Jim Butler Auto Group has acquired two dealerships in Mexico and relocated them to Centralia – an expansion that has many excited about the potential to create growth in the community.
Centralia Mayor Chris Cox is excited about the prospect of more businesses traversing the city, noting, “Each business offers more opportunity.
The expansion will include the automotive group’s first Ford dealership and its ninth and tenth franchises, according to a press release.
As part of the move, the dealership’s plans are for $3 million in new facilities, including showrooms and expansions with “the most advanced technology on the market.” The dealership said it would begin hiring for “about 50 jobs,” including sales, administration, business development and service positions.
In the press release, Brad Sowers, CEO and President of Jim Butler Auto Group, said, “We are proud to serve Centralia and surrounding areas.
The automotive group began to significantly expand its operations in Centralia by purchasing land and other dealerships there.
But according to Centralia residents and dealership employees, this expansion brings a new dimension to their business and to Centralia in general.
Lexie Forrest, who works at the Jim Butler Chevrolet dealership, explained her family’s reasons for wanting to join the Butler group. Last year, after the pandemic left its mark on Centralia, the Jim Butler Auto Group reached out.
William Forrest, who was ready to retire, seized the opportunity last February, according to Lexie Forrest.
The dealership is able to source more from other dealerships under the Butler umbrella and now offers a greater selection of makes and models. In addition to Chevrolet, they also offer Ford, Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, and Ram vehicles.
Cox said the potential for up to 50 new jobs will help strengthen the local economy and the new dealerships will lead to increased spending and investment.
“I think what this does for Centralia is that it helps local employment tremendously. Plus, there will be temporary construction jobs,” Cox said.
Although some of the construction jobs are temporary, Cox is confident that even these temporary jobs will lead to greater economic growth.
When it comes to Centralia as a community to invest in, the city has done well thanks to COVID, minus a few small business closures, according to Cox.
Local tax revenue actually increased 20% during that time because residents of northern Boone County were often unable to travel to Columbia for other things to do or places to eat, a he declared. More local spending led to a healthier Centralia economy.
“So we’ve really seen a revitalization in our small town — families eating at home, eating together, coming together,” Cox said.
Janet Thompson, commissioner for North Boone County District II, said she was excited about the prospect of more cases reaching Centralia and Boone County.
“I’m excited about the possibilities for an even stronger economy in North Boone County with Jim Butler’s expansion,” she said.
Ginny Zoellers, executive director of the Chamber of Commerce, shared Cox’s positive views.
“Jim Butler Centralia is not only adding new jobs to the Centralia economy, he is bringing new consumers to Centralia with the variety and selection of vehicles they will haul,” she said.
Sowers, the CEO of Auto Group, said the rationale for the expansion in Centralia came down to the ability to expand land, as well as previous success in places like the town of Linn. In terms of the timeline for completing the Centralia expansion, Sowers hoped to be able to complete the task within the next 12 months.