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Surviving the economic turmoil

Company challenged by the downturn in the U.S. economy but looking forward to a good year in 2012

John Fraissinet had retired from his career in the technology sector when he heard that Digital Payment Technologies was looking for a new CEO.

The Burnaby parking payment technology company had a difficult year last year, as most of its customers are based in the United States and have been badly hit by the economic turmoil there.

Fraissinet had been on the board for nearly seven years and was familiar with the business. The previous CEO, Andrew Scott, knew him from another company and brought him on board, he says.

"I've been in the technology business forever," Fraissinet says, adding that he started with IBM in New Mexico in 1980.

He left IBM to move to California when the personal computer was introduced, and he worked at a number of companies over the years as a sales representative, manager and vice-president.

He moved to Vancouver to work at C8 Software, which later became Crystal Decisions. After that, Fraissinet joined a startup company called Galeforce Solutions, working there for about three years, and retired five years ago.

"I was on a couple of boards, and that's how I got involved with Digital," he says. "I was happily enjoying retirement, and that's when they asked me to step in, in September.

"I've always been interested in the company, and the people here, and the technology and products we offer," Fraissinet adds.

Digital Payment Technologies develops parking pay stations for colleges and universities, parking companies, parks and municipalities, including White Rock.

The focus at the company has changed slightly since Fraissinet took the helm, he says.

"Whenever you have a new CEO come in, you want to put your own stamp on things," Fraissinet says. "I think what we've done is just try to get the company a bit more focused than we were in terms of the product line."

The company has recently developed licence-plate enabled parking, which uses the licence plate number rather than a stall number or parking space to identify what vehicles have paid for parking.

This also allows the operator to bring in more money, as customers can no longer pay for time on the meter and pass it on if someone else parks there before the time runs out - each vehicle has to pay.

Another recent innovation for the company is software and Smartphone applications that allow customers to extend their parking time by phone, instead of running out to the meter.

But as the company's clients are primarily in the U.S., it has been affected by the neighbouring economy.

"Last year was a bit of a difficult year for everyone in the industry, primarily because of the U.S. economy, so it was kind of a flat year for us," he says.

But Fraissinet is optimistic about 2012.

"We finished the year in pretty good shape, but we thought, you know, 2012 is going to be the year that we take some big initiatives," he says.

A few key investors are closing their investments, so the company is looking for new ones this year, Fraissinet adds.

"We've got a lot of people interested in putting money in the company," he says, adding this will help fund the company's research and development.

"We're pretty excited about that," he says. "We've got a great team, and I think we've got a platform from which to launch right now in 2012."

jfuller-evans@burnabynow.com