Cincinnati Area Geographic Information System (CAGIS)

History of CAGIS


The CAGIS consortium was established by cooperative agreement between the City of Cincinnati, Hamilton County, and local utilities in direct response to the 1987 Smale Commission Report of "The Streets Committee."

1987 Smale Commission GIS Report

Smale Commission Findings:

This Subcommittee concluded that a Geographic Information System will help eliminate Cincinnati’s "existing infrastructure information management problem, encourage its better management in the future, and ensure reduced long-term capital spending by improving maintenance of today’s information." It recommended the creation of CAGIS as a shared resource.


In 1993 CAGIS held visioning sessions to reassess its mission. From these sessions, a new vision emerged, emphasizing that CAGIS was building something more than a map and that the implementation strategy needed to encompass more than a technical vision. As a result, the

CAGIS Policy Board officially adopted the following vision statement:

The Cincinnati Area Geographic Information System (CAGIS) is a revolutionary computerized information sharing system that enables the fundamental transformation of government and utility service management and delivery. This interactive system links, displays, and analyzes a vast variety and quantity of data describing greater Cincinnati and Hamilton County infrastructure and geography. Elected officials, policy makers, project managers, and general users are empowered by CAGIS to view, analyze, and trend geographically-related data updated from many sources on a uniquely personal level. CAGIS offers governments, utility, companies, groups, or citizens a new, intelligent, and cost effective tool to make informed decisions based on shared data within a standard framework.


Information—CAGIS describes physical features, locations and events that are associated with things, places, activities and the people of Hamilton County.

A Service—CAGIS provides access to a flexible computerized geographic framework that integrates spatial information from various agencies in a distributed computing environment. Services to users include application planning, data analysis, data products, integration and networking. Other more specific services and data products are available through individual CAGIS participating public agencies.

A Decision Making Tool—CAGIS permits and encourages the analysis of a diverse array of descriptive information about specific places and areas in Hamilton County. Using automated techniques, users are able to formulate decisions and policies based on a growing universe of shared data.

A Data Repository or Storehouse—Participants in CAGIS provide up-to-date information for use throughout the CAGIS system. CAGIS agencies continuously generate, refine, expand and provide geographically related data. CAGIS data is both graphic (location-based symbols and standard mapping details) and non-graphic (descriptive or event-based data linked to geographic locations identified in the system).

CAGIS is information, a service, a decision making tool and a data repository that will fundamentally transform the way government services are managed for the citizens of greater Cincinnati and Hamilton County.


CAGIS migrated to Environmental Systems Research Institute (ESRI) software in 1994 supporting 25 users who primarily performed data editing and maintenance functions.

Soon after the visioning process and the migration to ESRI GIS technology, emphasis shifted to the development of a strategic framework for foundational GIS layers for local government. The key GIS layers included streets, addresses, parcels and buildings. These GIS layers formed the geographic integration framework that united standardized addressing standards with street-segment mapping and property management. As a result, this framework provided a means for integrating data across agencies, along with encouraging communication and cooperation, through the management of capital projects, permitting activities, code enforcement, inspections and a host of other business processes related to land and infrastructure management.

Another groundbreaking step was the development of the GEN7 GIS User application funded by the Metropolitan Sewer District and made openly available to the CAGIS Consortium as an enterprise application. This flagship GIS user software application allowed hundreds of City and County employees to use geographic information effectively for daily work. It provides a robust set of easy tools to accomplish diverse tasks, perform research and analysis as well as integration with many business processes. GEN7 runs on the ESRI ArcView 3.x platform and has been in use by CAGIS consortium members for more than a decade and a half.


Permits Task Force - Centralization and Coordination of the Permits Process

The Cincinnati City Manager stated his vision from the top,

"When I point to a location out there, I want to know everything that we are doing there and everything we have done."

The Hamilton County Administrator commented,

"I want a technology that ensures that no one drops the ball. I want my departments to coordinate their behaviors."

The permits task force was established by the City of Cincinnati administration in response to the City Council request for the review of the City's processes impacting individuals and businesses. The task force recommended a much more efficient, modern system for permitting with a thorough process re-engineering of department business operations. The automation of the permitting system resulted in a centralized CAGIS enterprise workflow system which augmented and received data from the CAGIS GIS system.

These visions required agencies to share information and communicate to coordinate activities and services. CAGIS focused on the City and County’s missions of "customer service." On its own initiative, CAGIS collected information on problems that departments had in delivering service and why these problems existed. When there was a call for better service, CAGIS was ready with the "problem" documentation it had collected. The documentation was enough to create enterprise projects in both the City and the County. Cross-department committees developed the work program for the project. CAGIS became the enterprise workflow "resource," a center of excellence.


Today CAGIS supports over 25 agencies in their day-to-day operations using integrated enterprise systems. CAGIS is continuing the path toward excellence in service and being at the leading edge of innovation and technology adoption to support the vision and mission of its consortium members. Read the CAGIS Administrator's view on implementation of the CAGIS Vision and its mission.

Notes on CAGIS implementation phases

Overall, the planning and implementation of the CAGIS system has gone through five phases, extending from 1994 through the present

Phase 1: Identification of the problems the City and County organizations were having coordinating their behavior between and within departments and delivering customer service using existing departmental computer or paper systems.

Phase 2: The CAGIS Administrator used the problem identification phase as the foundation for developing consensus across the departments in both the City and County on the need for change. Throughout the enterprise, workflows that directly impact land use and the infrastructure (owned, licensed or permitted by the City or County) were identified.

Phase 3: The departments consensually selected the software(s) that would be used as "enterprise," verifying that the software would meet the needs of each of the departments. Approximately 400 representatives drawn from impacted line departments of the City of Cincinnati and Hamilton County were involved and attended the software demonstrations. By selecting base GIS and workflow software, CAGIS standardized the IT development environment across the enterprise, both lowering the cost of development as staff became more efficient in these environments and lowering the cost of the software itself through economy of scale.

Phase 4: CAGIS began with the automation of the permit workflow processes in development, building and street opening permits through mechanical permit processes in buildings, sewers, water and electric, and a parallel automation of the addressing workflow, the only workflow that resides entirely in the GIS. The most collaborative of all of the workflows in local government, permitting transcends departments and government enterprises.

Phase 5: CAGIS is currently in this on-going phase. The shared system is available to all departments under the Cincinnati, Hamilton County, and Duke Energy organizational umbrellas. In its effort to track all workflows that impact the community map, the shared system has expanded to include the workflows of complaint management that depict the health of the infrastructure and the workflows of capital project/permit construction coordination. CAGIS has served as the implementation agency for the creation of the City of Cincinnati’s Customer Service Response system and continues to automate back-end departmental workflows and integrate work orders and code enforcement as new service request types are added to the system. Currently, Hamilton County has requested the shared system be extended to all governments in the county to enable coordination on activities that span units of government and utilities alike, such as the coordination of construction and of anti-blight initiatives. Computer systems continue to evolve, with enhancements and upgrades to existing hardware and software