NAPT Leadership Speaks on Return of NAPT Conference in 2023

The National Association of Pupil Transportation® (NAPT®) Conference and Trade Show will return in 2023 to Columbus, Ohio from October 27 – 31, delivering unrivaled and in-person professional development opportunities. School BUSRide spoke with NAPT Board President Rick Grisham, E.d.S., and NAPT Foundation President Steven Kalmes about this exciting news and what members can expect.

Please tell us about why NAPT is returning to its full conference schedule in 2023, and why now is the right time.

Rick Grisham: To kick off my presidency, we developed a new strategic plan and are excited to continue our work of implementing the plan over the course of the next three years. Part of the plan was an NAPT return to a full conference and trade show, we decided to wait until 2023 because many elements of the newly developed strategic plan are going to be part of the 2023 event in Columbus. Specifically, as it relates to education and advocacy; and we wanted those elements to be fully developed and planning our return for 2023 gave us the time to do that. 

Steven Kalmes: We’ve seen great success with our new event concept, the Road Show; we did the first Road Show in Houston, TX and the second one is coming up Oct. 12-14, 2022, in Nashville, Tennessee. Building upon the Road Show success is an important step for the NAPT team, our plan is to continue to hold them leading up to the fall of 2023. We want our members to understand that our work in providing them with valuable experiences never stops; our goal is to constantly bring quality content forward that bolsters professionalism. The more intimate design of the Road Show was driven by the circumstances of the pandemic but is building us a bridge to create something new as we work hard to re-envision our past. We are excited to return to our traditional conference and trade show, a flagship in our industry for many years, with the newly built foundation of the Road Shows.

Grisham: We have heard from our members about they cannot wait for us to return to our traditional conference and trade show. Hang tight, it’s coming! Columbus will be better than ever; we promise you that! 

Kalmes: I echo Rick’s words, our members are excited for our return, and we are too! People want to be back together so they can see old NAPT friends and forge new relationships with up-and-coming leaders. Networking is one of the best components about an NAPT conference; we provide a space for industry professionals to engage with peers from other states, people they may only see once a year, and because of the pandemic, missed seeing for a couple years. We encourage members to be on the lookout for updates regarding 2023 and we thank them for our patience as we plan for an epic return! 

How will this build off the strength of the Road Shows?

Grisham: The Road Show concept has proven successful, and that’s why we will continue it leading up to the return of the conference. Not only will it keep us connected with our members but it will help us shape the content for 2023. In a post March of 2020 era, we understand that change is not only necessary, but also inevitable, we are adapting to the circumstances that the pandemic has created for us. The Road Show concept allows us to enhance professional opportunities by innovating the standard meeting models, and using each event as a building block for the next, bringing forward a structure of continuity. We are finding that this model provides a strong learning experience for our members, and it is the members who embrace it who will be the association’s pipeline for future innovation, supporting the foundation of our tried-and-true products and services; the combination that will only strengthen all that the NAPT brand has to offer.

Kalmes: I agree with Rick. The Road Shows are more regional events where people in different parts of the country can come to a more intimate setting to share their stories. Those stories are meant to expand the knowledge and toolkits of their peers. I think it was particularly good to have these professional learning and networking opportunities during the pandemic, but one takeaway is they’re well-liked and here to stay. 

Grisham: Another important takeaway from Houston was having our vendor partners showcased as industry experts, speaking on panels and leading breakout sessions. Feedback from our vendor partners showed that they felt welcomed and were thrilled to be immersed in product subject matter with industry directors and supervisors. I found they came away enthused by their relationships with fellow attendees and broader industry connections. The smaller Road Show setting provided a new way for them to interact effectively and more personally.

For those who must decide which industry conferences to attend this year, what makes the Road Show and NAPT Conference must-see, unique events? What value do they bring for professional growth and networking in 2022 and 2023?

Grisham: We understand that it is a competitive marketspace with a variety of options on both the state and national level, however, in my professional opinion, NAPT is the highest regarded national leader to serve the public sector and should be the go-to for conference content and industry connections. We view our national conference as a way to advancskldflkfnwlkkenfwle yellow bus transportation excellence. Our team is working hard to make the Nashville Road Show and 2023 Columbus Conference the best yet! So mark your calendars for October 12 – 4, 2022 in Nashville ( and October 27 – 31, 2023 in Columbus ( ! 

Kalmes: I’m a tremendous believer in the NAPT Conference, I have not missed one since 1984, and do not plan on missing Columbus either. NAPT’s vision is to create a world where every student has access to safe and efficient transportation and our events are creating a roadmap for us to make that vision a reality. The Road Show format is smaller in size (comparatively speaking) to other industry events but, we believe, the impact is larger; we are shining light on real life stories and solutions from professionals who are living through the daily challenges. Things have been changing rapidly over the last couple years because of the pandemic; the solid foundation that the Road Show provides will springboard us into the future and we intend to continue to serve as the industry leader for conferences. 

And to that point, the reason for this interview is we’ve been promoting the Road Show and now the return of our full conference in NAPT publications—Dispatch and School BUSRide announcements and ads. We’re shifting gears to make direct personal appeal. Stay tune to NAPT communications for announcements about content and other meeting features. You’re going to want to be there!