RADIANCE BLOG

Category: Denver Metro

If you are traveling to watch the eclipse, be prepared

Solar Eclipse. The moon moving in front of the sun. Illustration

As a bit of a space geek (don’t even get me started on my love of SpaceX), I’ve been planning for this weekend for a long time.  I bought my eclipse sunglasses and started looking into lodging over a year ago, so you can imagine how excited I am for this event.

Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it), it seems I’m not the only one who will be traveling north to watch the total solar eclipse.  (Though you can see the sun 92% obscured in Denver, it won’t be anything like the experience of totality.)  This has CDOT issuing all sorts of warnings about traffic over the weekend.  I was curious about how much of a doomsday prediction these warnings were, so I conducted a quick Google Survey to find out.

Though these surveys aren’t near as robust or scientific as the surveys we at Corona do for our clients, they are a great way to get a quick feel for how the public feels about an issue.  In this case, I simply asked 125 Colorado residents if they were planning to travel north and, if so, where they planned to travel to.  The results?

Again, these are very rough numbers, but with 20% of those surveyed saying they are planning to travel to see the eclipse (out of 5.5 million Coloradans), that could mean that as many as 1.1 million Coloradans will be on the highway on Monday.  CDOT’s estimate of 600 thousand traveling to Wyoming doesn’t seem far off from the 550 million estimate this quick survey would indicate.

So what to do?  Here are my recommendations:

  • Go anyway! Seriously, this won’t happen within easy driving distance of Colorado for another 30 years, and everyone I’ve heard speak about the experience says it’s completely surreal and unlike anything else you will experience.
  • Plan for safety. If you have somehow been living under a rock and missed all of the safety warnings about needing eclipse glasses, here’s another one.  Don’t look at the sun (except during totality if you travel north) without using eclipse glasses.    If you don’t already have them, you can try finding them at local libraries or hardware stores.  And if you can’t find them, check out community events where you could borrow from someone.  The process of the eclipse will take a total of almost 3 hours, so it shouldn’t be a problem to trade glasses here and there.  And if you still can’t make that work, there’s always a pinhole camera.
  • Plan for a good location. Many small towns in the path of totality are hosting events to watch the eclipse.  That’s a much better option than planning to just stop at the side of the road somewhere.
  • Plan for the worst-case traffic scenario. Though my hope is that everyone will be spread out enough that traffic won’t be as bad as CDOT fears, it’s a possibility that they’re entirely correct.  Get gas early so that you don’t have to wait at overcrowded gas stations.  Plan a variety of routes to get to and from your destination.  Take food and water in the car so that you don’t have to swarm the handful of restaurants in the area that aren’t equipped to handle this kind of volume.
  • Have fun! Try and relax, take your time when traveling, and enjoy the experience for what it is. Even if it takes way longer than you expect to get home on Monday, this may be the only time in your life that you get to experience something like this.

I’ll be out of the office on Monday, and I hope that many of you will be as well.  Enjoy the experience, and cross your fingers for clear skies!


State of Our Cities and Towns – 2017

For many years, Corona has partnered with the Colorado Municipal League to conduct the research that is the foundation of their annual State of Our Cities and Towns report. CML produced the following short video, specifically for municipal officials, about the importance of investing in quality of life:

Learn more, view the full report, and watch additional videos on the State of Our Cities website.


Predictable Unknowns

Have you ever needed to know what the future will look like?

To create great strategic plans, our clients need to understand what their operating environment will look like in five, ten, or thirty years.  They want to know how the population, jobs, markets, homes, and infrastructure are expected to change. We help these clients by providing reliable projections, often through analysis of preexisting data.  Although we have no crystal ball that tells us exactly what the future holds, we can point clients in the right direction.  Here are a few ways we look at trends and projections to help solve our client’s problems.

Patterns from the Past:

We frequently commence research projects by reviewing the current population profile and looking for patterns from the past that show how we got here.  A common way we do this is by mining demographic data from the U.S. Census. We access tons of demographic estimates across a wide variety of geographies, such as zip codes, census tracts, towns, cities, counties, metro areas…you get the idea.  The amount of demographic information available is amazing.  While examining demographics is a cost-effective way to start to understand an area or population, there are critical limitation to demographics.  Data are a year or two years old by the time they are available to the public. More importantly, there is a problem assuming the future will represent the past. Demographics can get us started, but when we want to peer into the future, we move to other sources.

