The Best Part About New Work Isn’t Business Growth. It’s Learning.
February 20, 2019
There are a lot of reasons to love new clients and projects. They provide fuel for the growth of your business, proof of the need for the service you’re offering the marketplace, and a wider network of contacts and colleagues throughout your industry.
But the best part about working on new things with new partners are the things you learn from doing it. In fact, I can’t think of a single project we’ve undertaken that didn’t directly lead to a new software feature, a fresh perspective on tackling an unforeseen problem, or a more exact view of the challenges facing the regulatory agencies and consultants that use our software as the backbone of their public comment process.
As we start another year here at SmartComment, we’re lucky to be starting a slew of new projects with a wide range of clients that keep pushing us and our software into newer and more innovative places. Here are just a few of our favorite new clients, and the things we value most about each.
As the state environmental regulator, the Arkansas DEQ oversees the health of the air, land and water that make up some of the country’s most beautiful scenery. Seriously, if you’ve never spent a fall football weekend in Fayetteville or stopped to eat barbecue in Hot Springs on a steamy summer day, book your trip now. We met Arkansas DEQ’s director, Becky Keogh, last March at the ECOS Spring meeting in St. Paul, Minn. After the conference, Keogh put us in touch with the head of the agency’s IT Department to discuss ways SmartComment could assist them with managing their public comment process as they gauge citizen input on a wide variety of environmental issues and decisions–from rule changes to water permits and beyond. After signing up for an agency-wide SmartComment subscription, we began our first project last fall, allowing the agency to set a comment period to open and close at a specific date and time, providing a public-facing web portal to receive citizen input throughout, and giving the agency powerful back-end capabilities to categorize, understand and respond to each comment.
Why It’s Important: Arkansas DEQ represents another large agency embracing SmartComment not to help with just a single project, but as an ongoing solution that allows them to manage all of their comment periods from a central cloud location. This results in an overall public comment process that’s seamless and digital–with all results and documents readily accessible with the click of a button.
An environmental consulting firm based in Vancouver, Canada, Hemmera reached out to us to schedule a software demo back in October, seeking a digital solution to help manage the many public comment periods they conduct every year throughout Canada. Working in sectors ranging from energy to transportation and beyond, they were attracted to SmartComment’s experience helping environmental consultants throughout the United States on similarly diverse projects–from freeway extensions to habitat restorations to urban development plans to site cleanups. Having recently signed up for a company-wide SmartComment subscription, it wasn’t too long before their first comment period launched along with a survey about an open house.
Why It’s Important: Besides its status as a world-class environmental consulting firm, Hemmera represents SmartComment’s first international client. This required a little footwork on our end, which included spinning up an AWS (Amazon Web Services) server for the Canada region. But with that work out of the way, SmartComment is now ready to pursue projects for clients throughout Canada.
Federal Aviation Administration
In the middle of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) related to proposed improvements at Charlotte Douglas International airport in North Carolina, the FAA reached out to SmartComment to help manage, categorize and respond to the hundreds of comments it had received via email during the initial phases of the project. SmartComment quickly imported the comments into its digital platform where the project team led by the FAA could digitally break them up into specific topics, organize them for evaluation and response by topic specialists, and efficiently import them into the final document.
Why It’s Important: This project stands as an example of SmartComment’s value at any stage of an environmental review. Facing the prospect of manually sorting, digesting and responding to hundreds of emailed comments related to a significant federal project, SmartComment was able to help the FAA quickly develop a digital plan for managing a large amount of public feedback, while providing a custom solution that matched the project team’s various approval levels and organizational structure.
Arizona DOT (Proposed I-11 Corridor)
We’ve had an amazing relationship over the years with AECOM, a truly innovative engineering firm we’ve worked with on a number of projects from North Carolina to Texas to California and now on our first joint project in Arizona. This one has a pretty ambitious goal: to connect Phoenix and Las Vegas (the two largest adjacent cities not connected by an interstate) with a new thoroughfare, I-11. But rather than build an entirely new route, this one would be cobbled together from a number of existing highways. The first step among four proposed I-11-related projects is the planned widening of U.S. 93 near Wickenburg, Ariz.
Why It’s Important: It’s an important extension of our relationship providing public comment support to the consultants at AECOM for a truly transformative transportation-related project.
New Mexico Office of the State Engineer (State Water Plan)
Our first project in New Mexico allowed us to provide a digital survey/questionnaire form for citizens to use in weighing in on the Draft New Mexico State Water Plan.
Bureau of Land Management (Pebble Mine EIS)
This is another project we’re doing with AECOM, providing the Bureau of Land Management a digital platform for public comments related to an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the proposed Pebble Mine in Alaska.
Colorado Department of Transportation (I-25 Widening)
We’ve been working with CDOT on the proposed I-25 Planning and Environmental Linkages (PEL) Study from the very beginning. And we’re excited to continue providing public comment support for the fifth stage of the study as it focuses on a highly congested six-mile stretch of the interstate within central Denver.
Department of Hawaii Homelands (DHHS)
One of the real thrills of our job is getting to know all the amazing agencies and diverse projects that exist all across the country. We’ve had the privilege to get to know the amazing professionals at DHHS through our comment support work for the Pulehunui Regional Infrastructure Master Plan, which would guide the development on certain state lands located along Maui Veterans Highway (formerly Mokulele Highway) in Central Maui.
Los Angeles Metro (LA River Bike Path Gap Closure)
We’ve worked on several projects with LA Metro and the consultants at Jacobs (formerly ch2m), who included us in their big for this project. This is a big one in our hometown of Los Angeles, enabling mobility by closing an eight-mile gap in the Los Angeles River Bike Path–from Elysian Valley through Downtown Los Angeles to the City of Vernon.