For the best that springtime offers, there’s no finer town in the nation than Washington, D.C. Starting this spring, that town will become the must-attend destination for the nation’s surveying, mapping and geospatial communities.

Collaboration: The Map to the Future is a multi-disciplined national conference being jointly hosted by MAPPS — an association of photogrammetry, mapping and geospatial firms — and the National Society of Professional Surveyors (NSPS). “We are definitely planning to grow this over the years,” says John Palatiello, MAPPS executive director, noting other organizations have already expressed interest in joining the week of activities in, at least, “the out years” from their own established events. “The concept is that this is going to be a big tent, and each organization can be its own individual tentpole. It’ll be a conferences-within-a-conference format, where we will have some things that are common to everyone and then each organization can do its own thing as well.”

MAPPS has a longstanding federal programs event in the spring in D.C. that includes a Capitol Hill lobby day. The first step in developing a national surveying and mapping conference was to move the NSPS Capitol Hill day from the fall to the spring, “which is a more optimal time in terms of having an impact, and having one’s voice heard and action taken by Congress,” says Palatiello, whose group also does federal government affairs for NSPS. “It seemed to be inefficient and counterproductive to have two organizations with similar agendas going to Capitol Hill at two different times. That was, in our view, diminishing the impact. By basically creating a larger army, I think we are going to enhance that impact.”

On the NSPS side, Executive Director Curtis Sumner, LS has been approached by equipment and supply companies wanting the organization to return to a national conference with vendor-neutral exhibit opportunities. “While our two organizations going to Congress together on one day of this conference is very important, that’s not the only aspect of this,” Palatiello says. “We want to truly meet the goal of collaboration in this conference between government and the private sector and, as Curt says, provide a level of information or education for his group’s members that will compliment what they could get at the state level.” The National Geodetic Survey and the Department of Homeland Security’s Geospatial Management Office are already onboard.

Both of the host organizations have traditionally held spring gatherings of one form or another, but the NSPS event has been greatly focused on business, board and committee meetings. “One of the things we are trying to do with this new conference is to intertwine all of those things in a manner in which our attendees will be able to participate in all activities,” says Sumner, whose organization will kick off the week with the finals of its annual student competition on Monday, April 13. Conference exhibits will run Tuesday through Thursday; in between, Capitol Hill beckons on Wednesday.

“We believe you need to try to crawl before you run a marathon,” says Palatiello, “so the first year is going to be something we can build upon.” Good start, I’d say.

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