Third Quarter 2012
story by MARK FAGAN

Standing out here early on a Saturday morning — between answering questions about fields and tournament matchups and referee assignments and seemingly anything else parents and players and volunteers and anyone else can think up — Kirsten Judd doesn’t at all mind doing a little math.

Chevy Traverse for SaleWith two brand-new Chevrolets parked nearby as prizes, and a table topped with a cardboard box for tickets and a metal box for cash, Judd plugs real numbers into the simplest of equations:
2,000 raffle tickets x $5 each = $10,000 for Kaw Valley Soccer Association.

Selling tickets for the national drawing — sponsored by Chevrolet and backed in Lawrence by local dealer Dale Willey Automotive — adds up to real benefits for dozens of area kids who otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford playing soccer.

Proceeds will go toward the association’s scholarship program, which helps low-income kids join recreational soccer teams or move up into premier leagues, for which fees can hit $1,200.
“This is a great opportunity we wouldn’t have otherwise,” says Judd, the association’s director of marketing and member services, as she sells tickets to parents and other family and friends during a tournament at the Youth Sports Complex in southwest Lawrence. “This is a no-brainer. It’s 100 percent profit for us.”

And it’s not at all unusual.

The recreational raffle is just one of many community-minded efforts, activities and investments driven by Lawrence-area auto dealers, whose people-oriented businesses reach out to a variety of causes throughout the year. Dealerships count on the benefits of such efforts building for weeks, months and years ahead, both through personal connections that boost sales and the overall improvements they generate.

“This community will flourish based on the support it gets,” says Miles Schnaer, owner of Crown Toyota, Scion and Volkswagen in Lawrence.

Since coming to Lawrence in 1994, Schnaer has built a 12-acre complex for sales and service that does plenty of business. That’s why he and Crown are giving back.

There’s title sponsorship for the past dozen years of the annual Salute festival of wine and food for Cottonwood Inc., which assists people with developmental disabilities. And the $10,000 college scholarships offered to four low-income seniors coming out of Lawrence high schools, provided through Bill Self’s Assistant Foundation. And the $150,000 raised to help upgrade infusion rooms in the oncology center at Lawrence Memorial Hospital.

Making such investments is about building community, he says. Auto dealers are fortunate to record sales and provide services in Lawrence, and it just makes sense to help the organizations, programs and projects that make a difference.

“You support the community in any way you can,” Schnaer says.

briggs nissanLawrence dealers also recognize that the customers themselves also make a considerable difference in financing community services and projects, through their own spending on vehicles.

Dealers account for some of the largest sales tax collections in the city. In August alone, sales at such dealerships accounted for more than $1 of every $10 in municipal sales tax collected — money that goes into hiring police officers and emergency medical personnel, fixing streets, running transit buses and otherwise financing many basic government services.

“It’s definitely big,” said Ed Mullins, the city’s finance director.

One example: Dale Willey Automotive, which sells Chevrolet, Cadillac and GMC vehicles, collects more than $1 million a year in sales taxes going to Lawrence and Douglas County.
Such sales also support dozens of jobs. At Dale Willey, 60 full-timers handle sales, service and support functions, with another six retirees working part-time as drivers. Together, Willey’s employees draw from an annual payroll that amounts to a more than $2.5 million, money that also gets pumped back into the local economy.

“Those are incomes for local residents, who spend money for gas and food and clothes,” Willey says. “It just expands.”

That’s only the beginning. There are several other new-car dealers in Lawrence — Briggs Auto Group Lawrence, Crown, Dale Willey, Jack Ellena Honda and Laird Noller Automotive — that all make a difference, says Dale Willey, CEO of Dale Willey Automotive.

Some have higher payrolls and sales tax collections, he says, and some have lower. Shawnee Mission Kia recently entered the mix with a location on East 23rd Street.
“Every dealer in Lawrence gives back generously to the Lawrence and Douglas County community,” says Willey, whose business supports Lawrence Memorial Hospital, Meals on Wheels, Lawrence Humane Society, Family Promise, the Lawrence Homeless Shelter, and Junior Achievement of Lawrence and the Lawrence Business Hall of Fame.

Chevy Traverse for SaleWhile Briggs Auto Group is relatively new to Lawrence — the group arrived two years ago when it purchased the local Nissan dealership — it already is contributing to the Humane Society, Van Go Mobile Arts, Headquarters Counseling Center, Health Care Access, Theatre Lawrence, Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Douglas County and other efforts and organizations.
Briggs also is investing in its own business presence: more than $7 million to acquire, renovate and rebuild spaces for sales and service of Nissan, Subaru and Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge and Ram vehicles.

Scott Teenor, Briggs’ general manager for Lawrence, is counting on what’s good for Briggs being good for the community, too. Right now, he figures, the dealer is watching more business leave town than is being retained or drawn in.

The Briggs upgrades – including new showrooms, an overhauled body shop and new in-median vehicle displays along West 29th Terrace – should help convince more Lawrence residents to stay in town to buy their vehicles and have them serviced, Teenor says.

That means more security for Briggs’ 95 employees in town. And more sales taxes for governments. And more donations, volunteers and events for projects, efforts and organizations in need.
“It helps everybody in every facet,” he says.

Back at the soccer field, Judd knows what he’s talking about.

While she’s busy selling raffle tickets — one guy dropped $200 for 40 tickets, hoping to replace his 250,000-mile vehicle with a new Cruze or Equinox — Judd also is thankful for a secondary part of the promotion.

Anyone who’s purchased a raffle ticket also gets $100 off the purchase of a new or used vehicle at Dale Willey, $100 that’s returned to KVSA in the form of a donation in the buyer’s name.
That’s money that helps the association directly, of course. But the sale itself also sends money back into the community — through construction jobs, wages and sales taxes that help finance the very things that make Lawrence what it is.

Right down to the city-owned fields where the league plays its very own games.

“It’s a win-win,” Judd says.

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