New online map shows global links to every county in U.S.

McClatchy Washington BureauNovember 18, 2013 

— How much every county in the America is connected to the rest of the world is now just a few mouse clicks away.

A new online map unveiled Monday with help from Cary, N.C., software company SAS makes it easy for the first time to find out a variety of data, such as the number of people born in another country, the number of people who work at import and export companies, and the number of students working to learn a foreign language.

The map was modeled on one developed for North Carolina’s 100 counties last year by SAS and the University of North Carolina’s Center for International Understanding. Its intended users are policymakers interested in learning more about the economic potential of global connections and students thinking about what kind of international skills might help them find jobs.

SAS donated the know-how for pulling together data from numerous sources into user-friendly interactive maps and graphics on a national level, just as it did a year ago for the state.

“We have offices in more than 55 countries,” said Caroline McCullen, director of education initiatives at SAS. “Our employees are very global, and we know it’s a global world.”

McCullen said it’s not unusual to walk down a hallway at SAS and hear half a dozen languages being spoken. About 6,000 SAS employees work in the state’s Research Triangle out of nearly 14,000 company employees worldwide. The triangle is a research park near several major universities in the Raleigh area.

Being prepared for a global economy means not only being able to speak other languages, but also knowing how to work comfortably in other cultures, she said.

Jennifer Manise, executive director of the Longview Foundation, said that the data was meant to help show the need for students who fit that profile.

“We felt the North Carolina model at the national level would provide the fundamental starting point for that conversation,” she said.

Longview, which supports international education for American students, and the Asia Society, which educates Americans about Asia, provided expertise and funding. The money was needed to buy economic data that has market value, Manise said. She said the monetary donation was not large, but that she could not disclose it.

North Carolina presented its map a year ago at a state-level gathering that Longview and the Asia Society sponsored, Manise said, and it triggered considerable enthusiasm. Many national organizations got together and agreed to be partners and pull the information together.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan, speaking at a press conference Monday to launch the map, said it would help people understand the demand for education to prepare Americans to become what he called “globally competent” workers.

The new map shows data for states and their counties. For North Carolina:

_ 11 percent speak a language other than English at home.

_ The state ranks No. 12 for exports, with Canada, China and Mexico its top markets.

_ One in five jobs in the state is related to international trade.

_ 22 percent of the state’s students study a foreign language, sometime from kindergarten through 12th grade.

_ Only 2 percent of college students in the state take part in study abroad programs.

“The information you find about your own county can be surprising sometimes,” said state Sen. Peter S. Brunstetter of Winston-Salem, co-chair of the International Business and Trade Caucus in the North Carolina General Assembly.

Brunstetter, who recently visited China on state business, said, “When you realize that not everybody who’s in the state government has the opportunity to travel internationally or to work with businesses that are already international in their reach, this shows right away that globalization has arrived and North Carolina is dependent on what goes on overseas.”

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