Thoughts From the Road

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Thoughts From the Road

By Jim Chiswell

This month's column provides me with a very unique opportunity: a chance to talk about a major self-storage meeting coming to Buffalo, N.Y., next month. No, I'm not pulling your leg. Inside Self-Storage is bringing its spring expo to the downtown Hyatt Hotel during May 11th and 12th. Yes, the snow will be melted by then and, in fact, May is a wonderful time of year to be in Buffalo. Let me take a moment to give you an overview of the trade fair and urge everyone to consider adding this event to his spring travel schedule.

The team at Virgo Publishing has done a great job in putting together an outstanding roster of speakers. The trade fair will feature some of the industry's leading suppliers from across the United States, who will be available for one-on-one discussions during the show. I am especially pleased that the New York Self Storage Association (NYSSA) will be holding an open forum in conjunction with the expo on that Friday.

Ken Myszka, president of Sovran Self Storage, and David Rogers, the company's chief financial officer, will give a keynote presentation, with a look at our industry from their perspective as members of a public company. They will also share their vision for the direction of the industry both domestically and internationally.

The educational workshops will feature a full spectrum of topics for both the self-storage beginner and seasoned veteran. I will be presenting a development-track session, "From Feasibility to Grand Opening," and will be joined by many of the construction veterans I have worked with around the country. Mark Deion from Rhode Island will be speaking about "Using the Internet to Revolutionize Your Facility Marketing," and a panel of self-storage operators will join him in providing practical advice on what is working for them. Ken Piken, who served as general counsel for the NYSSA while I was president, will discuss "Where We've Been and Where We're Going" from a legal perspective. Ken has been instrumental in several key court cases involving self-storage that you are going to want to hear about first-hand.

The other sessions cover a wide range of issues, such as management and security, building conversions, innovative marketing strategies, financing, property-tax issues and facility insurance. In addition to the special open forum sponsored by NYSSA, sessions will be conducted with exclusive emphasis on Canadian self-storage topics. This will provide a chance to discuss areas of specific concern and interest to our fellow owners and operators from Canada, or to those interested in building in there.

Of course, the Buffalo expo won't be all work and no play--an evening cocktail reception is being planned and a number of other options will be available to all who attend. I look forward to welcoming everyone to my home town.

Welcome Back, Michael

Several years ago, Coopers and Lybrand acquired Michael Donohue's company, which specialized in dealing with real-estate taxes for the self-storage industry. Michael called me the other day to let me know that, after extensive negotiations, he had reacquired ownership of his company and is returning to the ranks of entrepreneurship. He has continued to do an outstanding job for his clients while a part of the Coopers and Lybrand team, but there is nothing quite like being able to call your own shots. I want to wish Michael continued success with Property Tax Advisors, because if he is successful, it means an owner's tax assessment has been reduced. Our entire industry benefits directly and indirectly from the work Michael has done in the past--and the work I know he will do in the future--with tax assessors across the country. If you are facing a property-tax problem, you can reach Michael at (703)518-4425.

Traffic-Study Results

Last year, I asked owners and managers to supply me with some basic information about their facilities and the number of vehicles per week/month that came through their gates. I have completed phase one of this traffic research and have already sent out a memo to everyone who participated.

The results are very much in line with what our industry has been telling planning and zoning boards around the country: Self-storage develops very minimal traffic for its total square footage. The results of the research data showed average cars per day, per 100 units, to be just 6.54 vehicles. For example, if your project is 60,000 square feet and has 550 units, you could expect to see 36 cars per day once your project has achieved a stabilized occupancy.

I realize this average figure may not reflect what you experience. I welcome additional input to this ongoing research project, on an anonymous basis. Please send me your total square footage, total units, percentage of unit occupancy and the total one-way vehicle count into your facility on either a weekly or monthly basis. The more facilities that participate in this research, the more significant the results become. I thank you in advance for the additional data.

Jim Chiswell is the president of Chiswell & Associates of Williamsville, N.Y. Since 1990, his firm has provided feasibility studies, acquisition due diligence and customized manager training for the self-storage industry. In addition to contributing regularly to Inside Self-Storage, Mr. Chiswell is a frequent speaker at Inside Self-Storage Expos. He can be reached via e-mail at Jchiswell@adelphia.net; phone (716) 634-2428; www.Jimdot.com.

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