We often see business statistics cited in the news. Ever wonder where they come up with those statistics? Turns out that the collection of business data is not a new enterprise, but rather something that has been around since 1810. Early in the 19th century, Congress responded to a rapid increase in industrial activity and ordered census takers (federal marshals) to collect information on the production of blacksmiths, musket makers, farmers and 200 other kinds of goods. In successive decades, the census began to include non-manufacturing retail businesses such as dry good stores, lumber yards and dress shops. Almost a century later, Congress (1902) authorized a permanent Census Bureau with a Business (Economic) Census to take place every five years as opposed to the population census occurring every 10 years. Today the Economic Census takes place on years ending in 2 or 7.
This fall, 770 Douglas County and 2000 El Dorado County businesses will receive Economic Census forms from the U.S. Census Bureau. Selected companies will receive forms in November and December. Respondents are asked to provide a range of operational and performance data for their companies and a response is required by law by February 2013 under Title 13. The data collected is amalgamated, removing all company names and personal information. The companies are pre-selected to provide a representative sampling of all types and sizes. The census only sends form to a minimal number of very small and non-employer companies. If you own a company and do not receive a form, it simply means your firm was not selected and you have no further responsibility.
Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke has called this census "indispensable to understanding America's economy." This information "assures the accuracy of the statistics we rely on for sound economic policy and for successful business planning," Bernanke said.
There are many interesting facts from the last Economic Census if you are a business owner or just interested in trends and data. Business managers can compare their operating data to totals and averages for a specific region and use the information to inform potential market or product expansion/contraction plans. Aspiring entrepreneurs use the data in preparing their business plans. TahoeChamber and other business associations rely on this information for economic development, understanding business trends and strategic planning.
For more information on completing the form, please visit www.tahoechamber.org to download a FAQ sheet or visit www.census.gov.
- "B" Gorman, B.S., J.D., A.C.E., is the president and CEO of Tahoe Chamber.