Michigan, Southwest, New York Focus on Networking and TrainingEditor's note: This is the first in a series of articles featuring the leaders of regional parking associations. PT will be interviewing parking pros who are members of regional groups throughout the country. In this first article, we spoke with Johnna Frosini and Glen Sicard of "Meeting of the Parking Minds"; Jon Frederick and Khurshid Hoda of the Michigan Parking Association; Melinda Helton of the Southwest Parking Association; and Michael Klein of the New York State Parking Association.
'Meeting of Minds' Stresses
Information and Fun - for Free
"We just wanted to give something back," said Johnna Frosini, Parking Supervisor of the State University of New York at Brockport, as she described how she and Glen Sicard of the University of Rochester founded the "Meeting of the Parking Minds" a year ago. "We realized that the reason many can't attend the 'big' shows is due to cost, so we set out to provide a forum for parking information and networking and do it for free."
Frosini and Sicard, whose campuses are about 20 minutes apart, set a date, called some speakers, and then emailed and cajoled about 50 to attend the first session. "It was so successful we decided to hold it again in 2005." This past July, more than 150 people attended the two-day event, with 16 seminars, a barbeque and, according to Frosini, free water, but very few breaks (this is an "in" joke to the attendees).
The two invited the parking business -- universities, colleges, cities, hospitals and the private sector -- and they came. Since they are not an organization, they weren't looking for income, only to provide the service.
"We knew that if we didn't charge, we would have more attendees," Frosini said. "We were able to get some sponsors to cover the costs, but we did everything to keep it inexpensive. We reached out whenever we could; we used the phone and e-mail to keep costs down. It wasn't elegant, but we were able to get the message across; plus, people had a lot of fun."
The second year, the word definitely got out, and they had attendees from all over New York state. The idea is being picked up "downstate" in New York, and will be held in March 2006 at the State University of New York at Purchase.
Helton at Southwest Association Says,
'It Helps Me Move Forward ...'
When asked what was the No. 1 thing her parking association brought to her, Melinda Helton, President of the Southwest Parking Association and Assistant Director of Arizona State University Parking and Transit Services, said one word: "networking."
"I get a chance to meet and talk to people I don't see every day. Our meetings enable our members to discuss and tackle like problems," Helton said. "'Best Practices' are important, but the reason we have jobs is to select the solutions that fit the particular issues at our own organizations. Having discussions at the meetings, whether in formal or social contexts, gives me new ideas; they help me move forward."
The association, according to Helton, gives its members a forum for discussion on specific topics and get specific with solutions to particular problems. The formal sessions focus the discussions; the informal ones allow a brainstorming environment that helps create new ideas.
The educational element is essential, she said, and even though the SWPA has had its first training session only this year, it has been successful.
One attendee, Jill Knowles of the Pima County Parking Services, writing in the SWPA newsletter, said that "one of the nicest things about going to a seminar such as this one is the chance to speak with other parking professionals. We shared a table with the Ace employees from Sky Harbor Airport. Even though they are working a busy airport, and we work providing parking for visitors to downtown Tucson, we all had the same issues. As one of the cashiers put it on the drive home, 'It was nice to be surrounded by people like me.'"
Knowles and the other 100-plus members of the association will have another opportunity for that this month in Reno, where the group is meeting Oct. 11-14.
Front-Line Supers Amazed
That They Had Solutions
"Our front-line supervisors were amazed that they had problems as well as solutions," said Jon Frederick of Wayne State University and President of the Michigan Parking Association. "When they attended our training programs," he added, "it was confidence-building for them to realize that they had not only problems, but solutions for other folks in the room".
"Training is our real mandate," said Khurshid Hoda of Walker Parking Consultants and Secretary of the 23-year-old MPA. "We provide front-line training, at no cost, to entry-level staff such as cashiers and attendants." Recent programs have included cashier issues; using and finding proper reports on revenue control systems; and proper cash management procedures and practices.
The Michigan association moves its annual meetings into different geographical areas in the state. The spring 2005 workshop was held in April in Lansing. The fall conference will be Oct. 5-7 in Detroit, Michigan.
Klein, the NYSPA Reach Out
To Other Nearby Associations
Michael Klein, President of the New York State Parking Association and Executive Director for the Albany Parking Authority, has begun to reach out to other associations in the area to perhaps form a "super-regional" organization that can hold periodic meetings together.
"It just seems reasonable to me that if we can combine our efforts, we will be able to bring more to our members," Klein said.
He also held a roundtable discussion at the PIE conference in late September for all local and regional board members to discuss common problems. "We all have them -- membership, motivation, funding, programs -- why not share our ideas and perhaps we can build stronger groups." (A report of this roundtable discussion will be in next month's PT.)
Klein noted that the association meetings are extremely popular and provide parking information to those who simply can't afford the time or money to attend the larger national events. "Let's face it: Parking is a local business. The large association meetings provide great information, but the local groups provide access."
The NYSPA is meeting Oct. 26-29 at the Turning Stone Resort in Verona, NY.