Forecasting the Future

Several data sources project key variables such as population, jobs, age profiles, homes, and transportation.  A good source for population projections in Colorado is the State Demography Office.  From this website, we can align previously collected population data with future projections to provide a nice continuation from past, to current, to future population trends.  Further, we can break apart the population trend with age profiles that show changes by generation.  We can create such analyses at the state or county levels or any region comprised of counties.  For example, below is the population of the Denver Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA), which is comprised of ten counties (Adams, Arapahoe, Broomfield, Clear Creek, Denver, Douglas, Elbert, Gilpin, Jefferson, and Park).  You can see the rate of growth in Denver Metro is projected to steadily slow, although remain positive, from 2015 to 2050.

Sometimes our clients are more interested in understanding the future of job growth, including how many jobs are expected, what type of jobs, and where they will be located.  We use a few different sources to answer these questions.  If we are working in Colorado, we pull down job forecasts by county or region.  For example, here is the forecast for total jobs and job growth rate for Larimer County, Colorado.

Other times, our clients would like more detail than total jobs.  We pull occupation forecast data from the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment.  This website provides current and projected occupations by various geographies including counties and metro areas.  For example, a law school marketing department might be interested in projections of the number of lawyers working in various areas in Colorado.  The following table shows that the growth rate of lawyers is expected to be slightly higher in Denver-Aurora Metropolitan Area than in Boulder or Colorado Springs.

These are just a few examples of how we have helped our clients look at the past as well as understand what the future might look like. Of course, many clients have questions that are not so easily answered by secondary data that is already available.  In these cases, we build our own models to measure and predict all sorts of estimates, such as demand for child care, business relocation, and commuting patterns.

If you need to understand what the future might bring to your organization, give us a call and we will see how Corona can help solve your problem.


Research Without Borders

While Corona Insights is based in Denver, we have conducted research studies in nearly every state in the U.S. as well as many nationwide studies.  We certainly have an expertise in understanding what makes Colorado tick, but the fact of the matter is that today’s technological landscape allows us to effectively design and manage research studies all over the world from our Denver headquarters.  Here is a brief overview of some of the tried and true methodologies that can be conducted from anywhere, as well as some of the more innovative methodologies that have expanded our ability to conduct research remotely in recent years.

  • Mail Surveys Though we at Corona are experts in how to effectively design, manage, and analyze the results of market research, we often rely on partners to assist with some of the fieldwork required for market research. For example, when conducting mail surveys, we rely on a traditional direct mail services vendor to print thousands of surveys and mail them to respondents.  In most cases, we use our long-term, Denver-based partner to provide these services since first-class mail rates are the same no matter where you are sending to and from.  However, should there ever be a need to have a local presence for a mail survey, we are quite comfortable in researching and identifying additional partners in other markets as needed.
  • Telephone Surveys – Similar to mail surveys, Corona rarely conducts the actual phone calls required for a telephone survey in-house. Instead, we rely on phone room vendors to supply the manpower necessary to make thousands of phone calls and complete hundreds of interviews with respondents.  Again, there is very little need to have a local presence for a telephone survey since long-distance calling rates are a negligible cost in telephone surveys compared. However, if we need to have a local presence, we have partners with locations in nearly every state in the U.S.
  • Online Surveys – As one might expect, online surveys are very simple to conduct anywhere in the U.S. (or even the world) from our main office. For our projects that utilize internal lists of customers provided by our clients, this process is straightforward.  Even when we don’t have lists of customers, however, Corona has relationships with a number of worldwide online panel vendors that have databases of survey respondents of every shape and size.  Want to conduct a survey of people with an interest in fitness in China?  Corona can do that from right here in Denver.
  • Focus Groups – All of the tasks necessary to conduct a focus group (from designing the group structure, to recruiting participants, to conducting the groups, to analyzing the results) can be done anywhere. When traditional, in-person focus groups are desired, it is relatively easy to work with local focus group facilities to host the group and simply fly in one of our experienced moderators to conduct the group.  However, when being there face-to-face isn’t necessary, innovative technologies such as online video focus groups allow us to replicate the interaction of a traditional focus group without having to go anywhere.  Similar to a video-conference using software such as Skype, we use specialized software that allows us to talk with participants via video chat, complete with the ability to have “invisible” observers, interactive activities, and much more.

