Mike on America

Garmin: GPS Giant Keeps People On Track

Garmin Nüvi® 350

It's almost impossible to get lost in Olathe, Kansas. Why? Because that's the home of global positioning system (or GPS) giant, Garmin. The publicly-traded Garmin, founded in 1989 by Gary Burrell and Dr. Min Kao (Gar, as in Gary, Min as in Min, make 'Garmin') one of the fastest growing 'personal technology' companies in the world.

They make a list of products, for everything from planes, to boats, to cars, to personal hand held devices, right down to your hunting dog--that all use those 24 government satellites originally launched by the Defense Department. Satellites we've all paid for as taxpayers. Satellites that went 'public' a little over ten years ago. The technology of triangulation is open to everybody. But how it's put to use has been what's caused dynamic growth at Garmin. Increased growth every year for 17 years--in the last three years, super fast growth in sales across the board.

Why Olathe? Because that's where Burrell and Kao where, when they sat around a card table at Kao's home and figured there just might be something in this GPS stuff. They took it to their bosses at Honeywell--they passed on the idea--and Garmin was born.

What's been increasingly 'cool' about the various devices has been the extent to which they're becoming tools of everyday life. Channeling real time traffic and weather information, restaurant and shopping finders, along with the expert maps. Turn left here, turn right there. Over 40 million sold.

Just under 2,000 people work at the Olathe facility--with 6 thousand total spread around the world. All them able to find their way home, and to the best barbeque in town! One suggestion: why can't the voice reflect your geographical location?

We're in the Midwest this week--it should be gentle and soothing. We'll be in NYC soon. It should be..well NYC-ish. Fuggedaboutit!

Olathe, Kansas--just punch it into your Garmin device.

Questions?  Comments?  mikeonamerica@nbcuni.com