METRICS FROM THE FIELD: Two New Tools for Measuring Economic Impacts
Keywords:Economic Impact, Multipliers, Social Networks, Social Capital, Input/Output Analysis, Local Economics
First paragraphs:Two new publications are appearing this year that should help shed new light on the ongoing discussion of how we measure the economic impacts of community-based foods initiatives. One offers critical insight, while the second is a very practical guide to compiling an economic case for local foods work. I've helped write both.
The critical analysis is an outgrowth of a column I wrote for this journal in January 2011 (Meter, 2011) in which I discussed economic multipliers. I argued that economic impact analyses often are not as useful as they are perceived to be, because the data used in calculating impacts is not as precise as users think it is. Moreover, I found that many local foods initiatives do not lend themselves to analysis through the industry standard software, IMPLAN, because local foods activity is relatively small in comparison with the scale of the databases that the software relies upon. While IMPLAN can be a powerful tool when used in the right manner, I argued that in their early stages for many community foods efforts, measuring the multiplier is not the best use of one's money. Rather, building new social and commercial linkages, and deepening established ones, within the community will help build the multiplier—which after all is one of the ultimate goals of community-based food activity. This might be a higher priority than generating a multiplier measurement....
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