The following op-ed is by Tom Chulick, president and CEO, St. Louis Regional Chamber.
Every 10 years, our nation takes its national headcount — the census. The 2010 Census saw over 308 million people in our nation counted, and our next census count begins on April 1, 2020. The data collected by the census is essential for businesses in our region to make strategic decisions, as an accurate count fuels a thriving economy through demographic analysis, data-driven decision making, and economic calculations.
As the region’s largest business organization, representing the St. Louis business community across 15 counties in both Missouri and Illinois, the St. Louis Regional Chamber is stepping out to support a complete and accurate census count. Besides voting in the upcoming 2020 presidential election, filling out the census may be one of most important civic and patriotic duties our workforce performs this year. By engaging our employees and communicating the benefits of an accurate count, we can provide a level of understanding and help identify hard to reach groups that are most frequently undercounted.
The census is important for businesses and their employees because of the large effect it has in our communities. Local governments use the census information to plan new school construction, public transportation systems, and the locations of police and fire departments. The census determines how many representatives we send to Washington, D.C. and to our state capitols. Perhaps most importantly for business, is the data from the census we use to determine sites for new factories, shopping malls, entertainment venues, and offices. Chances are, if you make an important business decision, you are using census data.
For those unfamiliar with how census data works in a real-world decision, take our newest AgTech neighbors, Bunge and Bayer. Both firms can only excel with the best workforce. Census data helps companies like Bunge and Bayer find the most talented and most qualified people to fill their ranks. The census provides information on, say, how many scientists or engineers are located in a specific region – encouraging Bunge and Bayer to move their companies across the country (or the world) because the talent to fill AgTech industry positions is present in the St. Louis region.
Census data is also important for consumers. Businesses use the data to determine when, where, and what kind of stores to open or expand in communities. For example, “Baby Boomers purchase half of the computers and two-thirds of the new cars sold annually. They also spend a lot of money on their pets,” according to Bloomberg Business Week. Petco, Best Buy, and local car dealerships would smartly use the data provided by the census to determine the best demographic location for their stores.
But if you are asking, “what’s in it for me?”, the answer is a portion of the $675 billion in federal funds that gets doled out for health care services, housing, education programs, and job training programs rely directly upon census data. When more of us are counted, our region gets more money.
According to data provided by the George Washington Institute of Public Policy, Missouri and Illinois received $28.5 billion and $55.9 billion in Census-Guided Federal Spending in 2017, respectively. Those federal funds go to programs like Medicaid, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the National School Lunch Program, and the state Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). For every adult and child not counted, the state of Missouri loses an estimated $1,300 and Illinois loses an estimated $1,800. That means less money for our medical programs, our schools, and our transportation systems – programs that are essential to your business and employees.
Census data accounts for a large portion of how your business operates and how your employees live their day to day lives. By working hand-in-hand, businesses and citizens can help restart the momentum our region was experiencing. We can also help ourselves and our neighbors receive more dollars for health care, education, and transportation. We are doing our part for the benefit of the region and we are calling on you to step up and be counted, or risk sitting and waiting for 2030.
Learn more about how you or your business can get involved in a complete an accurate census count by visiting www.stlregionalchamber.com/census.