Late for an appointment, searching the bottom of a purse or a pocket for change and not finding it, saying a quick prayer that a parking cop won’t come by, and dashing in to pick up a prescription. Only to return to find a pink ticket stuck under your windshield wiper.
Metric Parking, which assembles, sells, and repairs parking meters that are manufactured in the United Kingdom, hopes to banish this scenario from the streets and parking lots of North America. It would like to replace the traditional single-space meters with the pay-and-display or pay-per-space models popular in Europe.
With the hiring of Dave Witts, 47, as its new president, Metric Parking’s parent company, Hoeft & Wessel in Germany, initiated its campaign to market its products in North America.
"The European market is saturated," says Witts. "They decided they wanted to get aggressive in the United States and brought me over from one of their competitors." The company, now named Parkeon and formerly the parking division of Schlumberger, is the number one company in the sector in the United States and in the world.
The company moved to its 5,000-square-foot warehouse, offices, and software labs three years ago, and it currently has five employees. Its first New Jersey location was Clifton, then Lyndhurst, and now Cranbury. Metric Parking has more than 200 installed meters. Among its biggest customers in New Jersey are Westfield, Cranford, and Point Pleasant. Although having customers close by is great for service, says Witts, he believes it is time for the company to branch out.
The product, he says, is very competitive, but the challenge is to create distribution channels. Until now Metric Parking has grown through direct sales, working with transportation or parking managers in larger areas, or with the mayor and city council in smaller towns. But Witts is ready to approach the big companies that sell parking systems for large garages and airports, including recently-merged Amano McGann (www.Amanomcgann.com), which is based in Minneapolis, and Zeag (www.zeag.com), which is based in Switzerland, and has its United States headquarters in Chicago.
These companies already have large sales networks and are talking to municipalities about next generation parking technology. He would like them to have his company’s product on hand when one of their customers says: "We also have a problem with on-street parking. Can you help us?"
Each of Metric Parking’s machines covers more than one space – either the whole side of a street or an entire parking lot. The company offers two types of metering. At its pay-and-display machines, drivers pay for parking and receive a piece of paper with an expiration time. They must place these slips under their windshields. With pay-by-space machines, drivers need only indicate their space numbers and pay, and the transaction is done. Today Metric Group, which does business in the United States as Metric Parking, is the number two supplier of this equipment worldwide.
Witts cites several advantages of the two types of meters his company sells.
The first is flexibility for customers, who can pay for parking with coins, credit cards, smart cards, or dollar bills. From the town or city’s standpoint, the meters are easier to enforce. The machines communicate information wirelessly to handheld devices at the police department. This lets traffic enforcement officers know who has or has not paid. There is no need to leave the office if all the spaces are paid up.
When a person who gets a summons and believes it to be a mistake, there is a paper trail that can be checked. It may show, for example, that the his car had entered space five into the machine, but was actually in space three. Or a time stamp may prove that a person was paid up at the time the police issued the summons.
These machines also offer better accountability. When money is collected, a detailed receipt is issued.
Rates are also easy to change with a handheld device.
Metric Parking’s machines, however, are not cheap. The average price for a multispace meter, either pay and display or pay by space, is $10,000, a big jump over single-space meters, which typically sell for $250 apiece. But, depending on the technology, a pay-and-display machine will cover about 10 spaces and a pay-by-space machine in a lot could easily cover 50. The only limitation is accessibility for the customer. Pay-by-space machines in a single town are networked, so customers can add money for their cars at any machine in town.
Pricey these machines are, but Witts claims that parking studies show that they are far more efficient, and collect more money, than single-space meters.
"If you are driving down the street and see time left in a meter," he explains, "you try to grab the spot. But with this technology, nobody knows if it is paid for already." You enter your space number, and the machine takes your money, whether someone has already paid for it or not. The bottom line is that the municipality is taking in more revenue, he says. Data at his previous company showed that in some major cities revenue increased 40 to 50 percent in a single year. To give a sense of how much a large city takes in each year in parking revenues, Witts notes that New York City took in $114 million for on-street parking, not including tickets.