These really just scratch the surface of Corona’s toolkit of methodologies.  Depending on the project, we might recommend online discussion boards, telephone interviews, video ethnographies, and more to best balance the ability to gather solid, actionable data about a topic and the budget required to do so.  No matter where your customers or stakeholders are in the world, Corona can help you understand them from right here in Denver.


Car vs. Bike

I like to ride my bike whenever I get a chance.  I ride to the store, to the park, to take my son to preschool, and sometimes just for fun.  While I’ve never been in an accident with a moving car, I’ve witnessed several bike vs. car accidents, and its something I want to avoid.

Do you know what Denver neighborhoods have the most bike vs. car accidents?  I wanted to find out.  Luckily, we can use special mapping software to analyze existing accident data to determine where these types of accidents are statistically more or less likely to happen.  Here’s how I did it.

  1. I downloaded all traffic accidents in the City and County of Denver from the last five years (accessed here).
  2. I filtered to all hit-and-run accidents involving a bike, a total of 345 incidents in their database.
  3. I mapped the accident locations using our mapping software.
  4. I added the City and County of Denver boundary to the map (I excluded the DIA neighborhood because it is disproportionally large compared to the area of bikeable road).
  5. To find locations around Denver with statistically higher or lower clusters of bike vs. car hit-and runs, I ran a hot-spot analysis using location point-counts and a fish-net grid.

The result was a large hot spot of accidents in Central Denver, stretching from Baker neighborhood to Sunnyside, and from Sloans Lake to Colorado Blvd.  It’s clear that a lot of accidents happen on Broadway/Lincoln Street and a lot are on Colfax Avenue.  Many Denver neighborhoods fall into the neutral category (light yellow), meaning accidents happen here, but we cannot find any clusters where accidents are statistically more or less likely.  If you look at the edges of the city limits, we find a handful of neighborhoods overlapping cold-spot clusters.  Specifically, Fort Logan (just south of Bear Valley), Hampden, University Hills, North Stapleton, and Gateway/Green Valley Ranch are all neighborhoods where hit-and-run bike vs. car accidents are statistically uncommon, according to this analysis.

While its helpful to know that central Denver has a lot more accidents than the surrounding neighborhoods, this isn’t surprising considering a lot more bike and cars are simultaneously navigating around Denver’s core.  I wanted to get more specific and useful insights, so I re-ran the hotspot analysis focusing just on the area east of Federal, south of 49th, west of Colorado, and north of Alameda.  Downtown Denver still lights up as a hot spot for hit-and-run bike accidents, but again not to the scale that I found useful.  So I zoomed in once more, this time exploring the area within Blake, Speer, 6th, and Downing.

The result: the greatest concentration of these accidents happen in the Central Business District (especially along 20th Street) and east-west along Colfax Avenue and 16th Street.  If I was in charge of reducing the number of car-bike accidents in Denver, I would prioritize these two areas.  Of course this analysis can’t suggest what type of actions would reduce accidents (e.g., new rules, more enforcement, better education), but it gives us a place to start.

I am interested in biking, so this dataset was of interest to me.  What interests you and your organization?  Do you want to know if your challenges (e.g., crime, complaints, reduced sales) or opportunities (complements, desired behavior, brand recognition) are really clustered? If so, give us a call and we can discuss how mapping may be a good way to gain a new perspective and help answer your important questions.

 

 


Tracking H2O

As a skiing and a river rafting enthusiast, I’m interested in snow levels of our nearby Rocky Mountains and of water levels in our creeks and rivers.  Early summer is therefore an exciting time to monitor snowpack and river levels because changes are dramatic. Luckily, two websites provide current data on snowpack and river levels that illustrate data in interesting ways.

To understand snowpack levels, I surf over to the National Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) SNOTEL website, which tracks snowpack across eight watersheds in Colorado. This website is easy to use and the data is updated about every four to six days.

Since I live in the South Platte River Basin, I frequently check out our time series snowpack summary, which displays snowpack estimates for the current year as well as the previous three years. As you can see below, the average and median (called normal) snowpack levels (red lines) are close to identical.  Looking at these lines, you can see that May 1st is a typical “tipping point” that leads to a downward melting trend.

