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"Spatially Speaking" is the official MAPPS blog providing information on topics related to the association and profession and MAPPS involvement with the issues.


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Thoughts from the AUVSI Convention

Posted By John Palatiello, Thursday, August 15, 2013

This year, for the first time, MAPPS had a presence at the annual convention of the Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI), held August 12-15 at the Washington, DC convention center.

Our participation stems from a lunch meeting MAPPS President Jeff Lower, Assistant Executive Director Nick Palatiello and I had with AUVSI President Michael Toscano, Government Affairs Manager and General Counsel Ben Gielow and State Government Affairs Manager Mario Mairena at which a liaison between our respective organizations to work collaboratively on legislation and policy issues was discussed.  As a result, Mairena spoke at the MAPPS Summer Conference in Maine in July and I was invited to speak this week at the meeting of the AUVSI government affairs committee.

MAPPS has opposed restrictions on civil, commercial use of unmanned aerial systems (UAS), which are likely to soon become a commonly used platform for aerial geospatial data acquisition.  While working with AUVSI to defeat onerous anti-UAS legislation, MAPPS has also sought and in some cases succeeded in securing exemptions for mapping operations.  (See, for example, in Congress S.1057, Georgia SB 200, and Idaho SB 1134.)

A Congressional staff panel discussed UAV issues with MAPPS members on Aug. 14

MAPPS also hosted a policy luncheon at Microsoft’s beautiful technology and innovation center, just one-half block from the DC convention center.  Government Affairs Manager John Byrd assembled an outstanding panel of key Congressional staff with direct involvement with UAS-related legislation and policy.

There were a number of "hot topics” discussed during the conference. I attended a session on privacy that was broadcast by C-SPAN.  I was able to comment on the MAPPS membership and our interest in UAV and privacy issues, which can be seen at 1:23:30.

There was discussion at the MAPPS luncheon and in other venues that the word "drone” should be stricken from our vocabulary.  This may be a difficult term to overcome. However, we can paint a better picture for the practical uses of UAVs for surveying and mapping. If your firm is working with a UAS outside of the United States or with a domestic partner with a COA and  have examples of how systems are used for agriculture, oil and gas, or other applications that highlight the safe and responsible benefits of the emerging technology, MAPPS would like to know.

Another topic that attracted considerable attention is the ever-present specter of unfair competition, manifesting itself in various forms.   Several MAPPS members and others in attendance at the conference expressed frustration that certificates of authorization (COAs) are being granted to government agencies and universities while the private sector awaits the Federal Aviation Administration plan for civil, commercial COAs for UAS, as required by Congress in sections 332-336 of the Federal Aviation Administration Modernization and Reform Act, Public Law 112-95. There is concern that agencies and universities are acquiring UAS and utilizing them on projects that can otherwise be accomplished by the private sector. Many MAPPS members recall a Predator from the Customs and Boarder Patrol being diverted from its core mission guarding the U.S.-Canadian border to capture data on a flood in the Red River in North Dakota and Minnesota, resulting in a loss of business for private geospatial firms under contract to the Corps of Engineers, USGS, and other federal mapping agencies. Moreover, while current law and regulation permits private citizens and firms to operate UAS for a "hobby”, there is no effective enforcement to prevent abuse of such authority for commercial purposes.  Finally, several conference attendees see an emerging problem – the "dumping” of an estimated 7,500 surplus military UAS to government agencies in the U.S. resulting from the draw-down of combat missions and activities in Iraq and Afghanistan.

At the MAPPS luncheon, Congressional staff presented views on the competition issue, including the need to assure agency conformance with the Economy Act and the Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR) that regulate agencies’ authority to perform services for other agencies.

In preparation for the AUVSI Government Affairs Committee meeting, John Byrd reminded me the first presentation on UAS at a MAPPS meeting was at the Winter Conference in Palm Springs, California in 2008.  Our association has continuously kept the membership appraised of UAS policy, technology and opportunities for more than five years.  
It goes to show that "in an economy where you are counting every dollar, it is good to know you can count on MAPPS” is not just a slogan, it is a fact.

