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An Interview with Evan Wise, Analytics Consultant

Evan Wise joined Fourth Economy + Steer last year, amplifying the team’s strength in data analytics and visualization. Evan is a graduate of Rutgers University’s masters program in City and Regional Planning and holds a BS in Community Development from Temple University in Philadelphia, where he still lives. He is passionate about building equitable communities through economic development, inclusive transportation planning, big data, and strategies to create inclusive spaces for LGBTQ+ communities.

We asked Evan a few questions about his role, how it builds on his past professional experiences, and what he’s excited to accomplish at Fourth Economy. We also asked Evan to combine two of his hobbies and tell us what Pennsylvania bird, besides eagles, would make a great name for a Philly sports team.

You are an Analytics Consultant for Fourth Economy. What does that entail? What does your work look like on any given day?

I’m generally working on some type of analysis for clients. The analysis is typically along the lines of figuring out how an area has experienced something – such as housing, jobs, health outcomes, or educational attainment – over time, and this varies depending on the project. I’d group these different types of analysis into just straight numbers that get transformed into charts and graphs or translated to support our work. The other side of analysis is building visualizations that contain data like maps or dashboards. The maps are usually GIS-based (showing locations) or relationship-based, describing how entities are connected to each other. Dashboards are a mixture of charts, graphs, and maps. It’s more interactive for users and displays stories or more complex analysis. I’d say that’s what I do on most days, but occasionally I do engagement work like interviewing stakeholders, or conducting build sessions.

Sometimes I spend time thinking about how to better streamline our processes, and then I write code to make our lives easier. I most enjoy thinking about new ways to measure things, like how we capture the number of businesses relocating in or out of an area or how a specific economy changes over time across the country.

You came to Fourth Economy from PolicyMap, an online data mapping platform, where you worked as a Data Analyst. What lessons from that role do you find yourself applying to your economic development work with Fourth Economy clients?

PolicyMap exposed me to hundreds of data sources and various applications for available data. There are many non-traditional data sources for economic development, beyond job, employment, and establishment data, that I find myself going to, like health outcomes, educational attainment, and geographic mobility. I employ data quality checks and standardizations to make data easier for clients to work with. Overall, PolicyMap taught me to think creatively and critically about data, and I use that skill when answering questions for Fourth Economy’s clients.

You spent four years serving on the Youth Advisory Council of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA), the transit system for the Philadelphia metro area. How did this experience shape your understanding of or commitment to public transit as an economic development issue?

SEPTA is a unique transportation system; compared to other systems for similar-sized cities, it has commuter rail, rapid transit (subways), buses, light rail, and trolleybuses. Only two authorities in the U.S. run all major types of transit: SEPTA and Boston’s MBTA. However, I frequently complain about service and wonder why the 47 bus isn’t running.

That’s one of the main reasons I joined the YAC – to advocate for student issues to the authority. Many students rely on public transportation to get to class and work, and it is fundamental to make sure the lines students use most frequently are accessible and run during the hours they need them the most.

Regarding economic development, we frequently discuss the educational attainment of those moving into areas and what that means for communities. If you want students to stay in areas after graduation, you need to orient students to the area. One of the best ways to do that is by having reliable, comprehensive public transportation. They need to know what’s available in the area and how to get around. By intervening as early as possible with students to show them how great a place is, the sooner they will see there could be a life for them there after graduation. Retaining graduates should be almost as important as attracting graduates. One of my main concerns while I was on the YAC was getting more students to interface with the city through transit. Philadelphia has many universities, and it’s essential to get those graduates to stay in the city, especially when building Philadelphia into a world-class city. If employers know students will remain in the area, they know they have a talent pool. SEPTA was one of the main reasons I fell in love with Philadelphia, my favorite city in the world.

What do you hope to accomplish with Fourth Economy this year?

I hope to learn more about data to make our analysis easier to complete. I’d like to standardize some data processing so we can push out data requests much faster. I’d also like to work in new markets because I enjoy learning more about areas through data, as well as expand some of Fourth Economy's offerings to include cross collaborations in our cultural and outdoor economy work.

You are both a birdwatcher and a Philadelphia sports fan. If you were charged with naming a new franchise after a bird native to the area, what sport would it be and what bird would you pick?

Philadelphia already has the Eagles, so I’m not sure I’ll be able to top that. The state game bird of Pennsylvania is very interesting; it’s a Ruffed Grouse. They live in forests and can eat plants that are typically poisonous to other animals, and due to their coloring they can be very difficult to see in forests. People typically hear a Ruffed Grouse before ever seeing one. They have a huge range in terms of where they live, venturing from PA to as far as Canada, and bury themselves in snow for protection and warmth. Overall, they’re cool little birds. Although you likely won't see one in Philadelphia, I think the Ruffed Grouses would be a cool name for a hockey team.


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