News

A Visionary Approach to GovTech

New Orleans, LA, June 1, 2020

Submit Form A, deliver to Agency B, then write a check to Office C – but only after you’ve filed your paperwork with Division D. If you’re still not clear, see Section E and fax or mail a letter with your questions to Group F.

Virtually everyone who interacts with government has experienced the torment of seemingly nonsensical procedures, disjointed offices, and outdated technologies. It’s a common problem for state and local governments across the country, and it was for Illinois, too. That is, until the new Governor tapped Mike Wons to re-envision how the state does business, through the lens of technology.

In 2015, Wons was appointed Illinois’ first statewide Information Technology Officer and given the unenviable task of wrangling its vast, fractured IT operation. At the time, he had been a successful private-sector CTO at the top of his career with more than 20 years of experience in senior roles for GovTech leaders, including Payit, CellTrak Technologies, and Federal Signal Corporation.

“It was a hard decision for my family, and those in the public sector understand why. Working in government is tough and there are many competing priorities with limited resources,” he said. “While discussing it with my wife, she asked me why I wanted to do it. I told her, ‘because I believe that I can help make a difference.’”

Indeed, Wons made a difference.

Within six months, working alongside the state’s CIO and select business and IT leaders, he helped successfully launch the state’s first federated IT agency, combining 40 individual agencies, 1,400 staff, $1.1B annual IT spend, and over 2,800 systems all under the newly created Department of Innovation & Technology (DoIT).

“It was a massive undertaking by the DoIT team that focused on reducing the overall expenditure on IT, moving the state to common platforms and tools for innovation and helping establish a laser focus on enhanced cybersecurity,” he said. “But at the heart of it all was a desire to deliver a modern, frictionless experience for the state’s residents and businesses,” Wons recalls.

The experience opened his eyes to the unique challenges, pitfalls, and idiosyncrasies that stand in the way of government innovation, which he described as “immense.” Many state and local governments rely on legacy applications and an aging workforce. And agencies are often siloed and difficult for constituents to navigate.

Wons’ winning solution: a common industry platform for government.

According to Wons, “States deliver hundreds of adjoining services, and the goal must be to bring them together on a common platform that is modern and frictionless in order to deliver a single, quality user experience for constituents and businesses.”

This hard-won experience and perspective is now available to government agencies throughout the country, as Wons was recently named president of GCR’s State Government business unit, PCC, which is a leading provider of software to state and local governments.

“Mike brings the perfect combination of government experience, technical expertise, and a genuine commitment to public service to this role,” said Tom Amburgey, the CEO of GCR. “Mike is a visionary who is going to build on PCC’s solid foundation to disrupt the GovTech space and revolutionize the way this industry operates.”

Wons is driving the company to expand its suite of solutions, but he doesn’t want to create what he calls “one-offs.” A software engineer by trade who got his start coding during high school, Wons is directing PCC to develop enterprise solutions and to build an open API structure that uses advanced technology to make connectivity easy and implementation quick.

Creating a common digital identity is a lofty goal, but it’s one that Wons says PCC, a GovTech Top 100 company, is primed to take on.

“You can be visionary while being practical in implementation, advancing one step at a time,” he said. “That’s why I am excited about the possibilities at PCC. We have incredible talent and are making significant investments in our team and in innovation, which we’ll be excited to announce soon. We also have a solid record of success and, importantly, the trust of governments to forge ahead in this direction.”

Wons is not new to this type of big-picture, fast-paced evolution. As CTO for the State of Illinois, he led a statewide IT transformation, creating a common IT culture, moving the state to a common domain, launching a cybersecurity operations center, delivering the first statewide ERP implementation, and founding an IT Advisory Board for effective management of future IT investments. He also helped establish a culture of innovation that delivered sustainable new solutions in 75 days or less.

The coronavirus pandemic, which has underscored the importance of integrating technology into government operations, could serve as a flashpoint for a GovTech revolution. States with robust online platforms have been able to maintain workflow without interruption, while others are facing huge backlogs when they return to the office after working from home.

