GCI Sells Maptech

By Adena Schutzberg

Maptech, a company known in geospatial circles for its Terrain Navigator Pro and Pocket Navigator map applications, but even more well-known in marine circles for its paper and electronic marine navigation tools, quietly went on the block earlier this year. Its parent company, GCI (Gary Comer Inc.) felt that it was not in a position to steward the company after Comer's death in 2006 (obituary).

John Gavlik and Gary Comer, who was CEO of Lands' End, launched Maptech in 1989. Gavlik sold his interest in 1991. Craig Cushman, Maptech's director of marketing, explained that Comer had a vision for the company that focused on technology - electronic tools in particular - and serving customers, over making a huge profit. GCI is looking for a buyer who will take Comer's vision to the next level and lead the company for the long term. Maptech currently employs between 40 and 45 people, the majority located in Amesbury, MA, with sales and other staff across the United States.

The first phase of the planned sale included selling specific technologies to partners. Maptech had been working with DAC International of Texas on a product called Electronic Flight Bag. Maptech was developing the software and DAC, the hardware for the electronic navigation tool for commercial airlines and corporate pilots. Recently, DAC acquired the software and hired Maptech staffers working on the product.

Maptech partner Faria, of Connecticut, was developing a touch screen maritime navigation platform called Maestro. Here too, Maptech was providing the software. The Marine Division of Faria acquired that code, called OEM Navigator, earlier this spring. Faria also hired several Maptech staffers. Cushman noted that these were the logical buyers for the technologies, since they had already committed to their use in their products.

The second phase of the sale is now 50% complete, per Cushman. It involves selling the remaining parts of the company: the marine paper maps and guides, the marine software offerings, the terrain navigator tools, and several small federal contracts in the marine mapping arena which are staffed by Maptech employees. Maptech held a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) with NOAA until 2005 which made the company the only official source of NOAA Raster Navigation Charts. After the agreement expired, NOAA began offering weekly unencrypted .bsb formatted (a Maptech-owned format widely used in marine software) charts downloadable for free.

Some two dozen organizations have expressed interest in purchasing some or all of Maptech's remaining assets. The owners prefer a single buyer, one who will carry on with Comer's vision. GCI hopes to hear back from all potential buyers by early May and plans to invite those of interest to Amesbury by the end of May. Cushman explained that Comer and GCI always ran Maptech like a family company and even during this time of change it continues to be very good to its employees. GCI hopes to find a buyer who will keep the employees intact and continue that family-like tradition.

Published Thursday, May 1st, 2008

Written by Adena Schutzberg

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