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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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Support 3DEP by Contacting Congress Today!

Posted By Nick Palatiello, Friday, May 2, 2014

In a recent column in LiDAR News, I wrote about the need for the geospatial community to contact Congress in support of the U.S. Geological Survey’s (USGS) 3D elevation program, commonly referred to as 3DEP. In the article, I highlight the importance of this national program and the benefits that can be realized:

3DEP will satisfy the growing demand for consistent, high-quality elevation data and a wide range of other three-dimensional representations of the Nation's natural and constructed features. Among the applications that will benefit from 3DEP data are flood risk management, agriculture, water supply, homeland security, renewable energy, aviation safety, and other areas. Indeed, USGS has identified more than 600 applications that would benefit from such enhanced elevation data. 3DEP will promote economic growth, facilitate responsible environmental protection and resource development and management, assist with infrastructure improvement, and generally enhance the quality of life of all Americans.

In an effort to educate Congress, a letter has been prepared for the geospatial community to send to your Congressmen and Senators. The letter is attached to the bottom of this post.

To identify your Congressman and Senators, use this helpful link, using your zip code. Remember, your home and office may be in two different Congressional districts, so be sure to write both Representatives. 

Here are some other key points to remember in writing to your legislators:

Email or fax are the preferred communication methods (not regular U.S. mail)
Be courteous and respectful in all communications. Don't use threats.
Cover only one issue per letter. Don’t add other issues to this letter!
Explain how the issue would affect you and/or your organization or community.
Limit your comments to one page or two at most. Elected officials hear from hundreds of constituents’ daily so a brief letter is more effective than a multi-page document.

The letter provided below should be used and edited to insert your name and organization, as well as the name of the Congressman or Senator. We have highlighted the areas that you should amend. 

MAPPS, the National Society of Professional Surveyors (NSPS), the National Digital Elevation Program, National States Geographic Information Council (NSGIC), the Coalition of Geospatial Organizations (COGO), the Association of American State Geologists (AAGS), the National Digital Elevation Program (NDEP), and the National Geospatial Advisory Committee (NGAC) have endorsed 3DEP. However, Congress still needs to hear from the broad geospatial profession. 

This is an issue that unites every segment of the geospatial profession from public to private sector. We urge you to take a moment to write your Congressmen and Senators and ask them to work with the House and Senate Appropriations Committees, respectively, to assure the President’s requested level of funding for these activities, if not increase them.

Now is the time to contact Congress, do not delay! 

 Attached Files:

Tags:  3DEP  Advocacy  Congress  Elevation Data  LIDAR  MAPPS  NSPS  USGS 

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MAPPS Minute - Jeff Lower - September 27, 2013

Posted By Nick Palatiello, Friday, September 27, 2013

MAPPS President Jeff Lower provides this week's "MAPPS Minute". Interested in joining a committee? Sign in to the website with your username/password and go to "MAPPS Groups" in the navigation bar. Select "Committees" to take a look at the variety of topics MAPPS is addressing.

Tags:  Committees  MAPPS  Membership  Professionalism  Volunteer 

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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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MAPPS President Joins U.S. Representatives at News Conference on Federal Prison Industries

Posted By John Palatiello, Wednesday, February 15, 2012
Updated: Friday, February 17, 2012

MAPPS President Dick McDonald, T-3 Global Strategies (Bridgeville, PA) joined U.S. Representatives Bill Huizenga (R-MI), Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), James Sensenbrenner (R-WI), Walter Jones (R- NC), and Don Manzullo (R-IL) at a news conference on Thursday, February 16 to announce House legislation that will permit manufacturers and service providers to compete on equal footing for contracts with the federal government by reforming Federal Prison Industries (FPI). Speakers at the media event included John Palatiello, President, Business Coalition for Fair Competition (Reston, VA); Alan Bubes, Chief Executive Officer, Linens of the Week (Washington, D.C.) and Jonathan Long, Program Manager, Propper International (Weldon Spring, Missouri). The event was held in the U.S. Capitol Visitors Center, Room HVC-200 in Washington, DC.

Video of the news conference is available above. Read the news release from Rep. Huizenga.

Currently cosponsored by 12 bipartisan members of the U.S. House and supported by 10 business organizations, H.R. 3634 provides greater competition in federal contracting by permitting private sector firms, including small business, more opportunities by reducing FPI’s unfair advantages. Additionally, H.R. 3634 would prohibit FPI and its inmate workers from having access to a variety of geospatial information, about individual citizens' property or critical infrastructure location.

This bill is virtually identical to H.R. 2965, the bill that passed the House in 2006 by a 362-57 vote (Roll no. 443). MAPPS supported that bill. A companion bill was approved by a Senate committee, but was not enacted into law. However, other piecemeal FPI reforms have been put in place by Congress in recent years.

With unemployment continuing at dangerously high levels, 2012 may be the year Congress enacts a bill that has support from Republicans and Democrats, business and labor.

Like its predecessor, H.R. 3634 includes two provisions significant to MAPPS.

First, the bill prohibits agencies from specifying FPI, or its products, as a source in any Federal agency synopsis/solicitation. There have been incidents where architect-engineer (A/E) contracts have required the A/E firm to specify a FPI product, such as a modular furniture system, in its designs.

Most importantly, the bill prohibits FPI and its inmate workers from having access to a variety of geospatial information, about individual citizens’ property or critical infrastructure location. Specifically, it bans FPI from providing "a service in which an inmate worker has access to personal or financial information about individual private citizens, including information relating to such person’s real property, however described, without giving prior notice to such persons or class of persons to the greatest extent practicable; geographic data regarding the location of surface and subsurface infrastructure providing communications, water and electrical power distribution, pipelines for the distribution of natural gas, bulk petroleum products and other commodities, and other utilities; or data that is classified.”This provision would prohibit FPI from engaging in most, if not all, geospatial activities.

