PA-MAPPS Becomes the First State Chapter of MAPPS

By PA-MAPPS Board of Directors and MAPPS Executive Director and Staff

_During its term in 2006, the Pennsylvania General Assembly faced a problem. Through legislation, it sought to establish a statewide GIS Coordinating Council and it wanted to make certain the private geospatial community was represented. However, there was no organization of private geospatial practitioners in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania from which to choose representatives.

When originally introduced, House Bill 2871 named the Pennsylvania State Chamber of Commerce as the private sector representative on the council. While that could possibly have led to the addition of a GIS professional to the state council, the seat could also have gone to a lawyer, car salesman, hardware store owner or any other individual who was in the private sector. There was no guarantee that the representative would have any geospatial expertise at all.

This possibility caused some dismay within the private sector GIS profession in Pennsylvania. A group of private geospatial firm principals, owners, partners and senior professionals began to discuss the issue and it became clear that appropriate representation was not the only issue facing the profession. Many front-burner issues were also realized:
  • education
  • workforce development
  • unfair government and university competition
  • procurement policies
  • the role of GIS in the commonwealth
In short, no private sector organization existed to voice any of these concerns. The problem facing the General Assembly proved to be a problem facing the profession as a whole.

Spurred on by Ashis Pal of geographIT, an ad-hoc group of GIS professionals (working under the banner of the Pennsylvania Association of Private Geospatial Organizations - PAPGO) met formally to discuss creation of an organization to fill the void. This group, including Con Sweeney of Michael Baker Jr., Inc., Jim Loncella of L. Robert Kimball, Mike Shillenn of Photo Science, Inc., Stephen Ellis of GeoDecisions and Dennis Miner of GIS-T, among others, quickly realized that starting a brand new association from scratch would be a both costly and time consuming endeavor, as well as being duplicative of the missions and efforts of another organization already in existence at the national level - MAPPS.

Several members of the Pennsylvania group were also principals of firms that were already standing members of MAPPS, including those from Michael Baker Jr., Inc., L. Robert Kimball and Photo Science, Inc. They encouraged other participants to learn more about MAPPS and how it operates. At a subsequent meeting, MAPPS Executive Director John Palatiello traveled to Pennsylvania to present the history, structure, mission and accomplishments of the national geospatial organization he represents. Amid long discussions and deliberations with Palatiello, the founding group realized that an affiliation with MAPPS was the most efficient and effective course of action. The PAPGO organizing group and MAPPS then quickly began formal discussions. These meetings sowed the seeds for what was eventually to become PA-MAPPS - the first state chapter of the national MAPPS organization.

On May 17, 2007, Pal, Palatiello and Sweeney formally made a joint announcement of the creation PA-MAPPS at the Pennsylvania GIS Conference in Camp Hill. PA-MAPPS has already increased it roster of member firms to nine, including Michael Baker Jr., Inc., Photo Science Inc, geographIT, Keystone Aerial Surveys, Inc., L. Robert Kimball & Associates, Inc., Land & Mapping Services, LLC, Gamm Air, Inc., Kucera International Inc. and GeoDecisions.

Once endorsed by the national MAPPS board of directors, the members of PA-MAPPS established operating bylaws and elected its inaugural board of directors.

This hard work is now paying dividends. H.B. 2871 has been reintroduced as H.B. 1304 and an amendment has been filed to designate a representative from PA-MAPPS as the private sector voice on the state GIS Coordination Council. Accordingly, PA-MAPPS has recently offered testimony in support of the new bill before the State House Intergovernmental Affairs Committee.

The PA-MAPPS board has also begun planning programs and meetings of member firms, to begin this fall, to discuss public policy issues and meet with members of the Pennsylvania legislature, state agencies and other policy makers and stakeholders regarding geospatial issues.

For more information on the chapter and membership visit the PA-MAPPS website.

Note: This article was collaboratively authored by the PA-MAPPS board of directors with support from the MAPPS Executive Director and Staff

Published Thursday, September 20th, 2007

Written by PA-MAPPS Board of Directors and MAPPS Executive Director and Staff

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