Information is power, just ask D3

When it comes to communities, information is empowering. Especially at this juncture in Detroit’s history, it is more important than ever for all Detroiters to have access to reliable information about the state of the city, its neighborhoods, and its residents. Data Driven Detroit (D3) was established in 2009 to do just that – provide accessible, high-quality information and analysis to drive informed decision-making that will strengthen communities in Southeast Michigan.

A prime example of D3’s work is the Regional Scorecard, originally created for OneD (a collaborative initiative that supported regional progress in Southeast Michigan by connecting, convening and influencing change), and now under D3’s umbrella.

A review of the broad range of D3 activities can be found in the recently released annual report. Click here to view.

Kurt Metzger is the man behind the numbers at D3. Following is an interview with Kurt on what the right data can do to move Detroit forward.

What will D3 concentrate on in 2011?

In 2011 we will develop an interactive, web-based neighborhood mapping platform for the 9-county Southeast Michigan region. This will enable anyone to go to our website, locate their geographic area of interest on the map and access a wealth of information. The ability to compare neighborhoods on a variety of topics, create customized geography and produce dynamic profiles will all be there. The topical areas will include census data, local information on businesses, economic data, housing, health, public safety, voting and others.

As we go forward, we envision a variety of uses, including:

  • The number of people within a 10 minute drive from a grocery store
  • How many high-growth businesses are located downtown
  • The neighborhoods with the most young people or families with children
  • The neighborhoods with the most stable home values over the last ten years
  • How many high income employees are within a 10 minute walk from a restaurant

We have deployed GIS technology to map neighborhoods, and social media to communicate the relevance of data. In 2010, D3 served organizations as diverse as Mayor Dave Bing’s “Detroit Works Project,” to an eastside Detroit business association, to an Inkster family services nonprofit.

Will you be the “go-to” source for information on the Detroit?

Yes, D3 wants to be the hub for information for the region.  In addition to a wealth of information already available on our website, and the upcoming customized mapping capacity, we want to serve as a link to other sources of information and to be a data library that houses and serves up other studies that have been produced but are not readily availableto the public. Our staff is constantly scanning the web and linking to other networks in order to be aware of work going on across the country that we can link to. We want to be seen as the source of accurate and timely data — data that can serve to counter the often conflicting, and sometimes inaccurate, data that we often read about the City of Detroit and the region.

As a data warehouse, D3 subscribes to proprietary third-party databases, adds local value to national data, encourages public agencies to share data, and produces primary data on issues of local importance.

In less than two years of operation, D3 has assembled a wellspring of data about a variety of topics, including population demographics (gender, race, age, income, disabilities, education), economics, housing markets, employment, the environment, and business locations. Archiving data, however, is only half the battle. We use the latest technological and analytical tools to transform data into useful analysis.

What role will D3 play in the Detroit Works Project in 2011?

The Detroit Works Project is a huge undertaking that no other city of this size in the U.S. has ever undertaken. It is a process to cre­ate a col­lec­tive vision for Detroit’s future at the neigh­bor­hood, city and met­ro­pol­i­tan scale. Detroit must become an eco­nom­i­cally viable, safe and sus­tain­able place for all who live, work and visit here. To do that, we must reshape Detroit’s 139-square miles.

D3 has been working with a number of the foundations, consultants and city departments engaged in the process.  We have also provided the wealth of detailed information developed through the residential parcel survey we and our partners conducted in late 2009. We continue to be ready to assist when asked.

What was the most difficult task D3 performed in 2010?

Pulling together the Detroit parcel survey and reconciling the data was a difficult, but most rewarding task. We were able to provide the city with the information it needed, on more than 340,000 residential parcels, to begin the discussion leading up to the launch of the Detroit Works project.

How can D3 help Lansing understand as goes Detroit so goes Michigan?

We can continue to develop and provide information for both legislators and the Governor on the importance of central cities.  We agree with the research conducted by the Brookings Institution, the Urban Institute and others that shows the US is made up of regional economies and those economies are based on strong central cities. What I hear from the new Governor’s administration makes me feel they get it. They understand that an urban agenda is necessary to attract people to Michigan and that revitalizing the central core of the state’s largest city is critical.

We can work with them around issues of local government and school district collaboration and consolidation.  This is critical for Michigan’s success.

Finally, the Governor is a “numbers guy” who has his own Scorecard/Dashboard.  Many of his metrics appeared in the work we did last year with the Center for Michigan and its Scorecard.  We hope that we will be able to work with the Governor’s office in the arena of metrics and outcome measurement.

What is the biggest issue Detroit faces over the next five years?

Land use realignment. In the grand scheme of things, we must restructure the city to make it more attractive and efficient.   We must fix the educational system – from birth to career. We must redevelop the entrepreneurial spirit that made our city, region and State great in the last century.  Above all, we must find a way to create a regional transportation system that serves all the residents of SE Michigan.

What will be the impact of the loss of a representative in Washington have on Detroit?

It is doubtful one of the Detroit seats will be targeted (the early line is that Republicans will try to pit Democratic Representatives Sander Levin and Gary Peters against each other). It is obvious that the population loss from Detroit will result in a great deal more suburban territory being added to the districts now represented by Hanson Clark and John Conyers, thus reducing the City of Detroit’s political clout in both.

D3 is now responsible for the scorecard One D did in the past. Did you change the One D scorecard criteria for 2010?

Data Driven Detroit supported the 2010 One D Scorecard with data and analysis of more than 100 regional indicators in five key priority areas.  We worked with One D and several other stakeholders to develop the indicators we would track, and created an incredible database to house and manage all of the data that feeds the indicators.  The Scorecard is available at:, and includes an “about” page, as well as a “methodology” page.  Please feel free to call or write if you have any questions — my cell is always on.

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