Finding ways to learn from the lessons of the pandemic and effectively apply them is a challenge Wons doesn’t shy away from. A self-described “tech junkie,” Wons keeps his finger on the pulse of emerging technologies and ways to make the GovTech more personal, more secure, and faster. He spots four digital disruption levers that can help: the Internet of Things, AI and Machine Learning, the future of loosely coupled database structure and architecture, including Blockchain; and consumption, including the use via mobile devices.

“The possibilities are limitless, and I’m eager to work with PCC’s clients as a thought partner and to be at the table for visioning and conversations about these emerging technologies including Blockchain and AI,” he said. “I was attracted to PCC because of its mission to ‘transform the public sector.’ In fact, it’s my passion. And I’m eager to have a hand in ushering in a new era of digital transformation.”

States Avoid UCC Lien “Shutdown Backlog” with XML

Windsor, CT, June 2, 2020

Some Secretary of State business services teams are returning to their offices to find mountains of backlogged UCC lien paperwork waiting for them. Those with robust electronic filing systems, though, have kept pace during statewide shutdowns.

Registered agents generate and submit hundreds of UCC lien filings every day, nonstop. This can jam online systems, making it impossible for small filers to get their turns. Moreover, some states require paper filings, which means hundreds of forms per day need to be entered manually – a problem compounded during office closures. Enter states like Indiana, which is using PCC’s UCC Solution to channel bulk filers through XML (eXtensible Markup Language).

This best practice, endorsed by the International Association of Commercial Administrators (IACA), maintains system functionality for all filers by creating a special backend XML channel for registered agents, eliminating paper filings and increasing efficiency.

“Secretary of State Offices that were set up to use XML for bulk filings were well positioned to maintain operations while working from home,” said Vishal Hanjan, AVP of Product Management with PCC, a GCR company. “Exemplary states, like Indiana with its award-winning INBiz platform, have continued processing UCC liens electronically without interruption throughout the pandemic.”

PCC’s UCC Solution allows filing office staff to perform day-to-day business and fulfillment from an in-house portal while the general public performs filings, searches, and data/report purchases through an authenticated online portal.

Learn more at https://gcrincorporated.com/ucc-2/

A Change Agent for Airports

New Orleans, LA, May 4, 2020

Looking down on the shrinking city through his window, Bryan Helaire sunk into his seat and began thinking. Although he’s been working in airports for nearly two decades, each time he travels it is a contemplative journey. As a frequent passenger, he gets to experience how systems, infrastructure, policies, and much more come together to shape the passenger experience. He can’t help but spot opportunities to leverage technology in his unrelenting quest for the ideal.

The airport industry has always been on the leading edge of tech, but this is an unprecedented era of innovation. Cybersecurity, biometrics, blockchain, artificial intelligence (AI), 5G, and other emerging technologies are at the forefront for airport CIOs, CTOs, and IT Directors. What seemed like science fiction not long ago is becoming reality. Some airports are already piloting or implementing drones, autonomous vehicles, robots, and facial recognition.

“It’s an exciting time for technologists. What had been considered the future is the present,” said Helaire, who recently joined GCR as Vice President of Customer Experience where he will head up user experience (UX) and user interface (UI) for airports. “Airports want innovation where it adds real value, providing quality service and elevating the experience of the passenger.”

A big grin grows across his face as he talks about how airports are uncovering the possibilities of Internet of Things, AI, biometrics, and other IT solutions.

He said, “Airports that embrace technology and innovation as core competencies will be able to quickly meet the demands of their customers. Think about how quickly the world adopted utilizing smart phones for payment transactions or as identification to gain access. Those airports that were frontrunners, on an average, received higher customer experience ratings. So, what’s next? As long as customers are comforted with knowing they control their data, they will continue to desire a touchless environment. Facial recognition is already being piloted in the boarding process. Imagine the customer wanting to have that experience at every touch point, from parking to check-in, dining, and boarding.”

