Printed: November 26, 2020

Local firm has the ticket for success, longevity

Printed products, new technology mix well

BY JON CHAVEZ BLADE BUSINESS WRITER

For over a century, locally-based Toledo Ticket Technologies has been making paper tickets for sporting events, special events, and parking garages.

One might think a worldwide calamity that encourages people to stay indoors would kill such a business. But the truth is that the family-owned company saw the potential for upheaval coming a long time ago — even if it didn’t specifically see the coronavirus pandemic.

“Yes, COVID has affected us. It has affected us from the parking aspect more than anything,” said Tom Carter, president and chief operating officer of Toledo Ticket Technologies.

“We still do some ticketing for sporting events and other special events. But that’s now a small part of our business. Parking is certainly the biggest part of our business but it’s not our only business,” he said.

Over the years, Mr. Carter said, the company has been preparing for the eventuality of paper tickets to become fewer and fewer. In fact, for 110 years the company was known as the Toledo Ticket Co. but recently changed to its new name because it is developing and implementing technologies that will require less paper and more digital, wireless, and electronic signals.

It also has diversified into products that are useful during the pandemic.

For example, last year the company acquired a printing firm named Universal Bindery, which allowed Toledo Ticket Technologies to expand into custom printing on face masks.

Mr. Carter himself came up with a clever new product — a discardable printed tag that can go on a steering wheel. It is being marketed successfully to the valet parking industry, with the potential for the rental car industry and car dealers.

“In the past, before COVID, you could see the valet’s face. You could see who the valet was that was parking your car. Now, with masks, it’s much more difficult,” Mr. Carter said. “With the steering wheel tags you can have a custom message: ‘Your car has been gently parked and sanitized by John,’ for instance.

“Or you could use it for advertising, or by a car dealer who just fixed your car, or a restaurant could tell you about next week’s menu,” he said. “When the customer gets in the car they see the message.”

The company also is branching into custom-printed packets that contain a sanitizer wipe. It is marketing it and the custom-printed mask to the wedding industry.

Internally, Toledo Ticket Technologies took the bold step of aggressively moving forward during the pandemic, rather than pulling back.

“We watched our competition let their entire sales teams go, and we did just the opposite. Our sales teams said, ‘Tell us what you need us to do,’ and we kept them on because they’re prepping for what’s to come,” Mr. Carter said.

The company also went to the Teamsters Union, which represents its workers, and asked for help to allow it to cut work hours but not cut any benefits. “They have been absolutely incredible to work with in this crisis,” Mr. Carter said.

However, much of the company’s focus for several years now has been on the changing trends and evolving ways that people enter an event, a parking garage, a building, and other places.

“We don’t consider ourselves as ticket managers so much anymore as we do security entry specialists. When we began paper tickets were being used in the parking industry for a good long time. Then came barcoding …, then magnetic strips, then coded strips, then RFID and QR codes,” Mr. Carter said. “So there’s so much more to do that Toledo Ticket does than just print tickets.”

The company, which is located on Catawba Street in Toledo, was originally founded in 1910 by Grant Northrup, a Toledo businessman and politician who was once the city’s vice mayor and Lucas County treasurer. Toledo Ticket began by printing carnival and theater tickets.

The company is still owned by descendants and in-laws of Mr. Northrup.

But now, in addition to printed tickets, Toledo Ticket Technologies specializes in RFID tags for parking credentials to improve security and convenience for customers like ProMedica.

That was helpful because the pandemic curtailed a lot of driving by people and stymied the need for parking.

“Parking is now starting to come back. And it’s predicted to increase because people don’t want to take public transportation. There’s a greater chance of contracting COVID in crowded transportation,” Mr. Carter said.

Because Toledo Ticket Technologies contracts with nearly every large parking operator in the nation, it has had a good view of what businesses are starting to recover from the stunted economy.

Based on parking tickets at airports, the travel industry is still hurting badly, as recent large layoffs by United Airlines and American Airlines would indicate.

“It’s coming back very, very slowly, but …people are flying again,” Mr. Carter said. “And yet, I was at Detroit Metro last week and it certainly wasn’t a problem finding a parking space.”

The company also believes sporting events are beginning to come back, and special events are being planned for the near future. However, those industries may favor ticketless technologies in the coming years.

Ticketless technology “has been huge for us. We are partnering with a lot of technology companies now,” the company president said.

And Mr. Carter gives a lot of credit to family members at Toledo Ticket Technologies, especially the younger ones, who have pushed for new technologies, directions, and revenue streams.

“My sons are looking into a lot of things. Now they’re making suggestions to me that I never thought about and it’s been absolutely phenomenal,” Mr. Carter said.

“As a five-generation business, there isn’t anyone in this business that wants to be the one who let the business go,” he added.

Contact Jon Chavez at

jchavez@theblade.com

or 419-724-6128.