Tags:  Drones  Economy  FAR  Government Competition  Privacy  UAV 

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MAPPS President Highlights Accomplishments Over the Past Year

Posted By Nick Palatiello, Friday, August 2, 2013
Updated: Thursday, August 1, 2013
MAPPS President Highlights Accomplishments Over the Past Year

At the MAPPS Membership Annual Business Meeting held Tuesday, July 23, 2013 in Rockport, Maine, departing MAPPS president Dick McDonald, CP, PLS (T3 Global Strategies, Bridgeville, PA) provided his final report to the membership. Below are some of his remarks providing the accomplishments of the association over the last year:

"It has been a tradition at these meetings that the President of MAPPS stands before the membership and announces a list of significant accomplishments of this organization.
This year is no exception.
Since we last met for an annual meeting in Snowmass, Colorado last July, the following are just a few of MAPPS’ achievements –
  • The Department of Homeland Security finally … finally … awarded its contracts for imagery and geospatial services for emergency response.  This QBS, multiple award ID/IQ contract is the result of more than 10 years of effort by MAPPS. That contract was MAPPS idea and it is the result of a decade of tenacity and advocacy by MAPPS;

  • I had the privilege of testifying before a committee of the U.S. House of Representatives on the Hydrographic Services Improvement Act and NOAA geospatial programs;

  • We won approval of a Defense Department land inventory provision in the Defense Authorization bill currently before Congress;

  • We met with the staff of the Governor and Lieutenant Governor in Virginia, and Cabinet members, to promote greater use of geospatial services and reliance on the private sector;

  • In other activities at the state level, we successfully battled competition from DOTs, dealt with sales tax issues and successfully placed members on state geospatial coordination councils to insure the private sector was represented, and we made progress on a state council bill in Pennsylvania;

  • We launched a state chapter in Alabama, and began organizing in Florida.  Additionally, our Maryland chapter is now up and running;

  • MAPPS recognized firms’ projects in the sixth annual Excellence Awards competition and reception in November. And our seventh competition is now on, with entries due by September 20.  So get your best projects together and please submit.  This is so important to promoting our profession, demonstrating the capabilities and capacity of the private sector, and highlighting how we as a community contribute to the quality of life in our Nation.  Please, enter a project;

  • MAPPS worked with Congress to develop a GAO study of Federal geospatial coordination to identify duplication and redundancies in agencies that has received repeated news media attention;

  • We assisted our brethren in land surveying in opposition to the Labor Department’s classification of survey technicians as "laborers and mechanics”, subject to the Davis-Bacon Act;

  • It is MAPPS that is leading the fight in Washington against insourcing and government competition, to provide more opportunity for the private sector; 

  • We had a successful Joint Conference with ASPRS in Tampa, Florida and an excellent Winter Meeting in Miami, Florida.  Once again, MAPPS charged Capitol Hill in another very productive Federal Programs Conference in Washington, DC;

  • We’ve had the FLAIR Act, Map It Once Act, Digital Coast Act, Prison Industry Reform bill, and the Freedom from Government Competition Act introduced in Congress;

  • We conducted a LIDAR capacity analysis for USGS and led an effort supported by several other organizations in support for funding of the USGS 3DEP program in Congress;

  • MAPPS led an effort to get all the members of COGO, the Coalition of Geospatial Organizations, to unanimously support a resolution on the importance of geospatial data to our society and proclaiming that privacy restrictions should not be a concern and should not apply to our profession’s activities;

  • We’ve been a leader in getting lawmakers in Congress and State Legislatures to recognize that aerial imagery for mapping from UAVs benefits the public and should NOT be part of restrictions on future UAV use;

  • We conducted a Salary Survey, which will be reported later this week, and two Economic Surveys;

  • We continue to have a successful MAPPS PAC and set a record for members’ contributions, and PAC contributions to candidates in the 2012 election. We had an outstanding MAPPS PAC dinner in Washington in March with Senator Johnson of Wisconsin and Congressman Massie of Kentucky.  I want to thank all the members who contributed and call on everyone to give something to the PAC.  We have a more pro-free enterprise U.S. House of Representatives as a result of the generosity of those who contributed. I encourage you all to make a personal contribution today, whether it is for $50, $100, $200 or $1,000 … the legal limit is $5,000 (actually $10,000 for husband and wife);

  • We did good … we performed community service with our Bike Build to benefit the Boys and Girls Clubs of Miami at our Winter Meeting.  The look on those kids’ faces was priceless and heartwarming.

    And that is just in the past 12 months.  
I thank the membership for its support and participation.  I urge your continued involvement and commitment to MAPPS.  As we’ve often said, ‘in an economy where you are counting every dollar, it’s good to know you can count on MAPPS’.”

