- The local land surveyor has not seen this kind of downturn since the late 1980’s.
- Local surveyors have to become land information experts, not just boundary surveyors.
- The upcoming ESRI Survey and Engineering Summit July 11- 14 in San Diego is an important education opportunity.
As a Professional Land Surveyor who has been around for a few years I can really feel for the small surveying firm trying to survive in this economy. In the past 2 weeks I have had 2 former employees contact me who are still in the biz. I had 50 people working for me with a $25,000 a week payroll in 1988 when the last major real estate bubble burst with the collapse of more than 1200 savings and loans across the US. You never really get over something like that.
The only thing that I managed to salvage from that mess was a few people that I had working on a couple of tax mapping projects along with some software IP involving the integration of CAD and GIS – more specifically AutoCAD and PC ArcInfo. We joined forces with a small start-up software company called DCA Engineering software. After changing their name to Softdesk and building the company to 400+ people Dave Arnold sold the company to Autodesk in 1996 for $90 million.
Looking back I guess you can say it was a smart move to get out of the land surveying business. When times are good, they can be really good, and the opposite is also true. What concerns me here is the possible duration of this downturn at the local level.
What can a small firm do? Well one option is to think more about land information and less about land surveying. This of course is the way most surveyors are positioned in society outside of the US.
Two technologies that land surveyors could become more involved with are GIS and 3D laser scanning.
One way that you could begin the necessary education process is by attending the upcoming ESRI Survey and Engineering Summit being held in San Diego July 11 – 14. The fees are reasonable and Southwest flies into San Diego. You won’t get a better look at how surveyors are interacting with GIS than at this Summit. I believe that Joe Betit will also be including information on the use of laser scanning as part of his presentation dealing with the extension of the DC Metro to serve Dulles Airport.
Land surveyors at the local level need to become trusted advisors on all things land related – not just legal boundaries and subdivisions. It is not easy and many resist, but there is a lot more opportunity out there if you are willing to take the steps to broaden your areas of expertise. GIS and 3D laser scanning are 2 of these areas.
I hope to see some of you in San Diego.