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By Amanda Ballard, UA News

How do Tucson wages compare to those in Portland? Which county in southern Arizona has the highest cost of living? Which city has the most potential to improve poverty in southern Arizona?

The data that answers these questions is out there, but tracking it down isn’t always easy.

The Eller College of Management’s Economic and Business Research Center is working on a website that will provide information on a broad range of issues related to the economy and quality of life in southern Arizona.

The Making Action Possible for Southern Arizona Dashboard Project, also called the MAP Dashboard Project, will aggregate all of the information in an easy-to-use format that will allow users to compare different southern Arizona counties, metropolitan areas and states across the western U.S, as well as select southern Arizona cities.

The MAP Dashboard Project can be used by community members, organizations and leaders to help identify potential areas of improvement in a community.

“The mission of the MAP Dashboard Project is to measurably improve southern Arizona through data-driven collective civic action and education,” said George Hammond, director of the Economic and Business Research Center. “We want to give the community an interesting, engaging website they can visit often and find out something new about the local economy.”

The Economic and Business Research Center partnered with two community organizations on the project. The first, the Community Foundation for Southern Arizona, represents the nonprofit community. The second, the Southern Arizona Leadership Council, represents business interests. Both partners are providing input and insights as the website is being developed.

While these two community organizations are the official partners for the MAP Dashboard Project, the website will be available for use by all community members.

“We’d like to see the entire community use the dashboard to facilitate conversations on where we’ve been and where we should head,” said Jennifer Pullen, research economist for the Economic and Business Research Center. “The primary objective is to have one source of reliable data for the community.”

The dashboard displays data in six categories: education, health and social well-being, infrastructure, quality of place, workforce and demographics. A region’s performance in each category is measured by six core indicators. For example, quality of place is measured using indicators such as air quality and public safety, while infrastructure indicators include access to air travel, average commute time and energy use.

The website will allow users to compare data on different levels – counties versus counties, cities versus cities, and so on. The website’s data will be updated frequently throughout the year, Pullen said.

The website also will include periodic in-depth reports on the 25 largest southern Arizona cities. These comparison snapshots will allow users to identify areas in which cities and counties are making progress or falling behind.

“This data is not always easy to access or understand,” Pullen said. “What we’re doing is putting it in one place and providing detailed analysis. Measuring progress and inspiring action through a common collection of data is going to serve as a starting point to facilitate discussion.”

The Map Dashboard Project is scheduled to launch at the end of 2014, but those interested in getting a sneak peek and project updates can visit or follow @MapAZDashboard on Twitter.

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