Countdown to the Census

A month from today, people nationwide will start receiving their 2010 Census forms in the mail. As always, you will be asked to answer 10 questions and return your form by Census Day, April 1. This seemingly small task is much more than a mandated statistical exercise – it is a once-a-decade opportunity for every individual to take part in a process which defines who we are as a nation.

Census results will have an enormous impact on our future. For the next decade, the data collected this year will be used to redistrict and apportion Congress, allocate more than $400 billion in federal funds, and help government, businesses and researches understand America’s changing population.

In San Francisco, accurate Census results are critical at a time when both the state and city face crippling budget deficits already threatening to drastically reduce or eliminate services. Roads, hospitals, schools, housing – these are only a few areas of investment that will be affected by Census results.

Business also benefits from an accurate Census count. The private-sector frequently uses Census data to spot economic trends, understand the labor supply, calculate market share, gauge the competition, and countless other business development activities. Cities and Counties, including ours, use Census data in economic development efforts to attract new businesses to a particular region. With so much at stake, we should all be concerned about getting a complete count.

Enumerating more than 300 million people is undoubtedly a complex undertaking. But the 2010 Census presents extra challenges. It will be the largest-ever count of the U.S. population including more immigrants and minorities – groups which are traditionally difficult to count. The economic crisis has displaced homeowners and workers, many of whom are now living with family and friends during difficult times. And Hurricanes Katrina and Rita resulted in the temporary relocation of thousands of residents.

As business people – and members of our communities – these challenges should motivate us not only to “be counted” ourselves, but to help others participate in this important process. If you are a business owner, consider talking to your employees about the Census, posting flyers in your office, including a message with employee paystubs, and other actions educating employees about the Census. Free, downloadable flyers, posters and other materials are available from the Census Bureau.

The Chamber is proud to be part of the San Francisco Complete Count Committee helping to ensure an accurate count for the 2010 Census. Over the next month, the Chamber encourages the business community to “get counted” and remind your friends, colleagues and business partners about this once-a-decade moment that will provide a vital snapshot of our nation for years to come.