Witts, originally from Schenectady, earned an associate’s degree in electrical technology, then went to work in the semiconductor industry for Schlumberger in San Jose, California. He went to school at night for several years, getting his bachelor’s degree in management from St. Mary’s College, near Oakland, California, in 1991.
In 1994 Schlumberger purchased a parking division, based in France, which had offices in Chesapeake, Virginia, and they offered Witts a job there. In 1999 he moved to the company’s offices in Moorestown, and then in 2004, Schlumberger sold off its parking division to an investment company, which named the division Parkeon. In his 13 years with Schlumberger, Witts worked in business development, sales and marketing, and client support, and when he left, he was a key account manager. Witts lives in South Jersey with his wife, Deborah, and his son, Jason, who is a senior in high school.
Metric Inc., Metro Parking’s parent company, has been around for over a century and a quarter. Founded in 1878 as the Bell Punch Company in the United Kingdom, the firm made ticket machines that punched tickets for transport systems. In about 1939, under the name London Computer Corporation, it came out with the first electronic calculator.
In 1982 the company formed Almex Information Systems, which manufactured the Autoslot8, the world’s first electronic pay-and-display parking machine.
In 1992 it opened a subsidiary in the United States that focused on transport ticketing machines, but also sold parking meters. In 1999 Hoeft & Wessel, a German company, purchased the Metric Group in the United Kingdom. While its parent is publicly traded in Germany, Metric Group is privately held, and does not disclose revenue figures.
Witts is planning to grow the business quickly. He plans to hire two more full-time employees over the next year and to increase sales. "My objective for next year is to double our revenue," he says, "and then double it again in 2009."
That should enable the company to pay him more than enough to park for long stretches on Nassau Street – and to pay any fines he may accrue for not making it back to his meter within two hours.
– Michele Alperin
Metric Parking, 2540 Route 130, Suite 114, Cranbury 08512; 609-395-8570; fax, 609-395-8541. Dave Witts, president. Home page: www.metricparking.com.
Top Of PageMoving Paper the Old-Fashioned Way
Even with the Internet moving documents as fast as they can be typed and the trucks of shipping giants like FedEx and UPS visible all day long on every corner, there is still a big market for small courier companies.
Mike Monaco, who has just moved his company, Direct Express Couriers, to Hamilton Square, is growing fast in the speedy delivery industry. When he opened his business in Sicklerville, he knew that he was taking a chance. "I would worry that the phone wouldn’t ring," he recalls. But now, just 18 months later, he has 26 drivers, is averaging 100 deliveries a day, and plans to open two new offices before the end of the year.
Most of his clients, which include Bristol-Myers Squibb, Gillespie advertising, and LabCorp, have come through word of mouth, although he now has a full-time sales director.
His niche is small companies, but even the largest companies are beginning to use his service. "Someone at Bristol Myers saw a bill of lading from Esoterics with our name on it," he says. "He asked them about our service, heard about our low rates, and started to call us."
Monaco learned the business by working for one of the country’s largest courier services, which he does not want to name. A native of Northeast Philadelphia, where his father owns a home inspection company, he says that he knew from the age of 15 that he wanted to own his own business. He just didn’t know what kind of business. After working his way up from driver to dispatcher to general manager in the courier industry, he says that he woke up one day in 2006 and told his wife, Jennifer, that he was sure he could do it better.
He saw that the biggest companies tended to short the smallest customers. The huge accounts got the speediest service, while the little clients sometimes had to wait. He thought he could create a niche by offering top-line service to even the smallest account – and also by undercutting his competitors on price.
Monaco’s company charges $20 to pick up a letter or package – or a stack or letters and packages. Most competitors charge $28, he says. Another selling point for his service is that he doesn’t add a fuel surcharge, which, he says, other direct courier companies have been tacking onto their fees. "They add on between 10 and 15 percent," he says. Rather than do that, he raises his drivers’ commissions. But if the $5 a gallon prices some energy pundits are predicting for next summer do occur, he says that he would have no choice but to "go around to every one of my customers and explain why I have to raise my base rates."
