Geo-source: SB providing services to timberland investment community


You may have been reading about our 10 finalists of the Dell/NFIB Small Business Excellence Award which we have been sharing.  I hope you have been as inspired by some of these stories as I was.  We actually had two finalists from Alabama, and I’m excited to introduce our next finalist, Geo-Source from Florence, Alabama.

Geo-source has a very interesting business. They perform environmental assessment services for large timberland acquisitions being considered by institutional investors.  As their founder Brad Dethero tells it, Geo-source has carved out a unique space for themselves. They are not a large engineering firm, or a forestry firm, or an environmental engineering firm. They have been successful by focusing on services that timberland investment management organizations (or TIMOs) need.

I really liked two entrepreneurial parts of the Geo-source story.  Brad founded the company after being laid off from a plant twice and decided he’d rather be in charge of his own destiny.  Even better, Brad tells us that they are one of the few companies not affected by the current recession, in fact, they have been busier than ever.

Let’s talk about what the team at Geo-source actually does.  They are often tasked to assess tracts of hundreds of thousands of acres and advise potential investors of any environmental considerations.  What that means is that most of their work happens in the air – from helicopters to be precise. They conduct aerial reconnaissance of the tracts being considered and photograph everything with a camera that is interfaced with a computer.  Each photo document then has a GPS location stamp automatically created.

What these experts are looking for is any number of things from spotting current and old mining sites, to finding illegal trash dumping to identifying areas with environmental sensitivity – either because of the land or wildlife habitat.  They even identify hunting sites for customers, showing just how detail oriented they are.  As an example they are evaluating forest land right now in Washington State and are able to show potential investors where spotted owl habitats are.

Before this technology set up, at one time they would literally walk to different parts of the track armed only with pads of paper, GPS locators and cameras.  The cumbersome progress depended on sketching maps, making assessments, then developing film, and matching pictures back up to written pages and then work with a computer database to give their clients the reports they need.

Now their system of real time encoding of digital photos means they can turn around assessments for clients much faster.  And it’s reduced their costs dramatically, not only from report processing but from not needing to rent as much air time in the helicopters.  Today they are working across the country and offering customers competitive bids and high satisfaction thanks to their use of technology.

Congratulations to Geo-source!

About the Author: Jillian Fisher