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Regional analysis in the United States is limited by the alphabetic FIPS codes which were assigned in the 1960’s. The base codes assigned alphabetically for states, then alphabetically for counties and comparable geographies within states, made it simple to lookup individual state or county data in a list. Some regional aggregation was done in the establishment of Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSA), which were separately coded. Many of these regions matched the geography of early Metropolitan Councils of Government. The relationship definitions which defined such MSAs by workforce commuting, led to their widening over time to more jurisdictions, as well as necessitating combinations of MSAs for market analysis. Since the geographic base changed over time, there was little opportunity for long term analysis of change on standard geography. Totals used obscured differences within the underlying territory. There was no comparable national system to aggregate non-metropolitan counties into standard regions, although most states established some form of multi-county regional councils. Some, like Virginia, used sub-state districts for data aggregation and use by other State agencies, allowing the region number to act like a FIPS code.
In the 1990’s, commerce, industry and even workforce commuting expanded along Interstate and Primary routes, showing connections between MSAs and a broad range of non-metropolitan counties, often in adjoining states. To understand these relationships, there was clear need for multi-regional analysis, but no data sets supported this. The author began work in 1998 to promote the development of such a system, submitting a comment to the U.S. Census Bureau February 12, 1999 relative to: Alternative Approaches to Defining Metropolitan and Nonmetropolitan Areas.
Continued work on the issue and a review of other national and international systems led to the conclusion that a global geo-code system was needed, since existing formats had tended to be based on an alphabetic approach. Given the multiplicity of regional alignments, multi-national, multi-state, a global geo-code system appeared appropriate. The purpose of this paper is to present the prototype design for the purpose of further consideration by the user communities.
The system is based on a geocode scheme set up for earth that focuses on established political boundaries as a basis for regional grouping of nations, states and localities. It is decimal system based to take advantage of the sort criteria for numbers in computers. It utilized the Sector Group and Region codes of the United Nations and ISO.