Archive for January, 2021

DLZ, GIS, and Local Communities

GIS (Geographic Information Systems) has been around for some time now, and most communities use it every day for various procedures. If you’re new to GIS, it is a computer system cable of capturing, storing, analyzing, manipulating, and updating spatial data as vector data (Points, Line and Polygons). It’s often used to identify relationships between vector data, scheduling upkeep to certain vector data, and making future for expansion, just to name a few. DLZ also uses GIS to enhance plans, proposals, surveying, and other practices.


DLZ has a wide-open field for assisting local communities with “Maintenance of Assets”. So, what am I talking about?
“Maintenance of Assets” can be many different things. In this instance, we’ll focus on Inventorying of Community Data. Most local communities, either by State mandate or local Governments, must inventory and keep up to date information on assets such as signs, signals, etc.

These municipalities must project useful life for all roads, bridges, signage, signals, safety features, and other assets under their jurisdiction and report assets and asset depreciation.

The communities often use this inventory to determine if an asset needs replaced (e.g., sign or signal needs replacing). DLZ has the people and infrastructure to gather data, create a database, and map the data for potential community clients to assist these communities.Scheduling a kickoff meeting with the client very early is a good idea. Together, outline a detailed proposal. To get a better understanding, we may ask the following:

  • What data should be gathered (e.g., signs, road quality, etc.)?
  • What is the boundary area of the data to be acquired?
  • Are photos required?
  • What additional data is necessary for the database?
  • What coordinate system and delivery format is desired?

These are just a few questions, but aids in determining the first stage of the data gathering. Also, you may want to start gathering data within a “Sample Site” location.

Visually presenting a GIS map with a client’s “Sample Site” data can show them what data they will get, how the database information is presented, and help them update anything at the data-gathering stage. Additional database information such as extra columns for further details within the database, scans of surveyed manholes and photo hyperlinks for visual information are just a few items that a client may want to have for future use.

Likewise, during the first stage of data gathering, you may want to determine with the client if there is to be a numbering system setup for any points (e.g., Manholes, Signs, etc.) and if a grid system for aiding in quickly locating the point is necessary. A numbering system will assist with present and future item identification. If a numbering system is initially structured when gathering field data, the field personnel can set an automated numbering system in the database. This can then be renumbered or enhanced with additional characters within the database during processing.

Once a GIS map with the database is created, reviewed both “in house” and by the client and accepted by the client, DLZ can deliver the data to them in the format of their choice.

But the new working relationship doesn’t end there! The client may have additional questions on how to use the database and keep it up.

Furthermore, they may also want help with a new project. You never know when a potential GIS opportunity will come around.

Executive Spotlight: Gary Bowen

“Beyond the Zoom: A Passion to Support Nationwide Children’s Hospital”

I recently had the opportunity to interview Gary Bowen for DLZ’s Executive Spotlight, a blog showcasing DLZ leadership to get to know team members personally and discover a hidden talent. While Gary is an accomplished Vice President with more than 22 years of experience, he also dedicates himself to children’s causes.  A particularly urgent cause around the holiday season is that many organizations depend on the generous spirit of volunteers.

We talked about his passion for philanthropy, and how his volunteer work complements his professional life.  We started off by discussing his early years.   Gary reminisced, “I’ve been part of the DLZ family for 22 years, and it was my first “real job.”  I was a recent college graduate who painted houses until I could find an opportunity to start a career.  One of my first interviews was with DLZ, and Barry Wong made me an offer on the spot.  I accepted the position, not really knowing what to expect.  Barry took me under his wing and provided the kind of mentorship that is part of why DLZ is so successful.  Like so many people at DLZ, Barry took the time to develop the people on his team and ultimately makes everyone more successful. In a lot of ways, I have grown up at DLZ, starting in the field and the lab as a technician and then progressing through several positions within our Field Services discipline.  I have loved every minute of it and always enjoy the challenges of the job.

