Last week was a really good week for Kent. The big news was Toyota’s announcement that they’re staying in Kent, even after they bought land in Streetsboro to relocate to. When one of your biggest employers (and largest retailers) decides not to pack up shop, and chooses instead to spend another $1 to $2 million in improvements in your city and add 15 to 20 new jobs — you’re having a great week. To top things off, Main Street Kent sent me a note announcing that a new bakery will be opening up downtown sometime next month. It just doesn’t get much better than last week !
A couple of year’s ago, Don Joseph Toyota announced that in order to meet the new standards set by Toyota (corporate) for their dealerships, they would have to either find a way to expand their business in Kent or move to a larger piece of property somewhere else. At that time, Don Joseph figured it would be cheaper to start all over again in Streetsboro rather than squeezing something in to the Kent location.
It’s important to understand that Toyota has some fairly tight specifications on showroom space, customer space, service space, etc. all of which were being upgraded and expanded to continue to run the business the Toyota Way. With Toyota having out-competed GM and Ford to the top of the auto sales lists nationwide, it’s clear that the Toyota formula for business success works and any dealership that fails to conform to their expectations, runs the risk of losing their dealership.
The thing I learned is that Toyota dealerships are an exclusive bunch, and where GM and Ford dealerships are much more readily available, Toyota holds firm to restricting the numbers of dealers they allow in an area. That means Toyota dealerships are a very valuable commodity and with 45 years of business in Kent, Don Joseph was a prized, top performing dealership — but like many of the older businesses in Kent, the site was mostly built-out which made it hard to add the extra amenities that customers in 2007 expect out of their shopping experience.
That was Jeff Joseph’s dilemma and until the City was able to step in and assist in working a land puchase in Kent, Jeff was taking all the steps needed to conform to the Toyota prescriptions in Streetsboro where land was cheaper and much more abundant. He bought land. He had plans developed. He put his Kent property (not the dealership franchise) up for sale. For all practical purposes he was leaving Kent.
Recognizing the tremendous importance of the Kent Car Strip to our local economy, we continued to meet with all the dealers (including Don Joseph) to stay in touch with them and offer city assistance to auto dealership issues. As a result of these meetings, we had occassion to increase police attention to nighttime vandals, we figured out a way to extend Admore Drive through to route 59, and we’re adding a new signal between the Klaben and Joseph dealerships.
Perhaps most importantly, we developed a good relationship with Jeff Joseph and as a result, he started to believe us when we said we’d do whatever we could to keep his business in Kent. From those conversations, Jeff looked deeper into his business numbers and began to see that if he could work with the city, his Kent store could be more profitable than what he was planning in Streetsboro.
So he made the call to us, and within 3 weeks we had solved his land problem. We had good contacts with a neighboring property owner and when we intervened between Jeff and the property owner we were able to find a price that would work for everyone.
City Council stepped up and approved spending $25,000 to help close the land deal and that investment will pay for itself in six months from Toyota income tax revenues. Throw in the $1 to $2 million Don Joseph will reinvest in the property and the 15 to 20 new jobs they will add and you’ve got a win-win for everybody.
What a great week….
Link to the Kent Car Strip.