From the Klondike to the Final Frontier

Mike and Donna Larsen can set up shop and work wherever they happen to be.

All it takes are four laptops, an Internet connection, a schwack of cell phones to stay connected with their offices, a printer and a “home base” in Marsh Lake with a pool of trusted staff.

The Larsens own and operate DataPath Systems, a market research company.

Since starting the company in 1998, they’ve done work for the governments of Canada, the Yukon, Nunavut, NWT and Alaska.

“We’re happy to do local work and do local presentations, but we don’t depend on that. The Yukon’s too small. We needed to get out of a rut and do other things,” says Donna.

Now they’ve set up shop down south to try to land some contracts that are out of this world.

And as they secure more contracts Outside, they bring more work back home to the Yukon.

“Position is what you have to have,” says Donna. “We structure our company so we can operate from wherever we want to be and get the work done. But you have to meet the people to get the projects.”

When looking to expand their clientele, the Larsens investigated places where they would want to live and work.

They found a small town in New Mexico, where the space industry is taking a progressive stance, and where there is great potential for the Larsens’ work in market research.

Spaceport America, the first commercial spaceport to promote space tourism and other non-military space enterprises, is being developed just north of Las Cruces, where the Larsens are now living half the year.

For this new endeavour, the Larsens are doing business as Overview Research because the name DataPath was taken “by a huge company,” says Donna.

“Overview effect,” is the term for the view of the curvature of the earth from outer space.

“[Developing Spaceport America] is like the start of the railroad,” says Donna. “There’s potential not just for space tourism but also limitless possibilities for companies to use space to advance their technologies, services and products.

“That’s why we came. There’s lots of work in this evolving industry and in what’s flowed from space technologies. If space becomes affordable, think of all the scientific research that will come out of that.”

Space tourism offers great opportunities for the Larsens, because lots of research will be required for the development of Spaceport America as a tourist destination.

A company called Virgin Gallactic, for example, has a vision of flights going out every day carrying tourists starting next year. They’re already taking reservations, with tickets that cost just $200,000.

Research needs to be done to identify who will come to the area to watch, what other types of tourism services will be required, such as accommodation, services, other attractions, transportation and the impacts to city planning.

There is also research to be done on governance in space. “Who is in charge way out there and how could you possibly govern that?” Donna explains. “This is where DataPath fits in, to research what data is needed to make the decisions and who should be at the table to answer those questions.”

The Larsens see their Yukon staff playing an important role as this work develops.

Although much of the work can be done under the Larsens’ remote supervision without leaving the Yukon, sometimes the Yukon staff need to travel.

This will be a welcome contrast for the Larsens’ Yukon staff, who are sent to locations throughout the Arctic to conduct survey work.

The Larsens now look forward to opportunities to bring Yukoners down to work with them in New Mexico for help with projects from time to time, as well.

In New Mexico, the Larsens have also embarked on another project with a new partner, under the business name Tourism Research Exchange Surveys – or T-Rex for short.

They work with attractions like museums and theme parks, doing visitor surveys.

The famous Roswell UFO Museum was their first client. “That’s kind of fun,” says Donna.

The Yukon staff are also involved with this work, in addition to the usual DataPath work. And the Larsens contracted Yukon artist Chris Caldwell to design their logo.

Now the Larsens plan to travel between their two homes in New Mexico and the Yukon.

It’s a complex plan.

Donna’s not a Canadian, so she can’t leave Canada for more than six months or she risks losing her status.

Mike is not a U.S. citizen, so he can only stay in the U.S. for six months as a self-employed person.

They tried enrolling their daughter in Yukon and New Mexico schools, but next year, they plan to simplify by enrolling her in just one school and homeschooling for part of the year.

And with this plan, the Larsens can enjoy the best of both worlds, the Larger than Life Yukon and New Mexico, the Land of Enchantment.

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