News


LandGazette Makes the Papers
Jan 7, 2005

A feature written on LanGazette was published in The Telegram. Click More or the title to read a transcript

Source: Moira Baird The Telegram

 

A Marystown businessman wants to bring the business of surveying land in Newfoundland into the computer age.

The idea is to create a searchable, online map of the province using land surveys. That map will show residential and commercial property boundaries and their evolution as those boundaries are altered.

Ian Edwards aims to have his online database to be known as the land gazette up and running by October.

To do this, he has created a new company called Information Brokerage Ltd. (IBL) and is selling shares to raise $250,000 from private investors.

It's a portion of the $800,000 he needs to start up the high-tech company.

The land gazette will grow one survey at a time, and Edwards figures it will take five years for the database to mature.

"Over five years, we anticipate we'll have a fairly dense database of ownership especially in the areas where there's a lot of activity, like St. John's and the northeast Avalon," said Edwards. He's a land surveyor with his own company, Edwards and Associates, based in Marystown. Edwards is also a consultant on municipal projects, such as water, sewer and road upgrades. Investors aren't the only ingredient required for his landgazette.

Another is an agreement with the Association of Newfoundland Land Surveyors. It commits IBL to developing the software tools and managing the database, while the survey industry provides the land maps.

"Our goal is to have a prototype ready for mid-May for the land surveyors," he said. "The tools will enable the surveyors without a middle person to input their information. There are other systems, but they're usually run or managed by government."

Land survey companies will receive a 25 per cent royalty each time their information is searched and downloaded. It provides a little extra cash for survey work that usually generates just one-time revenue.

"That is unique in Canada," he said. "That's what's giving us buy-in from the association." The royalties will come from a transaction fee of $1.50 to search the database and an $8 fee to download a document.

Edwards says there will be about 2,000 regular users for the database, including land surveyors, lawyers, real estate agents, municipalities and government agencies and departments. Information Brokerage's database will show boundaries, easements and rights of way. It will also show the evolution of land ownership in map form.

That means stitching together individual property maps into one big map. "The jigsaw puzzle of land ownership would have intelligence," said Edwards. "To do that, you can't just place a scanned image in. The fabric has got to be integrated, or knitted together."

Edwards also expects to be able to overlay current land ownerships on old Crown maps, allowing researchers to track title histories more easily once that information is input by land surveyors. "We have financial incentives for the surveyors to input the historic information. It would be a big job very labour intensive. A lot of the old survey plans are not digital form."

He envisions hiring 20-30 people for that work.

Shares in IBL went up for sale last October and are being sold in 40 lots of 5,000 shares. Each lot costs $6,250.

 

There are about a dozen lots remaining. Looking for assistance Edwards is investing 35 per cent of the company's start-up costs and will be the controlling shareholder of IBL.

He is also looking for assistance from federal agencies, such as the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency and the National Research Council (NRC).

IBL has already received funds from NRC "the first agency to step up to the plate," said Edwards. He has also received $50,000 in seed money and $10,000 for marketing from the provincial Department of Innovation, Trade and Rural Development. The department has 500 shares in the company.

In his business plan, Edwards expects to pay dividends in Year 3 of operation. That's also when he expects to hit revenues of about $1.2 million annually and have operation costs of about $550,000 per year.

IBL's board of directors includes businessman Dean MacDonald, lawyer Steve Marshall and Newfoundland-born Ivan Ford, an expert in land registry systems.

Edwards says Ford's expertise will come in handy in exporting Information Brokerage's land gazette system to developing countries.

"Ivan's expertise will help us in building a system that will fit their business needs." Edwards says his company is also doing its part to reverse out-migration on the Burin Peninsula. The company has hired three people two from St. John's and one from British Columbia. IBL will also set up an office in St. John's.

Source: Moira Baird The Telegram