An industry leader
Business View Magazine interviews Jeff Lovin, Senior VP and Director of the Geospatial Division at Woolpert, Inc. – best practices of geospatial firms.
“Today, we have 750 people working all around the world, on everything from architecture and engineering on Air Force bases in Japan to mapping the country of Niger,” says Jeff Lovin, Senior Vice President and Director of the Government Solutions at Woolpert, the fastest-growing architecture, engineering and geospatial (AEG) firm in the nation.
“Woolpert was founded in 1911, in Dayton, Ohio, as a surveying firm,” Lovin continues. “We grew through the needs of the community, working with other local leaders to develop landscape engineering, architecture, and housing markets in the wake of the Great Dayton Flood of 1913, and later rural electrification programs during the Great Depression. During World War II, we became involved in engineering and surveying at Wright Field, Wilmington Air Force Base, and the Dayton Municipal Airport, performing work on runways and taxiways, and forming the foundation for our Aviation market. Following the war, and amid the residential boom, we expanded into environmental and sanitary engineering, as well as municipal and residential planning and design. Our geospatial efforts were born as that technology and its uses grew, and we started our photogrammetry group in the late 1960s.”
Today, Woolpert, Inc. has eight markets under its AEG umbrella, and each works independently, or together, as dictated by client need. Geospatial services include remote sensing, GIS surveying, asset management, mapping, and everything in between. Geospatial technologies assist the firm and its clients with the creation of corridor mapping, digital terrain models, elevation data, flood mapping, and analysis, and impervious surface delineation, among a wealth of other applications. When combined with architecture and engineering services, Woolpert is able to offer a complete package for development, from locational mapping and analysis to 3D modeling, design, and development.
Lovin explains the company’s model and how it gives the firm a leg up on the competition: “We are unique in the fact that we are this AEG concept. There are tons of firms of all different sizes out there that do A and E (architecture and engineering). And there are a lot of geospatial firms. But the great thing about Woolpert is that we have all three and that they are under one roof, which allows us to provide A to Z solutions for a client. If you want to build anything, you have to have it mapped first. We straddle both the geospatial and design worlds and can do all of it for our clients – from site selection to opening, through life cycle management of a facility.”
Lovin is keen to point out it’s not just the services offered by Woolpert, Inc., but also the technology that sets the firm apart from its competitors. He explains, “We invest a huge amount of money in technology. The geospatial world is like the space race – it’s rapidly changing; there are always new technologies coming on board, including unmanned systems. There is always new technology to invest in and Woolpert has done a good job of staying on the leading edge to deploy and integrate new systems. So, we have the reputation that we always have the information and technology to set us apart from our competitors.”
The firm’s dedication to technology has resulted in dedicated clients. “We’ve maintained clients for twenty, thirty, and forty years,” Lovin notes. He adds that 87 to 88 percent of all the company’s revenue comes from repeat business. Furthermore, a substantial portion of the firm’s business consists of federal contracts. “About forty percent of our revenue is federal dollars. One of our biggest clients is the U.S. Geological Survey, and we do a great deal of lidar (light detection and ranging) data collection for them and their 3D Elevation Program. The Federal Aviation Administration is another huge client. We do a lot of airport and GIS survey work, helping develop the 3D data as part of the FAA’s next-generation air traffic control system. Another big client is National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, on the defense side. And all those geospatial services clients are some of the top grossing clients for the firm.”
Woolpert, Inc. also has proved to be an industry leader in Lidar, which continues to advance exponentially in precision and application. Lovin explains, “There is a huge revolution going on with a new Lidar technology that provides data at a much higher density, increasing accuracy, efficiency, and value. It’s revolutionizing the industry, and we’re one of the first to bring this technology forward. We just completed the largest commercial single photon lidar acquisition in North America for the USGS. It’s been certified, approved, and moved forward.”
To further facilitate growth, in 2017, Woolpert, Inc. completed a minority recapitalization for the first time in its history. “It was a long process that our CEO and our leadership worked through, and we’re pleased to have a new partner who will help us grow the company,” Lovin states.
As an employee-owned company, it was important to keep the company’s values, systems, and employee expectations in place, and Lovin believes that the minority partnership provides the ideal situation. “We wanted a minority partner because we didn’t want to sell the company or lose control of its operations. So we found the perfect minority partner to help with key strategic acquisitions. We are now on an aggressive growth strategy to rapidly grow the firm over the next five years.”
Just as the company’s reputation has been built on its relationships and successes, Lovin believes its future will follow the same path. “We’ve been here over 100 years and we’re still the same company. We have a great reputation and strong track record, and we’ll continue to give our clients the highest value product for any need they have.”
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AT A GLANCE
WHO: Woolpert, Inc.
WHAT: An AEG (Architecture, Engineering, Geospatial) firm
WHERE: Beavercreek, Ohio