Finally the survey business is picking up. Are we headed back to the good old days of 5 years ago? No! However, we are now seeing surveyors working again. Mortgage rates have come down to a historic low point, and many homeowners are seeking to refinance their loans. Rates sitting around 3.75% for a 30-year loan naturally increases the amount of survey work on those properties. So this is good news but is tightly tied to the whim of the government who holds the reins of the rate being charged.
But the reason for this article is that we are now seeing survey work show up in new areas. Gone are the days of land development surveying, of subdivision and building stakeouts. Gone are the days of endless billable hours for deed research. Instead the survey industry is re-aligning itself.
Check out some of these recent observations because work is starting to show up for surveyors in both contracting as well as full time jobs. The state DOTs have been placing want ads for surveyors as infrastructure spending occurs. Our own DOT here recently had three district survey management positions open, but with many people responding with applications, they were quickly filled. A large local engineering firm here just filled its survey manager position with a person from the Midwest. Perhaps no one local had the qualifications? Either way, it was a survey position.
I have noticed that many large governmental agencies have hired surveyors recently. U.S. EPA’s Office of Environmental Information, The National Park Service, Army Corps of Engineers and a variety of Transit Authorities for road, tunnel, bridge and rail systems have been hiring over this year. In fact, the Army Corps hired about 20% of the civil engineering graduates from George Mason University where in previous years they hired almost none because they went to private industry and infrastructure hadn’t become the source for work yet.
The tunnels in the northeast are being heavily funded, for example the New Jersey/New York tunnel which the NJ governor just pulled out of last week due to increased costs.
Did you notice that the Feds’ Ray LaHood immediately jumped in to see how the Feds could save this project? I am sure the Feds will promise to cover overages for NJ somehow, and the project will move on. How could it not? Does anyone think that NY/NJ can throw away $6B in funding and the jobs that go along with it? But the main idea is that there are a lot of surveyors working on that project whose goal it is to expand the tunnel for commuter traffic to cross into and out of NJ and NY.
I am adding this edit as of 10-28-2010: according to http://transportationnation.org/2010/10/27/lahoods-arc-reaction-i-am-extremely-disappointed/
the feds did step in and offered 3 alternate funding sources in the event that the project costs escalates as feared by Gov. Christie. Christie announced yesterday that the project is canceled and a side story is that with the announcement a number of private companies have offered to step in to finish the job.
Energy companies are hiring a lot of surveyors. A friend of ours was recently hired to work on the wind farms being planned in Pennsylvania, and he reports that a lot of work is occurring in the wind farm energy industry and they all need surveyors.
Hiring at the airports has increased for both employees and contractors. Airports are under expansion wherever possible, again due to in infrastructure money.
An enormous amount of work is now occurring for movement detection. We see it everywhere, building panels with movement detection sensors on them. If a panel is becoming loose, management knows immediately that it needs attention. Surveyors have been let a contract to periodically hit the sensors with a 3D laser scanner to detect even the slightest movement that may clue us into the possibility that the panel is coming loose. Bridges are being laser scanned at an ever increasing rate to detect movement and structural recovery after heavy objects pass over the bridge. Here we are talking about deflection and recovery differences in the range of 3 decimal places.
Figure 1. Marcellus Shale
I am seeing surveyors being employed by environmental companies who perform GIS work and studies. And as mentioned above, energy companies have been hiring quite a few surveyors. In addition to the wind farm companies, I am also including those who are in the coal business as well as the increasing number of companies extracting shale. This is not a minor endeavor; the Marcellus shale field (one of several) covers 8 states
. See Figure 1.
So yes, the survey industry is redefining itself – not in the vein of the traditional land development surveyor doing metes and bounds on housing lots, but in the field of infrastructure, roads, rail, bridges, tunnels, airports and energy. Let’s face it – the old economy isn’t coming back.
This is how you deal with a recession. Go with the flow of funding and political motion, reinvent yourself, re-educate and now you have the new “when it comes back” economy. Where are you all finding work? Is it transforming surveying?
Some New Info!
The DBIA conference which just finished up on Oct. 20 in Las Vegas had record setting attendance. I heard a lot of attendees were from governnment which points to infrastructure. People i speak with in engineering firms specializing in infrastructure are VERY busy right now. Some are on mandatory overtime and can't hire quickly enough as i heard from an energy related desiger this week. FYI