Jon Ross is a Principal of MPSA
Partners. He and his partner, P. Buxton Williams, operate MPSA
Partners, a consulting/professional services firm based in Chicago.
The firm has three core practices: Parking Management Solutions; Infrastructure
Planning, Economic Development and Privatization; and Strategic Alliances,
Business Development and Advisory Services.
EXPO1000 - You have three
distinct yet somewhat related practices. Talk a little about each of them.
JON ROSS - In parking management, we assist city
and municipal governments in identifying alternate revenue sources,
increasing parking revenues/efficiencies and enhancing government-to-citizen
interactions. In our infrastructure planning and privatization practice,
we develop and operate privatized and public-private business models
for parking, economic development and related areas. And our strategic
alliances practice helps growth enterprises build successful partnerships
- including with the public sector.
EXPO1000 - That sounds like
JON ROSS - It's quite simple, really. We're management
experts whose focus is on parking and related areas. What makes us unusual
and unique in the industry is that we don't sell hardware or software.
Everything we offer is intangible - ideas, experience, and intellectual
capital. We have nearly 50 years of experience in parking management,
public-private partnerships, IT management, strategic planning, marketing
and communications and public affairs. We've even been contracted to
write the Parking Management chapter of a book for transportation planners
to be published by McGraw-Hill.
EXPO1000 - Let's take your practice areas
one at a time. Why do I need an industry expert to assist with parking
management and operations?
JON ROSS - Parking management is more than just
maintaining parking meters, issuing tickets and collecting fines. Parking
operations leaders - in the public and private sector -- need to understand
what's happening in their parking system, so they know how many parking
spaces and meters they need, where to place them, what to charge for
parking and for tickets, and how best to set up a system that optimizes
collection. They need best practices to run their operations optimally.
The experience industry experts bring to the table - making system design
recommendations, assisting in project management/implementation, identifying
new sources of revenue, developing RFPs, identifying qualified vendors
and evaluating RFP responses - helps them make those decisions to maximize
cost efficiency and return on investment.
EXPO1000 - What kinds of
engagements does your parking management practice encompass?
JON ROSS - Currently, we are assisting a top-20
city develop a parking management infrastructure plan to steer development
and implementation activities for the next five to ten years. We analyzed
the city's infrastructure needs, screened possible solutions providers,
wrote the RFP and reviewed the vendor bids to recommend the best-qualified
partner for the city's solution. Now we're the industry expert to assist
the City and the solutions vendor in the new system's implementation.
This kind of work is important to cities, because, especially
in a down economy, the public sector has to do more with less. Government
needs to generate new sources of funding and resources that don't strain
taxpayers and customers. Parking management is therefore imperative
to enhancing revenues to pay for needed services.
EXPO1000 - Now to your infrastructure
planning and privatization practice. What does that cover, and how is
parking management involved?
JON ROSS - To us "reinventing government"
means finding new ways to make government in general - and economic
development programs in particular -- more competitive and business-friendly.
In many cases, privatization is a useful option to make that happen.
Parking management is at the core of today's economic
development programs. Virtually every economic development initiative
has to live up to a wide range of transportation, traffic and people
management concerns. For example, many cities have methodologies that
require a certain number of parking spaces or equivalent public transit
services for every thousand square feet of land developed. Getting that
right requires not just parking management expertise but knowledge of
public policy, familiarity with public financing options like TIFs and
other tax incentive programs and the ability to forge and manage alliances
between the public and private sector to align all the key stakeholders.
So our work in infrastructure planning and privatization has some elements
that relate to parking and others that don't.
For example, with our partner, Clancy Systems, we've
developed a full-scale business model around operating privatized parking
authorities for municipalities. That model, while it differs for each
city, obviously covers parking management and operations. But it also
moves into significant long-term economic development initiatives once
the parking and traffic management infrastructure is in place and builds
in ongoing return on investment programs and measures.
EXPO1000 - You said your
Strategic Alliances, Business Development and Advisory Services practice
helps growth enterprises build successful partnerships. Who are these
JON ROSS - A growth enterprise is any entity
- including any part of government - that operates entrepreneurially
and uses alliances/partnerships to do so. In today's economy, a lot
of agencies and entities in government operate very much in this fashion.
This area of our business works in core areas with small
companies and growth entities: partnership development, strategic and
business planning, assistance in fund development, marketing, public
affairs and related areas. In fact, we're working with an Eastern European-based
firm whose startup activities were funded by government, but is moving
toward total privatization. We helped the firm identify key variables
it needed to build its business and then wrote the business plan it's
now using to attract partners in the U.S. and Europe and obtain capital.
EXPO1000 - These are highly
specialized areas of expertise, aren't they?
JON ROSS - We're bringing more of a business
process expert's perspective to the table, especially in areas like
parking management. But the way business between the public and private
sectors is done has changed. Government has to behave more like the
private sector in many ways, and for-profit companies need to be responsive
to more issues and stakeholders than ever to do business well with government
and nonprofits. So we're striking the balance to bring both types of