Tags:  Economy  FLAIR  Geospatial  MIO-UIMT  Privacy  UAV 

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How's It Going? MAPPS Conducting Economic Survey

Posted By Nick Palatiello, Tuesday, July 9, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, July 16, 2013
At the midway point of 2013 are you trying to gauge how your firm's performance compares to others in the geospatial community?

Having this information to benchmark against others would be valuable to every private sector geospatial firm. That is why MAPPS is once again conducting an Economic Survey. The survey has been sent to MAPPS Regular Member Firms and closes on Tuesday, July 16.

 As we've said before, in an economy where you are counting every dollar, it's good to know you can count on MAPPS.

MAPPS has conducted a salary survey twice a year since 2009. It provides a barometer of attitudes, experiences and projections of MAPPS member firm principals about the recent past, current and near term future economic climate. The poll asks firms to report on whether their revenues are increasing or declining, and whether they foresee growth or a downturn in the geospatial market in the coming months. The poll measures attitudes, not empirical data, so you don't need a balance sheet, P/L or financial statement in front of you. This economic survey is different than the Salary and Wage Benefits Survey that was conducted in the spring.

The results of the survey will be reported at the MAPPS Summer Conference in Rockport, Maine beginning on July 22. This will provide an opportunity for MAPPS member firm principals to assess and compare their own experience and assessment with those of the larger MAPPS community since our last survey in January.

All MAPPS members will be provided complete survey results after the Summer Conference.  

MAPPS members have found this benchmark survey to be of value. It is one more unique benefit of membership in MAPPS. To become a MAPPS member and participate in the survey, click here.

If you have not yet registered for the Summer Conference and wish to attend, please click here.

MAPPS is offering a special membership promotion for firms that are not current members. The association invites principals of firms to attend the Summer Conference at the non-member rate. If the firm joins MAPPS prior to the end of the conference on July 26, 2013, the firm will be credited with the difference between the member and non-member rate. That is a 56% savings. The reimbursement will be credited toward the firm's 2013 membership dues in MAPPS.

Tags:  Economy  Survey 

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How’s It Going?

Posted By Nick Palatiello, Monday, January 7, 2013
Updated: Friday, January 4, 2013
When the economy started to slow in the fall of 2008, the MAPPS Board of Directors began to wonder how the market was affecting the member firms of MAPPS. The Board discussed ways MAPPS could help members measure their experiences with revenues, payroll, investments and market segments, particularly in a way where firm principals could benchmark their own experience, observations, and forecasts with those of their peers in other firms.


Beginning in January 2009, MAPPS has conducted a biannual survey to gauge members’ view on the economic climate. Conduced in January and June of each year, the brief survey of member firms collects data that is more qualitative than quantitative in nature to take a snapshot of current conditions as well as determine attitudes about the coming months.

The survey is conducted by Dr. Steven Cox of the McColl School of Business at Queens University of Charlotte, NC. Individual firm responses are held in confidence; only membership-wide trends are reported.


The economic survey takes the pulse of the membership on factors such as whether federal, state, or local government markets, commercial markets, or foreign markets are up or down and how members forecast those segments in the coming six months; whether there have been reductions in their firms’ workforce and a decline or growth is projected; expectations for capital investments in equipment, including hardware and software; and whether firms are operating at their maximum capacity. The survey also tracked members’ participation in projects funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, commonly known as the 2009 "stimulus” bill, and firms’ experience with "insourcing”, the cancellation of federal contracts with the private sector and transferring such work to performance by government employees.


MAPPS member firms, based or with an office in the United States that acquire geospatial data are included in the survey. Associate Members, service firms that do not have a physical presence in the United States or are equipment and software manufacturers, are not polled. The exclusion of the Associate Members is to provide a homogeneous group of firms engaged in geospatial data acquisition, production and application services in the United States.


The next survey will be conducted among member firms January 14-18. The results will be reported at the MAPPS Winter Meeting, January 27-31, 2013 in Miami, Florida and provided to all members thereafter.


"One of the benefits of membership in MAPPS is to give members a sense of community. Rather than feeling alone in the wilderness, MAPPS member firm principals know they are part of a larger profession and organization, and that there are other principals, owners and senior executives in geospatial firms who are experiencing the same challenges. Whether it is face-to-face networking at conferences or virtual networking through the MAPPS economic survey, the association provides the peace of mind that all geospatial firms are in it together,” said MAPPS President Richard "Dick” W. McDonald, PLS.