One of my favorite aspects of my time at DLZ has been working on hundreds of projects that have made a real difference in the community.  I’ve enjoyed getting to know our clients and building teams that can solve their problems no matter how complex.  I hope I have been able to pay it forward by mentoring others along the way.

I was born in Maryland, grew up in Central Kentucky, and have lived in Columbus, Ohio, for over 20 years.  

I’ve always loved the outdoors, whether it is boating on the Chesapeake Bay or hiking in the Red River Gorge, and I think this made it easy to be passionate about construction and sustainability.  I met my wife, Maura, while attending Centre College in Danville, KY, and I moved to Columbus after graduation to start our life together in her hometown.  Maura works for the Abbott Nutrition Health Institute and is a great writer, successful podcaster, and loves music. 

We have two sons: Henry, who is 15, and Ollie, who is 13.  Henry is a great drummer, has started investing, and loves to cook.  Ollie loves football, baseball, basketball and is always up on the news and current events. I’ve been fortunate to coach their teams and volunteer for a lot of their other activities.  As a family, we love to travel.  We’ve been to Ireland, Canada, Mexico, France, Italy, and Spain and hope to make a trip to Japan.  We also love hiking, camping, fishing, and boating.

Gary Bowen
Gary Bowen’s Family (L to R): Henry, Maura, Gary, Ollie

I’ve always had an interest in philanthropy and have sought out opportunities to donate my time and energy to causes in the community.  While at Centre College, I found several opportunities to give back, including being the philanthropy chair for my fraternity, coordinating campus blood drives, volunteering at the local hospital, and organizing Fall yard cleanups for elderly community members.  Fast forward to moving to Columbus, joining DLZ, and marrying my college sweetheart, both our boys dealt with severe respiratory issues as infants. They received world-class care at Nationwide Children’s Hospital (NCH).  Maura and I were so grateful for the care our boys received. We were so impressed with the hospital staff and capabilities but experienced firsthand the fear, uncertainty, and heartache of watching our asthmatic children unable to breathe. We had the experience of having one of our sons tested for cystic fibrosis and remembered the anxiety of waiting for the results, knowing that the news is not good for families in many cases. We were fortunate to receive good news and ultimately have two healthy children but realized not everyone is that fortunate, and we’ve seen how critical NCH is to the community.

Our experiences with NCH motivated me to find a way to give back. In 2009, I discovered the Development Board, which is a dynamic group of philanthropic-minded business professionals who give generously of their time, talent, and resources to further the life-saving mission of Nationwide Children’s Hospital. Founded in 1971 to enhance the relationship between Nationwide Children’s and the local business community, the Board has grown to more than 175 active and life members representing a wide variety of companies and industries throughout central Ohio.

The funds the Development Board has raised over the years have benefited annual needs as well as long term and critical needs identified by the hospital. The Development Board has been instrumental in funding:

  • $1.5 million endowment fund for Child Abuse Prevention at Nationwide Children’s Hospital (1999)
  • $1.0 million endowment fund for the hospital with the goal of reaching $1 million by 2000 (1997)
  • $1.5 million Endowed Chair in Critical Care Medicine (2008)
  • $2.5 million gift agreement benefiting the Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital and the Center for Family Safety and Healing. (2018)
  • $200,000 gift to the Lawyers for Kids program at Nationwide Children’s Hospital (2020)

In an effort to raise money throughout the community, the Development Board hosts several city-wide events. These include the Woody Hayes Celebrity Classic, Pay It Forward Party, Rock ‘N Bowl, Columbus Duck Race and Slice of Columbus. These fundraisers have raised more than $18 million since the creation of the board to support the good work of Nationwide Children’s Hospital.

Since 2009, I had the honor of serving on several event committees, founding/chairing the Columbus Duck Race, and serving as the Secretary, Treasurer, Vice President, and the President of the Board.  It was an honor to lead an organization that makes such a significant impact on the community and the world through fundraising for treatment and research.  I’ve always encouraged DLZ staff to get involved in the community and find something they are passionate about.  The relationships you develop volunteering are meaningful in the business world, and you get opportunities to develop skills that may also be beneficial in your career.  I found opportunities to lead diverse groups of volunteers, plan large scale fundraisers, manage event logistics, develop corporate fundraising strategies; all while developing my leadership style, and making lifelong friends. 

