MAPPS: 2010 Outlook is Up

By John M. Palatiello

2010 will not be as bad as 2009. That’s the consensus opinion of the principals of the nation’s leading geospatial firms, according to an economic survey conducted by MAPPS, the association of private geospatial companies.

When the financial market began to collapse in late 2008, the board of directors of MAPPS decided to poll its members every six months to gauge attitudes about the economy. Basing its survey on similar data collection long conducted in the United Kingdom by The Survey Association, TSA, MAPPS polled its members in January and June of 2009 and again in January 2010. The poll showed members saw the market bottom out in mid-2009 and while general economic activity and orders are still decreasing, the rate of decrease has lessened. Orders for geospatial data and services from the federal have turned positive, while state and local government and commercial markets continue to lag. Due to the increase in demand from Uncle Sam, the outlook for gross revenue in 2010 is up.

There is still significant available capacity within the firms in MAPPS. Decreases in the workforce are lessening, and while most firms do not expect to increase investments in equipment and other capital assets, the decline in such expenditures is also lessening.

The MAPPS survey also revealed the stimulus bill, formally known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), has had little effect on MAPPS member firms. Less an a third have received a contract using ARRA funds and among those who have, few say the project saved or created jobs.

Over the past 25 years, the geospatial market went through an unprecedented transformation. What heavily relied on real estate clients and applications as recently as the 1980s is now more widely diversified. That diversification helped shelter many geospatial firms from total collapse over the past 18 months

There are a few bright spots on the geospatial market horizon. Acceptance of and demand for lidar is growing and the number of systems being installed in the United States is on a steady increase. A session on mobile mapping systems at the MAPPS winter meeting in January found “this is a game-changing technology that will find its initial acceptance in moving traditional highway/rail data collection work from the roadway to the back office. In addition, entirely new opportunities seem to be emerging in adding new tools to Design/Build,” according to Lewis Graham, (GeoCue Corp., Huntsville, AL), chairman of the MAPPS Emerging Markets Committee.

The financial crisis that gripped markets in 2008 and 2009 exposed the lack of a national parcel system in the United States. Legislation to use national parcel data to monitor foreclosures and provide an early warning system for future disruptions in the real estate market will likely gain Congressional attention in 2010. Legislation to create a national program to promote healthy and sustainable communities would also stimulate a demand for geospatial data and services.
John M. Palatiello is executive director of MAPPS.

» Back to our Aerial Mapping March 2010 Issue

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