledge of demographic and socioeconomic information,
i.e., census data. Our summarized analyses allow the user to understand
how these data can be used to paint a picture of our lives here; what
factors influence our business decisions.

Over the years, we have
expanded and enhanced the Databook using increasingly sophisticated
data collection techniques and GIS technology to produce timely,
detailed and site-specific information. Previously having been
published on a biennial basis into a three-ring binder, this year marks
the first time we will move entirely to web based publication will
allows us to adopt a quarterly update schedule bringing more current
data to our customers more efficiently. The Virtual Databook is free to
view and download from our website at