I used to tell people that if I could go back in time a few decades and choose a business to invest in, it wouldn’t have been something high-tech or trendy. Instead, I would have bought up all the downtown parking lots in major American cities. Not the garages, just the surface lots. The overhead must be extremely low. You pay your taxes, you paint new lines once a year, and you hire some people to wave orange flags at the entrances and entice drivers to park there. Even if they steal 15% of the cash each day, you have to still come out way ahead.
Plus, if you’re near a major sports venue (e.g. Busch Stadium), you get to jack up the prices for every game and fans will still pay whatever exorbitant amount you name — especially during the post-season!
However, recent developments in auto technology have changed my mind. With the rise of the self-driving car, there will be fewer people taking their own vehicles to work, so they won’t need a place to park. The robot car will drop them off at their building, then go on its way, picking up other riders and taking them to their destinations. I’m not saying it’ll happen this week, but give it a decade and the value of those lots will drop dramatically.
Therefore, I have a new answer to the time-traveling business question.
Instead of buying up parking lots, I would invest in the company that fixes the escalators at the Ameristar Casino in Saint Charles. In the 20 years or so that I’ve been going there, I have never observed a single day when at least one escalator wasn’t out of order or being serviced. Whoever has that contract is guaranteed 365 days of work every year.
I wonder where the repair crews park.