MacKenzie Launches GIS Team as Separate Business Unit

Matt Felton, President of Datastory

The way Matt Felton sees the world, every piece of commercial real estate “wants to be something,” whether it’s a medical center or a pet store, and the way to find out what it really wants to be is to make a map of it.

Not just any old map, but one built with layer upon layer of relevant data, until the combined information shows clearly how people interact with a particular building or plot of land -- or how they could interact with it, if a new project were to be developed at a particular location.

Having used Geographic Information Systems (GIS) for eighteen years at Towson University's Center for GIS, primarily working with non-profit and government agencies, Felton now heads up the new Datastory business unit at The MacKenzie Companies, the Lutherville-based commercial real estate firm.

Felton and his in-house team of three other GIS specialists who staff the newly launched business unit at MacKenzie have developed a unique, map-based approach to offering clients insight about the commercial potential for specific real estate assets, taking into consideration the demographics and spending habits of consumers in a particular area.

Traditionally, the type of commercial real estate analysis provided by Datastory’s GIS technology has been done using spreadsheets, which are more difficult to decipher than a well-designed map that can present spreadsheet data in immediately understandable, visual representations.

“Our clients gobble it up,” Felton said. “They used to go blind looking at spreadsheets.”

In fact, Datastory’s software allows users to import their own, existing spreadsheet data in order to create unique maps from it, which can provide valuable insights about their real estate portfolios, especially when layered with additional data that Felton and his team can provide.

Using detailed consumer spending data provided by a third-party firm, Datastory integrates it with additional information relevant to a client’s goals, such as the proximity of business competitors, population density, and commute times for a given piece of real estate.

For finance companies that provide real estate loans, Datastory can help determine whether an existing or proposed development is actually worth its estimated value in a business plan, or whether it will generate sufficient revenue to support a proposed loan.

“Before we started building Datastory, Felton said. “I hadn’t seen GIS applied in small and midsize businesses like this… I just love being out in front of new things.” 

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