The Geo Factor interviewed Jason Spalding of emGISt who recently started Find GIS, a Web site focusing on GIS in the state of Florida. Jason answered questions about his goals for the site and what’s happening in Florida.
TGF: What is Find GIS?
Find GIS is a comprehensive GIS Web site catering to the Florida GIS industry. The site includes, but is not limited to: Florida GIS data download sites, GIS resources (blogs, tools, and user groups), GIS staff contact information (state agencies, counties, and cities), and University GIS Departments throughout the state.
TGF: Why did you start it? What do you hope to accomplish with the site? What have you already accomplished?
I started Find GIS in order to upgrade my Florida GIS Data blogspot. I created the blogspot more than four years ago as a way to assist GIS users in tracking down Florida GIS data and to keep the Florida GIS Community in the loop on related industry news and events. It was also a central location for clients, customers, and users to so they could download their own GIS data.
With Find GIS, I hope to assist GIS users throughout the state by providing them a one-stop industry resource. I am a big believer in having GIS data available as public records as defined under the Florida Government-in-the-Sunshine Law (aka Florida Sunshine Law), which is part of our state’s public record statutes. I also hope to use the site as a platform for myself and like-minded users to make contacts within the industry that are willing to pursue innovative ideas with regards to GIS applications and Location Based Services. Even though companies such as ESRI have been around for decades, I feel that the industry in general is still in its infancy and is changing every day. One of my favorite “pastimes” is to brainstorm about new ways that the power of GIS, GPS, and LBS can be harnessed and applied to everyday life.
One of my top GIS industry-related accomplishments to date is my pursuit of obtaining Palm Beach County’s parcel shapefiles under Florida’s public records laws. It was nearly a year-long saga that I pursued through the Attorney General’s Open Government Mediation Program. Briefly, Palm Beach County had a resolution in place that required any private entity to sign a data license agreement and pay a $20,000 “License Agreement Royalty Fee” in order to be able to obtain a copy of and redistribute their countywide copyrighted parcel shapefiles. The obvious issues were that the parcel shapefiles were copyrighted public records, and were created using tax payers money. Therefore, the records should have been available at the cost of reproduction as defined under the Florida Sunshine Law. The end result was Attorney General Charlie Crist, now Governor Crist, issued an Attorney General’s Opinion in my favor and the Palm Beach County Board of County Commissioners voted to rescind their GIS information policy resolution. Anyone can now download the latest version of these parcel shapefiles from Palm Beach County’s FTP site at no cost.
For full details, please see the early 2003 news articles on Find GIS, as well as the Attorney General’s Opinion (AGO #2003-42) which was issued on September 3, 2003.
A few of my other minor accomplishments recently were getting my original blogspot to the top result (out of 1,000,000+ returns) for a Google search of “Florida GIS Data”, obtaining over 8,000 subscribers to the Florida GIS Data News Feed, and the launch and promotion of the Florida GIS Data Sharing Network. The network is a Google Group and forum of GIS users across the state that share their industry knowledge and resources. The group has recently surpassed 500 approved members, the majority of whom reside within the state of Florida.
TGF: What is your professional background? Your company affiliation?
I graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Civil Engineering and currently hold an EI (Engineering Intern) license. I worked within the land development division of a local engineering firm for four years prior to developing a serious interest in GIS in 2002. At that time I started a small GIS consulting business, emGISt, Inc. (Enterprise Management & Geographical Information System Technologies, Inc.) which I continue to run today.
TGF: What is the business model for the site? How will it support itself or make money?
Good question! I need to Read more