Magazine Feature / People

Technology has changed business geography, Burns scholar says

Grant Thrall’s first involvement in real estate and geography was at the tender age of six. He wrote a letter to the tax assessor for Big Sur, Calif., asking to be notified if a property went into default so that he would have the first opportunity to purchase it.

As the youngster from Los Angeles watched the city around him grow, his interest in urban change and urban development grew. He parlayed that interest into a successful career, becoming a well-respected pioneer in the field of geospatial technology and how it applies to real estate and the business community.

Thrall, a geography professor at the University of Florida, is currently at DU as this year’s Burns Scholar in the Franklin L. Burns School of Real Estate and Construction Management at the Daniels College of Business.

Through the competitive program, Thrall was selected to spend two days at the Burns School interacting with DU students and faculty and area leaders in the real estate industry.

The program was started in 2003 as a way to enrich the Burns student experience and to share the program with an outstanding internationally known real estate scholar.

“The students have an opportunity to see how what they are learning on the academic side applies to the real world, and they get to meet a person who they can emulate,” says Mark Levine, director of the Burns School.

Thrall specializes in using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) data and mapping technology to make business decisions, such as where to locate a new business franchise to maximize revenue. He is a widely recognized author, speaker and consultant.

When he went to college, there was no major for the type of work he wanted to do, so he pursued undergraduate and graduate degrees in business and economics and a PhD in geography and made his own way.

“I took a huge risk because I wanted to do something that was very new,” says Thrall.  “When you’re choosing a career, you can take a risk or play it safe — I was lucky that it paid off for me.”

In the years since he pioneered the field, the business geography field has ballooned due to advances in technology. “When I first started, I worked on a project that took two years,” he says. “I could now replicate that project in five minutes.”

Thrall says that the world of business is changing and that employers will demand that graduates understand geospatial technology and its business applications. “Everything that we are currently doing is going to change, and job descriptions will change,” he says. “This knowledge is permeating the entire industry at all management levels.”

“Business students need to be aware of this field and have this type of knowledge base,” Thrall says.

Comments are closed.