Laura Simmons

UNC Charlotte Urban Institute
Director of Community Indicators

Biography

Laura serves as the Director of Community Indicators at the UNC Charlotte Urban Institute, where she works to help people find, interpret, and present data. She leads the Institute’s indicator projects including the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Quality of Life Explorer, which provides a wealth of data on neighborhoods across Mecklenburg County, and the Charlotte Regional Indicators, a resource for a variety of data on the region’s 14 counties. She also coordinates the Institute’s mapping and spatial analysis efforts.

Education

Laura holds a masters in geography from UNC Charlotte and a bachelor’s in geography from Macalester College in St. Paul, MN.

Expertise

Laura has expertise in spatial analysis and mapping, data visualization, and applied research focusing on demographic and economic issues.

Articles

  • ui.uncc.edu
    Nov 15, 2019
    There’s a common narrative about people in rural areas seeking opportunities: they should go to the big city and leave the country behind.  Rural counties are often seen as hollowed out or in decline, while cities and their adjacent suburbs boom. While population in the Carolinas Urban-Rural Connection study area has become much more concentrated in the urban and suburban core, the story is (as usual) more complex than that.
  • ui.uncc.edu
    Nov 13, 2019
    Growing and buying healthy local food is a business: complex, rich in heritage and culture, essential to health and well-being, consumed by all but understood by few.  We learned from our Carolinas Urban-Rural Connection regional food systems research that farmers who become part of the wholesale food supply chain are able to increase the economic viability of their crops. However, this commitment not only requires additional investment and education, then selling directly to consumers, it also requires the support of many partners or intermediaries, along the way.
  • ui.uncc.edu
    Sep 24, 2019
    To better understand commuter flows at select sites in the Carolinas Urban-Rural Connection region down to the individual level, we studied anonymized cell phone tracking data. We sought to determine how commuter connections differ between types of business districts and types of firms. By mapping the residential location of workers at a broad range of employment locations, we were able to make some judgements about the local economic impact, and community-building abilities of specific business types. 
  • ui.uncc.edu
    Sep 24, 2019
    An array of environmental, cultural and economic connections together give rise to the interdependence of the Carolinas Urban-Rural Connection study region.  But none of these connections are more economically significant than the flow of workers within our regional economy. Counties within the region relied on out-of-county commuters for their workforces more in 2015 than at any point in our history: nearly one-quarter of our region’s residents had jobs outside of their home county.
  • ui.uncc.edu
    Sep 23, 2019
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  • ui.uncc.edu
    Aug 26, 2019
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  • plancharlotte.org
    Feb 06, 2019
    On February 4, 2019, the UNC Charlotte Urban Institute and Lake Norman Economic Development Corporation released the 2018 North Mecklenburg Demographic and Housing Assessment. This report presents the findings from a demographics and housing assessment for the northern part of Mecklenburg County, North Carolina (North Mecklenburg).
  • ui.uncc.edu
    Feb 06, 2019
    On February 4, 2019, the UNC Charlotte Urban Institute and Lake Norman Economic Development Corporation released the 2018 North Mecklenburg Demographic and Housing Assessment. This report presents the findings from a demographics and housing assessment for the northern part of Mecklenburg County, North Carolina (North Mecklenburg).
  • ui.uncc.edu
    Aug 15, 2018
    Institute researchers look at the ecosystem of college- and career-readiness programs in Mecklenburg County.
  • plancharlotte.org
    Mar 28, 2018
    Did residential construction in Mecklenburg County rise last year? Where do fewer students attend their assigned public school? That information and more can be at your fingertips.