Why PIE? Attendees Describe Why They Attend the Parking Industry Expo
People attend trade events for a variety of reasons: business opportunities, educational sessions, networking and the ability to learn about the latest industry trends (to name a few). But what really makes an event like the Parking Industry Expo (PIE) — to be held in San Diego this March 22-25 — stand out? When PIE attendees were asked to describe the event in one word, the answers were quite varied: educational, broadening, informative, helpful, intimate, diverse and, wow.
It all comes down to:
Parking People are Fun
For Renee Tyler, director of transportation services for the City of Dubuque, Iowa, last year’s PIE was the first parking conference she attended and for her it was a true “wow” moment.
“For a first timer, I walked into the world of parking and it was amazing,” said Tyler. “From my previous role as assistant public works director, I understood parking as it relates to infrastructure, but PIE provided an awakening for various enforcement tools. It also helped me to frame equity into enforcement.”
Tyler said it was her city manager who brought PIE to her attention and that she owed him a huge debt of gratitude for his suggestion. “PIE served as an opportunity to meet colleagues in the industry and to develop personal relationships with vendors I was already doing business with,” said Tyler. “It provided me with a diverse introduction to parking.”
“Diverse” was the word used by Tony Valadez, parking programs manager for the City of Napa, California. “I often found engineers, municipal parking managers, vendors, consultants and parking enforcers all in the same break-out sessions,” said Valadez of his experience at PIE. “Having so many backgrounds in one space offers a variety of perspectives.”
Valadez said that he also appreciated the opportunity to meet people from all over the world who were facing the same parking challenges and found it to be “a great opportunity to share with each other what has and has not worked.”
Because of this, Valadez stressed the importance of attending the networking events. “As uncomfortable as you may feel, attending networking events is a must if you want to take full advantage of the PIE experience,” said Valadez.
For Pam Fant, program manager for the City of Olympia, Washington, the more “intimate” nature of PIE helps facilitate the networking. “I have attended other parking conferences that are much larger and less intimate,” said Fant. “It was a great experience to attend one on a smaller scale, which made networking much more comfortable.”
In addition to the networking opportunities, Fant said that the speakers and topics covered were particularly helpful. “Due to some of the PIE topics, we were able to bring our GIS Specialist with us to show how the parking industry is moving forward and how they relate,” said Fant.
“Helpful” is also the word that Rhett Butler, parking administrator for the City of Las Vegas, used to describe the educational seminars, product information and networking opportunities available for those attending PIE. “PIE seeks to connect and advance our industry and create informed parking professionals,” said Butler.
Butler also said that attending the informational sessions and learning about the latest products in various settings made attending the event a “great time to connect with industry professionals from across the globe.”
Learning from that mix of industry professionals made PIE an “informative” experience for Kristen Becker, development services center director for the City of Spokane, Washington. New to the industry, Becker said she was impressed by the number of vendors (“we didn’t even make it all the way through the trade show floor to meet everyone!”) and the fact that there were people in attendance from different aspects of the parking industry. In addition to the vendors, she reported talking to municipalities, private operators, consultants and media, and with people who had various levels of experience.
“There was an awesome mix of seasoned veterans, as well as those new to the industry — and everyone has a story to tell,” said Becker. “I wanted to hear their stories and learn from their successes and failures.”
Becker also appreciated the ability to learn more about some of the technology available, which she found to be “way more than I could have conceived of” and was really impressed with how friendly and willing to help everyone was.
“As someone who is new to the parking industry, I was surprised at how tight-knit the parking community is,” said Becker. “There is a ton to learn and so many opportunities to work on cool projects.”
That ability to not only learn about new trends and gadgets, but also exchange information with other parking professionals, is why Sylvia Martinez-Mullally, parking operations supervisor for the City of Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, also used the word “informative” to describe PIE.
“Our industry is unique because although every parking program is different, we inherently have similar challenges,” said Martinez-Mullally. “It’s great to find out how others are meeting those challenges and learning from each other.”
Martinez-Mullally mentioned that her reasons for attending PIE have changed a bit over the years. “When I first got into the industry it was because I had questions about equipment,” said Martinez-Mullally. “Now it is about technology and how to build and sustain a program. Once your program has invested in technology, it’s essential to know where the industry is going. That means you need a network and at PIE you’ll find it.”
That ability to meet face-to-face with a network of parking professionals is why Benjamin Richardson, director of parking and transportation services for UW Oshkosh Parking Services, found his experience at PIE to be “broadening.”
“It’s a great opportunity to speak with people who have dealt with the same problems you have, to educate yourself on the technologies and find creative problem-solving ideas,” said Richardson.
Richardson said he particularly enjoys the educational programs each year. “They give you a chance to hear real world experiences and think about new ways to improve your own operation,” said Richardson.
“Educational” is the word Richard Dollhopf, manager of parking enforcement for the City of Milwaukee DPW, used to describe PIE. “There is no place better than a convention such as this to gain knowledge on industry trends, new products and innovations,” said Dollhopf.
“If you are responsible for a parking system you need to be sure that you are providing all stakeholders with the best system,” said Dollhopf. “I attended PIE to find new ways to make our parking system the best and to validate the parts of our parking system that are already great.”
As with the others interviewed, Dollhopf pointed to the ability to network with others in the parking industry as a big plus. “The social networking with peers and face-to-face meetings with current and future vendors alone make attending PIE worthwhile,” said Dollhopf.
PIE’s ability to bring the entire parking community together, then, is a big part of the draw — and, luckily, as Sylvia Martinez-Mullally added: “Parking people are fun!”
Ann Shepphird is a technical writer for Parking Today. She can be reached at email@example.com
What’s New at PIE in 2020?
• Golf Tournament – Yes, we have reserved the world class Coronado Golf Course for a Sunday golf outing.
• Parking Industry Forum: PIE 2020 starts off with Julie Dixon’s famous Parking Industry Forum – 100 (or more) industry pros discuss parking in a no-holds-barred session.
• David Zipper: This Keynote speaker holds forth on FOMO – attend to get the details.
• Classic Car Show: in the exhibit hall – crave a 57 Chevy? See one in pristine condition.
• A Top Gun Event: network with your peers, a group from the USS Midway, and a special “Top Gun” guest.
• Speed Networking: meet new friends in this fun event hosted by Marcy and Astrid.
• Largest PIE Exhibition Ever: Nearly 200 exhibits from all aspects of the industry.
• A New Venue: Come early and play in America’s most livable city with a fabulous zoo, Sea World, the Gaslamp district, and of course, the Hotel Del.
PIE 2020, March 22-25 at the San Diego Convention Center – Register at pieshow.parkingtoday.com.