Source: Lake Geneva Regional News

Remove Images

Mecum announces major expansion

by Rob Ireland

February 16, 2012

WALWORTH — Mecum Auctions is relocating its corporate headquarters to the village of Walworth, and is in the process of planning a major expansion that will bring new jobs and an annual car auction to the community.

The multi-million dollar expansion will include a car museum, a car storage facility and an area to host an annual auction, which is being planned for September.

Mecum Auctions, which about four years ago moved into the old Spieglehoff's Pick'n Save , 445 South Main St., is the largest collector car auction house in America and sold about $175 million worth of vehicles in 2011. Mecum Auctions also is featured on a TV show, "Muscle Cars and More," on the Discovery Network's Velocity channel. Auctions our often broadcasted live for hours on end.

On Tuesday morning, elected officials said they were excited about the Mecum Auctions expansion and what it may mean for area businesses.

"I think it's huge," Trustee LeRoy Nordmeyer said. "I think of the phrase a rising tide floats all boats. Not only is it going to benefit the village it's going to help the hotels and restaurants."

During Monday's Village Board meeting, Dana Mecum, the President and CEO of the company, said his 25-year-old business has grown 250 percent in the past four years, and said a major factor in that growth is the television exposure. Mecum was at the board meeting because he needed the board to approve a $26.5 million industrial bond (see side bar exclusive to the print edition).

When he first came to Walworth, he employed about 10 people full time, and that has now expanded to 36. In the next year to 15 months he hopes to hire an additional 12 to 15 employees. By 2014, Mecum hopes to have 24 new full-timers, and he also employs a small army of part-time workers to assist the company at the events held around the country.

Trustee Dennis Vanderbloemen said he was excited about the project and thought it could provide a "boost to the total economy in the village."

Vanderbloemen said although the company only plans to add a limited number of full-time jobs, he thinks that could mean employees relocate to the village and fill some of the vacant property in the community.

"It is possible there could be some building growth in the village," he said.

Trustee Kent Johnson said he hopes the expansion will help some of the village's existing businesses.

"I think it is good for Walworth. It adds property value, which is good for the tax base," he said. "Hopefully it does revive some of those business, but that remains to be seen."

Mecum said this September he hopes to bring a four-day auction to the village of Walworth, which will replace his annual auction in St. Charles, Ill. In 2011, the four-day auction in St. Charles featured more than 1,000 cars. A 1969 Boss 429 sold for $290,000.

"I think we bring a business that will bring in a lot of people and a lot of revenue and then the people leave," he said.

Mecum said the company will build a large facility to host the annual auction, but doesn't expect it to be ready for September. Instead, he hopes to host the auction in tents.

Mecum said an auction in Kissimmee, Fla., attracted more than 50,000 people and more than 5,000 hotel night stays.

"One of the good things about the area is that there are plenty of rooms," Mecum said.

In addition to the large event, he also plans to host about a half a dozen small events.

At the site, Mecum said he wants to build a car museum, which will feature classic cars.

He also will have a 50s style diner in the building, which will be used by classic car clubs that come to the visit.

Johnson said he hopes this museum will make Walworth a destination for people on vacation, who may go out of their way to see the museum.

He also said if the spouse of someone visiting the museum isn't interested in muscle cars, they may visit local shops for shopping.

Mecum said in the next few years he plans to build a 100,000 square foot storage facility to store cars people purchase at auction.

Within the next three years, Mecum hopes to have all construction complete.

TIF District

Mecum Auctions is located within in the village's Tax Increment District and the expansion will provide funds for future projects.

For months, Village President David Rasmussen said he was anticipating a major expansion project in the village, but was tight-lipped about what that was.

He no longer has to keep that secret. Theoretically, the expansion should increase the base value of the village's TIF District.

The tax dollars from that expansion will be money the village can use for improvements within the district. The district has plans for infrastructure improvements and village officials also talked about using those funds to help businesses fund improvements.