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An Interview with:

Joel Rathbone

Director of Operations, National Portable Storage Association

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What is the NPSA?

The NPSA is the trade association for the portable storage industry. Our goal is to bring companies together to share ideas, best practices and build relationships within the portable storage industry.

Our members represent companies that rent, lease or sell portable storage containers, trailers, offices, and self-storage units (also called white boxes or PODS) to the end user. We also have associate members, who sell products and services such as insurance, paint, software and shipping containers to our core members.

The association is structured with the following positions:

  • Board of Directors
  • CEO
  • Staff
  • Committee Chairmen
  • Committees

The CEO comes from within the industry and acts as our adviser. It is a volunteer position. Our acting CEO is Joe Kent from Colorado Storage. He gives so much of his time to serve the NPSA while running his own company.

The NPSA currently has two full-time staff members, Kaylee Ferguson and myself. We work with the committee chairs over eight committees. These committees are a huge part of the NPSA. They give us our marching orders on what needs to be done and keep our members involved. A big part of NPSA’s success can be attributed to our incredibly active members.

How did the NPSA get its start? 

To have an industry as large as portable storage without an association is almost unheard of. My friend Rick and his father (who were working in the storage container industry at the time) identified the need and got the ball rolling. I joined the team, offering my services after years of lobbying work on Capitol Hill.

storage containers stacked

In 2002, we started spreading the word and received immediate interest. At our first meeting, we weren’t sure whether 10 or 20 people would show up, but 130 people ended up attending. We considered it a success. By the end of 2002, we had selected our board of directors and held our first conference in Kansas City. In 2003, the NPSA hosted its first trade show at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas with 300 attendees. Our trade show has now grown to about 600 attendees.

What is NPSA’s mission statement?

We are charting a successful future for the portable storage industry. Our goal is to meet the needs of our core members.

What are the benefits of an NPSA membership?

Members join to network, stay current on modular trends and learn best practices for their business. When you join NPSA, you’ll meet competitors. But those competitors often become friends and contacts. Many businesses have formed alliances over important issues such as zoning as a result of this association.

Membership means having the opportunity to connect with like-minded professionals within the modular industry on a national level.

“When we first started NPSA, portable storage was seen as strong, but not sexy. We’ve gone from being seen in the same light as the roll off dumpster industry to now a hip, eco-friendly industry.”

Joel Rathbone, Director of Operations, National Portable Storage Association

What trends do you see in the modular industry?

When we first started NPSA, portable storage was seen as strong, but not sexy.

Then along came PODS—they not only changed the industry, but how people viewed the portable storage product. It completely energized the industry. At the time, none of our members were offering anything like that. But with the invention of PODS, people started to take a second look at their business model. Now, portable storage is a dynamic industry, with an increasing number of self-storage companies popping up all over the country.

Container architecture is also on the rise. Homes, apartments and restaurants are being constructed out of containers.

What does the future look like for portable storage?

angry birds trade show booth

Business will continue to expand and thrive. That is evident just by recognizing the number of portable storage companies that keep popping up.

I love going to our trade show and seeing all the creative new ways that storage containers are being used.

What do you want people to know about the NPSA?

We have recently made an effort to improve our communication among members. We now offer small group discussion forums where our members can chat, ask questions, share best practices and ideas. This makes it possible for the members to stay in contact all year.

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