Thursday, May 13, 2010

Metro State Alumni Business Spotlight: Wayne Kocina

GIS wiz Wayne Kocina helps small businesses

Dreaming about starting your own business? Why not when small businesses generate 60-80% of jobs in the United States and the majority of jobs in Colorado? But how will you figure out where to locate your business? Big companies spend thousands on site prospecting data provided by companies that utilize demographic and Geospatial Information Systems (GIS). Typically, small businesses couldn’t afford the same services. But things have changed, says alumnus Wayne Kocina ('01, technical communications) , founder of GeoWize, a company that provides GIS and consulting services. Kocina licenses the same, advanced software used by the big companies and makes it available to everyone.

“This software was always big businesses’ secret weapon,” Kocina says. “I help the little guy get the same competitive advantage by using this same data to help them select their sites and develop their markets.” Kocina is one of just a dozen or so United States-based, independent contractors who does this type of work. One of his primary goals is to promote local and regional economies by supporting locally-based entrepreneurs and small businesses. His philosophy of service is based on a development strategy called Economic Gardening, a concept that was initiated in Littleton, Colorado, and is now spreading to other states.

“The problem is that with big companies you have to give them tax breaks, cheap land and often you even help subsidize the labor to attract them,” he explains. “So, they come into your community, and maybe it starts to flourish. But what if their bottom line goes down or costs go up? They will start looking for alternatives. Or maybe they will just close up shop and go offshore. Economic gardening is development that focuses solely on the local community. It says let’s be partners and help you succeed. Our payback is jobs and revenue coming back into the community.”

For Kocina, the payback is he helps communities and small businesses grow by creating jobs. “It’s really exciting work.” Kocina is now working with the University of Central Florida's GrowFL program to propagate the idea further in that state.

So what exactly does Kocina do? Using the licensed software, he creates demographic and socioeconomic profiles for specific areas, finding out household incomes, ages of residents, spending patterns, if homes are owned or rented, home prices and other things. He then uses the GIS software to plot that information on maps, creating “community tapestries” that identify potential customers and where they live. He can make sense of whether or not a location is right for a person’s new business.

“There are numerous elements to site prospecting,” he explains on his blog. “First there are all of the on-site questions that need to be answered, such as: Is the site attractive and aesthetically pleasing? Is there good access to the location? Is there enough parking available? Is there enough space? Is there adequate traffic? Is the price right? Are the terms of the lease acceptable? Then, there is one critical question that cannot be answered by a site visit: Are there enough of my target customers within my trade area to support my business and allow me to be successful? The only way to answer this question is through analyzing the demographics of your proposed trade area.”

Typically his contracts last a few months, but some extend for years. “The really rewarding experiences are when the business owner really gets it … really sees the value of this,” Kocina says. One of his customers started looking at maps and reports and, says Kocina, “a big light bulb went off for him. He kept asking me, ‘can you do this?’ We have more than tripled that company’s income, and now he is feeding me enhanced customer data. He just keeps saying, ‘Geocode that!’”

And so Kocina does, and he loves every minute of it. For more information, please contact Kocina at

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