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UPDATED: Legendary Ford Dealer Seeks Loan to Avoid Relocation

April 27, 2010

LONG BEACH, Calif. — After 36 years at 2950 N. Bellflower Blvd. in Long Beach, Cal Worthington Ford has become one of the city’s 10 biggest tax revenue generators and home to 115 employees. At the age of 89, local legend Calvin Coolidge Worthington still stars in the store's TV and radio commercials while his grandson, Nick, serves as general manager. So why are they contemplating a move to another part of Southern California?

The answer lies in the dealership’s proximity to Pacific Ford in nearby Lakewood and an incentives package that Worthington executives say Ford Motor Co. put on the table in March. A move from Long Beach could help to solidify the dealership’s market and even increase its size, as large dealerships in exclusive markets are an established model for Japanese automakers operating in the United States.

It would appear, however, that Cal Worthington Ford would rather stay where it is.

According to the Long Beach Press-Telegram, dealership officials first asked the City of Long Beach for financial assistance in 2008. They requested a $200,000 economic development loan to upgrade Worthington's giant electronic sign in the hopes of improving showroom traffic. Negotiations to secure the funds continued into March of this year.

“We’re doing what we can to create whatever incentives are possible within reason to keep the dealership in Long Beach,” Randy Gordon, chief executive of the Long Beach Area Chamber of Commerce, told the Los Angeles Business Journal. “We’re just trying to compete with Ford Motor Co. It’s sort of David and Goliath here, and we don’t know what Ford Motor’s offer is.”

In April, officials placed the loan item — which, by then, increased to $250,000 — on the city council agenda. However, the proposal was pulled when it was discovered that the amount could be no higher than the initial request of $200,000 under the terms of Long Beach's current action plan.

The city was hoping to use a portion of the $9 to $10 million federal Community Development Block Grant it receives annually. Granting a loan for a higher amount would require a change to the action plan, which would require approval from the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Next month, city officials will weigh a revised proposal for an initial loan of $200,000 and a change to the action plan to allow for a second loan in the amount of $400,000, all at an interest rate of 5 percent.

It remains unclear what incentives Ford Motor Co. may have offered the Worthingtons to entice them to relocate. When contacted for comment by the Business Journal, Ford Motor spokesman John Clinard would offer only a tacit confirmation that any such discussions had taken place.

“To ensure that our dealers provide the best coverage for the public and achieve profitable sales and service volume for their businesses, we continually monitor market coverage and from time to time suggest that dealers consider relocation,” Clinard said.

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