Have you ever noticed that sometimes our greatest rewards come from our smallest actions? Think about the words, “I appreciate you.” It feels pretty good to hear that, doesn’t it? Absolutely! Now, think about how others feel when they hear that from you. Such a small, simple thing, yet it can brighten a person’s entire day.
With that in mind, think about the myriad of small things each of us can do within our industry to yield equally outsized positive results. To get you started, I have prepared some ideas.
Let’s start with this year’s International Public Transportation EXPO, to be held Oct. 3-5 in beautiful New Orleans. The EXPO will feature more than 750 exhibitors spanning every facet of our continuously expanding industry, and more than 17,000 attendees are expected. Obviously, we expect all of our association’s transit agency CEOs, board members, and senior executives to attend. (Right!?!)
But beyond that, I challenge you to select one of the young people on your staff and bring that person along as well. Allow him or her to be immersed in all things transit-related and to experience the breadth and diversity that is at the heart of what makes this industry so great. This person will learn more in three days at the EXPO than he or she could ever learn sitting in a cubicle, and it just may spark a passion that will burn for decades to come.
The late John Farrell did that for me more than 20 years ago when I was a transit planner in Laredo, TX. Once on the EXPO show floor, I was exposed to interesting new products such as the first low floor buses and exciting new MS-DOS based route planning software that could be loaded onto a 35-pound “portable computer” with a green screen. However, even more importantly, I was invited to attend meetings with the likes of Bill Stokes, Houston Ishmael, and Henry Church—every one of them a member of the APTA Hall of Fame. While I might not have fully appreciated who they were the time, their words of guidance had a significant influence on me for many years to come.
You might be surprised to learn that it has been 30 years since the inaugural EXPO event was held in Chicago. In celebration of this milestone anniversary, APTA will recognize the companies that were there in the beginning and are still exhibiting with us 30 years later—a small reward for a significant accomplishment. We hope you will join us in acknowledging those companies that have been with us every step of the way.
Speaking of recognition at the EXPO, we are really looking forward to the opportunity to showcase our outstanding Disadvantaged Business Enterprise, Women-Owned Business Enterprise, and small business members. APTA and our EXPO contractors have put together a very attractive and affordable package specifically for our DBE, WBE, and small business vendors that makes it easy and affordable for them to exhibit at the industry’s premier event. As chair of the EXPO, I would especially like to recognize the efforts of Hugh Harrison, Mary Ann Collier, and Eve Williams, who have done an outstanding job helping us take our vendor diversity efforts to the next level.
There is no question that New Orleans is open for business, and I can’t say enough good things about the hospitality exhibited by everyone we have worked with in preparation for the EXPO. At the same time, we all know there are vulnerable areas of the community still in need of assistance. APTA is in the process of organizing several events that will allow our members to give back to the community in an organized and focused way. Those opportunities are very exciting, and I hope you will make plans to join us in making these a highlight of our Annual Meeting and EXPO. The efforts you put forth will yield exponentially positive returns.
I would be remiss if I did not take a moment to recognize the hard work and extra efforts put forth by the members of our EXPO Advisory Committee. This group has worked tirelessly for the last several years in preparation for this year’s event. Thank you to all of our committee members and the New Orleans Regional Transit Authority, our host agency. Hopefully, you will each take a moment to thank them as well the next time you see them.
While APTA is an association led by and organized around our volunteer members, all too often we forget to recognize the outstanding efforts of the hard-working APTA staff. Many a committee meeting has concluded with direction to staff to simply “get it done,” sometimes without fully appreciating what that assignment truly entails. Yet, time and again they complete the task without complaint and make the rest of us look good. The next time you contact members of the APTA staff or see them at a conference, take an extra minute to thank them for all they do to support us.
Lastly, I’d like to extend my personal “Thank You” to Bill Millar. Early in his term as president of APTA, when I was an obscure transit agency general manager, Bill invited me to join him for dinner. He saw something in me that even I did not see, and he encouraged me to raise my hand and get involved. He didn’t have to do that and he certainly had more important things to do than to spend time with me, but he did it anyway. That led me in an entirely different and exciting direction of new opportunities that I could not have dreamed of.
As I wrap up this pre-EXPO commentary, I note with mixed emotions that, while I am excited about the opportunity to help cut the ribbon at this year’s EXPO opening ceremony, I will do it with a bit of sadness, knowing that it will be Bill’s last meeting as our president. Thank you, Bill, and thank you to all our members who give so much to make our association so great!
Melaniphy is chair of the 2011 International Public Transportation EXPO, chair of the APTA Awards Committee, first vice chair of the Business Member Board of Governors, and a member of the APTA Board of Directors. In his spare time, he is vice president, public sector, for Motor Coach Industries Inc.