As an early adopter and advocate for tech, Helaire has been on the leading edge of airport innovation. As the Assistant Director for Applications and Support at the Houston Airport System, he worked alongside GCR to decrease processing times for arriving international travelers, from 32 minutes down to 16, by deploying Automated Passport Control (APC) kiosks. The highly successful program expanded to a global market.

“If integrated in a meaningful way, technology can have a significant impact on both, the customer experience and operations,” said Helaire, who most recently served as the Director of Information Technology for the Jackson Airport Authority in Miss.

There, in response to the growing lines that came with the addition of new air services, he deployed LIDAR (motion analytics) to continuously inform travelers of expected wait times at TSA security checkpoints.

“Research told us that if passengers had a sense of how long they’d be waiting, it could potentially reduce anxiety levels. The biggest impact, though, was equipping the local TSA and airport management with valuable data to make informed decisions during peak times,” he said.

Helaire is enriching GCR’s team with an emphasis on user experience.

He joins the company’s cadre of veteran airport executives who are advising more than 100 airports across the U.S.

He said, “Our team is ideally suited to add efficiencies for airports. We have an unparalleled roster of former airport directors and senior managers as well as the more than 300 developers, system architects, and GIS professionals who can provide unique insight into organizational and operational needs and apply our skill sets to create effective solutions.”

Helaire will be focusing on GCR’s product development with an emphasis on UX/UI.

“We’re not just focused on new ideas, but rather creating solutions that are valuable, intuitive and actionable for our peers and colleagues,” he said. “Whether airport staff, airlines, concessions, vendors, or travelers, we’re thinking of the end-user first when developing new technologies. That’s how you create true super-users and get the greatest return on investment.”

While noting the seemingly endless possibilities, Helaire advised that “effectively deployed technologies require proper planning with subject matter experts. The solutions must align with the strategy of the organization, otherwise value is not added.”

GCR currently offers a broad suite of airport solutions, and Helaire plans to focus on the development of new enterprise applications.

Helaire describes his role with airports as that of a change agent.

Airports are like micro-cities. They are complex ecosystems comprised of many discrete parts working with each other in particular ways, some closely integrated and some barely linked.

“Technology can help organize and manage dynamic systems, and we haven’t even begun to scratch the surface of what’s possible,” he said. “Some may be afraid of the unknown. To be successful, IT leaders are required to be change agents. I see this as one of my primary roles, working with airport management to understand their strategies, digest obstacles, visualize possibilities, and, together, determine the course of action.”

Helaire has on-the-job experience in this regard. Over the years he has advised on IT strategies at airport authorities in both Houston and Jackson. He also has vast experience in facilitating discussions with senior airport executives to formalize and implement strategic plans. He has been an active member of the Business Information Technology Committee for the Airports Council International, which examines new and emerging technologies for airport systems.

“Bryan is well known and respected in the airport industry and having him join our team is a major win for us and our clients,” said Tim Walsh, GCR’s President of Critical Infrastructure. “With Bryan driving product design and UX/UI, GCR will continue to build on its success as a leading provider of airport solutions.”

GCR’s experts have provided solutions to the aviation industry for more than 40 years. Its leading AirportIQ suite is a family of connected software solutions built to help manage airports, comply with federal regulations, and provide actionable information.

About GCR

GCR improves, expedites, and digitally transforms public sector offerings in the areas of grants management, critical infrastructure, land and facilities management, elections, and government business services. Together with its subsidiaries, PCC Technology Inc. and MB3, GCR is recognized as one of the top government technology and service providers in the country.

A trusted partner of the FAA, the company administers nationwide federal inspections of all public and private use airports and has professional relationships with 13 U.S. state aeronautics agencies and over 100 airports worldwide, including the Houston Airport System, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International, JFK, and SFO.

