Saturday, June 27, 2009

GeoComm was honored in 2007 as the Minnesota Small Business of the Year

GeoComm was honored in 2007 as the Minnesota Small Business of the Year by the federal Small Business Administration. From left are Dan Rudningen ’89, vice president of sales and marketing; Jody Sayre ’98, vice president of client services; Tom Grones, CEO and president; and Janet Grones, vice president of finance.

GeoComm, the nation’s leading developer of computerized mapping software for 911 communications systems, is going international.

And St. Cloud State University alumni will be there, leading the sales effort, supporting clients, developing maps, programming software and advising public safety agencies on everything from radio systems to mapping solutions for vehicles.

Near one-fourth of GeoComm’s employees are St. Cloud State graduates, including Dan Rudningen ’89, co-founder and vice president of sales and marketing.

Rudningen is focused on Canada these days, educating potential clients and developing partnerships on the heels of a government requirement that wireless service providers upgrade 911 services. By Feb. 1, 2010, Canadian providers must be able to locate a celn automatically transmit that location to a 911 call center.

GeoComm is equipped to succeed in Canada because it helped pioneer the same systems in the United States, including the first federally approved wireless 911 system, installed in 2000 in St. Clair County, Ill.

Wireless 911 “opened the door for our company’s success,” Rudningen said.

Working with Rudningen on the top floor of GeoComm’s historic brick building in St. Cloud is Jody Sayre ’98, Sauk Rapids, vice president of client services. Sayre supervises employees in the company’s three areas of expertise: 911 software, geographic information system (GIS) map data and public safety consulting.

She works with clients in 43 states, including the Mid-America Regional Council, the organization that coordinates 911 services for nine counties and 120 cities in the bi-state Kansas City region.

Sayre’s responsibilities include managing the ongoing development of GeoLynx 9-1-1, the company’s flagship software suite. GeoLynx is a command-and-control emergency dispatch system that plots the location of emergency callers, regardless of the type of phone – wired, cellular or Internet-bl phone user making an emergency call and theased. GeoLynx also can provide call-takers, dispatchers and responders with a wealth of detailed information, including driving directions, exterior photographs, floor plans, access points and easements.

Another St. Cloud State graduate leading the charge into Canada is Kathy Liljequist ’96, St. Cloud, GIS consultant and 13-year GeoComm veteran. Liljequist, who holds a master’s degree in geography, recently helped deliver a presentation at a public safety annual meeting in Ontario. Among her presentation themes was the importance of maintaining accurate GIS map data.

Karl Larsen ’05 and Jessica (Hixson) Beierman

Karl Larsen ’05 (left ) and Jessica (Hixson) Beierman look at map data from Oahu, Hawaii. Beierman is working on her thesis for a master’s degree in geography with a GIS emphasis. She expects to graduate in 2010.

“You can have the Cadillac version of software,” said Liljequist. “But if you don’t have accurate data it’s not going to do you any good.”

“That’s what is different about 911,” said Sayre. “Accuracy has to be 100 percent.”

GeoComm has benefited from a “critical mass” of St. Cloud State geography graduates, according to Tom Grones, co-founder, chief executive officer and president. Graduates know ESRI ArcView, the same software platform GeoComm uses. And, Grones said, they tend to be from the area and want to stay in the area.

Professor Ben Richason, who advises GIS students at St. Cloud State, worked with GeoComm’s co-founders in the mid-1980s when Stearns County set up its 911 system. Grones was the county’s emergency services director. Rudningen was one of about 10 geography students who developed the 911 map, including inventing street names and addresses for rural areas.

Back then students drew maps by hand in the former Tideman Cartographic Center. Today’s Spatial Analysis Research Center is filled with computers and serves a range of clients, including agencies such as the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and corporations such as Target.

The one constant through the years: The Geography Department produces graduates who know how to process and display geographic information.

Said Richason: “We prepare graduates who are well-trained, highly-motivated GIS professionals.”

St. Cloud State Alumni at GeoComm

Jake Anderson ’03, St. Cloud, implementation supervisor
Jessica (Hixson) Beierman ’10, Sauk Rapids , GIS supervisor
Susan (Beumer) Becker ’00, Rockville, administrative assistant
Matt Besser ’02, Sartell, implementation specialist
Nate Ekdahl ’04, Ramsey, assistant geographic services manager
Bruce Geyer ’74, Little Falls, software development supervisor
Paul Hedlund ’02, St. Cloud, associate software developer
Dustin Kanewischer ’08, White Bear Lake, GIS specialist
Anita (Redman) Kask ’89, Clearwater, technical support supervisor
John Lambaere ’03, Sauk Rapids, software testing coordinator
Karl Larsen ’05, Waite Park, GIS coordinator
Kathy (Beckett) Liljequist ’96, St. Cloud, GIS consultant
Shaun McCloud ’03, St. Cloud, software testing analyst
Chad Miller ’06, St. Cloud, GIS specialist
Heidi (Elg) Ness ’03, Sauk Rapids, GIS specialist
Avery Penniston ’03, St. Cloud, software developer
Todd Pieper ’99, St. Cloud, assistant communications consulting manager
Deb Rozeboom ’00 ’05, Sauk Rapids, GIS supervisor
Dan Rudningen ’89, St. Cloud, vice president of sales and marketing
Jody (Emmerich) Sayre ’98, Sauk Rapids, vice president of client services
Ryan Schrofe ’08, St. Cloud, GIS specialist
Renee (Holland) Theisen ’94, St. Cloud , administrative supervisor
Scott Wolhart ’03, St. Cloud, technical services manager

GeoComm Facts

Located: Historic Lahr Block, 604 West St. Germain, in downtown St. Cloud
Founded: June 1995
Shareholders: Tom Grones, Dan Rudningen ’89, Mike Frericks and Kathy Liljequist ’96
Employees: About 100
2008 revenues: $9 million
Call centers served: More than 600

- Jeff Wood

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