Sam Lanier, a retired fire captain from California, had gotten tired of the lack of quality geographic information that would allow firefighters to function more efficiently, and decided to do something about it.

“A lot of us were frustrated that the methods of communication were out of date,” Lanier said.

As a result, Lanier founded FireWhat Inc., a firm that maps information from wildfires and other disasters to help firefighters and other first responders. After acquiring Bend-based Geo-Spatial Solutions in 2015, FireWhat now operates two offices in Bend, one near NorthWest Crossing and one in the 1001 Tech Center on SW Emkay Drive, in addition to its headquarters in Dunsmuir, California.

Blair Deaver — one of the founders of Maptime Bend, a local chapter of a Meetup group for mapping enthusiasts that began in 2014 — said Bend has always had a relatively strong mapping scene. However, Bend’s growth, particularly in the technology industry, has led to a handful of companies and developers that focus on geographic information systems, or GIS, relocating to the area.

“Mapping companies — and this is a bit of a stereotype — like to be outside and like the outdoors, and they like skiing and biking and other things they can do in Bend,” Deaver said.

He added that Maptime Bend currently has more than 150 members, ranging from dedicated GIS professionals, to amateurs who want to learn more about the technical side of the industry.

GIS is best described as a system that captures geographic data and presents it in a more understandable form, such as an electronic map. Buoyed by the success of companies like Google and Esri, the GIS industry is projected to grow at around 10 percent annually through 2020, according to a January report by the market research firm Technavio.

BendTech hosted a map night at the Tech Center in November that attracted more than 150 people. Bend resident and Esri executive S.J. Camarata spoke during the event, and FireWhat let visitors tour one of its three mobile mapping labs, a trailer outfitted with technology from Hewlett-Packard. Tierney O’Dea, an organizer of the event, was involved in the GIS scene in Austin, Texas, and said she was encouraged by the turnout.

“I’ve felt like there’s a more active community here,” O’Dea said.

Another GIS startup, Trailhead Labs, has offices in San Francisco and Bend after co-founder Jereme Monteau moved to Central Oregon in 2015.

“I didn’t realize until I got here that there was such a vibrant technology business community here,” Monteau said. “There’s definitely a good intersection between the outdoors and technology here.”

That intersection is valuable for Trailhead Labs, which collects and publishes geospatial data on outdoor trails for 15 public agencies and nonprofits in California and Oregon. Ryan Branciforte, the startup’s other co-founder, said the company is looking to leverage its location in Central Oregon by working with more Oregon-based organizations, including Travel Oregon and Central Oregon LandWatch.

“It’s a really exciting time to be working with anything GIS,” Monteau said.

— Reporter: 541-617-7818, shamway@bendbulletin.com

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