Surveyors who are principals, owners or partners in private-practice firms wear two hats — professional and business executive. When choosing membership in associations, a growing cadre of such senior surveying entrepreneurs is recognizing the need to belong to two important and distinct organizations.

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 “The mission of NSPS (National Society of Professional Surveyors) is enhancing the practice by assisting with educational enhancements, promoting cooperation of state societies, and monitoring state and federal laws. I appreciate what they do,” said David F. “Charlie” Rice, III, LS, of Rice Associates, Richmond, Va. “But as a surveyor, if you are not a member of MAPPS, you’re missing an opportunity to learn about the most current state-of-the-art technology and failing to discover things that are threats.”

Formed in 1982, MAPPS is the only national association exclusively comprised of private firms in the broad remote sensing, spatial data and geographic information systems field in the United States. While the origin of MAPPS is in photogrammetry, the current membership spans the entire spectrum of the geospatial community, including member firms engaged in satellite and airborne remote sensing, surveying, photogrammetry, aerial photography, LiDAR, hydrography, bathymetry, charting, aerial and satellite image processing, GPS, and GIS data collection and conversion services. MAPPS also includes associate member firms, which are companies that provide hardware, software, products and services to the geospatial profession in the United States and other firms from around the world. As well, independent consultant members are sole proprietors engaged in consulting in or to the geospatial profession, or which provide a consulting service of interest to the geospatial profession.

Now some 180 member firms strong, MAPPS is a recognized leader in the market, in Washington, D.C., and in the state capitols, providing its members opportunities for networking and developing business-to-business relationships, information sharing, education, public policy advocacy, market growth, and professional development and image enhancement.

MAPPS Surveying Forum

To welcome surveying firms into MAPPS, the association created a specific surveying forum.

Forums within MAPPS are communities that address issues affecting firms, their products and services, and markets. Forums not only meet at MAPPS conferences, but host occasional conference calls, organize webinars, and engage in communications using the features provided through the MAPPS website outside of and during time periods between MAPPS conferences. Forums are a way for members to share and gain information and knowledge, network, solve problems, and work with their peers to improve their business and contribute to the well-being of the geospatial profession at and apart from attendance at MAPPS meetings and conferences. Other MAPPS forums cover such areas as A/E, aerial acquisition, cadastre, commercial remote sensing and licensed data, emerging markets and technologies, geospatial intelligence, government and university competition, infrastructure, ocean and coastal mapping, and small business.

The MAPPS Surveying Forum is comprised of firms engaged in providing land surveying services including BIM; mobile mapping; boundary surveys; control; engineering surveys  for design, construction and as-built conditions; property and boundary surveys, monumentation, marking and posting, and  preparation of tract descriptions; and horizontal and vertical control surveys, geodetic astronomy, gravity and magnetic surveys. Sharing information that affects the surveying business, the forum advises the MAPPS staff and board of directors on trends to be addressed by the association and takes such action on issues as directed by the board; recommends policies to be taken by the board; monitors market trends; and provides input to the MAPPS Program Committee on pertinent sessions, speakers and topics to be addressed at association conferences.

At the recent National Surveying, Mapping and Geospatial Conference organized by NSPS and MAPPS, held in April in the D.C. suburb of Arlington (Crystal City), Va., members of the MAPPS Surveying Forum and the NSPS Private Practice Committee held a joint meeting to discuss licensing, the definition of surveying, and ways to attract the next generation of surveyors into the profession — all issues on the Surveying Forum’s recent agendas.

“I remember sitting down with Allen Nobles, PLS (Nobles Consulting Group, Tallahassee, Fla.) discussing terrestrial scanning at a MAPPS conference,” said Rob Garster, PLS, principal in KAPPA Mapping and Shyka, Sheppard & Garster Land Surveyors, Bangor, Maine. “I was commenting that it was difficult for a small surveying firm to purchase this technology. Allen said, ‘Go after a scanning project and we will team together.’ Two years later, we were scanning the Cumberland County Civic Center in Portland, Maine, inside and out, in 10 days with two scanners in the middle of January. At that time, it was probably the largest scanning project ever done by Allen’s company. Our client was very happy that we could offer this service in addition to the other services that we were performing on this project. Now, when we have a scanning opportunity, we call Allen.

