Are You Paying Attention? Or Still On Vacation?

By Joe Francica

Spatial Information Market Showing Positive Growth

Daratech, a market research firm, released a report this week indicating that the GIS marketplace was projected to grow 8% in 2003.In a global economy that is sputtering, 8% looks pretty good.

Now, if you have been paying attention - and by the way, if you have just gotten back from vacation, you are excused; and if you are one of our European colleagues, you are probably still on vacation and will never see this wonderful editorial - you will have noticed several positive trends for the spatial information business and the economy, in general:

  1. The Daratech Report is a good sign that GIS technology is recognized for its effectiveness in supporting business productivity.Certainly 2003 looks like a "break-out" year.
  2. Stock prices for those public companies that we track in the spatial information arena are up significantly.
  3. Layoffs are dropping
The Daratech report noted several interesting trends that can be viewed as market indicators.The utilities sector of the regulated industry group grew 8% in 2002.Spending on infrastructure is a good sign that governments and some private sector businesses are maintaining or growing information technology (IT) spending.In addition, spending by state and local government grew by 5%.Not great, but with many state governments bleeding red ink, California being only the most talked-about, this is still solid evidence for better times ahead.Unfortunately, private sector spending was flat and in order for the spatial IT business to get back to double-digit growth, this segment of the market must lead the way.

Stock prices are said to be a leading indicator of market trends.If that is true, we are in for heady times.Directions Magazine tracks thirteen public companies that contribute significantly to the spatial information business.We looked at the stock prices between March 17th of this year and August 4th.The chart below represents the trend lines for nine of those companies (We disregarded GE, IBM, Microsoft, and Oracle whose spatial information products would not drastically affect stock price).Only one company showed negative growth (Descartes Systems, -8%); MapInfo's share price grew 240%, following by @Road, 112%; Analytical Surveys, 74%, Trimble, 62%, Orbimage, 51%, Intergraph, 22%, Group 1 Software, 8%; and Autodesk, 2%.An interview with Mike Hickey, MapInfo's Chief Operating Officer, will be published next week.

Layoffs are down.I would guess that many of you have had layoffs at your company, been laid off yourself, or have successfully "dodged the layoff bullets" during the past 24 months of the recession.Richard Serby, our GIS Career contributing columnist published an article in our newsletter this past week pointing out that layoffs in the U.S. dropped 53% in May, but added the caveat the unemployment still hovers at 5.5% nationally.Many companies in the GIS business laid off people at the beginning of 2003 and some now feel their business stabilizing to the point where the last of the layoffs may have already occurred.Some in the business media point to the fact that this has been a "jobless" recovery for the U.S.economy.We can only hope that the growth in our IT sector will sustain the employment base during the remainder of 2003 and look for 2004 to begin hiring for aggressively again.

If you need to search for a job, we hope you will frequently visit our jobs board HERE.

Published Wednesday, August 27th, 2003

Written by Joe Francica

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