In yesterday's Washington Business, a story about weather forecasting incorrectly stated why the National Weather Service is increasing its charges for certain computerized services. The charges are being raised because of higher costs of delivering the services (Published 6/16/87)
After Curtis B. Barrett, an 18-year veteran of the National Weather Service, saw the success of former associates in the commercial weather industry, he decided to try his hand at predicting river conditions for profits.
Barrett and his associate, Gary Kemp, quit their jobs at NWS last year to find investors to back their idea: a company that would provide consulting and forecasting services about rivers nationwide. Three venture capital firms invested $115,000 in River Services Inc., which opened last December.
Most weather businesses are in the meteorological fields, forecasting weather for clients that range from television stations to aviation companies to movie producers. But Barrett says he's found a special niche by providing services for companies and communities that need information about flash flooding or river conditions across the country.
Private companies have been providing weather information for many years, said Ed Gross, a spokesman for the NWS. But not until the 1980s did the private sector become integrally involved in the weather business.
For years the NWS, a division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, had run weather information on a teletype wire between its nationwide offices.
The information had been accessible to communities, organizations and companies.
But in 1982 the agency centralized its data-gathering process in "the family of services," computerized data services that include information about storm warnings and watches, aviation conditions and numerical weather prediction models. "That's when the commercial weather companies began popping up," Gross said.
Companies such as Satellite Information Services Corp. of Silver Spring and River Services, based in Olney, Md., now are able to hook up to as many of the data services as they need, Gross said. The NWS has 26 subscribers.
River Services subscribes to two of the four data bases, paying an annual fee of $4,000. The company "repackages" or individually selects information from the data base and provides its own forecasts for customers. Clients receive information through their personal computers.
For example, an oil company shipping cargo down the Mississippi River might subscribe to River Services because it provides selective NWS information about the region as well as facts about the depth and speed of the river not provided by NWS, Barrett said. The company can get round-the-clock information about the river.
"The National Weather Service has said that it cannot get to every individual client and every user," Barrett said. "I believe it's the private sector's responsibility to do this."
Gross agrees. "The weather service, in the past and in the future, will continue to work with the private sector to assist the services that they provide," he said. "The information that we produce has to get to the public. We depend on the media and the private sector to give our messages."
Gross said, however, that the NWS will be doubling the price for its services next year to catch up with those companies that have been making a profit from the low-cost service.
ERC International of Fairfax last week agreed to buy the Engineering, Design and Geosciences (Edge) Group of Nashville for $6.5 million and an additional $3.5 million that is contingent on company performance.
Under the deal, ERCI plans to buy all the shares of the privately held Tennessee company. The Edge Group would be a subsidiary of ERCI within its energy and environmental group. The deal is expected to be completed by August, an ERCI spokesman said.
Edge provides professional and technical services in geotechnical, civil, mining and environmental engineering in the southeastern United States. The company employs 250 people in offices in Nashville, Knoxville, Louisville, Ky., and Huntsville, Ala. The company estimates revenue in 1987 will be about $16 million.
The TIYM Publishing Co., a Hispanic publishing company in McLean, has written "Immigration Residency Citizenship," a comprehensive guide in Spanish and English to the new immigration law.
The company last year produced "The Hispanic Yearbook," a guide to the Hispanic culture and community in metropolitan Washington. The new book on immigration procedures is available at the company in McLean for $3. Several local bookstores are selling it for $5.
Two local law firms -- Pepper, Hamilton & Scheetz, and Wald, Harkrader & Ross -- have have merged their practices. The combined firm, with 260 lawyers nationwide, will operate under the name Pepper, Hamilton, & Scheetz.
The new firm will continue to operate offices in Philadelphia, Detroit and Los Angeles as well as in the District. The merger brings the number of practicing attorneys in the Washington office to 51.
Wald, Harkrader & Ross has specialized in trade, electric and gas utilities regulation, international transactions and arbitration. Pepper, Hamilton has been involved in deregulation and economic regulation in the transportation industry.
Before the merger, the number of attorneys in the Washington office of Pepper, Hamilton had doubled in the past two years, the firm said. New attorneys included D. Edwin Schmelzer, a retail banking specialist; Edward A. Kurent, formerly of the Environmental Protection Agency; A. Raymond Randolph, a former U.S. deputy solicitor general, and Stephen Truitt, a former federal litigator.
Resource Consultants Inc. of Vienna has been awarded a three-year, $6.5 million contract by the Naval Sea Systems Command to provide support services to its Auxiliary and Special Mission Ship Acquisition Program. The company, which was founded in 1979 as a government contractor, will provide technical, integrated logistics and data management services.
Richfood Inc., a multimillion-dollar food distributor in Richmond, has signed an agreement to buy a North Carolina food wholesaler, Garner Wholesale Merchandisers Inc., for an undisclosed price.
The deal will be completed July 1.
Garner, a 36-year-old company, will become a wholly owned subsidiary of Richfood, doing business as Garner. Last year, Garner had sales of about $23 million. Richfood reported sales of $967 million for the same year.
The VSE Corp. of Alexandria has increased its quarterly dividend from 5 cents a share to 6 cents a share. The company will pay a dividend of 6 cents a share Aug. 17, to shareholders of record on Aug. 3.
Ecosometrics Inc. of Bethesda has been awarded a $175,000 contract by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority to develop a new cost allocation technique for Metrobus and Metrorail systems in the metropolitan area.
Analysis Group Inc., a 50-employe high-tech engineering and technical services firm, has been named national small business prime contractor of the year by the Small Business Administration.
Analysis Group is the first Washington-based firm to win the national award. The company was nominated for its work in vehicle crash testing and vehicle simulation development. The 10-year-old company also was named the Minority Business Enterprise of the Year in 1986 by the Environmental Protection Agency.
BDM International Inc. of McLean has been awarded an $8.2 million contract by the Air Force to support its Armstrong Aerospace Medical Research Laboratory at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio.
Under the 3 1/2-year contract, BDM will design and fabricate equipment for testing human engineering concepts, with a specific focus on evaluating man-machine integration technology. The work will be performed at BDM's Dayton, Ohio, office.