ROWE Professional Services was one of the first firms to embrace GPS technology for survey work in the early ‘80s. The investment helped bolster the firm’s reputation as a leading professional consulting firm for infrastructure and development projects. But as with any emerging technology, there were times when the challenges seemed too significant to overcome. John D. Matonich, PS, the firm’s president and CEO, remembers what it felt like to be an early adopter. “It was a bit uncomfortable,” he admits. “I’d rather be on the leading edge of technology than the bleeding edge.”

There’s a fine line between the two, and being able to identify the difference requires a keen understanding of both business and technology trends. It’s an understanding that Matonich and the staff at ROWE have developed through experience. With five offices in Michigan, including its Air-Land Surveys aerial photogrammetry and mapping division, and a sixth office in Myrtle Beach, S.C., the firm has continued to make strategic investments in equipment and software over the last several decades. Perhaps even more important, however, are the investments the firm has made in its people. Training is paramount, Matonich says, noting that the firm pays for employees to attend conferences and workshops and also provides numerous in-house training opportunities. Increasingly, ROWE also focuses on cross-training to enable employees to gain skills outside of their specialized areas of expertise. “We get folks involved in multiple aspects of each project, so that someone who works in the field, for example, is also able to contribute in the office,” he says. “That provides continuity and makes us more efficient on projects.”

The result is a strong foundation that makes ROWE a valuable partner for clients as well as for other engineering and design firms. In fact, as projects and deliverables have become more complex, the firm’s ability to develop strong partnerships with other service providers has led to large contracts that none of the firms involved would have been awarded on their own. Matonich believes this trend will become even more prevalent in the future as clients seek to merge datasets from various technologies, such as aerial, mobile and terrestrial LiDAR along with traditional data collection methods. “It’s a challenging situation for a surveying firm, but the challenge comes if you’re trying to provide [all] that yourself,” he says. “We have good partners.”

It’s an approach that can provide a crucial bridge between the leading edge and the bleeding edge for many of today’s surveying firms. “Surveyors should be proud,” he says. “As long as we’re always willing to learn, always willing to look, always willing to research, we’ll understand when it’s our time as individuals to jump into an arena. We’ve done that all along.”