Friday, October 30, 2009

City of McAllen Creating Jobs

City of McAllen Creating Jobs
Action 4 News
McAllen city leaders say their community is thriving, creating jobs... Click Here to View Action 4 News Full Report

Mercedes-Benz dealership to open in San Juan in mid-2010

Mercedes-Benz dealership to open in San Juan in mid-2010

Picture: San Juan Economic Development Corporation Executive Director Miki McCarthy stands behind Bill Bird, left, Alfonso Cavazos, center, and Ronn Heller at a news conference Thursday at the Basilica Cafe to announce that a Mercedes-Benz dealership will be built in San Juan.

SAN JUAN — City officials and leaders on Thursday announced the arrival of a new Mercedes-Benz dealership in San Juan, hailing the mid-2010 opening of the luxury car vendor as part of the city’s continued economic maturation and expansion.

Mercedes-Benz of San Juan will begin construction on a 30,000-square-foot dealership in December on the north side of Expressway 83 east of Farm-to-Market Road 1426. The owners are projecting $15 million in annual sales, which would generate an estimated $50,000 in local sales taxes each year, city officials said.

The new business will also create 20 full-time jobs paying hourly wages of more than $14, said Bobby Rodriguez, board president of the San Juan Economic Development Corp.

“We’ve been praying and praying as a community to make that transition,” Mayor Pedro Contreras said at a news conference at the Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle-National Shrine. “For many years our city has been looked upon as a bedroom community, but we’re slowly but surely making that transition into also being considered a city with businesses.”

Mercedes-Benz initially sent owners Ron Heller, Bill Bird and Alfonso Cavazos to McAllen nine months ago to look at the city as a possible location for a new dealership in the Lower Rio Grande Valley. But Heller and Bird — who own a dealership just north of San Antonio in Boerne — liked the location available in San Juan near Expressway 83, and they began to develop a relationship with this city’s economic development corporation.

The duo said their dealership in Boerne did a lot of business with Valley residents who made the drive north, despite there being another Mercedes-Benz dealership in Harlingen. The automaker has been looking to open another branch in the Valley for the past few years because of that demand.

Mercedes-Benz of San Juan will join several other luxury car dealerships in the Lower Valley, most of them in McAllen. Despite the region’s low income level, Bird said there is also “a lot of wealth” in the area to support another luxury dealership.

He and Heller opened their Boerne dealership in 2004 and have since expanded from 27 employees to nearly 100 while selling about 1,800 cars annually.

“We really expect to see the same amount of growth in San Juan,” Heller said. “We know that it’s one of the 20 fastest-growing areas in the country.”

Mayor Pro Tem Lupe Rodriguez remembers visiting Boerne several years ago before the dealership opened, when it was a “very small community” similar to San Juan. He had to drive down a dirt road to get to a golf course in town where he played.

“Go see Boerne now and Boerne is booming,” he said.

Lupe Rodriguez thinks the new dealership, along with the opening of a new Bank of America branch, will help San Juan make the same transition and attract more high-end retailers to the city.

“We had a very aggressive economic development plan when we ran for office, and this is the fruits of our labor,” City Commissioner Armando Garza said.

Garza said economic development like the new dealership will help the city gain more business from many of the wealthy Mexican nationals who come to the city to visit the Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle-National Shrine.

The easy access to the dealership from Expressway 83 will also bring in customers from throughout the region and its bigger population centers, like McAllen, Brownsville and Harlingen, he said.

“You’ve got low-income subdivisions all in this area,” Lupe Rodriguez said, referring to the neighborhood surrounding the basilica. “But hopefully that’ll change.”