LIDAR Magazine was honored with an invitation to RIEGL USA’s Official Grand Opening, to celebrate the formal inauguration of its new building in Winter Garden, Florida, on 18 November 2021. We’ve already given readers some glimpses of the structure to illustrate an interview with RIEGL senior vice president James Van Rens. RIEGL invited local people, customers (both end-users and integrators) and media to help celebrate this milestone.
Sadly, it rained lightly – all the more regrettable since the previous several days had been dry – during the opening ceremony, which were held outdoors, but this failed to dampen the high spirits of the crowd. We enjoyed short, welcoming speeches from Johannes Riegl, Jr., whose project the new headquarters had been and who doubtless breathed a sigh of relief when this event passed off so well, and James Van Rens, followed by well chosen words from Dr. Johannes Riegl, founder and CEO of the RIEGL group of companies, who led a high-level delegation from Austria. We were reminded that RIEGL USA had been founded by Dr. Riegl and Ted Knaak, a contributor to this magazine, before ownership passed to RIEGL in 2011 and Ted founded Certainty 3D.
Next to the podium was Mayor John Rees of the City of Winter Garden, followed by Stina D’Uva, president/CEO of West Orange Chamber of Commerce; Toby Unwin, Orlando’s honorary consul to Austria; and Stefan Stantejsky, Deputy Trade Commissioner & Deputy Head of Advantage Austria, based in New York. Dr. Riegl described the new building as a “wonderful, architectural jewel” and it was unfortunate that the creator, Toby Walker of architects Walker Design, was unavailable to join the platform party. Finally, Pastor Tim Grosshans of Winter Garden’s First Baptist Church gave the building and its people a spending, ecumenical send-off. Look up any of these speakers – they’re all accomplished, and it was a privilege to hear their contributions.
An enormous pair of scissors was produced and a large red ribbon cut to mark the occasion, after which we were free to roam the building, mingle and enjoy the elegant canapés and beverages. There were live demos before the event began and presentations before and after the opening ceremony. Most attendees, however, seemed bent not on technical detail but on acknowledging the accomplishments, now realized in wood, concrete and glass, of RIEGL USA, ably supported by its Austrian parent company.
I was chauffeured from a hotel near Orlando airport to the event by LIDAR Magazine regular, Al Karlin, so were able to get up to date on the forthcoming articles from various ASPRS Florida Region/University of Florida workshops and from Al himself. During the event I was able to mingle with teams from the integrators GeoCue (our regular contributor Lewis Graham and his wife) and Phoenix USA, as well as customers including Airborne Imaging (from Calgary), Dewberry, GEO1, GPI Geospatial, Kestrel Group, Tuck Mapping Solutions and many others. Naturally, I was on the look out for more articles. Spending time with Austrian lidar geniuses Drs. Andreas Ullrich and Martin Pfennigbauer, was a rare treasure. Riegl (senior), Ullrich and Pfennigbauer all attended the Technical University of Vienna. Who would have imagined that they would, decades later, gather in Winter Garden, Florida, to celebrate the fruits of their imaginations and labors? Their alma mater must have done something right!
To put this event in perspective, we must attempt a quick appraisal. RIEGL offers renowned solutions in ALS, TLS and MMS. It competes with other excellent suppliers – Leica Geosystems, Teledyne Geospatial and others – in a highly competitive market known for increasingly demanding projects and customers. Like its competitors, it has generated innumerable innovations, patents, publications and awards. It is aware of, but has not suffered noticeable damage from, the assault by low-cost lidar sensors from firms whose primary markets are automotive. It seems to move from strength to strength. Its success, however, is marked by construction and expansion not only in the US, but also in the headquarters in Horn, Austria. LIDAR Magazine is planning to report from the latter next summer. Yet there is a more important impetus, which shone brightly on this November evening – the people. The employees’ enthusiasm for their employer, job content, colleagues and new building was echoed in a number of conversations that took place – that’s what makes the difference. We wish RIEGL well and look forward to publishing more from both the firm and its customers in the months and years to come.