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WASHINGTON, DC-It is well known that the US General Services Administration has created a Web database of all government-owned properties and leases. What is relatively unknown is the Atlanta-based database company Xpansion Lab’s American Community Network that was hired by the Washington-based federal agency to build and host the site.

The company has not necessarily been in stealth mode, but has been expanding the target audience for its hundreds of data points on demographic, geographic and real estate information. “We started out focused on the economic-development business,” Chuck Branch tells GlobeSt.com. Branch came to ACN as a business development executive in November 1999 and became president of the company one year later.

Like many websites, ACN had its roots in a print publication making a transition to the Web; in this case, Memphis-based Towery Publications, a chamber directory publisher. At the request of those chamber clients, Towery took the first steps in 1997 to create an apples-to-apples database for companies to do community research, primarily for corporate relocations or expansions.

ACN was able to develop a database that had 200 pieces of information on every county and metropolitan statistical area in the country, Branch says. The company was sold to Birmingham-based Vulcan Publications in May 1999. Ultimately, Vulcan merged its two economic-development publications with ACN, and the company re-incorporated as Xpansion Lab Inc. in January 2000. Vulcan is now an investor in Xpansion Lab, along with company executives and Morristown, NJ-based site consulting firm Wadley-Donovan Group.

ACN does not have proprietary technology, Branch says, but has built sites for several state economic-development agencies and other government entities. And the company has rolled out the latest version of its database, ACN Odyssey, which has 500 data points free of charge, and up to 2,500 data points in a premium service.

Branch says corporate executives, non-profits and real estate companies all use the database, which has an annual licensing fee of $995. Some real estate pros have criticized the functionality of the new GSA site, which allows listings to be accessed by congressional district, but not by much more relevant queries, like price per square foot or lease expiration date. Branch says that the site was designed according to GSA specifications, with a constituency of taxpayers and Congress in mind.

“What we’ve done for GSA is a work in progress,” notes Branch. “You will be able to search by lease expiration date and square footage as we incorporate more. This is GSA database version 1.0, and there will be a 2.0 and 3.0 in time.”

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