INDUSTRY – During the past two years, Industry has started to assemble what is slated to become a 60-acre, 14-dealer juggernaut of an auto mall along the Pomona (60) Freeway near Azusa Avenue – more than doubling the size of its current 25-acre mall. The prospect of expanding the Puente Hills Auto Center stirs the blood of Industry officials, who expect to reap millions annually in sales tax from the expansion. But officials at nearby cites fear the auto mall could draw customers away from their car dealerships, or even entice dealers to move their businesses to Industry – sucking away tax dollars that pay for police, recreation programs and other city services. “It’s kind of sad that Industry is going to earn all that \ money,” said Mike Marquez, director of the Covina Redevelopment Agency. “\ has a very small population to support. But La Puente, right next door, is a full-service city and they aren’t going to get financial benefit. Even if we work out deals where we give them tax rebates or write down the cost of land, regular cities just can’t compete.” Marquez was referring to what is known as sales-tax increment: the 1 percent of all taxable sales that go into a city’s general fund budget. The sale of one $25,000 car nets a city $250. The Cerritos Auto Square, with 27 dealers, generates about $10 million a year, according to reports from Cerritos. With 14 dealers, Industry’s mall could plausibly earn the city $4 million to $5 million a year, or about $6,000 for each of Industry’s 777 residents. It’s a tough reality for other cities, where officials are constantly competing to attract car dealers, which would increase sales tax. Diamond Bar Mayor Bob Zirbes, who will soon watch the city’s largest auto dealer, Diamond Bar Honda, relocate to a new space in Industry, said losing the dealership “was definitely a smack to our sales tax.” Honda Motor Co. officials insisted the dealership move to an auto mall, dealership officials said. Zirbes hopes a luxury car dealer, whose success does not as dramatically depend on being near other auto dealers, will move to Honda’s old location along the Orange (57) Freeway. According to automobile sales experts, most auto dealers look for four things when choosing a location: freeway visibility, location near other dealers, a big lot and a huge advertising sign. “Everybody wants that freeway exposure,” said Tom Hoffman, the owner of Leo Hoffman Chevrolet in Industry and a board director of the 1,400-member California Motor Car Dealers Association. The entire auto mall will be represented by one large sign. About 250,000 people drive through Industry on the Pomona (60) Freeway each day, officials estimate. In addition, being located in an auto mall brings more shoppers, said Hoffman, who owns dealerships in the city, including the 3.5-acre Puente Hills Chevrolet in the auto mall. “Just the competition, it creates traffic,” Hoffman said. “They might come for one car and look across the street and they see something else.” The mall will replace a retail center in which many of the businesses, including an IKEA and a Circuit City, were failing or leaving. “With the \ right on the other side of the freeway, we think it was maybe too saturated with retail,” said Kevin Radecki, director of the Industry Urban Development Agency. The agency two years ago bought 26 acres in the area for $40 million with the idea of expanding the auto mall. After the city’s plans were announced, dealers immediately began expressing interest, he said. And unlike most cities, which often offer financial perks to convince dealers to move to a city, Industry offered no public funds to incoming dealers, Radecki said. “They wanted to come,” he said. The agency, which is the economic development branch of the city government, sold the land to dealers at more than $30 per square foot, a premium price. Subaru of America Inc. and representatives from Diamond Bar Honda bought parcels in the mall last week. And several other dealers are lined up to locate there. The dealers should fill up the area gradually over the next two years, Radecki said. And dealers will pay into a kitty that will fund a huge electronic freeway sign. A Best Buy in the area is still operating, so the city is working to find a location for it somewhere near the Costco on the south side of the freeway, Radecki said. La Puente Councilman Louie Lujan said the has no hard feelings toward his neighbor to the south. Industry, after all, was just trying to do the best with its land, he said. “The fact is, financially, we’re not even in their league,” he said of La Puente, which generated only $2.3 million in sales tax revenue for the entire 2004-05 fiscal year and has one auto dealership. “Nobody is. So there is no reason to get mad. They are good neighbors to us. What I usually try to do is think of ways we can benefit from them.” But, right away, he couldn’t think of any benefit from the auto mall. “Maybe we can get them to come to restaurants in La Puente after they’re done buying their cars,” he said jokingly. “Maybe we can give them coupons or something.” [email protected] (626) 962-8811, Ext. 2703 AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORERose Parade grand marshal Rita Moreno talks New Year’s Day outfit and ‘West Side Story’ remake160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!