Land Surveying… A Loss Leader Profession?

March 31, 2023
3 min read
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Hell no!!!!!! At least not at Howell Surveying, that’s for sure. In 1999 when I started D.L. Howell & Associates, Inc. I didn’t have the money or, quite frankly, the guts (I hate to admit that) to also have a surveying department. In May of 1999, I set out to see what I could achieve with Joe Russella and a $25,000 loan. My good friend and colleague Rich Kline, PLS, was (and still is) an awesome surveyor, but that meant I needed a truck, equipment, survey instruments, etc., and I just couldn’t afford it.

Looking back, this was a blessing because as time went on, I could see the need for more than just a survey crew to support engineering. I had a vision of building a cutting-edge surveying firm built not only upon sound surveying principles but also on the latest technology as the profession began to evolve. Yeah, we had EDM’s (electronic distance meters), and I surveyed with them at Hunt Engineers in college. Total Stations were out with much more accurate digital readouts, but these weren’t the “game changers” that the surveying profession was longing for. GPS was in its infant stage, and we bought a back pack unit for $15,000 with dreams of walking around on sites and obtaining 3-D coordinate information. X and Y coordinates were kind of easy, but that dreaded Z coordinate (the elevation) was much more difficult and time-consuming to obtain. On we went, trying to evolve, trying to stay out in front of our competitors and on the forefront of the profession. We continued to invest in our GPS units, robotic instruments and drone technology. 24 years later… it has paid off! And I don’t mean profit-wise as much as I mean how far we have advanced as a true Professional Land Surveying firm rather than a support department for an engineering firm.

Howell Surveying, in my highly biased opinion, has become the premiere surveying firm in the region. With 25 employees, including 11 survey crews, our capabilities have grown immensely. From boundary and topographic surveys to ALTA surveys to as-built surveys, construction stakeout and our drones, there is no job too large or, frankly, too small. Our Matrice LiDAR drone can fly a 500-acre site in a day while our crews work to tie down the boundary and utilities. We can use our Mavic drone for quick topographic surveys of active construction sites, quarries and open areas. And when we can’t see underground, our pipe rover camera can measure and video document any underground pipe and determine where they lead and where they may be clogged.

What does this mean to our clients? Responsiveness, speed, accuracy. We live in the world of the immediate, and we strive to make or exceed every deadline and remain available for those “emergency” situations when a crew is needed the next day. But more importantly… what does this mean to people who want to begin a career in surveying? EVERYTHING! Howell Surveying is a true Professional Land Surveying firm that is dedicated to the profession. Whether you are interested in CAD drafting, field surveying, construction stakeout or learning to fly a hundred thousand dollar drone, we do it all. Don’t be a loss leader… be a leader!!!



1250 Wrights Lane
West Chester, PA 19380

Phone: 610-918-9002
Fax: 610-918-9003

Terrain - A Howell Company

53 Old Solomons Island Rd. Suite I
Annapolis, MD 21401

Phone: 410-266-1160

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