We bucked the trend in 2015.  This year (dark blue line) was pretty close to normal until March when we went through a six-week dry spell. Storms and cool weather in April and May helped pull the snowpack upwards until we peaked on May 24, which is about a month after our normal peak day.  Although we are now sliding into snowmelt season, you can see that our current snowpack, as a percent, is 309% greater than a normal year.

South Platte River Bason Time Series Snowpack Summary Graph

After looking at our snowpack levels, I frequently cruise over to the United States Geological Survey (USGS) Water Information System website, which tracks real-time water levels in rivers and creeks nationwide.  Their top-level map depicts river and creek water levels as a percentile of that day over a 30-year average.  Just as any good data-driven exhibit should do, their national map makes it easy to see major trends and patterns. Rivers in the Pacific Coast states are very low, with many running below the 10th percentile.  The Great Plains states have experienced a very wet spring and early summer, and rivers here are generally running very high compared to normal.  The Appalachia and Atlantic Coast rivers are normal or low.

River Levels Map

Zooming into the Denver area, we see our river levels are very high, with most above the 90th percentile.  By clicking on a dot (which represent water level gauges), you can get information about a specific sites.  For example, the chart below shows water levels of the South Platte River in Englewood, CO, a suburb of Denver. You can see two steep spikes on June 5th, one in the early morning and one in the evening, that were caused by strong storms. Evidence of the first storm was obvious to the residents in Southeast Denver, who woke up that morning to the sound of front-end loaders moving four feet of hail off their streets.

South Platte River Levels_June

While the June 5th spikes are related to localized rainstorms, the melting snowpack is also influencing water levels.  If we extend the graph from seven days to 60 days, we see that water levels have consistently climbed since early April, due to spring rainstorms and melting snowpack.  The spikes of June 5th, which looked so dramatic in the top graph, become just one of many steep spikes the river has seen in the past couple of months.

South Platte River Levels_Spring

So who cares about all this anyway?  Well, you might care if you operate a tourism business in Colorado.  For example, organizers of running races scheduled to take place in the high mountains changed their routes due to snow covered trails, and two popular driving roads, Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park and Mt. Evans Road in the Arapahoe-Roosevelt National Forest, were both closed over Memorial Day weekend (their traditional opening day).  Besides the recreation and tourism industry, other professionals such as utility managers, city planners, emergency respondents, water companies, and farmers all depend on snowpack and river levels.  While Coloradoans will continue to experience wild weather, these two websites can help us all understand and react to it.

 


Colorado’s New Statewide Child Abuse Hotline

We were pleased yesterday to attend the unveiling of Colorado’s new rollout of a statewide hotline to report suspected child abuse or neglect.  Governor Hickenlooper and other dignitaries spoke on the Capitol steps, and we think it’s a great step forward for Colorado.

1-844-CO-4-KIDS
1-844-CO-4-KIDS

Our partners at Heinrich Marketing came up with several great concepts, and we were delighted to conduct concept testing that helped lead to the selection of the campaign that was announced today.  We conducted focus group research in urban and rural Colorado to weigh the strengths and weaknesses of five different concepts.  We think the selected theme is a great way to convey a complex and challenging message.

You can see examples of the campaign theme put to use here.


Is your Neighbor an Engineer?

While Kevin has an engineering degree, I do not—my degree is in social sciences.  After reading Kevin’s blogs about income patterns of folks with engineering degrees, I was inspired to take a fresh look at degrees from a spatial perspective. I wondered where engineers are most likely to live, where social scientists are likely to live, and is there is a relationship between them?  What better place to explore than our own back yard.

Since Kevin and I both like maps, I pulled some data from the American Community Survey into our mapping software to take a look. The universe of this data is all adults, 25 years or older, who have obtained a bachelor’s degree or higher.

Interestingly, in terms of raw numbers, the census tracts with the greatest number of engineering degrees are on the south to northwest outskirts of the Denver area, especially around the Boulder area (see map 1).  Maybe people with engineering degrees like to live near the foothills? Out of adults with a bachelor’s degree or higher in the Denver area, about eight percent have an engineering degree.

