Mayor Announces ‘GEO Huntsville’ Initiative

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News release issued by Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle:

Mayor Tommy Battle announced the formation today of GEO Huntsville, an economic development and jobs collaborative among area businesses, academic institutions, and governments utilizing geospatial technologies.

More than 50 private companies, 25 government entities and three universities are among a growing number of organizations engaged in geospatial applications in Huntsville and North Alabama.

“Geospatial technology affects almost every avenue of life, from determining where to place buildings on slope developments to finding the lair of Osama bin Laden,” said Mayor Battle. “The technology is much more than mapping. It takes into account cause and effect based on spatial relationships.”

Geospatial technologies have been called some of the world’s “most essential core tools.” They are used in visualization, measurement, and analysis of the Earth’s features, typically involving such systems as GPS (global positioning systems), GIS (geographical information systems), and RS (remote sensing), according to the National Science Foundation.

“Huntsville may be familiar with geospatial technologies through Intergraph, which has been a pioneer and a global leader in this field for decades,” said Mayor Battle. “Yet, we also use these technologies extensively in City Hall. Our GIS Department has a full-time GPS crew that uses this technology to collect and analyze data on everything from storm water features to traffic signage. We use it in our planning department to determine land use, flood plain mapping and environmental protection, and we are even using it to help historic groups map the original Trail of Tears.”

Geospatial technology is in such demand that the U.S. Department of Labor’s Educational Training Administration estimates that more than 180,000 new jobs will be needed in the field over the next 10 years.

Mayor Battle says Huntsville’s opportunities are vast. Geospatial intelligence (GEOINT) is a core capability of the region’s defense contractors and government agencies. Commercial earth observation satellite systems and unmanned aerial systems (UASs) will become more pervasive as the Department of Defense evaluates its need for commercial remote sensing data. Building information modeling (BIM) and 3D visualization for information systems related to emergency management and energy conservation are also key capabilities of businesses in the region.

Joe Francica, a 30-year geospatial professional and the editor-in-chief and vice publisher of Directions Magazine, has been tapped to lead the new GEO Huntsville initiative.

“The advantage and attractiveness of Huntsville is considerable when you see so many companies doing similar types of work in the region,” said Francica. “We look forward to identifying who is doing this work and looking for ways we can collaborate on projects.”

Francica estimates hundreds of millions of dollars in revenues are already pouring into the Huntsville area for geospatial work.

“Our charge for the GEO Huntsville group is to seek small business initiatives, whether they are government contracts or private sector, and to latch onto the low-hanging fruit,” said Francica. “We plan to work closely with Mayor Battle’s Energy Huntsville and Cyber Huntsville coalitions, along with the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, because there is a large component of geospatial technology in all our work.”

The Mayor’s GEO Huntsville, Cyber Huntsville and Energy Huntsville initiatives have also joined the Chamber of Commerce of Huntsville/Madison County’s Technology Committee.

“We are pleased to support these organizations in our ongoing collaborative effort to promote economic development in the area,” said Chip Cherry, Chamber president. “There is so much opportunity in Huntsville, and we see incredible synergies between the geospatial, cyber, and energy fields. We look forward to using our resources to help promote these businesses.”

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