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20 Years of #econdev data innovation

VHS tapes. Printed catalogues. Direct mail. Telemarketing. Magazine ads. That's what place marketing looked like before 1998, the year GIS Planning began. Co-founders Anatalio Ubalde and Pablo Monzon's disruptive idea changed the nature of economic development marketing and corporate site selection.

Alissa Sklar
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on August 30, 2018
Alissa Sklar
Vice President of Marketing

VHS tapes. Printed catalogues. Direct mail. Telemarketing. Magazine ads. That's what place marketing looked like before 1998, the year GIS Planning was founded. 


Anatalio Pablo Lisbon 1999

Co-founders Anatalio Ubalde and Pablo Monzon, both of whom worked in local government economic development, were frustrated with the outdated, inefficient, and underperforming marketing, site selection, and business attraction methods which were being practiced. So they decided to come up with a new model that leveraged the new technologies of the Internet and geographic information systems. Their idea became a disruptive revolution in economic development that changed the profession and the way that effective economic developers work around North American and which is now expanding globally.


Many of the most important innovations in digital economic development and corporate site selection have been invented by GIS Planning, one of the core reasons for the company's continued success.


Current clients know that GIS Planning has gone on to add a variety of new products over the years, a feat unmatched by anyone else in the industry. The City of Vallejo, one of our very first clients (see screenshot of their 1998 site below) remains a client today (click here to see their microsite of GIS Planning data tools). 

City of Vallejo 1998

Here is a list of our most significant innovations:

  • 1998 − Co-founded by Anatalio Ubalde and Pablo Monzon; launched first Web GIS for Economic Development featured in The Wall Street Journal and many other media outlets.
  • 1999-2001 – Expanded in CA, AZ, IN, and PA. Created first product that could be resold.
  • 2002-2005 – Delivered the first Software as a Service product introducing a cloud product before cloud was even an Internet delivery term. Client growth accelerated.WSJ article
  • 2007 − Began work on ZoomProspector.com and submitted patent.  Received patent in May 2011.
  • 2008 − New product modules released; launched ZoomProspector.com in April 2008 at Web 2.0 Expo; received significant media coverage including TechCrunch, BusinessWeek, Forbes, Fortune, NYT, etc.
  • 2009 − Released new Google Maps product; launched “supermaps,” the first tool to integrate custom geospatial layers on Google Maps; signed exclusive partnership with IEDC; released a new version of the SaaS product; Anatalio Ubalde’s book Economic Development Marketing: Present & Future is published changing how the profession prioritizes its marketing budgets.
  • 2010 – New generation of SaaS product unveiled; added 7 new state clients; ZoomProspector.com used in BusinessWeek, Fortune and Forbes; implemented CDN to deliver high quality speed of service anywhere; business search added to SaaS functionality.
  • 2011 − Developed new mapping layer technology for use with Google Maps that is fast and format agnostic; launch of smart-phone optimized service for SaaS product.
  • 2012 − Developed new demographic heat mapping layer technology for use in Google Maps; developed proposal generator and RFP management service; completely redeveloped administration system for customers and real estate brokers.
  • 2013 - Embeddable property and community search widgets released to increase use and ease of access to GIS Planning services; completely redesigned mobile version of product launched with key services; developed new community comparison tool; complete redesign and replacement of search UI for better usability; Proposal generator improvements unveiled.
  • 2014 - Launch of Intelligence Components (ICs): demographic, mapping, business/industry, community comparisons.
  • 2015 - Launch of infographics in ZoomProspector Enterprise and in Intelligence Components.
  • 2016 - Re-launch of completely redesigned ZoomProspector.com. Addition of new datasets to products. Introduction of client home portal pages. Received patent in March 2016.
  • 2017 - Acquired by the Financial Times Group.

City of Tucson Business Report 2003

By 2015, more than 65% of Americans lived in territories serviced by ZoomProspector Enterprise. Today we serve 24 U.S. state-wide economic development organizations, the majority of the 100 largest cities in North America, as well as countless communities from small towns to county and regional organizations. GIS Planning technology can be found in use by the Canadian federal government and five out of 10 provinces. Since the acquisition by the Financial Times in December 2016, GIS Planning has expanded globally. Locate in Kent (UK) launched their GIS Planning tool in 2017, and more UK launches are coming, as well as implementations in Switzerland and Spain.


Pablo attributes this remarkable success to a consistent dedication to meeting clients' needs.


"Our products became better with every client that joined our software platform," he explains. "What you see today at GIS Planning is based on 20 years of feedback thanks to the vision of our clients and the expertise of our team. We are constantly changing, upgrading, refining, and adding new things based on their needs. Every element that others may not have even considered – and which is the difference between success and failure - is something we’ve seen and solved along the way."


"This adaptability and commitment to innovation is a central part of our success. It's why we are still here while our competitors over the years have come and gone."


According to Anatalio, “Innovation is in the DNA of GIS Planning. We have consistently developed disruptive technologies that give our clients a competitive advantage in economic development success. Our personal backgrounds working in economic development combined with our relentless focus on technology leadership has made our services necessary for the practice of effective economic development. The GIS Planning team is amazing and I’m fortunate to work with such extraordinary people who are my friends.”  


The impact of the company is evident and obvious across the practice of economic development. Today the ideas that these founders created are being used by successful economic developers throughout North American and soon will be used by economic developers and investment promotion professionals globally.


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