Succeeding in Micropolitans - Posted by Glen

Posted by Sailor on October 01, 2005 at 09:52:42:

Some interesting reading there, Ray. However, as I perused some of the demographics, I noted that one factor that had not been considered in the analyzing the data was cognitive mapping, “a process composed of a series of psychological transformations by which an individual acquires, codes, stores, recalls, and decodes information about the relative locations and attributes of phenomena in their everyday spatial environment.” What this basically means is that humans walk around w/our own maps in our heads. These cognitive maps are based the interaction of our innate mapping skills & our learning experiences (including cultural). For example, where one shops is not merely a matter of geographic proximity, but of a perception of proximity + psychological comfort; i.e. my shopping zone = my comfort zone, even if I actually travel farther every week. A chart in one the VT articles lists Virginia Beach as the closest metro area to New Bern, yet to almost anyone living in New Bern, Virginia Beach is where one can go for vacation.

Another eastern NC example: one only travels to Charlotte because of necessity, not choice. One travels to Charlotte only because of a sporting event or convention, perhaps airline routing. Why? Foremost is because “you just can’t get there from here.” Road choices are 1) back country or 2) circuitous highways. As a result of this reality, Charlotte falls off the edge of the earth in the cognitive maps of NC downeasters. Big & bustling as it is, if Charlotte weren’t the hub for U.S. Airways, it wouldn’t even exist in the minds of many New Bern residents.

Guess my point is that in spite of all the demographic data available, if financial or residential decisions are to be made, it’s a good idea to overlay the analysis of these data w/the notion of cognitive mapping. You can build a great commercial or residential complex, but if it doesn’t fit into folks’ perception of a good place to go or live, it isn’t as likely to work as well as a development that which w/be perceived as one in the right “zone.” When it comes to humans, often data have to be massaged through the layers of culture & experience.

When choosing to relocate 3,000 miles (though I took the longer way, through the Panama Canal), I chose an easier method of analysis. I let the chain stores do all the demographic research, & followed them, selecting an adjacent county where the lifestyle was comfortable & I only have to drive 30 country miles to get to Wal-Mart. BTW, I could drive in another direction the same 30 miles to another Wal-Mart, but have never done so in the past decade because that community doesn’t exist on my cognitive map. You could analyze my village, Oriental, & figure that adding a place to shop here might be a good idea. However, the reality is that this is a place to spend $$$ on houses or boats, but folks take their shopping $$$ to the next county or spend big bucks online.

Thanks, Ray, for sharing the articles. I found them interesting, & would certainly want to do similar research if I was planning a new project. Think I’d also want to do focus groups as a way to decipher the local cognitive map. (Though in my county there is only one hwy & one traffic light, so it is much more simple.)


Succeeding in Micropolitans - Posted by Glen

Posted by Glen on September 30, 2005 at 09:38:21:

Ray mentioned micropolitans in a post below:

Any suggestions about finding promising micropolitans (stats on web sites, etc.)?

Do you have any general ideas about property types that might succeed in growing micropolitans? Certainly, there are differences from one micropolitan to another, but some property types may be better than others to consider for smaller population areas.

Also, in considering property types, are there good sources for looking at comparison stats to determine what may be under-represented property types in a community. Examples: how many doctors, vets, rental units (apartments, homes), etc. can usually be supported by a certain population size and demographic types?

Any other suggestions in researching micropolitans?


Re: Succeeding in Micropolitans - Posted by ray@lcorn

Posted by ray@lcorn on September 30, 2005 at 12:34:20:


I wondered if that comment would pique anyone’s interest! I’m a demographics junkie, so any reference to new analytical tools gets my attention. I learned of Micropolitans last year from a friend who helped with the research on my book.

Micropolitans were first created in the 2003 by the Office of Management and Budget. The U.S. Census Bureau has an extensive amount of information available online… see

Being new, the micropolitan data is not yet fully functional. The trend data is recent (2000 census and 2003 update), so it lacks depth, but is still very useful in targeting high growth areas.

For a white paper discussion of micros, see the Metropolitan Institute at Virginia Tech (MIVT) website at (its the third article link from the top). The direct link to the pdf file is

That paper has a map and list of micros ranked by growth rates. There is a ton of additional research on the MIVT site, including growth counties, edge cities, boomburbs and edgeless cities. Spend some time poking around, especially under “Research Programs?The New Metroplois” on the menu bar.

The answer to what property types may be successful depends on the population characteristics of the specific micro. If looking for areas that support multi-family for example, then the chart for highest population growth would be the place to start, then drill down to owner/renter housing statistics, average rents, average incomes, etc. For office buildings the relevant first search may be job growth. For retail, discretionary spending may be the first cut.

The data can be manipulated in infinite ways. I use the MIVT and Census data for the first identifiers, then use the paid demographic sources for more detailed breakdowns. (I use Claritas at, but that’s not an endorsement). That’s where you can identify the specific markers that indicate under- or over-representation.