Lured by a healthy flow of street traffic which is always good for business, one of the local area’s recognized heavyweights in auto sales has broken ground on a dealership construction site in Fruitland.

The official groundbreaking ceremony for Steve’s Hometown Buick GMC was held May 16 at 1011 N.W. Sixteenth St. The construction project encompasses eight acres of the 11-acre lot.

The dealership meantime continues to operate in Payette at the South Main Street location established by the dealership’s previous longtime owner, Mike Hanigan.

Currently facilities at the Fruitland site are minimal, but the recently launched construction project will transform it remarkably before the year is out.

“On the eight-acre campus we will have a brand new, state-of-the-art General Motors new car and service facility which will include twenty-four service bays,” said owner Steve Dominguez. “It will include a ten-bay body shop. It will include a six-car showroom.” The building containing all of this will be 31,000 square feet, he added, and will use “the most recent and updated General Motors facilities plans to better serve our customers.”

By comparison, the 60-year-old facility in Payette is located on only 3 acres.

“So moving to an eight-acre campus, it will be a huge improvement for parking, display, and it’s a much nicer building for the customers and our employee associates. There will be a six-car service drive, so when the customers come in for service, they won’t ever have to be out in the weather,” Dominguez said.

According to Fruitland City Administrator Rick Watkins, the Fruitland site was previously home to a manufactured home sales business for more than a couple of decades, at least throughout the 1970s and ’80s and into the ’90s. Earlier still, the location held the Pay-Ont Drive-in movie theater.

Watkins notes that Northwest 16th Street, which is on U.S. Route 30, is in the local area’s corridor most bustling with vehicle traffic, as measured by the Idaho Transportation Department.

“From milepost three on [US] Ninety-five up through Fruitland, and then [US Route] Thirty over to Ontario is the only portion of highway that exceeds twenty thousand trips per day [for] anything in this area — anything west of Caldwell or Nampa,” Watkins said.

Before the recent arrival of Hometown’s dealership for GM products, auto sales businesses in Fruitland were limited to used vehicles, but the corridor has become increasingly desirable. In addition to Hometown’s development on Northwest 16th, a second dealership, Ontario Auto Ranch Subaru, is currently developing a 5-acre site on the eastern side of U.S. Highway 95 in Fruitland, north of Jolts ‘n’ Juice.

“They are both new car dealerships, with the full mechanics’ shops, the whole bit,” Watkins said.

Watkins noted that the new developments are increasing the local property tax base, with the Subaru dealership alone adding approximately $5 million of taxable value.

Dominguez expects to see an uptick in business with his dealership’s move from Payette to Fruitland.

“The traffic will probably increase five-hundred percent from where we’re at right now,” Dominguez said. The downtown Payette location, he said, “is not on a busy street by any means. The highway bypassed it years ago, so it’s not on a highway or in a high-traffic area. It’s a destination point at this point — you have to want to go there.”

As the business grows at its new location, Dominguez anticipates adding approximately 10 employees to the current staffing level of 35.

The old Payette facility, meanwhile, is likely to be converted for use as a reconditioning center for used vehicles that have been accepted in trade. In addition to Hometown Chevrolet Buick GMC, Dominguez owns two other dealerships — Hometown Toyota in Ontario and Hometown Motors (Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep) in Weiser — and the Payette center would recondition vehicles for all three of them.

“Currently we sub that out to an outside company. So we’re looking at bringing that in house when we move to the new location,” Dominguez said.

He later added: “It’s important to know that even though the dealership is going to be moved out of Payette, that we certainly don’t want the Payette community to think that we’re abandoning Payette. We certainly care about Payette, but the main reason why we’re moving is to [have] a more centralized location so we can provide all the customers from all the tri-county area … a better facility for them to do business in — and a more modern facility, with the best that we can offer our customers.

“This is not about just leaving the town, but improving our community with the new dealership and the things that dealership can bring to the community. Increased business means increased tax revenues for the county. I would hope to think that the new dealership would probably be one of the largest sales tax generators in Payette County, which is certainly good for our local economy. We can’t get the growth that we need where we’re at. It’s not going to happen at that location.”

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