In 2007, Pennsylvania State Representative Russ Fairchild (R) introduced a bill to establish a geospatial coordination council to oversee the Commonwealth’s mapping, GIS and other spatial data activities. Pennsylvania was one of the few states that did not have a council to strategically deploy GIS, look for ways to create partnerships to maximize investments, and eliminate duplication. While Fairchild had a seat for the Pennsylvania Society of Land Surveyors (PSLS), he wanted the private sector geospatial community to have a seat on the council. The problem was, he could not identify a private geospatial organization to represent the community at large. He settled for naming the Pennsylvania Chamber of Commerce.

That episode sprung leaders of the Keystone State’s geospatial firms into action. Fairchild pledged to the firms that he would amend his bill once a Pennsylvania-based private geospatial organization was established. After several months of research, exploration and deliberation, PA-MAPPS, the first state chapter of MAPPS was created. Rep. Fairchild’s bill was immediately amended to replace the chamber of commerce with PA-MAPPS as the designated private sector representative on the state council.

Since that time, MAPPS has expanded its state chapter program. In mid-December 2007 through mid-January 2008, MAPPS conducted a survey focused on one key principal in each member firm. The question, “Would establishing state chapters in MAPPS, similar to what has been done in Pennsylvania, be beneficial to enhancing the private sector’s voice in state policies?” was answered in the affirmative by 75 percent of MAPPS members.

While MAPPS has been active at the national/federal level throughout its 30-year history, state-level activities demanding the policy attention of the member firms of MAPPS have increased in recent years. As a result, new state chapters are being formed to provide strength and unity on matters affecting the interests of member firms. “As a national organization, MAPPS flies cover on policy issues affecting our profession and our firms,” said Gerry Wingate of GRW Inc., Lexington, Ky., chairman of the MAPPS State Chapters Committee. “Our state chapters are the boots on the ground at the state level.”

In each state, a different issue drives the establishment of a MAPPS chapter. Colorado created a chapter to work with Governor John Hickenlooper (D) on an economic development initiative focused on leveraging the significant concentration of geospatial firms in the state.

Gary Outlaw of Merrick & Company, Aurora, Colo., president of CO-MAPPS, said, “We are currently working with the governor and conducting a survey to accurately determine how many geospatial jobs there are in Colorado. We estimate more than 100,000 geospatial jobs currently exist in the state. In addition to traditional surveying and mapping firms located in Colorado, geospatial employment is present in city/county/regional government agencies, and in firms that use GPS and other geospatial technologies, including defense, aerospace, law enforcement, public safety, homeland security, healthcare, public and private utilities, energy and other fossil and renewable resources development, IT and software/hardware development, internet tools, as well as in general business: banking, insurance, retail and marketing.”

Georgia and Maryland chapters are focused on coordination councils, statewide data initiatives and market competition issues. A Florida chapter is now in development. Issues such as inclusion of photogrammetry and other geospatial activities in surveyor licensing laws, government and university competition, QBS, career and workforce, education, and taxes will drive future chapters, depending on the priorities in each state.

“We believe a private geospatial association in the state will serve to enhance the cooperation between our membership and our colleagues in the public sector,” said Jeff Simmons, PLS, of Photo Science, Norcross, Ga., who was recently installed as the first president of GA-MAPPS. “The state chapter of MAPPS supports statewide geospatial data coordination, and we look forward to lending our support, politically and technically, to further advance geospatial initiatives at the state and local level.”

A good example of the advocacy of state chapters can be seen in PA-MAPPS. Rep. Fairchild has retired from the Pennsylvania legislature, but PA-MAPPS is still fighting for a council. The bill in this session, HB 1701, introduced by Rep. Bryan Cutler (R), passed the House unanimously in April and is pending before the Senate. The MAPPS chapter has forged alliances with other geospatial organizations in the state to spearhead support for the bill.

PA-MAPPS has also begun a partnership with PSLS, assisting with continuing education and lending support for right-of-entry legislation. The chapter now plays a major role in the state GIS conference, holds an annual project awards competition for projects in Pennsylvania, is engaged in legislation affecting taxes on fixed-winged aircraft and has submitted state government reform recommendations to Governor Tom Corbett (R). PA-MAPPS was an active participant with the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania and other stakeholders to develop a Commonwealth Geospatial Coordination Strategic Plan as part of the 50-state National Spatial Data Infrastructure (NSDI) initiative, and led a campaign to urge state legislators to enact a short-term and a long-term sustainable funding solution for the state’s orthophoto and LiDAR base map program, PAMAP. During the 2010 gubernatorial election, PA-MAPPS hosted roundtable meetings with the campaigns of every candidate in the primaries, both Republican and Democratic.

“Forming an association was essential to not only to having a private sector seat on the council, but in moving a bill,” said Ashis Pal of geographIT, Lancaster, Pa., the first president of PA-MAPPS, “but forming that association by becoming the first state chapter of MAPPS gave us the infrastructure, credibility and horsepower we needed.”

“I doubt we would be where we are today as an organization if we were not part of MAPPS,” said Stephen Ellis, GISP, of Aerometric, Inc., Lock Haven, Pa., the current PA-MAPPS president.

The mission of each MAPPS state chapter is simple--to advocate, promote and unite the private geospatial profession. Each chapter is working toward strategic goals that include fostering a favorable business climate, creating a favorable legislative and regulatory environment, promoting professionalism in the practice/business, increasing awareness of the MAPPS chapter and the geospatial profession within the state, providing partnering with stakeholders and facilitating networking.