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Personnel File - December 2008: Marine Industries

Chris Freeman
President, Geodynamics LLC
Pine Knoll Shores

Chris Freeman enjoyed his work as a coastal geologist for the UNC Chapel Hill Institute of Marine Sciences, but he found himself worried about the future. Since earning a bachelor’s in environmental science in 1995 from UNC Wilmington, Freeman, 37, had been involved in one grant-funded research project after another. “Every two or three years, you’re left wondering, ‘Will I have a job anymore?’”

Although there were a few large engineering firms doing similar work, Freeman saw a place for a smaller company. In big firms, hydrographic research — the study of the seafloor — often is one division of many, which he says can create a disconnect between scientists and corporate bosses. So in 2001, Freeman, wife Sloan and a fellow researcher formed Geodynamics, which specializes in high-resolution ocean-floor mapping and data collection. Not without a struggle. “When you tell a bank that you need an inertial navigation system — $110,000, a multibeam sonar — $350,000, a real-time kinematic global positioning system — $80,000, etcetera, you get some blank stares.” But in the end, Freeman got about $500,000 to get started.

Geodynamics has used its equipment and expertise to snag a host of government contracts, working with the Navy and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, as well as local entities such as the Carteret County Shore Protection Office. It has five employees. He won’t disclose revenue but says it has increased each year, sometimes by as much as 40%. Also playing a part in growth are national-security concerns. The company has been hired to map the seafloor around ports as part of government efforts to protect them. It operates from Freeman’s Pine Knoll Shores home, but he plans to build an office about seven miles away in Morehead City. “Our business model was to do five or six things better than anyone else, and I think we’ve succeeded.”