RALEIGH — The 13th biannual NC GIS Conference set a new attendance record, with more than 1,000 participants, including more than 170 speakers. The conference was held February 7-8 at the Raleigh Convention Center. With a focus on the use of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and related technologies in government, business and education, the conference appeals to a wide audience, including government officials at all levels, members of the business community, and academic and education professionals. This year’s theme was “The Power of Place.”
The NC GIS Conference has grown through the years and is now the largest state or regional GIS conference in the country. The first conference, in 1987, had approximately 500 attendees; in 2011, there were 880 participants.
The NC Center for Geographic Information and Analysis (CGIA) is conference co-sponsor and it has hosted the event with the Carolina Chapter of URISA (Urban and Regional Information Systems Association) since 1996. CGIA is the lead agency for the state’s GIS services and coordination and is part of the NC Office of Information Technology Services.
According to the conference website, each conference builds on previous successes for program diversity. The program attracts national and international talent to North Carolina and reflects a commitment to provide a forum to discuss GIS concerns as a state. By including presentations on North Carolina activities and applications, participants learn from their peers and establish important networks. While the target audience is local and state government and business in North Carolina, the 2013 conference featured attendees and speakers from 20 other states.
Tom Tribble, with the CGIA, says this about the conference, “While most conferences serve as a valuable forum for education and networking, perhaps the most valuable outcome of the NC GIS Conference is that it engenders a true sense of community and collaboration among GIS professionals across North Carolina.”
Pre-conference workshops, sponsored by the Carolina URISA Chapter, were held on February 6 at the Sheraton Hotel across from the convention center, with more than 100 registered. The two-day conference then followed with concurrent sessions covering several topic areas. As part of a GIS in the Classroom track, 19 students from 12 NC universities and colleges — as well as 6th and 7th graders from schools in Graham, Charlotte and Raleigh — were recognized for presenting their papers.
The NC GIS Conference began under the leadership of the late Wake County Commissioner G. Herbert Stout. Awards in his name honor exemplary use of GIS by local government. The 2013 Stout Award was presented to:
Wendy Nelson, Executive Director of the Urban and Regional Information Systems Association (URISA), the professional home for many GIS professionals in the country, described the importance of the conference, “From an 'outsider's perspective,' when you look at the numbers, the consistency and reputation of the NC GIS Conference, it is by far the best state conference in the entire country.”
Tim Muhs, President of the Carolina URISA Chapter, was pleased with this year’s event. “The North Carolina GIS Conference is a great place for professionals in the GIS and Geospatial industries to network and showcase their achievements. This year’s conference was excellent, and to surpass 1,000 attendees for the first time demonstrates the growth of GIS and technology in the state.”
Tim Johnson, Conference Chairman and Director of CGIA, hopes the conference will continue to develop understanding and applications of GIS. “We were thrilled and surprised to have over 1,000 attendees this year,” he says. “We need to continue to expand our knowledge and understanding of how the data that we build for our own business purposes can generate value for others in public and private organizations, and act on that knowledge by applying data standards and making data widely available. The practical applications of geospatial technology are well established in our government business processes and continue to grow in economic development, real estate development, engineering, surveying, environmental consulting, and other business types. When we have high quality geospatial information, create opportunities to collaborate, and serve our customers well, we enjoy mutual benefits—saving time, saving money and doing more.”