 

A Message from Our CEO

New Orleans, LA, April 21, 2020

At GCR, we’re very proud of the customers we support across North America who are serving the critical, but often unseen, needs of our communities during this uneasy and unpredictable time. They’re preparing for elections in the era of social distancing, deploying federal disaster funds, keeping our airports humming, supporting real estate and infrastructure, keeping power plants operating safely, and much, much more. They’re often away from their families so we can be with ours. They’re up all night to ensure we can sleep soundly. They’re innovating, pivoting, and inventing. And for the most part, they’re behind the scenes.

GCR’s customers are the unheralded who are sacrificing to make sure our communities, our democracy, and our economy keep functioning throughout this challenging, rapidly evolving situation — and they’re the ones who are working now to make sure the future will be even brighter than before.

We see you. We applaud you. And we’re here #ForYouFromHome. 

City of New Orleans Invites Citizens to Participate in Hazard Mitigation Plan Update

New Orleans, LA, April 13, 2020

The City of New Orleans held its first public meeting on April 7th as part of its ongoing effort to develop an Orleans Parish Multi-Jurisdictional Hazard Mitigation Plan.  The plan will identify hazards, potential impacts, and vulnerabilities across the parish and recommend mitigation strategies and actions to reduce the risks associated with those hazards as part of FEMA’s prescribed planning process.  The City has invited the Sewerage & Water Board of New Orleans, Housing Authority of New Orleans, New Orleans Redevelopment Authority, Orleans Parish School Board, Dillard University, Loyola University, Tulane University, and Xavier University to participate as formal partners in the planning process and is seeking input and participation from the public throughout the plan development process.

This week’s public meeting was convened online as a result of the current restrictions on public gatherings due to the COVID-19 emergency and is the first of several meetings that will take place in 2020 to obtain public input on the plan’s development.  The City has also invited citizens to engage by participating in a text survey, emailing questions or comments, visiting a public website that will be launched later this year, and participating in additional public forums.  GCR is proud to support the City of New Orleans and its project partners in this important effort to analyze risks and vulnerabilities throughout Orleans Parish and identify actions to safeguard people and property from potential hazards and their associated impacts.  Orleans Parish residents are encouraged to participate in the planning process by texting HAZARDPLAN to 468-311 , visiting the project website at https://ready.nola.gov/hazard-mitigation/home/ for additional information on the planning process and upcoming events, emailing comments or questions to hazardmitigation@nola.gov, and participating in additional public forums as they are announced.

PCC: Covid-19 Response – Protecting Health and Democracy this Election Cycle

Windsor, CT, April 8, 2020


As the coronavirus pandemic threatens to spread into the fall, state and local election officials are working to identify and deploy solutions to allow safe and secure voting in upcoming primaries and the general election.

People across the country are staying home in an effort to help prevent the spread of the virus, and many states have made it mandatory through executive orders. Some 15 states are already postponing primary elections, and the outlook for November’s presidential election is unclear. Confronted with this, many state and local officials are considering alternative options to provide voters with access to a ballot during the outbreak.

As a leading provider of voter registration and election administration solutions, PCC has quickly stepped in to advise officials and provide possibilities for meeting the new realities of the COVID-19 era.

“We work with election officials day in and day out, and we fully appreciate the challenges they are facing as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic,” said Vishal Hanjan, PCC’s AVP of Product Management. “Our team is helping states and local governments quickly and efficiently pivot in order to hold elections, which are central to our democracy.”

There are many considerations that must be taken into account when shifting away from in-person voting. Some states may require special legislation or executive orders, and virtually all will need to consider the massive logistical requirements and budget implications. PCC’s election experts are helping guide officials through these obstacles.

“Given PCC’s many years of experience and our relationships with election officials across the U.S., we’re able to share best practices and lessons learned. There’s no time for mistakes and course corrections. Elections must be held, and they must be held with integrity,” said Hanjan.

