Website uses data to paint picture of local communities

“We put all of that into this big stew and distilled it down into different neighbourhood types.” -Daniel Heuman

Think you know your neighbourhood?

So does a new online tool that sorts out the Canadian landscape by postal code, then spits out a description of the community that surrounds it.

Trail, for example, is considered a “Serenity Springs,” for mostly retirees who seek the lifestyle of a small and sleepy town.

Annual household income averages about $75,000 with housing tenure split between owners and renters who are 55 and older.

“Unlike upscale tidy retirement communities, the rustic towns in Serenity Springs are filled with lower middle income seniors who are aging in place and watching their wallets.

In these traditional homes, the men fish and go boating, the women stay home to cook and garden though both enjoy taking in a craft show or two.

Entertainment usually means travel to another community for events like dinner theatre, figure skating or shopping. Reflected by the low rates in visiting other countries, the people are less interested in travelling further, preferring to vacation in a provincial park,” says the website.

Created by Environics Analytics, the two-year project compiled data from Statistics Canada, (2006 and 2011 Canadian census) and other marketing partnerships, according to Daniel Heuman, the company’s vice president of custom research.

Heuman developed the system, called the PRIZM5, which consists of 68 snapshots that incorporate demographics such as age, income, unemployment rates, occupation, and dwelling types into a lifestyle description via postal code.

“We put all of that into this big stew and distilled it down into different neighbourhood types,” he explained.

So, don’t be alarmed if it doesn’t sound like you, Heuman added.

“The key is we are not describing you,” he told the Trail Times by phone. “We don’t have any personal information in the system at all. So it may not reflect the individual reading the description, but it is characteristic of the neighbourhood and the people around them – based on aggregated data.”

The information is easily accessed by visiting environicsanalytics.ca, clicking on the “PRIZM5 Lifestyle Lookup” link, then typing in a postal code.

According to the website, Rossland and Nelson both have something in common – their populace is knee deep in the “Suburban Scramble.”

While the average income, about $82,000 is higher than surrounding communities, the people are a mixed bag of young, lower and middle income suburbanites.

Housing tenures are about equal between renting or owning, and while the primary occupation is the service sector, levels of education vary.

Another aspect to the scramble, is there’s more singles and young families. Date night could mean tickets to a jazz or country music concert, or cheering for the local hockey team.

However, the Suburban Scramble includes a higher rate of divorce and lone parenting than average. That factor keeps the bars and nightclubs hopping at very high rates, says the site, adding, “provided, of course, they can get a sitter for the kids.”

Members of this section clip weekly coupons from community and daily papers, shop in discount grocery stores and eat a lot of fast food.

Hobbies range from woodworking, crafts and stamp collecting to sports like fishing and bowling.

Further east in the Beaver Valley, excluding Montrose, are the Fresh Air Families. This sector is generally middle aged middle income exurbanites who average a $102,000 income.

The neighbourhoods feature a mix of middle aged couples and families with children of all ages, and is one of the largest and fastest growing groups across Canada.

Most adults have post secondary education or trade school and most enjoy a two-income household with well paying jobs in health care, public administration and the trades.

The homes are newer, usually single dwellings built in the 1990s, with nine out of ten commuting by car to jobs nearer the suburbs.

Fresh Air Families enjoy the outdoors, and typically park boats and campers in their driveways alongside a pick up to haul them to parks and campgrounds.

Interestingly, five kilometres west in Montrose, people are living well while emptying their nests.

Incomes average $103,000 in white collar jobs and most own their own homes. Half the households are nearing retirement while earning about $104,000 annually.

Most are college or university educated and enjoy cultural event like the ballet, opera and film festivals.

Many have both time and money to travel to Europe, Australia and Asia – but will not spend the whole nest egg because they’ve expressed interest in leaving a legacy.

While entering postal codes can lead to an entertaining read about Canada’s cities and towns, the tool caters to businesses that want to dig into their customer demographic.

“Today’s organizations want to better understand who their customers are and how they can build more meaningful relationships with them,” says Jan Kestle, the company’s founder and president. “By using PRIZM5 to make their marketing campaigns more relevant, marketers can ensure their efforts will be more effective and their businesses more successful.”

Elsewhere in the region, Grand Forks, Castlegar and Salmo all have something in common – they are “Active and Aging” communities with primarily older and mature lower-middle income households.

The average annual income nears $77,000, and most own their homes through careers in mixed occupations with varying levels of education.

Found in towns across Canada, aging and active consists of older families and empty nesters living in modest, single detached homes. Half the households are over 55, but still work in blue collar or agricultural jobs.

Residents prefer the outdoors, actively engaging in walking, fishing, hunting and cycling or riding ATVs and motorcycles on their local open roads. When the mood strikes, a night of dancing is in order at the local watering hole, though community theatre and local concerts are largely supported.