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U.S. economic census aims to survey 140,000 Chicago businesses

U.S. economic census looking to survey 140,000 businesses in Chicago
U.S. economic census looking to survey 140,000 businesses in Chicago 02:31

OAK BROOK, Ill. (CBS) – There's that phrase: "Big Brother is watching you."

This story is about Uncle Sam crunching numbers about you. The U.S. Census Bureau is done counting our population. Morning Insider Lauren Victory explained what data the feds are after now.

The last time the U.S. government thoroughly analyzed the country's economic landscape was 2017 before anyone knew a pandemic was coming.

Several companies closed and many businesses were born in just a few years.

"It's going to be fascinating, absolutely fascinating," said Robert Santos, director of the U.S. Census Bureau.

Santos anticipates some insightful information on the way via an invitation to millions of U.S. business owners.

Victory: "Don't throw this paper away. It's not a scam."

Santos: "Actually, I can say it on a personal note. I send the letters."

His signature is even on them. Santos is tasked with conducting the 2022 economic census. He recently stopped by a regional office in Oak Brook to check on progress and for an interview with CBS 2.

"In Chicago, there happens to be 140,000 businesses that we'll be reaching out to," Santos said.

Data is requested from all sorts of industries: retail, hotels, construction, and, new this year, cannabis. The bureau also updated some of the surveys with questions about 3D printing, telemedicine, cryptocurrency, and more.

"In order for us to be relevant, and that's a really important word, relevant, and provide relevant data, we need to keep up with society's advancement," he said.

Statistics compiled include the demographics of who is running a business.

"That can help the federal government, state governments, and even City Councils and other economic development groups tailor their methods to help promote those businesses," Santos said.

On a more micro level, a promotional video explains how an entrepreneur can determine if, how, or where to expand using economic census data.

"Information even at the neighborhood level about who are their competitors," Santos added. "What is their customer base?"

The deadline to respond to the economic census is March 15.

The economic census is different than the once-every-10 years population census. That data determines federal funding and Congressional representation.

Results from the 2020 population census led to Illinois losing a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.

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