Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Auto Dealers Seek to Cleanup Tacoma’s ‘Lost Highway’

Today Mary Byrne, General Manager of Tacoma’s Bruce Titus and the first woman President of the Washington State Auto Dealers Association, presented to the Tacoma City Council Economic Development Committee, providing an overview of the economic impact Tacoma auto dealerships have on the community as well as how the City can work with dealers toward improving South Tacoma’s Auto Row, creating an improved shopping experience for car buyers.

Tacoma auto dealers, both new and used, make significant financial contributions to the City. In 2011 and 2012 alone, dealers paid just under $10.5 million in sales and B&O taxes, roughly 2.5% of the City’s biennium General Fund budget. Furthermore, Tacoma’s 19 new car dealers employ an average of 56 employees each (1,064 total employees in Tacoma) with an average salary of $49,500. This totals an annual payroll of over $2.7 million per new car dealer. Auto dealers also make substantial philanthropic donations to Tacoma’s community of over $500,000 each year.

Additionally, Byrne identified the following key issues facing Tacoma’s auto dealers: vehicles often parked on the sidewalk of South Tacoma Way; painting of the right-of-way; difficult sign code; illegal activities in the area; and the overall streetscape appearance of Tacoma’s Auto Row. Byrne noted that auto dealers seek to work with the City toward solving these issues and improving the area.

Byrne also suggested the difficulty in getting new car buyers to South Tacoma Way, or Tacoma’s ‘Lost Highway.’ South Tacoma Way has a long history serving Tacoma’s auto dealers. However, improved wayfinding signs that direct people to Tacoma’s Auto Row could be utilized to help promote Tacoma as a regional auto buying hub.

Lastly, Byrne described how comparative tax rates affect Tacoma auto dealers. For instance, Tacoma’s B&O tax make nearby cities, such as Fife and Puyallup, more attractive to conduct business. Similarly, sales tax increases, even at a minor three tenths of a percent, puts Tacoma auto dealers at an enormous competitive disadvantage to surrounding cities, such as Roy, and states, such as Oregon.

Auto dealers are an important part of Tacoma’s economic and community development, and provide Tacoma with jobs, revenue, and philanthropy that make Tacoma a better place to live, work, and play.

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