Partner Profile: Bob Johnson - Premier Data Services

One of the great things about my job is that I get to meet fascinating people in my travels.  Last week, I was in Boise starting a project for the Bureau of Reclamation with our project partner Premier Data Services.  We were very fortunate to have Bob Johnson, Premier's President, on site for our first round of client meetings.

Bob Johnson  President, Premier Data Systems Bob Johnson President, Premier Data Systems

Bob is an expert in western lands cadastre.  He knows more about the subject than anyone I have ever met.  A lot more.  He has amassed this knowledge through a fascinating career working first in geology and then primarily in the world of lands records.  His understanding of western lands records is greatly enriched by his love of geology and history and a passion for data.  The passion for data he has turned into a strong business.  Premier Data Services not only provides one of the most comprehensive query and reporting systems for western land records, they also have an extraordinary data production capability.   When Hurricane Ike hit Texas in 2008, Premier was asked to assist in the damage assessment. They conflated the parcels in the impacted area (about 2.5 Million parcels in nine counties in three states) into a single geodatabase in order to create the data to support the damage assessment.  And they did all this in about 10 days.  Like I said... extraordinary.

What I found most remarkable about Bob, however was not his detailed understanding of land records, but rather the story of our relationship with the western landscape that he sees in those records.  There are patterns in the records that tell the story of how the country became more sophisticated in how it reserved water and mineral rights for the country as settlements moved west.  There is the story of how land managers used access to land to encourage the railroads to build the rail infrastructure that allowed for development.  There is the painful story of how we systematically displaced the native inhabitants from any land that the white man saw as valuable.  And there is the story of how the Bureau of Reclamation used the power of eminent domain to create some of the world's most amazing civil engineering projects to water and power the west.

Hearing these stories and the patterns of how the oil, gas, coal, and mineral industries have variously boomed and busted across the landscape was a wonderful experience.  You can bet that the next time I have the chance to spend time with Bob Johnson that I will budget for more time and more beer.