High hopes for high tech: Award spotlights efforts to promote industry
Phil Castle, The Business Times
As much as Page Tucker appreciates the recognition he’s received from a statewide award, he’s just as pleased about the opportunity to draw attention to what he expects to become a growing role for technology companies in the Grand Valley and Western Colorado.
“It’s definitely shined a spotlight on the company throughout the state. But I also think it brings a level of credibility to the Western Slope,” says Tucker, president and chief executive officer of ProStar Geocorp in Grand Junction.
Tucker was among the latest winners of 10 Apex Awards presented by the Colorado Technology Association. Tucker won the award for entrepreneur excellence.
Brian Watson and Josh Hudnall, co-founders of the Launch West Co initiative in the Grand Valley, were finalists for the project of the year award.
Kristi Pollard, executive director of the Grand Junction Economic Partnership, says she’s excited about what the Apex Award means not only for Tucker and ProStar Geocorp, but also efforts to promote the technology sector. “Page shares a common goal with GJEP to turn Colorado’s Grand Valley into a recognized tech hub. This award demonstrates that the rest of the state is beginning to notice the innovation and entrepreneurial spirit brewing on the Western Slope and brings us one step closer to realizing our goal.”
The Colorado Technology Association presents Apex Awards to recognize the accomplishments of individuals and companies working in the tech sector in the state.
The award for entrepreneurial excellence honors leaders who’ve started and grown technology companies in Colorado and also demonstrate passion for solving problems, perseverance in the face of adversity and personal attributes that distinguish them from others in the industry.
Tucker founded what he describes as a geospatial intelligence company that combines geographic information systems and data to offer computer software and services to the pipeline and utility industries. The software and services help customers manage infrastructure whether it’s displaying, collecting, storing or using information about the location of pipelines, fiber optic cables or other facilities.
ProStar Geocorp was among the first companies in Colorado to participate in the Rural Jump-Start Program offering state and local tax incentives. The company also received a $250,000 grant awarded through the Advanced Industries Accelerator Program.
ProStar Geocorp is poised to soon release its software on a commercial basis, Tucker says.
While a smartphone application that guides a user to within 20 feet of a restaurant might be close enough, ProStar offers technology that in some cases is accurate to within inches, he says.
The other important aspect of the technology, Tucker says, is that it’s readily accessible in the field. That means workers can use computers, tablets or smartphones to access information and use the software in real time. ProStar offers this capability by storing software and information on Azure, a cloud computing platform operated by Microsoft.
ProStar technology can be used from the very beginning of the process in planning pipeline and utility routing and right of ways, then recording exactly where the infrastructure is located as it’s installed, he says.
In locating underground pipes or utilities based on records, there could be differences between where records indicate utilities were installed and where they actually exist. Using ProStar technology, a worker can instantly update records as the utilities are located, he says.
ProStar also has been working with Microsoft HoloLens augmented reality headsets to display information in three dimensions. The technology will enable planners and engineers to see what projects designed in two dimensions look like in three. Crews working in the field will see buried pipelines and other infrastructure as if they possessed X-ray vision.
ProStar has worked with several partners in developing and testing its software and services, Tucker says. That includes Embridge Pipeline, a Canadian-based company that operates one of the largest and most sophisticated oil and liquid transportation systems in the world.
The timing to release software could be good, Tucker says. While low commodity prices have slowed oil and natural gas exploration and production activities, energy companies are looking for ways to cut costs to make operations profitable.
The election of Donald Trump as president also could bode well for the energy industry given his early indications Trump wants to ease federal regulations on production, Tucker says.
Moreover, the technology can be used beyond the energy sector, Tucker says.
Tucker envisions a pilot program to make Grand Junction a so-called smart city. It’s possible to use satellite imagery and ProStar technology to create a detailed three-dimensional digital map of Grand Junction that includes everything above ground as well as the infrastructure underground, he says. That information then could be used for a variety of purposes, including speeding emergency response and better managing natural disasters to building predictive computer models.
Meanwhile, ProStar is working with Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction and North Carolina State University in Raleigh to develop a geospatial analytics curriculum
ProStar offers internships to CMU students and on-the-job training opportunities through the Mesa County Workforce Center and also has joined in the new CareerWise Colorado initiative to provide apprenticeships to local high school students.
Andrea Young, chief executive officer of the Colorado Technology Association, says Tucker’s efforts not only in developing his company but also establishing key relationships with economic development, educational and workforce organizations foster an environment that will nurture the technology industry.
Even as Colorado enjoys the benefits of a rapidly growing technology industry that’s made the state one of the top destinations for companies and workers, Young says the association is working to build on that momentum and expand the sector beyond the Front Range and into more rural areas. Sharing success stories like the one about Tucker and ProStar help in increasing awareness of what’s possible, she says.
Tucker says he was excited and honored to receive the Apex Award, but he’s just as excited about efforts to establish a tech hub in Grand Junction. “To grow the tree, you’ve got to plant the seeds, and that’s what we’re doing.”