“None of this would have happened if I had not met Allen at a MAPPS meeting,” said Garster. “I don’t think that as a small firm we will ever own a mobile scanner, but I certainly know that someone from MAPPS can help if I have a client that wants that service. Surveying firms should join MAPPS for the very same reasons.”

Strong Support for Both

Rice believes “NSPS has high value … but surveying has had a steady progression in technology that has been transformational for small and medium surveying businesses.

“The best place to make sure that you are aware of what is going on in photogrammetry and other remote-sensing technologies is where you have a meeting of people who are providing a vast array of services around the country,” he said. “It is my belief that even the smallest of firms will have to engage in technologies that only a few years ago had huge barriers to entry. I learned more at one MAPPS meeting about the state of UAS, photogrammetry and other techniques than any other past experience. In addition to the presentations, my casual interface with the people at the MAPPS conference provided invaluable inputs from world-class technologists that can be applied at our company’s level. I could go on and on, but this had high value to me. I learned a lot. I hate the term ‘disruptive,’ but I was made aware of things that will in fact be transformational for surveyors.”

At a recent MAPPS conference, Garster talked to Rice about the benefits of joining MAPPS. “We were both commenting that we wanted more from a meeting than our state societies offered,” said Garster. “It was good to meet Charlie. We had a chance to discuss the state of surveying. One of the great things about MAPPS meetings is that you get to talk to individuals (in a casual setting) who are looking at the future and what does that mean for our profession. I want to hear about the latest satellite imaging, UAVs, terrestrial and mobile scanning, BIM, risk management and 3DEP. I get to do that all at one conference at MAPPS.”

TerraSond joined MAPPS in 1998, pointed out Thomas S. Newman, PLS, president and chief executive officer of the Palmer, Ark.- based firm specializing in hydrographic surveys, land surveys and marine geophysical surveys. “We believed through MAPPS we could support the Brooks Act which mandates Qualification Based Selection (QBS) in federal contracting for surveying and mapping services,” said Newman. “We have remained members because not only has MAPPS been a tireless advocate and defender of QBS, but that the other issues it champions such as privatizing U.S. government mapping efforts and fighting against adding surveyors to the Davis-Bacon Prevailing Wage Act are issues we care about. 

“In addition, it is an excellent opportunity to network with other businesses,” said Newman, “and we have both found team members for projects and been invited to team with other firms as a direct result of our participation.”

Why Surveyors Belong

Surveyors in MAPPS have identified several reasons and benefits for membership in the geospatial business association:

  • making the pie bigger for all and growing one’s business, including opportunities outside of the firm’s geographic region
  • meeting like-minded individuals and decision-makers who are willing to share their experiences in business
  • opportunities for small business to grow, including by building relationships with larger firms to form teams
  • sessions to see how new technologies are changing the profession and explore what firms need to do to keep up
  • conferences with sessions that cover all aspects of running a business, from the well-being of  employees to risk assessment and all things in between, getting a big-picture view of the market and the profession
  • an ability to keep up to date about issues, proposed laws and procurement opportunities on a state and federal level, obtaining information and “business intelligence,” and the opportunity to participate in legislative process by meeting with members of Congress in Washington, D.C. and inviting them to visit a firm
  • collaboration to improve the market and the profession, as well as give back to the profession.

“As individual professionals, I would advise every surveyor to be a member of NSPS and their state society,” commented Mitch Long, PLS, of GRW, Inc., Lexington, Ky., and chair of the MAPPS Surveying Forum. “And as a surveying business principal, owner or partner, I would strongly recommend membership in MAPPS. Going to a MAPPS conference is not meeting with your competitors as much as each member firm is a potential client for each other, as well as a partner.”

For Jim Brainard, PLS, vice president for surveying, R.E.Y. Engineers, Inc., Folsom, Calif., “the best part of joining was that I have never been around a group of influential leaders like the membership of MAPPS that is so willing to share and help me and my company.”

Join Us In Oregon

POB magazine will unveil the results of its surveying and mapping market study and release its list of the POB Top 100 firms at the MAPPS Summer Conference, being held July 12-15 in Sunriver, Ore.  For information on the conference, visit