During normal circumstances, PCC’s ElectioNet suite allows officials to electronically manage elections from polling station set-up to voting. The powerful application is capable of meeting the needs of these extraordinary times, too. It can easily and affordably be configured to support voting by mail, by absentee ballot, and online. For all these options, voters will mail in their ballots using a unique identifier, such as a barcode. The data from this barcode can quickly and easily be scanned and integrated into ElectionNet to manage processing efficiently and with confidence.

“ElectionNet is already used by more states than any other solution, so this is a relatively easy way for them to pivot and manage voting by mail,” said Hanjan.

For PCC’s “Guidance for Holding Elections During the Covid-19 Pandemic,” click here.

PCC’s Business One Stop Helps Keep States Open for Business Amid Shutdown

Windsor, CT, April 6, 2020


With massive shutdowns across the U.S. aimed at curbing the spread of the coronavirus, state and local governments are quickly pivoting how they deliver services to keep business humming and people safe.

Indiana is a shining example of how early adopters of online, integrated services are well positioned to facilitate business during a statewide Stay-At-Home Order.

Four years ago this month, the state launched INBiz as a one-stop resource for Hoosiers to register and manage their businesses and comply with state laws and regulations. Since then more than 500,000 users have signed up to do business through the online portal. With this integrated infrastructure in place prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, business owners are still able to ensure basic compliance remotely.

Powering Indiana’s business portal is PCC’s Business One Stop, a solution that allows multiple agencies to collect, validate, and distribute business registration information while making the process easy for constituents through one, single sign-on application.

“Under normal conditions, the digital nature of Business One Stop helps make states attractive places in which to do business. During this pandemic, it is making business possible while helping keep communities safe from the transmission of the virus,” said Tom Amburgey, Chief Executive Officer of PCC’s parent company, GCR Inc. “One Stop means constituents and agency staff can still manage required processes without face-to-face interactions and the need for transferring paper forms. The online system allows states to maintain social distancing while keeping governments and businesses running.”

There are multiple filing and compliance requirements spanning various state agencies with few definitive sources of information. Business One Stop provides a single public portal for all business needs and streamlines backend, multi-agency procedures. It guides prospective users and puts information and electronic filings at their fingertips – from wherever they happen to be working.

Learn more about how Business One Stop helps states and its businesses grow here.

Using HUD CDBG and FEMA Public Assistance Funding for Coronavirus Response

GCR stands with our clients during this challenging time for our nation and is immediately available to help states, local governments, and nonprofit organizations leverage federal funding to respond to the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic.

Using CDBG Funds for Coronavirus Needs

As leaders at all levels of government marshal resources to address the current emergency, GCR reminds our government partners that HUD Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funding for entitlement programs and disaster recovery may be re-programmed to establish testing and treatment facilities, acquire and distribute medical equipment and supplies, deliver food to vulnerable populations, provide grants or loans to small businesses to pay workers and stay afloat, and provide training to displaced workers to support critical response industries.

HUD has published a reference guide for the use of CDBG funding to support the Coronavirus response, which may require changes to existing programs, policies, budgets, or methods of distribution, and could also involve plan amendments, citizen participation, and HUD approval in order to take effect.  GCR’s CDBG subject matter experts and policy professionals are available immediately to assist state and local governments in re-programming their CDBG and CDBG-DR funds for critical response and recovery services.  A link to HUD’s current program guidance is included below.  Please contact Ted Guillot at tguillot@gcrinc.com for assistance in leveraging existing or new HUD funding to address your state or community’s Coronavirus related needs.

https://files.hudexchange.info/resources/documents/Quick-Guide-CDBG-Infectious-Disease-Response.pdf

New CDBG Funding & Waivers for Existing Funding to Support Coronavirus Response

GCR is also closely monitoring legislative negotiations in Washington, DC along with specific requests from states and industry organizations for CDBG appropriations and program waivers.  These include requests for a new CDBG appropriation to support pandemic response and economic recovery along with proposed waivers to the citizen participation requirement for plan amendments, the 15% cap on use of CDBG awards for public services, NEPA review requirements, the disaster tie-back requirement for CDBG-DR funds, clarification that SBA loan acceptance will not prohibit businesses from receiving subsequent CDBG assistance, and flexibility regarding the use of urgent need as a national objective, among others.  GCR is available to assist grantees with CDBG administrative or statutory waiver requests to support Coronavirus response and recovery.  Please contact Ted Guillot (tguillot@gcrinc.com) for assistance with CDBG waiver or funding requests.

