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North Jackson dealership anticipating new facility

Jackson — In a scant two years, North Jackson Dodge has established itself as a player in the metro Jackson automobile market. Owner and general manager Pat Keating has been pleased with how his relatively new company has fared thus far.

However, Keating is expecting even bigger things in the future at the dealership located on the West Frontage Road of Interstate 55 between Briarwood Drive and Northside Drive. A multi-million-dollar construction project is underway on a new facility on the site that Keating describes as “incredible,” “fantastic” and “nothing else like it.”

“It is truly going to be a showplace,” Keating said. “It will be worth the trip to see the new facility even if you’re not looking to buy a car.”

The new North Jackson Dodge is the culmination of a long career in the car business for Keating. Originally from New Orleans, he got into the industry in the mid-1980s at the suggestion of a friend. His first car sales job was in Gulfport in 1986, but he subsequently relocated to Jackson in 1988, where he continued his career, including serving as general manager of Hallmark Toyota.

“This business just gets in your blood,” Keating said. “I’ve never known anyone who was successful in this business to leave it.”

In December 2003, Keating purchased North Jackson Dodge, marking his first foray into entrepreneurship. Business has been brisk ever since as many of Keating’s customers from previous dealerships followed him into his new endeavor. For a two-year-old dealership, North Jackson Dodge sees a surprisingly large number of repeat customers and referrals, according to Keating.

“I pride myself on doing what I say I’m going to do,” Keating said. He added that a personal philosophy, which he works hard to instill in his employees, is also a factor in the success. “Buying an automobile is the second-largest purchase most people are going to make in their lifetime,” he said. “Whether someone is buying a $50,000 car or a $15,000 car, they should be treated with respect. As a rule, the feeling among folks is that buying a car is unpleasant. We want our customers to have the most incredible experience buying a car that they have ever had.”

The new North Jackson Dodge facility is planned as the foundation for this value-the-customer approach. Demolition, as well as grading and paving work, is already underway at the site, which was the former, longtime home of Blackwell Chevrolet. Just as with so many construction projects in Mississippi, the work has been negatively impacted by Hurricane Katrina. Still, Keating is hopeful that the new facility will see completion sometime in the late summer of 2006. Laws Construction is the contractor on the project.

The price tag on the construction work is in excess of $5 million. The project includes as expanded showroom with amenities such as a ceiling-mounted large screen TV. It will also include an espresso bar that will serve pastries and other food in addition to beverages. A state-of-the-art parts boutique is also planned, as well as separate onsite quick lube and car wash areas.

The new facility will boast a new service area encompassing 30 stalls, all of them air conditioned. Keating said finding and retaining qualified, trained automobile technicians is a challenge, and the new stalls represent North Jackson Dodge’s continuing efforts to make the service folks happy.

“You can’t run a business without good employees, and you’re not going to have satisfied customers if you don’t have happy workers,” Keating said. “We want the new facility to be an incredible experience both for our customers and our employees, too. It’s the employees’ faces that the customers see.”

Obviously, the new North Jackson Dodge facility is a major outlay that has to be covered. Cars have to be sold. Currently, the dealership does not have the lot space for the inventory it needs to carry. But, the new facility will provide that needed lot space, and Keating said while space both in the showroom and out on the lot is at a premium, he and his team are working through it, and business remains solid despite the inconvenience. The new facility will also mean more employees. North Jackson Dodge currently employs approximately 70 workers. Keating said the dealership would look to add an unspecified number of both sales personnel and auto technicians, which, once again, Keating is hoping will be facilitated by the improved service area.

Keating said he is happy with the position North Jackson Dodge is in. The Chrysler/Dodge/Jeep models remain consistent sellers (they took both Car of the Year and Truck of the Year honors in 2005), and he said he has seen no perceptible changes in buying habits due to the escalating cost of gasoline. In short, he is high on what the future holds for North Jackson Dodge.

“The new facility is just going to be fantastic. There will simply be nothing else like it in the area,” Keating said. “It’s going to offer atmosphere, selection, professional and competent personnel.

“Business has been extremely good, and I am thrilled. The referrals have just been fantastic. The new facility should only be a plus.”

Contact MBJ staff writer Wally Northway at northway@msbusiness.com.

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