I also gained a better understanding of the role Nationwide Children’s plays in our community.

The patient care portion was evident to me the first time I walked into the hospital.  I quickly learned through the Development Board that the hospital also provides advocacy for children and families, pediatric research, education, and behavioral health services.  While all of this is important, pediatric research became a focus for the board and me as an individual.  The ability to improve children’s outcomes locally and globally through research will always be something I am passionate about and I hope others will be too.

As we finished our time together, Gary was headed off to meet with his team on a current project.  To learn more about the Development Board or if you would like to donate, click here.

ADA Compliance in Our New Normal

2020 will long be remembered for a variety of things, most of which we would just as soon forget! The coronavirus pandemic has resulted in changes to our normal way of life, both personally and professionally. The shutdown of many facilities early in the pandemic, both public and private, altered the way we shopped, worked, and interacted with friends and family. The essential workers in the private and public sector, some with health conditions of their own or with family members at home with health conditions, were not able to pivot to some of the changes others could. They had to go to work to serve others and we appreciate them all. Similarly, the operations of most governmental entities had to continue, with several local governments scrambling to figure out how to continue their operations safely and in compliance with open meeting laws that vary by state. Most used technology to hold online virtual meetings, which have a unique set of accessibility requirements to ensure persons with disabilities can participate in online meetings. In the midst of the pandemic, DLZ sponsored a webinar on ways to provide accessible online meetings. You can watch it here.

The 2020 General Election was also a notable event. All the rhetoric and reporting on various voting issues – from mail-in ballots to voter suppression allegations – have been all over the media. Yet very little attention was focused on ensuring voting access for the disabled. Nearly 20% of the U.S. population has one or more disabilities, many of which could impact their ability to access polling places that have engineering or architectural barriers. Most states have polling place checklists for accessibility to ensure that facilities that sponsor these one day events meet the minimum access needs for the disabled.

Simple issues that most of us take for granted, such as convenient parking, good sidewalks, and doors that are easy to open, can be a significant barrier to the disabled to even get into a facility that is being used for voting. There are stories following elections about disabled people that were denied their right to vote because they were not able to access the building for reasons that can easily be fixed, though at a cost. Election officials should understand the importance of their selection of polling locations, which are often churches, schools, and other non-municipal buildings, but also ensuring the accessibility of those facilities. This needs to be done well before an election so that accommodations or physical changes can be made to ensure accessibility for disabled voters. Expansion of absentee balloting is an excellent accommodation, but voters that want to personally visit the polling place and cast their ballot cannot be denied. It’s their right as an American.

Today, 30 years after the adoption of the Americans with Disabilities Act, many government entities have facilities that have various accessibility issues. These physical facility barriers can be identified through an ADA self-evaluation, which DLZ can assist you with by providing experienced professionals to perform inspections or train your staff on how to complete them. Government programs and the policies and procedures in place to implement them is an accessibility need often overlooked. Only through an evaluation of these potential non-physical barriers can a comprehensive ADA Transition Plan be developed to map out a strategy to ensure accessibility to all government programs.

As we see much more emphasis on the technology side of accessibility needs, including websites and access to the virtual meetings, I would anticipate this topic to be more prominent this year. As we settle into 2021, there will likely be new Federal guidance provided for access to technology for the disabled, especially websites, given the increase in use of the internet for so many of our normal day-to-day activities.

We urge all public and private entities out there to consider the accessibility needs of their customers before it becomes an issue and results in complaints, whether formal or not, or loss of business. Like most things, fixing something before it becomes an issue is typically much less costly than after it becomes a problem. We’re here when you need us. We can help you understand your accessibility obligations.