Another way around high gas prices could be a mass purchase of hybrid vehicles. "I’ve been thinking about it," says Monaco. "As for 14 days ago, I’ve been thinking about it. I could go out and buy 30 or 40 cars." He is far from sure whether he will go that way, but he’s mulling the possibility.
Combating high gas prices to keep charges low is important to his business, but, says Monaco, hiring exceptional drivers is vital. "For every 10 drivers I interview, I hire just one," he says. Beyond a good driving record, he looks for a friendly, professional demeanor. "I can’t make all of the deliveries myself," he says. "The drivers are the face of the company."
His drivers, who own their own vehicles and operate as independent contractors, are from a variety of backgrounds. "I have a couple who are just out of high school, and don’t yet know what they want to do," he says. On the other end of the scale, he has a woman who closing in on 70 years old. "She loves to drive," he says. "She drives around all day long making deliveries."
While his drivers span all age groups, they tend to have a common motivation. "They want to be their own boss," says Monaco. He splits delivery fees with them 50/50, and says that full-time drivers can "easily make $65,000 a year." Some drivers are available only on certain hours, but others "can’t wait to get calls at 3 a.m.," he says. "The more deliveries they make, the more money they make."
Eager though they may be, Monaco generally limits his drivers to 9 1/2 hours a day, fearing that they will become drowsy if they attempt more. Most of his pick-ups and deliveries are in Mercer County, and north, in Middlesex, Hunterdon, and Somerset counties. That’s why he has taken offices in Hamilton Square. He maintains his Sicklerville office as a satellite, but has found that most of his business is farther north. He plans to open a northern New Jersey office within months and a Philadelphia office after that. From there he plans to move into Delaware.
While Monaco finds that competition is "cut throat" in his industry, he is also finding that there is lots of business to go around. He took in $640,000 in 2007, his first full year in business, and is projecting $1.4 million for 2008. Many of his customers are in the medical field. He delivers lab results to doctors and hospitals for many clients, rushes oxygen to children’s hospitals for a client that supplies the tanks up and down the East Coast, and sends wheelchairs to recently discharged hospital patients when clients in the medical supply business are too busy to handle all of their deliveries.
But a surprisingly large amount of business is still in the form of plain old paper. Lawyers use him to get motions to court at the last minute and advertising firms call upon him to rush campaign mock-ups to clients for final review.
Speed is an issue – he guarantees pick-up within 30 minutes – but so is security. "Sometimes a client has a tiny envelope," he says. "Even with UPS or FedEx it will go to a hub and there is concern that it could be lost. But I put the word `direct’ in my company name because when a driver picks up an envelope or a package, it goes directly to its destination. It never leaves his sight or his car."
Monaco has invested in technology and offers clients the ability to arrange delivery online and to track their packages. In his opinion, though, technology is a minor part of the courier business. The big guys in his industry use lots of it, but, he says, "all of the technology in the world doesn’t mean anything if the deliverer doesn’t show up on time."
Direct Express Couriers, 2119 Route 33, Hamilton Square 08690; 609-528-0313; fax, 609-528-0314. Mike Monaco, owner. Home page: www.directexpresscouriers.com.
Top Of PageExpansions
Infragistics Inc., 50 Millstone Road, Windsor Corporate Park, Building 200, Suite 150, East Windsor 08520; 609-448-2000; fax, 609-448-2017. Dean Guida, president & CEO. www.infragistics.com.
In a quest to draw talent from all over the world, Infragistics has just opened its ninth office in Sofia, Bulgaria. Formed in 2000 from a merger of ProtoView Development Corporation and Sheridan Software Systems, the fast-growing company’s specialty is software development toolsets.
