We’re Back, Live and in Person


We’re Back, Live and in Person

I was in Las Vegas last month and the city was abuzz with the news that the World of Concrete would be held in early June at the city’s convention center. The in-person convention is expected to bring more than 50,000 people to the gambling mecca. The city’s mayor, the Nevada Governor, and various commenters on the event, including bartenders, cab drivers, and restaurant employees, were truly ecstatic over the announcement.

This means that in-person events are back on track. The organizers of World of Concrete are among the largest of such organizations and do not take major risks. They are confident that the pent-up demand for meetings will bring out attendees and make the event a grand success. More than two dozen like events are scheduled between now and late fall in Las Vegas.

Every day brings news that the pandemic is on the run. New vaccines are being approved, shots in shoulders are running well ahead of schedule, cases in Southern California, for example, are down 30 percent over just two weeks ago, and passenger processing reported by the TSA are logging in at more than 1.3 million a day, well above previous numbers. Schools are reopening and the CDC has announced that social distancing guidelines are now set at three feet rather than six.

Incredibly, the usual naysayers in the mainstream media are falling all over themselves to report good news, and the populace is reacting positively to it.

The fear that has gripped the country for the past year is lessening and people are realizing that they can return to their normal lives and they are doing so. It may not be time yet to throw masks to the wind and stop washing our hands, but it is certainly time to realize that the microscopic critters that have held us at bay for so long are truly in the rear-view mirror.

The City of New Haven, supported by the city Parking Authority, is moving down the path of removing parking minimum for new construction. The Parking Authority sees this as a boon to its empty garages. Lots of construction with no parking would mean cars that have to park somewhere, as in the Authority’s garages.

The City of Seattle has an election for mayor coming up and one candidate is running on a ticket of no cars at all in Seattle. He is pro bike, transit and foot. He wants to defund the police, too.

You can read all about this over at Parknews.biz.

As for New Haven, I have been always in favor of doing away with parking minimums. They make no sense, increase the cost of building, and frankly, discriminate against those who don’t own cars. Let the developer decide whether or not parking is needed and how much. If they feel that their project would be more saleable with more parking, so be it. Let the renters pay more for units with parking, if they need it. Don Shoup, call your office.

As for the Emerald City, l believe that if you want to get people to walk everywhere, you need to turn your city into Manhattan. Build hundreds of high-rise apartment buildings and people will move into them and then get jobs nearby. You probably will need a city-wide rapid transit system, because not all jobs will be within walking distance (or biking) of the available housing. But these are details I’m sure the prospective mayor has worked out.

Once again, some bureaucrat wants to force people out of their cars to save the planet. I really think that it would be better to ask people first what they think about it. Do they really want to do away with their cars? If so, why aren’t they lining up to pay for apartments in the central city? Is it possible they like living in the ‘burbs and are willing to pay the price of the commute? If they are so damned concerned about saving the planet, why are only 2 percent of vehicles on the road EVs?

I suggest that when you begin a campaign to force people off the road, you will soon have a real problem on your hands. Why not attempt to make nondriving more attractive? Make the cities safer, cleaner, more fun? Oh, I forgot, we are defunding the police. That has been proven to make cities safe. Right!

I had a discussion yesterday with a senior member of the management team of a company that has been hard hit by the pandemic. His customers are related to the air travel industry and naturally as air travel goes, so goes his bottom line. Frankly, he is reeling and struggling to save his company.

He told me that his frustration comes from what he sees as a great shift in business travel. He felt that businesses were permanently moving away from face-to-face meetings and therefore companies like his, that rely on business travel, would continue to suffer and must hunker down and make severe internal changes for their survival.

He then added, parenthetically, that he himself was personally frustrated by being ‘locked down’ and was looking forward to ‘getting out there,’ and in fact, had taken a couple of trips recently.

I mentioned that his software company was full of people who were part of the generation and business sector that were familiar with and had the tools to work from home and use communication techniques including Zoom and Microsoft teams as a matter of course. Although he wasn’t located in California, he might as well have been from Silicon Valley. He agreed.

I pointed out, however, that it was curious that major high-tech companies like Apple, Amazon, and Google had continued their physical expansion around the country building large office complexes to house their employees. I wondered if his concerns about a paradigm shift in how we were going to do business was correct, why these monster corporations were continuing their physical expansions.

Was it possible that managers were doing more than reading Inc. Magazine and Wired and understanding that face-to-face conversations were extremely important and the innovation that took place around the water cooler could not be duplicated online? My wife is a former senior executive with the American Red Cross. She traveled extensively for the company. She told me that there was no way Zoom would replace the face-to-face meetings in which she participated. “It is simply not possible to communicate the same way online as you do face to face. It may take some time for companies to realize this, but they will.”

Travel will be back sooner rather than later. United Airlines just bought a number of 737 Max from Boeing. Delta announced that it was doing away with its “middle seat open” policy next month. Every flight I have taken in the past two months, and every flight anyone on my staff has taken, has been full.

My concerned friend above acknowledged that the TSA numbers were up this past month, the highest level since early last year.

Is travel ‘back’ to levels of 2019? Nope. But is the trend in the right direction? A resounding “Yes”. State after state is loosening its social distancing requirements. Some say this may be happening too quickly, but it is happening. People are beginning to take action. They are simply tired of not being able to act like people. Schools are reopening, and that will allow moms and dads to go back to work in the office. The opening of restaurants will see valet operations reopen and garages begin to refill. Luncheon meetings will be back. On street parking will be back and cities will see their revenues increase.

Mark my words, people want to return to normal, not a ‘new’ normal, but face to face, hand shaking, discussion, argument, innovation, bouncing ideas, and camaraderie. And it’s happening.

Article contributed by:
John Van Horn
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