Changing Dynamics of Our Profession

District 3 Highlight

submitted by Jim Summerbell, AICP, District 3 Director

As we rapidly approach the time for the GPA Spring Conference, and many of us are in the final weeks of preparation, I am struck by the changing dynamics of our profession. One of these changes that has recently had a direct impact on me and one that is certainly being played out around the country is the growing trend of corporate acquisitions and mergers. If you have not already heard, the consulting firm that I work for, JJG, was recently acquired by Jacobs Engineering, and in the past year we have also seen EDAW and Glatting Jackson being acquired by AECOM.

In reality, this has not change the one-on-one relationships that are at the heart of our profession.  Most of the faces and personalities associated with these companies are the same, but I do have to wonder where this trend is leading.  Will we eventually emerge into landscape where there are only a few large scale players in the consulting world, and number of smaller local firms competing for fewer and fewer projects?  And as we eventually emerge from this recession how will that effect this trend as projects become more numerous?

Another changing dynamic I have noticed is the decline in GPA membership.  If you are not aware we actually have lost chapter membership over the past year from a high of 1,123 in September 2008 to a current membership of 1,034.  I do not know to what extent this drop is due to the downturn in the economy, because the new AICP certification requirements have probably also played a role.  I am still collecting data with Jessica Gibson’s help to determine what the causes are, but I think this is a trend we need to take note of and respond to.

At the coming Spring Conference, you may notice more of an emphasis on improving the job finding skills for the student members, as well as sessions geared to assist the recently laid-off and unemployed.   We as a chapter can be a big support for those seeking employment, and I am interested to hear your ideas on what we can do.  For example, I have heard several of our colleagues mention the idea chapter sponsored service projects.  This would offer those that want to gain experience and network with potential employers a chance to get together and help a cash-strapped community or non-profit organization with their planning needs?

Again, let me know what think.  In the coming months I plan to organize a District event, probably a luncheon, and your input on what type of event that should be and your assistance in making it happen would greatly be appreciated.   I hope to see you in Macon.