Cost Recovery of Coronavirus Expenses under the FEMA Public Assistance Program

GCR’s software and policy professionals are also available to assist states, local governments, and nonprofit organizations with recovery of their emergency response costs related to COVID-19 under the FEMA Public Assistance program.  The President has declared a national emergency in all states and territories and declared a major disaster in a handful of states so far, with additional state requests pending for major disaster declarations and activation of additional programs under the Stafford Act, including the Individual Assistance Program to fund mass care, disaster unemployment assistance, rental assistance, and household funding for medical and child care expenses, among others.  Our EMGrantsPro software platform helps state agencies facilitate expense tracking and documentation based on FEMA reimbursement requirements, and our professional services personnel can provide technical assistance and accounting procedures to ensure cost recovery, along with technical assistance regarding declarations and program activation under the Stafford Act.  Please contact Mike Dorris at mdorris@gcrinc.com for more information on GCR’s software or professional services available to ensure cost recovery of your organization’s emergency protective measures under the FEMA Public Assistance program or for technical assistance with disaster declarations or Stafford Act programs.  Details on the EMGrantsPro software are also available at www.mb3online.com.

GCR’s COVID-19 Webinar Series

In response to the rapidly evolving COVID-19 situation, GCR is launching a free webinar series to help clients navigate the crisis and beyond. 

Webinar I: Managing Rent Deferment and Forbearance in AMB and ABRM

March 26th | 10:30am-12:30pm
March 30th | 1:00pm-3:00pm

With airports around the globe facing steep declines in flight and passenger traffic as a result of the COVID-19 situation, many are offering rent abatements as temporary financial relief. In this webinar, GCR’s experts will provide guidance on how to manage rent deferment and forbearance in Airport Business Manager (ABM) and AirportIQ Business and Revenue Management (ABRM) systems.

You will learn:

  • Various approaches airports are using to grant relief to tenants in response to the drastic decline in activity due to the COVID-19 situation
  • How to best leverage the features in ABM/ABRM to help to manage your airport?s relief policy, such as:
    • Setting up minimum guarantee abatement or suspension in the application and adjust true-up calculations
    • Adjusting the Due Date of invoices with a global update of invoice terms
    • Flagging invoices

SPEAKERS

Spencer Stewart
VP of Sales, Aviation

Ray Ceasar, CPA
ABRM Subject Matter Expert

Pat Brady, CPA, PMP
ABRM Product Manager

Norfolk Breaks Ground on Ohio Creek Watershed Project

New Orleans, LA, March 10, 2020

Congratulations to the City of Norfolk, Virginia for breaking ground on the Ohio Creek Watershed Project, which will connect two neighborhoods with resilient mitigation measures that feature a flood berm, a restored tidal creek and wetland, and sports and recreation areas. GCR is proud to provide Norfolk with a range of grants management support and technical assistance for this $122.2M project.

GCR serves as the City of Norfolk’s grants management and regulatory compliance subject matter experts for the implementation of its CBDG-NDR award focused on resilience-building initiatives in the Ohio Creek Watershed. This effort comprises a suite of projects and programs, including shoreline restoration and protection, parcel level green infrastructure, increasing community connectivity, and creating economic opportunities for low income residents. GCR’s role includes the provision of technical assistance to the City and its partners trough the development and delivery of a regulatory training program and overall regulatory compliance support.

For more information on this project and VA’s NDRC grant, visit https://www.norfolk.gov/3612/Office-of-Resilience.

 

NEWS ARCHIVE