SIC 7521

This classification covers establishments primarily engaged in the temporary parking of automobiles, usually on an hourly, daily, or monthly contract or fee basis. Establishments primarily engaged in extended or dead storage of automobiles are classified in SIC 4226: Special Warehousing and Storage, Not Elsewhere Classified.

NAICS Code(s)

812930 (Parking Lots and Garages)

Industry Snapshot

According to International Parking Institute sources, the automobile parking industry generated $43 billion in 1998, with $28 billion coming from the private side and $15 billion coming from the public side. This was a substantial increase over figures reported in previous years. The financial success of the automobile parking industry is tied to commercial real estate growth—a boom in new office buildings (and high occupancy rates within them) requires more lots to house the cars of commuters, clients, and related service industries in the area.

The International Parking Institute also reported that there were roughly 18,500 parking establishments in the United States in 1998. Approximately half of them were owned by municipalities, and the rest were privately held. There were about 105 million parking spaces in the United States with a 2 to 1 ratio of off-street versus on-street parking.

The industry employed about 73,400 workers, the majority of which were parking lot attendants and cashiers. Other positions included enforcement officers, maintenance personnel, office personnel, and information managers. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the outlook for these jobs looked excellent through the year 2008, with the expected growth at 24 percent, industry-wide.

Organization and Structure

Often, parking lot operators do not own the land on which their businesses sit. Arrangements with the real estate holder are primarily of the fixed-fee management contract type, which does not require an outlay of capital from the operator; the parking company simply contracts to run a parking lot on the land and then collects a percentage of the parking revenues. Fixed-fee management contracts usually run one to three years. In another, less common type of contract, known as a lease arrangement, contracts run three times longer but provide a greater profit potential. In leasing a lot, a parking-lot operator is required to invest their own capital in the expansion or improvement of the lot, but receives a greater share of the profits.

The National Parking Association (NPA), founded in 1951 and based in Washington, D.C., had a membership of more than 1,000 private and public parking professionals. The association organized annual conventions and trade expositions, and published Parking , a trade periodical. The NPA also lobbied for industry concerns and reported on its activities in periodic Legislative Updates and Issue Alerts . The NPA's Parking Consultants Council, formed in 1972, was a professional and technical advice group within the association concerned with design issues, economic analysis, financial counseling, and analysis and maintenance of off-street parking facilities. The NPA also operated a foundation, the Parking Industry Institute, which granted scholarship awards to employees of member organizations and their families.

The International Parking Institute (IPI) was founded in 1962. It has a company member base of more than 1,300. Its mission is to provide leadership, technical resources, and information to the parking profession and related fields. The IPI provides professional training, holds an annual conference and publishes a monthly magazine called The Parking Professional , among other services and activities.

Background and Development

The growth of the parking industry has, of course, coincided with the growth of the automobile industry itself. According to the International Parking Institute, the first parking garage was built out of timber in 1909 in Columbus, Ohio. In 1912, the city of Chicago developed municipal parking lots in an effort to relieve the heavy downtown traffic congestion. The first parking meter was displayed in 1935 in Oklahoma City. Over the years, the number of off-street and on-street parking spaces and facilities has grown rapidly in response to the popularity of the automobile and the development of public roadways. Parking equipment has also grown more sophisticated, including automated gates and machines that accept money, calculate fees, and print tickets with and without the aid of an attendant.

Industry Leaders

Ranked according to sales volume, the three largest automobile parking companies in the United States in 1999 were Standard Parking Corp, based in Chicago, Illinois, with $450 million in sales and 3,800 employees; APCO, Inc. based in Cleveland, Ohio, with $350 million in sales and 3,500 employees; and Central Parking Corp, based in Nashville, Tennessee, with $232 million in sales and 9,300 employees.

Further Reading

International Parking Institute, 27 November 1999. Available from .

Parking Design Guide. . Detroit: Federal APD, Inc., 1997.

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. National Industry-Occupation Employment Matrix. Washington, DC: GPO, 1999. Available from .

Ward's Business Directory of U.S. Private and Public Companies. Volume 5. Farmington Hills, MI: Gale Group, 1999.

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