"I encourage every member firm that is a data or service provider in the United States to participate in the survey,” McDonald said. "The more participants we have in the survey, the better the quality of results will be.”

In an economy where you are counting every dollar, it is good to know you can count on MAPPS! 


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Tags:  Business  Economy  Survey 

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When Cutting Expenses, Don’t Eliminate Association Memberships

Posted By Nick Palatiello, Monday, November 26, 2012

In a down economy, falling revenues, and a slow market - such as what many surveying and mapping firms are experiencing today - wise business owners and managers are implementing numerous cost cutting strategies. Nonessential expenditures are being eliminated, belts are being tightened, and even some employees are being laid off.

In these perilous times, one expense that entrepreneurs should resist eliminating is membership in key associations. Such organizations provide a return on investment that can help a firm survive a recession. Terminating a firm’s membership in an association can be short sighted – penny wise and pound foolish, to use an old expression. Here are a few reasons why.

The geospatial community is very different from other professions, as well as industries in other fields. Today, surveying, mapping and GIS projects require a multitude of skills, talents, capabilities, specialties, and capacity. Often, one firm cannot reasonably or profitably accomplish a full project. Rather, firms engage in teaming, partnering and prime/sub contracting on many projects. Many associations are a great way to stay connected with "coop-etition” or "competimates” – firms that are sometimes competitors but also a partner or source of business.

Bob Hickey, Senior Vice President of Photo Science, Inc. West Chester, PA, says attending MAPPS conference is an enormous savings in time and money. "I can see 20 clients - principals of firms we work - with, at a MAPPS meeting, where it would take me weeks, and thousands of dollars in airfare, hotels, and other expenses to see these same colleagues separately.”

Numerous MAPPS membership surveys have indicated that such networking is a top rated benefit of membership in MAPPS. Many firms use their membership in the association as a primary business development strategy.

"When we joined MAPPS, we immediately recognized it as a venue to develop sources of business,” said Dave Hart, President of Continental Mapping Consultants, Inc., Sun Prairie, WI.

Membership in associations also often leads to referrals. The more the staff of the association knows about your firm, the more likely they are to provide a referral. The MAPPS office regularly gets calls from entities seeking a firm for geospatial services. We always give multiple recommendations, or refer the inquirer to the MAPPS web site, but when a specific capability, technology or geographic area is requested, it is helpful that we know the MAPPS members’ specializations.

The MAPPS staff is also a cost effective resource for its member firms. We save our members time and money responding to inquiries that would otherwise take a firm hours to investigate. Questions about small business set aside policies in the Federal government, where to get SF330 software, who offers professional liability insurance for mapping firms, how is the Service Contract Act implemented, or who has an aircraft and camera in South America are just a few of the questions we’ve recently answered for members. The cost of membership in MAPPS, and access to the staff, is significantly less that the cost of using an outside attorney or consultant to answer these questions. While the MAPPS staff does not provide legal advice, we often have information about laws, regulations, legislation and government policies at our fingertips. In many cases, our knowledge is first hand, as we’ve been involved in working with Congress or the government agencies on these issues.

MAPPS is also a great advocate for individual firms. When a member firm of MAPPS encounters a government agency engaging in unfair competition, for violating a Brooks Act requirement, that firm can bring the incident to the attention of MAPPS staff for action. Such breaches of MAPPS-endorsed policy are brought to the attention of proper authorities for remedy and rectification, in the name of MAPPS in order to protect the anonymity of any firm. Correcting a wayward government agency’s action that violates MAPPS principles, and does not result in favoritism of one member firm over another, is a service MAPPS staff provides to its members. Again, retaining outside help on such a matter is not only costly, but exposes a firm in front of the very client-agency with which the firm is attempting to do business.

How can one cut costs? Firms are looking at more cost effective ways to market, sell, promote, partner and collect information. One business development executive recently said rather than having a booth at some conferences, he’s opting for a sponsorship. That provides exposure without all the expense of the staff, shipping and materials of the exhibit hall. Another said he is cutting back on production personnel attendance at technical conferences in favor of business development employees attending conferences where potential clients, with "coop-etition” or "competimates” are in attendance.

Relationships are not like a spigot. They cannot be turned on and off and expected to always be the same. They take care and feeding. A short term absence from membership in MAPPS can lead to long term damage.

In an economy where you are counting every dollar, it’s good to know you can count on MAPPS.

Tags:  Associations  Business  Economy  MAPPS 

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