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April 27, 2020
GIS Planning Launches Data Tool to Provide Free Updates About Open Businesses Amid COVID-19

SAN FRANCISCO - GIS Planning, the industry-leading provider of online economic development solutions to more than six out of 10 Americans, today launched an online tool that enables local businesses across North America to communicate with customers for free in real time. ZoomBusiness, created in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, is an interactive, mobile-responsive mapping directory for communities that ensures customers can find open restaurants, stores and services in their region at no charge.

Businesses can list themselves for free on their local ZoomBusiness site, hosted by economic development organizations like cities, towns, counties or chambers of commerce. The businesses can provide customized details including websites, modified hours, delivery or curbside pickup options, promotions and gift card stimulus programs. Residents can search for area businesses by categories, including grocery stores, pharmacies, banks, health facilities, hardware stores, pet stores and automotive shops, among others.

Local ZoomBusiness sites have already been deployed in over 20 communities across North America during its soft launch, including regions of eastern Pennsylvania, Columbia, S.C., the state of Wyoming (which has listed more than 600 businesses on the directory) and Abbotsford, British Columbia.

"We created ZoomBusiness after realizing that small businesses need new, accurate ways to communicate that they are still open to their customers, given that social distancing requirements, product availability and operating hours are changing by the day," said Pablo Monzon, managing director and co-founder, GIS Planning. "Our development team has created an intuitive tool to index and map business information across North America in real-time, and we believe it will be an enormous resource for the communities we serve."

ZoomBusiness is a simple-to-use data tool, powered by Google Maps, using various "layers" for precise queries. Businesses are prompted to directly enter information on their current status and the content is verified by the organization hosting the GIS tool. GIS Planning also added free map layers, including a COVID-19 case map updated daily by the New York Times, and a job-loss vulnerability index using recent employment data from Chmura.

The City of Columbia, S.C., currently features 180 businesses on ZoomBusiness, helping residents discover delivery and curbside food options. That number is expected to quickly rise to over 300 as business owners input data.

"Through our work with GIS Planning, we've been able to take our list of open restaurants and businesses and integrate it into the available properties map on our website," said Ryan Coleman, director of the City of Columbia Office of Economic Development. "During this crisis, local businesses need every advantage we can give them, and this is another tool in their arsenal in helping to mitigate the negative impact of COVID-19."

Columbia will continue to promote safe and responsible "Shop Local" practices, Coleman added, in hopes that residents will take advantage of the service and support local businesses.

The new solution has also made an impact in Canada, including the City of Abbotsford, British Columbia, which is promoting 130 businesses ranging from grocers to auto shops and medical suppliers.

"This is a resource that fills an urgent need. The long-term health and security of our businesses depend, in part, on the decisions we're making right now," said Kim O'Sullivan, City of Abbotsford's economic development coordinator. "ZoomBusiness allows owners to communicate directly with their customers, many of whom would frequent these businesses, even online, if they knew they were able to do so."

ZoomBusiness clients are given a unique link to their region which is then shared across organizational websites and social media to reach residents.

"Main street businesses are truly the lifeblood of a community," said Alissa Sklar, vice president of marketing for GIS Planning. "According to FEMA, up to 40% of small businesses never reopen after a major disaster. With ZoomBusiness, we want to help make sure the local restaurants, retailers and service providers that define local communities are still there to serve area residents when this pandemic is over."

GIS Planning has made its ZoomBusiness tool free for its existing economic development clients (those using its investment attraction map, "ZoomProspector") and it is also available to new clients for a nominal fee. Prices are indexed to population size to keep them affordable for all communities. New clients can also be set up and ready to launch the tool within one day.

Following the COVID-19 recovery, data experts at GIS Planning forecast continued use of the directory to promote small and medium-sized businesses across North America.

For more information about ZoomBusiness, visit: https://www.gisplanning.com/products/zoombusiness/overview.

About GIS Planning
GIS Planning, a service of the Financial Times, is the world leader in online economic development solutions for corporate site selection. Its suite of tools provides real estate, demographic, labor force and industry data to help investors select optimal geographic locations through powerful online mapping analysis. GIS Planning's software as a service helps regions create jobs, nurture existing companies and grow their economies through business investment. GIS Planning tools currently serve six out of 10 Americans in 45 states, including 28 statewide economic development organizations, Canada, Switzerland, several counties in the U.K., Murcia (Spain), Bordeaux (France), Dusseldorf (Germany), Gothenburg (Sweden), Kyiv (Ukraine) and more. For more information visit: https://www.gisplanning.com.

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