State Spotlight: New Jersey

Andy Rowan
Geographic Information Officer, NJ Office of Information Technology

Interviewed by Sheila Steffenson | March 1, 2019

New Jersey Geographic Information Officer Andy Rowan says that after 13 years in state government, “the biggest challenge remains a gap in awareness outside of the state’s GIS community regarding the capabilities of GIS technology.” Awareness and education can be obstacles in taking any state GIS program to the next level.

Rowan’s career in GIS started when he was a junior staff member at a small environmental consulting firm. When one of the firm’s senior scientists became convinced GIS should be brought in, earth scientist Rowan -- with the most bandwidth -- was tapped to take it on. The firm sent him to training and he never looked back.

In addition to his role as the state’s GIO, Rowan recently served two years as Deputy Chief Technology Officer. During his time in state government, he has witnessed a shift in focus from building new GIS data to maintaining the data that exists. “There is a relentless march towards accuracy improvement,” says Rowan.

One of the biggest successes related to GIS in New Jersey occurred a few years back regarding the evolution of parcel data in the state. Almost every county had a complete parcel data set; however, the data sets were not edgematched between counties. The state established an accurate statewide municipal/county boundary set, coordinated with counties to freeze their parcel updates, aligned the existing parcels, and returned the aligned parcels to counties for continued maintenance.

Another big success for the New Jersey GIS program occurred more recently when they participated in the U.S. Census Bureau’s Boundary Quality Assessment and Reconciliation Project (BQARP) to reconcile differences between the state’s municipal boundaries and the census boundaries file. Rowan says that the ability to work with Census on the BQARP initiative was prompted by a casual conversation at a NSGIC conference.

“There is definitely a drive towards a spatial data infrastructure in New Jersey and it is progressing well,” says Rowan. “All the originally required layers have been established and we are now drilling into what were formerly the ‘nice to haves’ like building footprints.”

Looking forward, Rowan is most interested in the evolution of imagery and elevation data acquisition, in terms of both the technology and the way the market functions. New Jersey’s statewide imagery plan calls for updates every five years, a schedule he sees as continuing for the time being.

Industry growth is welcomed by Rowan, who says that the ever-changing problems to solve are what he enjoys most about his role.

In his spare time, Rowan hikes, bikes, and takes on home renovation projects. He also enjoys theater and has participated in an annual community production of Jesus Christ Superstar for the past 12 years.

Interested in learning more about GIS in New Jersey? The New Jersey Geospatial Forum holds open in-person meetings four times a year. Information about the forum can be found 



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