ZoomProspector promises to demystify the, arguably, confusing task of identifying the right location for a new, expanding or consolidating business. Although designed with small and mid-size business in mind, the website could potentially simplify life for commercial real estate professionals, at least those involved with site selection.

ZoomProspector contains demographic, socio-economic and commercial real estate information on 25,000 US communities. With its breadth and depth of data, the web tool could change site selection from an art to a science, said ZoomProspector CEO Anatalio Ubalde.

It replaces subjective decision making with 150 layers of statistics on costs, population, labor and likely customers, he explained. Even better: there’s no cost to use it because the site is supported by targeted ads.

“We’re trying to do for business what dating sites do for relationships. We want to make a match, based on certain essential characteristics,” Ubalde says. “In this case, the objective isn’t a love relationship but an economic one.”

ZoomProspector is a service of San Francisco-based GIS Planning Inc., an economic development internet strategy company that Ubalde also heads. The new site leverages GIS Planning’s experience with web-based geographic information system (GIS) applications for municipalities, regional government agencies and community organizations focused on economic development. More of those organizations use the company’s software as a service/Internet technology than any competing system, Ubalde says.

“Site location is all about geography, which is why site-specific analysis using GIS systems is so powerful. The technology shows the available buildings, characteristics of the market, demographics, labor force and the cost of doing business. It also reveals the business synergies or competition in a market,” he continues. “In short, it delivers the information businesses and real estate professionals demand.”

The US Small Business Administration estimates some 750,000 businesses look for a new facility each year. But finding the right site can be a daunting task. “Every business knows that being in the right location is essential to success,” says Ubalde. “That’s why you always hear the business mantra of ‘location, location, location.’ But entrepreneurs and businesses don’t have the expertise to figure out the best location nor do they even know where to start. In fact, it’s such a difficult thing to analyze that most people justifiability give up trying to solve this. So they essentially abandon solving one of the most important decisions which will impact the future success of their company.”

Think of it as the equivalent of putting together a giant jigsaw puzzle. Company executives–or the CRE pros they hire–have to piece together a myriad of facts, both obvious and obscure, to solve it. Ubalde said ZoomProspector speeds the process.

“In the past, site selection entailed weeks of research, phone calls and visits to multiple government offices,” Ubalde explains. “Now, what once took weeks takes minutes.” Companies can use ZoomProspector to find the community that best matches their needs and then use the tool’s online mapping technology to search for commercial properties.

Ubalde says the site couldn’t have launched at a better time. “In a good economy, mistakes can be overlooked. But in a recession, there’s no room for error,” he says.

Thanks to the credit crunch, rising unemployment and the weak global economy, businesses can’t afford to make anything but the most informed decisions. When it comes to site selection, Ubalde says “large companies may have the resources and expertise to conduct an exhaustive demographic search and analysis. But smaller and mid-sized companies typically haven’t had access to as much data. They’ve essentially been making the decision with the greatest impact on long-term success wearing a blindfold.”

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