With regard to services, the bill eliminated FPI’s status as a preferred source. A Federal agency can only contract with FPI for services, such as GIS, CAD, scanning, digitizing, if the buying agency’s contracting officers determines FPI’s services meet the agency’s need in a number of criteria, can perform on time, and provides the service at a fair market price. This eliminates enormous advantages FPI has enjoyed in providing services. With regard to products, FPI’s previous mandatory source status is ended in favor of full and open competition.

The bill also prohibits FPI from providing services in the commercial market. Although FPI’s original 1930’s enabling law prohibited prison-made products from commercial market entry, the organization secured a legal opinion during the Clinton Administration that said since Congress mentioned products in the 1930’s, and not services, then sale of prisoner provided services must be permitted, notwithstanding that the United States did not have a service economy in the 1930s. Several state attorneys general have issued similar opinions with regard to state prisons.

Federal Prison Industries, Inc., which operates under the trade name UNICOR, is a self-supporting, wholly-owned government corporation that employs federal prison inmates. A program of the Justice Department’s Bureau of Prisons, FPI offers hundreds of products and services, including a number of data conversion activities.

A number of state prison industry operations have extensive GIS capabilities, including Colorado, Florida, and Texas, to name a few.

A recent MAPPS legislative issues poll found 51 percent of members continue to view prison industry reform legislation as a very important or somewhat important issue.

It has been reported that FPI won a contract from the Corps of Engineers to make signs. The funding came from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, ARRA, commonly known as the stimulus bill. While that bill was intended to put law-abiding, unemployed Americans back to work, not to support inmates, the expenditure of Federal ARRA funds on prison industries is being investigated by Congress.

Here is a news story about the bill.

Under H.R. 3634, FPI/UNICOR would be required to submit a detailed analysis of the impact to the private sector before entering into new product markets and would not be able to sell products commercially or internationally; the only customer could be the federal government. It also prohibits agencies from contracting with FPI in which inmates would have access to sensitive or classified information.

"This bill gives the taxpayer the greatest value for their hard-earned money by forcing federal agencies to bid for fair and reasonable prices and for products that best suit their needs. The bill preserves market access for these products or services to the hard-working men and women of our districts. This is simply one more easy, common sense way to preserve jobs and help restore economic security for America," Huizenga said.

"This legislation will protect the jobs of hard-working American taxpayers while providing valuable alternative rehabilitative opportunities to better prepare inmates for a successful return to society. It is a workable, bipartisan solution to the problem," Rep. Maloney added.

"It is time to allow for fair competition for U.S. manufacturers," according to Rep. Frank.

"We should be looking to make government more efficient and cost-effective, and this bill does that. I support this legislation because it will save taxpayer money and open up the contracting process to competition by allowing businesses to bid for these contracts," Sensenbrenner said.

Other examples of the industries FPI competes in include: clothing and textiles, electronics, vehicular components and fleet management, industrial products, office furniture, electronics recycling, and services such as call center and data and document conversion.

The bill has already gathered interest from a broad coalition of business groups and has a bipartisan list of supporters in Congress from all across America. Original co-sponsors include Reps. Donald Manzullo (R-IL), Edward Royce, (R-CA), Patrick Tiberi (R-OH), and John Olver (D-MA).

In the past, studies by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found FPI products and services did not meet agency requirements, were not delivered in a timely manner, and were at times more expensive that the private sector.

Tags:  Competition  Congress  FPI  Jobs  MAPPS  Prison  Private Sector  Reform 

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MAPPS Launches New Website

Posted By John Palatiello, Monday, February 13, 2012
On behalf of the entire MAPPS staff, I am pleased to announce that the new MAPPS website will be launched overnight tonight. Our url will remain the same:, but our look will be different and we believe your experience on our site will be enhanced and far more interactive than on our previous site.

The new website will allow members to easily register for conferences and events, stay informed with the latest news that affects the geospatial profession, and connect with colleagues within the MAPPS membership.

More detailed information will be shared with you over the coming days, including ways to easily update your firm’s information and that of each contact to MAPPS within your firm. If your firm provided MAPPS with a company logo and description about your firm, that information will already be loaded on your firm’s "profile wall.”

Username and passwords will be emailed to each MAPPS contact Tuesday morning, along with information highlighting some of the enhancements we have made. At that time, you will be able to register for several upcoming events, including the MAPPS Federal Programs Conference. You will also have access to the presentations from the MAPPS Winter Conference.

While we have made every attempt to make the transition to the new site a smooth one, we appreciate your understanding if there are a few bumps along the way. As always, we value our members comments, so please do not hesitate to contact Tammy Joslyn, MAPPS Member Services Manager, if you have any questions or concerns.


John M. Palatiello
MAPPS Executive Director

Tags:  MAPPS  website 

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POB Magzine: The Business of MAPPS - PODCAST

Posted By Nick Palatiello, Wednesday, April 6, 2011
Updated: Thursday, August 11, 2011
From POB Magazine:

April 4, 2011

The world of professional associations is becoming increasingly complex. How can you choose which organizations are the best fit for you and your firm? A new podcast series goes behind the scenes with the executive directors to help you navigate the labyrinth. In this episode, POB talks to John Palatiello, executive director of MAPPS, who explains why the organization is described as focusing on "the business of maps."

Listen to the Full Podcast: Association Series, Episode 1 - The Business of MAPPS

Tags:  MAPPS  POB  Podcast 

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