Meet the D3 Staff: Josh Long

Josh joined Data Driven Detroit after working as a planner in both the public and private sector. He has a deep background in GIS and interests in land use, sustainability and education. At D3 he works as a Senior GIS Analyst and Project lead. Recent projects include the implementation of the D3 ArcGIS Open Data portal, an analysis of Detroit student commuting patterns, and providing technical assistance to the Downtown Detroit Partnership for the creation of the downtown Detroit Business Improvement Zone.

Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Berkley, Michigan and attended Berkley High School.

What is your degree in? Why did you choose that degree?

My undergrad degree is in Urban Planning (MSU) as is my Master’s (U of M). I chose it because I really like analyzing problems through different lenses. I was a Biology major for my first two years of college before I realized that I would need to develop a very specific specialization in order to be successful in the field. I think that pinpoint focus would have driven me crazy after a while. It’s funny, but at some point in college I pictured myself being at a dinner party somewhere wanting to talk about my profession, but not being able to because no one at the party would understand what I was talking about. With Urban Planning, it affects everybody every day in so many different ways that everyone has something to say. Everybody can relate to it in many different ways.

Tell us something about yourself that would surprise us.

I worked at three different Tower Records stores at different times (Ann Arbor, East Lansing and Birmingham).

What is your history with Detroit?

I grew up in Oakland County and had a similar experience to most of my friends. My parents told me to lock the doors whenever we crossed 8 Mile Rd — which now that I think of it, (as an act) is kind of funny because cars haven’t had manual locks for a long time. By high school, however, I was regularly hanging out in the city (Detroit), going to indie rock shows at various clubs and hanging out with my older friends who attended Wayne State. My experience with the region in general is love-hate though. I don’t like the lack of public transportation, the urban sprawl, the segregation or the weather. I do think the city is beautiful and I love the people. From an early age I had dreams of helping make the city a better place. My Detroit experience is a big reason why I went into Urban Planning. Here is a smattering of my strongest Detroit memories:

• Taking the Boblo Boat to Boblo Island and throwing french fries to seagulls.

• Making underage mischief at the Fourth Street Fair.

• Watching the fireworks from the top of the Michigan Central Station.

• Having nervy encounters with old friends and ‘frenemies’ at the Magic Stick.

• Staying up at a party all night to get a good spot at the Thanksgiving Day Parade the next morning.

• Getting Dim Sum in Windsor.

• Sweating in the bleachers at old Tiger Stadium.

What did you do before working at D3?

I worked for Washtenaw County for a few years after Graduate School, and I also worked as a private sector planning consultant for a couple of years. I had lots of jobs when I was younger, including barista, busboy, and record store clerk.

What do you like about working at D3? How do you think the work you are doing benefits the city/region?

I enjoy the people that I work with and also being a mission-driven organization. It makes me feel good to come to work knowing that I am working to help make our communities better. I am regularly able to help local non-profits get better insights into how to better serve their community by providing them with data and analysis.

What are your favorite types of data?

I am a fan of cadastral (property) data and land use. Generally, I love spatial data.

Who or what inspired you to take the path to Detroit, data, or both?

Growing up here gave me a strong connection to the place and also made me appreciate its potential while also recognizing its faults. I like trying to work on making our communities better. Providing data and insight is a means to that end for me.