Adults with Engineering Degrees

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

However, some of these census tracts are rather large, so I looked at the density of people with engineering degrees by tract (see map 2). When we look at the number of engineering degrees per square mile, we start seeing dense pockets in the heart of Denver and Boulder, but still some good representation in the Southern suburbs.  In case you are curious, there is an average of 106 people with engineering degrees per square mile in Denver and its immediate suburbs (i.e., area within the blue box).

Density of Engineering Degrees

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As I previously mentioned, I have a degree in social sciences, and I wanted to know if people with my degree were likely to live near people with engineering degrees? First, I mapped the number of social science degrees (see map 3). Around Denver, about nine percent of people with a bachelor’s degree have one in social sciences.   By visually comparing Maps 1 and 3, I didn’t see any strong similarities in number of degrees by census tract. Social science degrees appear to be most numerous on the southeast and east side of Denver, with some in Boulder too.

Adults with Social Science Degrees

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What about density of social science degrees?  There is an average of 139 people with social science degrees per square mile in the Denver area (see map 4). We see some dense areas near downtown Denver, and I can visually start to pick out similarities between densities on maps 2 and 4. Remarkably, the census tract with the greatest density of social science degrees is just east of the Capital building.  Considering this census tract is just a few blocks from our office, we seem to have a nice supply of potential labor nearby.

Density of Social Science Degrees

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So what does this tell us?  We know that, on average, there is a slightly greater proportion of people with social science degrees than engineering degrees (i.e., 9% vs. 8%), and there is a greater average density of social scientists than engineers.  I guess engineers like room to spread their elbows and social scientists like to live near other people.

Are engineers likely to be neighbors with social scientists?   When analyzed by raw number, there is a positive correlation between the two degrees. For about every one step up in the number of social science degrees by census tract, there is about a half-step up in the number of engineering degrees.

Does density play a role?  It appears so.  When looking at the relationship between degrees based on density (i.e., number of degrees per square mile), we see that the correlation is stronger than the correlation based on raw numbers of degrees.  This means social scientists and engineers are more likely to live in the same census tract in dense urban areas than in rural areas.

Now that I’ve answered this question, its on to my next project where I aim to prove that my proximity to a doughnut shop has a positive and strong correlation with my personal happiness.


The cautionary tale of 5 scary strategic planning mistakes: Part II – Avoid side swipes

My blog series is chronicling the five major pitfalls of strategic planning. With years of experience under my belt leading strategic planning efforts, I’ve seen it all. When advising leaders, I warn them to watch out for “side swipes”. What is a “side swipe” you ask?

Your strategic planning process is in motion and out of nowhere comes another priority that collides with the strategy setting process. Akin to being side swiped on the highway, you and your vehicle are now out of commission.  Not only have you lost momentum unexpectedly as you deal with the shock from the event, now you have to turn your attention to the source of the collision. Perhaps it’s a slow-brewing challenge that’s morphed into a pressing emergency. Or, your organization is experiencing high turnover in key positions on staff or the board. Or, the always successful special event is turning into a dud. Whatever the case, you now must deal with a pressing issue that distracts you from creating strategic direction.

Before beginning the strategic planning process, I recommend identifying potential “slow brewing” challenges, avoiding major events during the strategic planning timeline, and starting your process with a strong leadership team in place. No matter how prepared you are, you can be “side swiped” at any time. Being aware of this pitfall is the first step to preventing it from hijacking your planning process.

Read the other blogs in my five part series.

 

The cautionary tale of 5 scary strategic planning mistakes.

Part I – Don’t self-sabotage

Part III – Dismiss unrealistic expectations

Part IV – Be willing to say “no

Part V – Don’t get too tuckered out


Refer a client to Corona, receive an iPad

Win an iPad

For the months of July and August, 2014, Corona is thanking our existing clients who refer work to us.  Simply refer a new client to us, and if they initiate work with Corona Insights before December 31, 2014, you’ll receive an iPad as a thank you from us.  There is no limit on how many iPads you can earn.

Be sure to either let us know that you referred someone, or make sure they notify us when they contact us, so we can give proper credit.

Some not-so-fine-print: Only one iPad will be awarded per new client.  If more than one referral was received for a new client, only the first referral will be honored.  Open to all current and past clients of Corona Insights. A “new” client is an organization that Corona Insights has not previously done work with.  Initiated work is defined as signing a contract.  The actual iPad awarded will be determined at the time of award.  Corona Insights reserves the right to change or cancel the promotion at any time.