A wealth of free and insightful information is available to local businesses to help them target customers, understand the demographics of their markets and look for opportunities.

“You’re not alone,” Kim Nakahodo, assistant to the Blue Springs city manager and the city’s public information officer, told business owners and others at Thursday’s Blue Springs Chamber of Commerce monthly luncheon. She was joined in the presentation by Jacqueline Reed, manager of the Mid-Continent Public Library Blue Springs South branch.

Nakahodo outlined a world in rapid change: 3 billion of Earth’s 7 billion people are online now, and 75 billion devices will be connected to the Internet by 2020.

Also, the county is at a demographic point that presents specific challenges to businesses trying to connect with customers.

“For the first time ever, we have four generations working side by side,” she said.

The presentation described those generations in broad terms and signified changes through the decades by their preferred means of communication:

The “traditional” generation, those born between 1920 and 1945 – “Write me.”

Baby boomers, 1946 to 1965 – “Call me.”

Gen X, 1966 to 1979 – “Email me.”

Millennials, 1980 to 2000 – “Text me.”

Nakahodo pointed out that algorithms rather than individual choices drive more and more of what the Internet presents to users, and she strongly suggested the use of Google My Business.

“It is a way to control how Google presents you to the masses,” she said. It can also generate data on such things as how people find your business online and the platforms they use for that, she said.

“Now Google does this because they want your business to flourish – so they can sell you advertising,” she added.

Reed mentioned information available to anyone with a library card. For instance, the referenceUSA database has industry profiles, job listings, demographics and information on competitors, among other things.

Others available include DemographicsNow and sites with online courses and tutorials such as Universal Class, Atomic Training and Gale Courses.

Another is Lynda.com, which has tutorials.

“A lot of theirs are technology and software,” Reed said.

Nakahodo pointed businesses to a part of the city’s website -- bluespringsgov.com/business -- where users can find a parcel or a space ready for a business and then generate demographic reports for a radius of one mile, three miles and five miles. That data feeding into those reports are constantly updated, she said.

“This is a free service,” she said.

She also mentioned the Blue Springs Business Resource Network, a consortium of the city, the chamber, the library, Downtown Alive! and University of Missouri Extension. Its work, such as the “Business Snapshot 2016” is on the city’s website.

“So now we have that information in a readily accessible format,” Nakahodo said.

That snapshot puts the city’s estimated current population at 54,148 and reaching 60,149 in 2020. Other figures highlight how well things are going in the city: 94 percent of its residents are high school graduates, 30 percent are college graduates, and the median household income is $66,710.

A service called Mosaic USA breaks down communities by the ages and stages of life -- “blue sky boomers” and “autumn years,” among others -- and says more than half of the city falls into the category Mosaic calls “booming with confidence,” that is, “prosperous, established couples in their peak earning years living in suburban homes.”

Nakahodo also stressed that although all the data and all the apps are important, business is still business.

“ … at the end of the day,” she said, “people come to you for you and service that you provide.”