Didka Duneva has been hired to be managing director of the new office. She was co-founder and CEO of Chaos Group Ltd., a provider of software for he visual effects industry. Earlier in her career, Duneva managed 3D graphics teams and projects in the electronic gaming industry.
Top Of PageLeaving Town
Ford Motor Credit Company, 101 Interchange Plaza, Cranbury.
As part of a broad, company-wide consolidation, the Ford Motor Credit office at Interchange Plaza has closed. Meredith Libbey, spokesperson for the company, says that some employees relocated to Tampa, Florida, and others to Greenville, North Carolina.
The company announced the consolidation more than one year ago, and, says Libbey, employees were able to post their relocation preferences. "Greenville was very popular," she says, guessing that a moderate climate and a matching cost of living were the lures.
Employees who decided not to relocate were offered severance packages. At one time the office held 40 workers, but Libbey says that the number was much smaller when the office closed.
Top Of PageCrosstown Moves
Allstate New Jersey, 350 Applegarth Road, Monroe Township 08831; 609-655-4300; fax, 609-655-4388. Vijay Deshpande CLU ChFC, exclusive agent. Home page: agent.allstate.com/83320.
Allstate New Jersey has moved from 666 Plainsboro Road to 350 Applegarth Road. The insurance agency, headed by Vijay Deshpande, specializes in home, auto, life, and business insurance.
According to a spokesperson, the move was made for greater visibility. "Here we are on the main road," she says. "In Plainsboro, we were a little bit back from the road."
Lonnie E. Bassin & Co. LLP CPAs, 251 Princeton-Hightstown Road, East Windsor 08520; 609-448-2047; fax, 609-448-2049. Lonnie Bassin, principal.
Lonnie Bassin, former partner in East Windsor accounting firm Mackler, Bassin & Co. LLC, has returned to business on his own after 14 years.
Lonnie E. Bassin & Co LLC CPAs opened at 251 Princeton-Hightstown Road at the start of the new year. Bassin had been partnered with Bob Mackler since 1994, but struck out on his own because Mackler is entering semi-retirement. Bassin said he switched buildings because the new one has fewer steps to navigate.
Bassin’s new firm, a full-service accounting agency, will maintain a staff of four, and is a return to Bassin’s roots. After graduating from St. Peter’s College in Jersey City with an accounting degree in 1972, he worked for various small firms and then for the IRS. He launched his own accounting firm in 1986 before pairing up with Mackler 12 years later.
Bassin said he is hoping to do more forensic accounting, which involves more investigative work.
Top Of PageLand Sale
Sherute LLC, a construction management and facilities services company in Hamilton, has purchased six acres of land zoned for office/commercial use located at Route 130 and Meadowbrook Road in Washington Township.
The land was sold by BP Products of North America. James E. Hanson of a northern New Jersey office of NAI negotiated the sale. According to published reports, Sherute plans to use the property for office and retail development.
Top Of PageDeaths
Walter Myers Jr., 88, on January 5. An accountant, he served as a West Windsor Township committeeman and worked at the David Sarnoff Research Center.
Virginia DiMeglio, 58, on January 5. A member of the first graduating class at Lawrence High School in 1968, she was a medical records clerk at Capital Health at Fuld.
Diane E. Alington-Leaf, 65, on January 5. A Princeton resident, she was a freelance writer.
Kathleen Ridolfi Ritz, 40, on January 4. She was a sixth grade teacher at St. Paul’s School in Princeton.
Maurice Calvin Wright III, on January 3. An employee of the state Department of Children’s Services, he was a former pastor of the First Baptist Church of Princeton.
Hugo Stange, 86, on December 30. He was director of organic chemistry at FMC Corp. until his retirement.
Bernhard W. Anderson, 91, on December 26. A professor emeritus of Old Testament theology at the Princeton Theological Seminary, he is the author of "Understanding the Old Testament."
Louise Clark Huford, 76, on December 20. An artist, she was active as a tutor for Head Start and the Grant School Tutoring Program in Trenton.