North Point Geographic Services (NPGS) recently had the opportunity to work with the Amherst H. Wilder Foundation on the Minnesota Compass project to update the Application Programming Interface (API) and enhance their GIS capabilities. This project was made possible by many generous donations, including primary funding from the Amherst H. Wilder Foundation. 


Minnesota Compass ( was created “when leaders from across Minnesota voiced a desire to have credible, easy-to-access data about their communities.” (Minnesota Compass 2021) Data is collected through the US Census, American Community Survey, and other supplemental workforce sources. The data is then integrated into the application using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to give public users easily accessible data that can be geographically sorted. This allows government agencies, policy makers, and nonprofits the ability to identify, understand, access and act on issues impacting communities and the quality of life. 


NPGS was contracted to help update the programming interface between the GIS and census data on the backend and the public-facing website on the frontend. This required extensive coding updates, but the site and data can now be updated more efficiently in the future. Users can now select and sort data based standard geographies (such as counties, cities, school districts, and zip codes), non-standard geographies (specific focus areas in MN), and custom geographies. 


The custom geographies functionality is an interactive feature NPGS helped update during this project. Using complex apportionment and weighted centroid methodology, users can select several counties or zip codes at once, or create a custom geographic area. The site then gives a breakdown of the data for that selected area for 12 different categories such as age, sex, race, and income. 


This collection and interpretation of demographic data allow Minnesota leaders to learn where things are currently at, and how they can make improvements to benefit key demographics and communities. According to the Minnesota Compass website, organizations such as United Way and Second Harvest Heartland use the data to identify the most vulnerable communities to make sure they are being served in the most effective way possible. 


NPGS was honored to partner with the Amherst H. Wilder Foundation on this project. Thank you to the many donors that also made this possible: McKnight Foundation, Blandin Foundation, Morgan Family Foundation, Northland Foundation, City of Duluth, Ordean Foundation, and Head of the Lakes United Way. 


Minnesota Compass 2021, accessed 5 March 2021, <http://www.>