Geographic Information Services, Inc. (GISinc) is an employee-owned company with more than 28 years in GIS industry. GISinc has a passion for delivering customer driven location technology solutions to federal, state and local, and commercial organizations. GISinc prides itself on not only being innovative for clients in service and GIS technology, but also on the business itself and how it treats employee owners. Read on to hear about how this ESOP helped during the recent government shutdown. 

The Government Shutdown

The new year started with a great deal of uncertainty for 16 GISinc employees that were affected by the partial government shutdown.  These employees are spread out across the country, but all work on-site for the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).  The BLM (an agency within the Department of Interior) was closed on December 22nd due to a lack of appropriations. Thankfully those affected by the shutdown and the communities where we reside got to experience the silver lining of the situation due to the thoughtful leadership team and the kindness of our fellow employee-owners at GISinc.  

Retaining Employees During Shutdown

GISinc provided all employees affected by the shutdown multiple options to provide a bit of breathing room. First up we got the opportunity to spend multiple days doing on-the-job training that aligned with our individual career development goals.  Many of our colleagues then donated PTO hours, which gave each of us an extra full week of time off.  Finally, GISinc matched those hours and allowed us to volunteer for a week while still receiving a paycheck.  Cumulatively that bought the team a full month of continued pay during the shutdown. 

Employee Owners Giving Back

Several GISinc employees took a break from their computer screens and jumped into a wide range of volunteer projects in their respective communities.  Folks rolled up their sleeves to pick up litter at the Desert National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center in NV, shoveled snow in DC area neighborhoods, and cleaned parks in Lakewood, CO and Sacramento, CA.  One employee volunteered at a Habitat for Humanity donation center. Furry friends in AZ got some extra attention at a local animal shelter while Soles4Souls received a helping hand to sort shoes, paint the warehouse, and provide administrative support in CO.  Another employee sorted and bagged toiletry kits to be handed out to Denver area homeless through Highlands Ranch Helps the Homeless.  Other employees gave back to their communities by donating blood at Vitalant donation centers in CA, AZ, and CO.

Many employees utilized their GIS skills while volunteering.  In AK, an employee contributed to the Great Land Trust by mapping land parcels for conservation projects.  Several people spent time on Open Street Maps and Missing Maps.  Together, these organizations improve maps in the developing world to aid in disaster relief, emergency response, and humanitarian efforts.  Team members mapped rural infrastructure for first responders in Central Canada, buildings in Tanzania for emergency response, and roads in southern India to support flood relief efforts.  A few employees transcribed historical and biodiversity data through the Smithsonian Digital Volunteers

A Company Employees Want to Work For

Even with a dispersed workforce located across the country, GISinc maintains a culture of a family. Our company clearly has each other’s back when things get tough and proved it during this event.  Clearly, a little creativity can go a long way in difficult situations and when you hire employee owners that share a similar vision of a company they want to work for, helping others becomes contagious. This volunteer opportunity not only benefited local communities and provided breathing room to employees, it also helped counteract stress and depression during a difficult period by providing individuals a sense of purpose and allowed them to gain new skills and build self-confidence. 

The kindness and generosity of the GISinc family has not gone unnoticed during this shutdown and the GISinc BLMers are excited to find ways to pay generosity this forward.

Full List of Volunteer Efforts:

  • Open Street Maps (https://www.openstreetmap.org) and Missing Maps (https://www.missingmaps.org): Fixing areas in their communities or using Missing Maps Tasking Manager to help projects in need including:
    • Mapping for Rural First Responders: Rural Fort Qu'Appelle South (Central Canada)
    • 2018 Flooding in Kerala India 
    • Mapping Anchorage, Girdwood, and Eagle River State Park Areas 
    • Mapping buildings in Tanzania for emergency response/disease control 
  • Tomnod (https://www.tomnod.com/): DigitalGlobe initiatives supporting post fire relief efforts in the west 
  • Smithsonian Digital Volunteers (https://transcription.si.edu/): Transcribing historic records
  • Shoveling snow for neighbors in DC 
  • Habitat for Humanity (https://www.habitat.org/):working with local donation centers 
  • Cleaning up trash:
    • Cleaning up parks and walking trails in Lakewood, CO
    • American River Trail in Sacramento 
    • Cleaning up trash in DC area neighborhoods 
    • Desert National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center and Sloan Canyon in NV
  • Donating blood at local Vitalant (https://vitalant.org/Home.aspx) donation centers  
  • Volunteering at local schools 
  • Volunteering at local Idaho Fish and Game Office
  • Helping a small farm, Eagle Tree Farm (https://www.colorado.com/culinary-farm-ranch-activities/eagle-tree-farm-llc), with data entry work 
  • Great Land Trust Alaska (https://greatlandtrust.org/): GIS projects mapping lands 
  • Local Animal Shelter: walking dogs, socializing dogs, and laundry 
  • Soles4Souls (https://soles4souls.org/about-us/): painting, cleaning the warehouse, sorting shoes, and some marketing spreadsheets 
  • Project ReCYCLE (https://projectrecycle.org/): Helping sort, move, & repair bikes to be donated to Denver area children 
  • Highlands Ranch Helps the Homeless (https://www.facebook.com/groups/1295204083852704/) : Sorting & bagging toiletry kits (shampoo, soap, lotion, toothbrushes, etc) to be handed out to Denver area homeless 
2019-02-18 BLM Volunteer Efforts