A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

NKU alum Cathleen Mathinga unexpectedly becomes president of ValAir, grows and expands it

When Cathleen Matchinga graduated from Northern Kentucky University in 1985 with an accounting degree, she expected to become a CPA — Certified Public Accountant, that is, not Car Parking Attendant.

But following the death of her first husband in 1990, she found herself with the latter title as the president of ValAir Valet Parking, a Cincinnati Airport parking business she’s grown and expanded over the last 28 years.

“After he passed away I threw myself into this,” Matchinga said. “I was here long hours. I was basically really learning how things work. And I started questioning things.”

Cathleen Matchinga, ValAir

Those questions led to answers — such as a new security system, advanced accounting software and an improved customer database — that put customer preferences first and helped ValAir stand out from the competition.

“What makes us different is we’re not some big parking concern,” Matchinga said. “We’re the ‘Cheers’ of airport parking. We know their names. We use their names. The customers have been our biggest advocate. They are the ones who promote us the most.”

Value-added experiences are at the heart of ValAir’s continued growth. While a customer is away on business, their car can be washed and detailed, with tire rotation, oil changes and even small car repairs performed before they return. Matchinga even makes FedEx runs for customers if needed.

“Our business is about high-end service, through and through,” Matchinga said. “People are trusting us with the second-most expensive thing they own, outside of their home. They’re handing us the keys to some amazing automobiles.”

This year, under the continued leadership of Matchinga, ValAir is celebrating a half-century of this above-and-beyond level of customer service.

“It is a big point of pride for us to say we’re here 50 years later,” Matchinga said. “But it’s due to our customers. I guess it’s affirmation that you are doing things right—that people value what you have to offer.”

Matchinga credits much of her success to NKU, where she learned accounting skills and, perhaps more importantly, grew as a person.

“When I first started at NKU I was very shy. After a couple of weeks, that all changed,” Matchinga said. “People were so welcoming there. As a non-traditional student, it was amazing how kind everyone was. NKU really gave me my confidence. I went from being rather uncomfortable with numbers to sitting and passing the CPA exam.”

This confidence and aptitude for numbers, combined with a keen eye for details and love for true personal experiences, have helped ValAir grow and advance under her leadership. More than just a parking service, ValAir gives customers peace of mind while they’re away. Delivering that drives Matchinga to keep asking questions, every day.

Northern Kentucky University. This first appeared on the NKU Alum website.

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