Lonnie Sears’ passion for surveying began when he took a surveying class while studying engineering at West Virginia Tech. “I am an outdoorsman and didn’t want to sit at a desk my whole life,” he recalls.
After college, he worked as a surveyor at a series of companies, the last moving him to Atlanta for Travis Pruitt & Associates. “Travis and I hit it off real well,” Sears says. “We’re both technology guys. We try to find ways to make technology work for profit, and we’ve been pretty good with it.”
The two bought a Trimble VRS network and used it to cover the Atlanta area, offering it as a subscription service. Sears still runs that network as president of eGPS Solutions. Building on the success of their network, Sears and Pruitt began selling equipment. “We started Champion Instruments because we just could not figure out why GPS equipment costs so much,” Sears says. After all, he points out, GPS receivers don’t have that many components.
They set a goal to sell a network rover for about $10,000 and kept trying different manufacturers until they finally found one that would allow them to meet that goal. Now, they sell the Champion and GeoMax brands and are doing “quite well.”