As I sat through sessions at the MAPPS Summer Conference, including the enlightening and entertaining Oral History featuring numerous past presidents of MAPPS, I scanned the room and realized that I have been a member of MAPPS and a participant in these conferences longer than everyone else in the room, save my old friend Jim Spell, the retired president and founder of Horizons, Inc. and one of the founding fathers of MAPPS, and possibly Bobby Tuck and George Southard.
I began to reflect on what this organization has meant to my firm, my employees and me personally.
Without reservation, I can say that the growth and profitability of my firm, and my personal prosperity, can be traced to MAPPS. And I’m sure I’m not alone in that conclusion.
I remember, going back to the 1980s, meeting John Palatiello for the first time. I was struck by John’s vision and enthusiasm. At the time, MAPPS was a fledgling assortment of small photogrammetry firms.
I, and my colleagues who were principals, owners and partners of early MAPPS member firms, knew our profession had challenges. Government agencies routinely duplicated and competed with our firms, the few contracts that went out were mostly low bid. Our community was viewed as a collection of small, “mom and pop” firms that had neither professional standing nor technological capability.
Where we saw barriers, John saw potential. He immediately instilled in us a confidence that our voice could be heard in Washington, DC, that our elected representatives would listen, that we had a strong, positive story to tell about private sector mapping firms, and that by working together, we could affect change.
Applying his experience as a staff assistant on Capitol Hill and his tenure on the staff of ACSM and ASPRS, John built MAPPS into a powerhouse whose influence far exceeded its size. He led us through a strategic plan to identify goals and opportunities to grow our market, trained us on the legislative process, established a political action committee, and started taking us to Congress.
Personally, John helped me get appointed by my U.S. Senator, Jim Inhofe, as a Delegate to the White House Conference on Small Business. When I arrived in Washington, DC for the conference, John helped me as I chaired a committee on procurement, where we won approval of unfair government competition as one of the top planks in the conference’s platform, and the number one procurement-related issue. Through John’s leadership, friendship and assistance, I was introduced to principals, owners and partners of MAPPS firms that were larger than mine, where I was able to form strategic partnerships that has brought tens of millions of dollars in revenue to my firm. That not only increased our profits, but enabled me to grow, hire new staff, and invest in new technology. It also enabled us to work in geographic markets we could not otherwise penetrate.
Being active in MAPPS, and serving on the Board of Directors, also gave me an opportunity to see how things get done in Washington, DC. I gained an appreciation for how tough politics can be – long before the advent of today’s toxic atmosphere. It was difficult to try to win work from Federal agencies on one hand, and on the other hand sit on the MAPPS Board while we lobbied for contracting out and qualifications based selection. John has always been our buffer, our shield, and yes, our bulldog! Call it the “good cop, bad cop” routine, but it worked. My firm has never been penalized in any way for our active participation in MAPPS. In fact, we’ve been rewarded for being in MAPPS in more ways than I can count.
Upon reading the blog by my dear friends Ron Drake and Axel Hoffmann, I recalled the wonderful history of MAPPS and began reflecting on what got us to the dynamic, healthy, hi-tech, growing, and profitable geospatial market we enjoy today. Ron and Axel are right, we should not take that for granted. Nor should we forget the role MAPPS as an organization and John Palatiello as a leader played in getting us to where we are today. As we celebrated the 35th anniversary of MAPPS in Colorado Springs this past summer, I thought we were remiss in not acknowledging and recognizing the critical role John, and Sally Palatiello have played, and how so many of us have personally benefitted from their dedication to our cause. All of us owe John a debt of gratitude, and more.
Regina M. (Jean) Carter is President of Aerial Data Service, Inc., Tulsa, OK. She served on the MAPPS Board of Directors from 1992 to 1994 and was Treasurer of MAPPS.