September 17, 2019

An Economic History of Golden

A little side project: tracking Golden’s economic history. Google has a very cool tool called Gapminder (which they bought from the remarkable Hans Rosling) that’s ideal for displaying complex data over time. Based on a simple dataset (sales and use tax generated by commercial district in Golden, total sales and use tax, and total general fund revenus), and with some help from someone savvier than I at databases and code, and with help getting the data from Golden’s rock star Finance Director Jeff Hansen, I created a visualization of change over time in the importance of each sales district to Golden’s overall economic health.

The visualization shows how Golden’s commercial districts have changed in relative economic importance over time between 1994 and 2009. It’s pretty simplistic because of the data I had to work with, and because the city’s overall sales and use tax revenues track pretty closely to overall general fund revenues the bubbles all move in a very linear fashion over time. But even this very simple visualization shows some interesting things, like the change in importance of outside dollars, the rise of South Golden Road, the rise of Corporate Center, and the relative stability of Downtown Golden as an economic center over time.

I couldn’t figure out how to make the visualization itself accessible on the web, so I created a screencast showing each of the elements. The screencast first shows you the normal Gapminder display, which is very cool. Then it shows you the underlying line graph. Finally, it shows you two versions of the bar graph visualization. The entire video is about sixty seconds long.

You could do some really interesting things with these data and this display, like swapping out either the x- or y-axis with other data like the number of business licenses in each district in that year or the overall city population (which has grown steadily at times and unevenly at other times), treating sales tax and use tax independently from one another, or tons of other approaches that I haven’t thought of. You’d probably see some different and interesting relationships.

This little project underscores the value of making the city’s data as readily available to community members as possible. It’s trickier than you might think, since much of it isn’t digital and isn’t stored in the most accessible manner, but the city has a lot of data that might be of interest or of use to community members, and there are tons of people in Golden cleverer and more skilled than I at doing interesting things with data, so I’m hoping City Council and city staff will start looking for more ways to push these datasets out and see what folks come up with.


  1. pat gorman says:

    The document reporting the economic history of Golden is of great interest to me. Howver, I can’t read the presentation. The print is too small and I don’t know how to make it readable.

    • jacob says:

      Thanks for the comment, Pat. If you move your cursor over the video box, the video menu pops up at the bottom. At the bottom-right there is a button/link called “vimeo,” and just to the left of that is the button to open up the video player to full-screen view. Click on that and the video player will take up your full screen. It’s not perfect, because the resolution is still grainy, but you should be able to read all the words on the screen by doing that. If that doesn’t work I can email you something.