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The Original Nine MacKay Meters A Canadian Success

September, 2021

John Van Horn

Parking Today interviews James MacKay, VP of
Sales at MacKay Meters. 


Parking Today: Tell us about the founding and history of JJ MacKay. 


James MacKay: J.J. MacKay Canada Ltd., was founded in 1960 by my grandfather – J.J. MacKay, who was one of Atlantic Canada’s most established fire extinguisher (and other products related to fire control) distributors. 


Given his client base was primarily municipal, he eventually brought on a second line of products – parking meters. J.J. worked with a U.S. based firm who provided him product, of which was then found from Toronto to Halifax, and every where in-between. 


J.J. passed suddenly in the late 70s, and in 1983, his son, my father George MacKay took over and was named President of J.J. MacKay Canada Ltd. Struggling with the quality of the product he was representing, and to meet the continued increased demand in parking equipment, George moved to Europe and learned how to make clocks, and applied this new found knowledge to designing his own parking meter – which was simply a mechanical clock in the form of a parking meter. 


In 1987, George sold J.J. MacKay’s first inhouse manufactured meter, and from that moment, he and the company has never looked back. All based from New Glasgow, Nova Scotia, J.J. MacKay Canada Ltd., has now sold over 750,000 meters in over 40 countries. 


In 1988 J.J. MacKay Canada Ltd.
developed and successfully marketed the first fully electronic parking meter mechanism
in the world.


PT: Your home is in Canada, but you have been successful in the U.S? To what do you owe this success?


JM: Yes, MacKay’s head office is in Canada and offers both direct sales combined with regionalized distribution of MacKay products. All supported remotely from our head office. The reality is that we have had great success in many countries, not just the U.S. and Canada. Clients want a product that works, is reliable, and is supported when support is required.


MacKay clients get these things and much more. Those who have used MacKay products know the quality of the product and of the people behind the product, so this is ultimately where the root of our success starts. 


With COVID on everyone’s minds, we are now in a world where in-person meetings are not yet allowed transborder, but we have been getting great traction and accustomed to the newer ways of communicating in using webinars and video conferencing. 


This set up has proven to be beneficial as well in keeping abreast and supportive of our distribution network. Embracing new technologies has provided unparalleled service to all clients, especially when teamed with exceptional working products and explementary support when needed. 


PT: Tell us about your newest parking meter – it seems to have a different “look” and feel.


JM: It’s not just the meter…though the mkBeacon has a much different ”look” and certainly grabs attention! This meter is only one piece of a much more holistic solution and parking ecosystem offered by MacKay. 


With the needs and desires in the parking market and changes brought on with the introduction of technologies, we at MacKay felt that these needs could not be met by simply updating the old meter design like some others have done. 


We felt it was time to provide a completely changed product line to help position this new MacKay family of products to become the product of choice in today’s smart parking arena. The new style of meter, was named the mkBeacon (as in, to lead the way).


MacKay has always pushed the limits with technology. In 1988 J.J. MacKay Canada Ltd. developed and successfully marketed the first fully electronic parking meter mechanism in the world. 


This innovation provided the parking industry with its first revolutionary direction in 50 years. With the mkBeacon, MacKay is yet again providing the industry with innovative direction. The mkBeacon is the world’s only single and dual space meter that can be considered ‘battery neutral’. Using a single, rechargeable battery pack, and solar harvesting and ultra low power technology, this meter is the ‘greenest’, most cost-effective meter available in the market. This meter saves its owners hundreds of thousands of dollars each year just on simply removing the need for costly replacement battery packs, and the labor associated in performing such a swap. 


It is also the only single and dual space meter in the industry that brings with it branding options. 


These branding options allow for the singular identity of the client’s parking operation be known, or a certain color scheme and message be used. Without such a different ‘look’ and feel, these exciting branding avenues would not be available. 


 


PT: How do you see the on-street sector of the parking industry faring in the next few years?


 


JM: The on-street sector of the parking industry is still strong. However, with the new demands and the reduction of parking curb space available for traditional parking, projects are starting to decrease slightly in quantity of requested on street devices. 


With that said, product requirements and expectations towards new age functionality are increasing. This change to the curb space has really highlighted the need for various types of products – such as single space, dual space, multi space, to all play a roll in a single system. 


More and more requests are for a holistic system with a full offering of products, rather than just one. At MacKay, being able to offer all tools under a single Meter Management System (MMS) is something our clients take full advantage of. 


PT: Yours appears to be a ‘family’ run company. Has that added to your success? 


JM: Yes, I believe being family run has been critical to the success of the business. MacKay clients are part of the family and that is how they are treated. MacKay success is attributed to its employees. They are an extension of the ‘family’ and we pride ourselves on having the most parking experience under one roof in the industry. 


This retention of staff has allowed us to sustain the brain trust in the products and have continual product development year over year. 


At the end of the day, MacKay is successful because our clients have a successful system. I certainly ensure successful systems, given the family name is on every product manufactured by MacKay. 


I guess it adds a certain and different level of commitment when your name is on everything sold. 



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