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The Parking Professional: What is your current position with the Little Rock National Airport?
Jim Bass: My current position is Landside Operations Manager. I've had the pleasure of working with the LRNA for more than nine years. I enjoy the fact that we do a lot of out of the box thinking when it comes to operational enhancements, revenue generation and maintaining a positive "moment of truth." The "moment of truth" is anytime we come in contact with anyone else - be it internal or external - and it must be a positive interaction.
TPP: Briefly tell us about Little Rock National Airport's Parking and Transportation operations.
JB: We have a parking deck that has over 800 parking spaces which provide premium parking for our guests. We have a long term lot, a peanut lot (economic parking) and two short term lots. We have the space to accommodate everyone's parking needs.
TPP: What's the biggest challenge facing parking and transportation at Little Rock National?
JB: We have to always be revenue focused because at the end of the day we're a business unit. But, at the same time, we are focused on the quality of life for our employees, ensuring that this is an airport of opportunity for those who are career focused. We also are motivated to maintain the highest level of customer service. I call these the big three, all very important and challenging aspects of our business.
TPP: How are you working to overcome this challenge?
JB: Our leadership team is constantly challenging us to excel and utilize our resources to the maximum. They respect our input and have created cohesiveness and a strong spirit of camaraderie. Our executive director, Ron Mathieu, has expended great energy in making the airport employee friendly, he has recognized that each of us has a voice and he listens to that voice and we all play and important role in the direction of OUR airport and that feeling of belonging is so important.
TPP: Everyone has a unique story about how they really got into parking. What's yours?
JB: My background is military based, and that was my life and the only place I ever wanted to be. But fate had a different destiny for me. After a near fatal helicopter crash and a long recovery, I found myself looking for another career. As I was "finding myself," I had several different careers and I was fairly successful at them. I eventually found my way to the Little Rock National Airport. It seemed like no one had a respect for the parking operations. I thought to myself this is where I need to be and this is where I can introduce some of the ideals and practices that I had gained from my previous experiences. It was an uphill battle and the negative culture was challenging, but as a new executive director and new deputy director were hired, things started to change. We were allowed to grow, and from this growth came an employee recognition program called S.O.A.R that has been very successful. Before our current management team this type of program would have never flourished.
TPP: What's the most interesting parking story you can share?
JB: Last year, a woman called me on the phone and frantically told me she had just left the airport and had dropped her insulin case somewhere in the lot. She was starting to experience serious medical problems. I told her to pull over to the side of the road. She told me where she was located and I searched for her insulin. I found it and made my way to where she was parked on the side of the road. She was very close to collapsing. She gave herself an injection and started to recover. I called her daughter who came to ensure that she got home safe. Later on that night her daughter called me and informed me that the doctor said I probably saved her life due to her age and her not taking her insulin when she should have. Helping her made me feel good. That's the thing when 50,000 customers come through your airport on a monthly basis you never know what adventures you may find yourself in.
TPP: What is something about you that might surprise people?
JB: I try to keep this secret as I have had people judge me for this but when I was "finding myself" I had a highly successful and very lucrative career as…I can't believe I'm saying this…an Elvis impersonator. I performed all over the country, but mostly Las Vegas and Hawaii under the name of Jimmy Angel. It was fun, it was crazy and for all those naysayers, I laughed all the way to the bank.
TPP: What advice would you have for someone just getting into the parking profession?
JB: It's a wonderful profession and I believe people are starting to take it more seriously. Parking is an important part of our national security, so we have a responsibility from a "First Observer" standpoint as well. It is also an important part of airport revenue generation. As more dedicated and professionally minded individuals get involved in this industry, we will elevate, educate and promote this industry for what it is - viable, necessary and important.