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Local News

Joliet officials trying to learn fate of Thomas dealership

JOLIET – City officials hope to find out what Thomas Auto Group’s plans are for its Joliet dealership.

Romeoville Mayor John Noak announced a week ago that Thomas Toyota was coming to his village, suggesting the likelihood Thomas was leaving Joliet.

Management at the Joliet dealership, however, have not returned repeated calls left by The Herald-News seeking comment on their plans for the Joliet location.

Thomas also has a Nissan dealership at the same Joliet site, 1437 N. Larkin Ave.

Joliet Economic Development Director Steve Jones said he assumes the Toyota dealership is being relocated. But he wants to talk with Thomas ownership about the Joliet business.

“The main concern is what’s the status of Nissan and what would be the status of the vacated [Toyota] dealership,” Jones said.

Jones said he had been trying to reach Thomas-ownership since the Romeoville announcement last week. He did get one returned phone call on his voice mail Thursday morning. But as of Friday, he has not been able to reach someone to talk about the future of the Joliet dealerships.

Car dealerships are important businesses in municipalities because of the sales tax dollars they generate selling big-ticket vehicles.

Joliet in 2000 created a tax incentive program to encourage dealerships to stay in the city after Ron Tirapelli Ford and Tyson Motors moved to Shorewood. In both situations, the dealers expanded their operations by moving to larger locations at the Interstate 55 interchange with Jefferson Street.

Thomas Auto Group used the incentive in 2001 when it redeveloped its Larkin Avenue operation to create separate showrooms for Toyotas and Cadillacs. At the time, Thomas sold Cadillacs. According to a city memo on the incentives approved for Thomas in 2001, the dealership had generated $330,000 in sales taxes for the city the previous year.

Joliet officials several months ago had discussions with Thomas about the possibility of using the incentive package again to expand the Larkin Avenue location. At the time, according to one city official, Thomas was being urged by car manufacturers to relocate closer to an interstate.

The new Thomas Toyota location will be on Weber Road near Renwick Road, about 5 miles directly north of the Joliet dealership. Larkin Avenue becomes Weber Road outside Joliet. The Romeoville location is about 4 miles from the Weber Road interchange with I-55.

Joliet Mayor Bob O’Dekirk said he believes it’s been at least a year since city officials talked with Thomas about incentives for the Larkin Avenue location. He would like to resume discussions.

“We want to have a communication with them at some point,” O’Dekirk said. “Right now, there’s no communication with them.”

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