Rapidly moving forward in a pandemic and beyond
It has been an exciting year in the MAPPS community! While much of the nation was somewhat idle, our MAPPS members were actively supporting our nation’s needs from our offices, at job sites, and remotely at our homes, fulfilling needs emanating from federal, state, and local government agencies for precise geospatial data and analysis. MAPPS firms reaffirmed what we already knew—MAPPS members are truly comprised of “essential workers,” each day conducting essential operations and services to ensure the continuity of critical functions in the United States.
Our member companies work in direct support for the design, engineering, planning, construction, and maintenance of all forms of infrastructure systems. Efforts include supporting communications, dams, the defense industrial base, emergency services, energy, transportation, and water and wastewater sectors. MAPPS firms offer a range of support services, ensuring we will always be part of the essential critical infrastructure workforce. Additionally, we serve the needs for essential data for the protection of our coastal and inland water systems, our natural habitats, and for our resilient communities.
For our firms collecting data from the sky or terrestrially along roadways or waterways, those collection environments were less crowded with air, vehicle, and boat traffic during the recent pandemic allowing us a unique opportunity to perform our work. Our clients saw this opportunity to accelerate many of their construction and survey and mapping programs. Operationally and economically, our member firms fared far better than many other professional and industrial sectors. We are grateful for that outcome.
The MAPPS association’s operations over the past 12 months faced challenges. As with all professional associations, we had some financial and networking headwinds. The MAPPS community of member firms never skipped a beat. Firms generously supported our association with their participation in virtual meetings and conferences, provided sponsorships, and participated in committees and forums while supporting us financially with payment of dues and sponsorships.
We had a very successful Geospatial Excellence Award program for regular and associate member firms whose entries exemplify professionalism, value, integrity, and achievement of the firm’s staff, as demonstrated in technical project performance or hardware or software innovations. MAPPS Excellence Awards were presented in-person (at a CDC and local government precautionary complaint COVID-19 setting) in January 2021 at our Winter Meeting in Orlando, Florida.
We experienced practical constraints on our association’s abilities to organize and conduct our government affairs programs. We reflected positively on our legislative accomplishments that occurred prior to the change in administrations, while continuing efforts on our recent advocacy.
As you know, several MAPPS-led initiatives came to fruition late in 2020. MAPPS contributed to the passage of two bills that have become law: the Digital Coast Act and the National Landslide Preparedness Act. MAPPS also participated in accomplishing a record budget for the 3D Elevation Program (3DEP) in Core Sciences at USGS.
With our advocacy, we do not act unilaterally. We coordinate and work on specific advocacy activities with our federal partners and like-minded organizations such as the Coalition of Geospatial Organizations (COGO), National States Geographic Information Council (NSGIC), and American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing (ASPRS) to name a few.
Presently, we are examining and supporting opportunities within the $1.2 trillion Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework, as it directly supports the propagation of geospatial data from important programs for infrastructure projects. We are also supporting legislative activities for the geospatial and accurate mapping elements of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).
Our advocacy is derived from our belief in beneficial outcomes for our nation regarding flood mitigation, infrastructure, appropriate stewardship of our natural environments, and for the businesses of our members involved topographic mapping, engineering analysis, and community mitigation planning.
MAPPS develops and promotes partnerships. We were delighted to conduct the annual MAPPS Federal Programs Conference virtually, and in two parts on separate weeks in April 2021, with our federal agency partners. These partners provided in-depth presentations and dialogue about geospatial programs, budgets, upcoming procurements/ contracts, and requirements for geospatial data, products, and services.
We were joined by representatives from the Federal Geographic Data Committee, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, National Geodetic Survey and National Ocean Services/ National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Resources Conservation Service, United States Geological Survey, and United States Army Corps of Engineers. MAPPS brings together agency partners with private firms to define, promote, assist in program development, and perform geospatial programs.
MAPPS also recently participated in the Earth Archive Virtual Conference by providing generous sponsorship support from our member firms and conducting a session expressing our support of this important initiative to create a digital twin of the entire surface of the Earth and everything on it.
Close to the core of these and other program partnerships are Associate Member firms that are at the forefront in the development of GIS software, GPS receivers and positioning systems, and sensors for all forms of imagery, terrestrial static and mobile lidar, aerial lidar, UAS, sonar, and other devices. Our associate members also create and distribute processing software, platforms for hosting and publishing spatial data, and many commercial data products. We are growing our MAPPS membership with the thought leaders in our profession, both in services and products.
We anticipate an exciting future for MAPPS! We are a membership driven organization, committed to inclusion within our association, and we know that all our businesses and partnerships will prosper as all our members thrive personally and professionally.
Since all our members are private sector companies, we are working separately in our firms, and together as an association, to ensure the geospatial community within MAPPS provides opportunity to not only be employed by our firms, but to have employment with purpose and passion within.
With that passion for people in our mission, member firms will foster technical innovation as well. MAPPS strives to treat everyone fairly. Every individual within MAPPS should know they are welcome to membership in our association and at our organization’s functions.
We conducted our Summer Conference as an in-person event from July 18-21 in Asheville, N.C. Our agenda included a keynote speaker on the N.C. geodetic programs and the N.C. statewide LiDAR program, as well as an infrastructure roundtable with four CEOs from some of our leading A-E member firms possessing significant geospatial capabilities.
We held briefings on our legislative activities, an interactive session with the USGS and NSGIC on the next generation of USGS topographic mapping for the 3D Hydrography Program (3DHP), a presentation on the ‘spotification’ of education, discussions on insurance considerations necessary for geospatial services firms, a session on Artificial Intelligence, our committee and forum meetings and our annual business meeting for our members to elect new directors as we set forth future objectives for MAPPS. Of course, there were plenty of networking opportunities that are unique to a MAPPS conference to build and strengthen our partnerships.
Assuredly, MAPPS has been very busy, and it is fair to say we are thriving. With all our activities, we know every two years we must elect new board members, appoint officers, and install a new president during our Summer Conference.
MAPPS cannot express sufficient gratitude to Mark Brooks as he leaves the MAPPS presidency. For the past two years, Mark has been a constant presence and leader for MAPPS, albeit virtually for most of his term. Mark led MAPPS through difficult times for both our nation and our association. Thank you, Mark! We look forward to working with you as our past-president as you move forward in your next role and new term on the board of directors.