Planning Commission's Demographer Available to Answer Data Questions

Have you ever wondered who to contact with questions about the Census and other data relevant to Chester County? If so, meet Chester County Planning Commission Senior Demographer Jake Michael.

Jake, who has an American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP) certification, became the Planning Commission’s demographer four years ago when his predecessor retired. Jake’s past experience gathering statistics about natural resources and animals was a valuable asset when he took over this role and started working on data collection from the U.S. Census Bureau. 

“With data and mapping, it’s like solving a puzzle,” he said. “Every once in a while you find something nobody else knew about.”

As part of his role as demographer, Jake serves as the county’s liaison to the U.S. Census Bureau. He said the county is working on the 2020 Census now and anyone who has questions can call him at 610-344-6285 or email jmichael@chesco.org.

Data collection for the Census is different now than it was a few decades ago, according to Jake. Back then, information could be sparse on certain topics; now there is an overflow of data available. The format of the Census also has changed substantially over the years, Jake said. It used to be mainly a paper document; nowadays it’s mainly web based. He also noted that the Census doesn’t solely work on decennial products these days – they are producing data and products all the time. For instance, the Census Bureau now has the ongoing American Community Survey, which provides data to communities every year instead of once every 10 years.

A big part of Jake’s job is extracting data sets from the Census webpage called “American Fact Finder” where they digitally distribute their data online. The site is extremely useful but can be a bit complicated to use given the large volume of information they post on it. Municipal officials and community groups should feel free to contact Jake if they need help extracting data from it.

The Planning Commission recently created a new user-friendly data webpage for information on various topics in Chester County, including agriculture, community facilities, economic development, historic resources, housing, land use and development, natural resources, population and demographics, transportation, and utilities and infrastructure. Jake said people can view the data on the webpage or they download information into an Excel spreadsheet, which has been curated for municipalities.

Another area of data that Jake handles is the county’s Protected Open Space Tracking (POST) system, a web-based database and mapping program. Jake developed POST with the help of the county’s Department of Computing and Information Services. He said POST has allowed for better coordination among land trusts and has organized information for municipal officials so they know who to contact during land preservation projects. According to the latest POST figures, a total of 136,020 acres of protected open space, or 28 percent of the county, has been preserved as of Dec. 31, 2017.

Jake has been working for the Planning Commission for 20 years overall. He was initially hired as an environmental/open space planner and has been the demographer in more recent years. When he was the open space planner, he was the primary author and project manager for Linking Landscapes: A Plan for the Protected Open Space Network in Chester County, PA. This document was adopted by the Chester County Commissioners in February 2002 as the open space element of Chester County’s comprehensive plan.

Jake also was the primary author of several Planning Commission publications including Taking Control of Your Land: A Land Stewardship Guidebook for Landowners published in 2001; Open Space Planning: A Guide for Municipalities published in 2005; Trail and Path Planning: A Guidebook for Municipalities published in 2007; An Evaluation of Patriots Path Trail Opportunities in the Eastern Great Valley published in 2007; and Brandywine Battlefield Preservation Plan published in 2013. Four of these publications received Outstanding Planning Awards from the Pennsylvania Chapter of the American Planning Association.

An East Goshen resident, Jake was born in Whitley County, Indiana and his parents moved to the East Coast shortly after that. He grew up in Pennsauken, New Jersey and Melrose Park in Cheltenham Township, Montgomery County. After earning his bachelor’s degree in geology and biology from Macalester College in Saint Paul, Minnesota, Jake spent a decade working as a socioeconomic and environmental resource analyst and project manager for engineering and land planning firms before landing a job at the county’s Planning Commission in 1998. He is a part-time musician at small venues in the region during his free time.

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