The Hurd Auto Mall embarked on a $4 million redevelopment project Tuesday, reinforcing the company’s commitment to Rhode Island, and to Johnston.
“We have decided to make a substantial investment; we have decided to raise the bar,” said President and CEO Chris Hurd. “I want everything to be the best it can be.”
The Hurd facility currently covers 15 acres and has 800 cars and trucks for sale from Chevrolet, Buick and GMC Truck. The company intends to stay at their current site on Hartford Avenue but will undergo a complete redesign of their buildings. The original building exterior now featuring brick and siding will become a modern office surrounded by windows. The newer building too will undergo a redesign, with both buildings given exterior facelifts, new furniture, lighting, flooring and more.
Part of the company’s recommitment to the town is the “Johnston advantage,” a benefits package available to people who live or work in Johnston. The benefits include a rate of $19.95 for oil and filter changes, free 29-point safety inspections, free pickup and delivery of your vehicle from the Johnston location, free loaner cars when the car is in for service, free towing to the Hurd service facility, a free wash and vacuum with any service visit and other discounts.
“I consider myself a Johnstonian now,” Hurd said. “I do whatever I can to become part of the community. I want people in Johnston to consider me their neighborhood dealer.”
Hurd recognizes that it seems an odd time to undertake a project of this scope.
“There have been some great, great years. There have been some challenging years. It’s a little scary to be so aggressive about the future ... but we are really, really excited about this project,” he said. “You don’t see a lot of positive news in our papers or on our TV news about the economy in Rhode Island.”
Hurd said his family and staff is “betting” on Rhode Island and on an improved economy.
“This project is a $4 million shot in the arm for Rhode Island’s economy,” said Charles Fogarty, director of the Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training. “We have tough times on right now, but we have positive things developing.”
The Hurd redevelopment is an example of the “pro-jobs, pro-economic growth” movement that Fogarty believes is picking up momentum in the state.
“It’s going to reverberate in the community and in the state as well,” he said.
The work is being completed by Riggs & Gallagher, as Hurd was specifically looking for a Rhode Island-based contractor who agreed to hiring Rhode Island subcontractors. The architect and engineer for the project are also from Rhode Island.
“All the money, in excess of $4 million we’ll be spending here, will be staying in this state. We want to support our local economy,” Hurd said.
Hurd Auto Mall has been a family-owned company since its creation in 1935 by the current owner’s grandfather, who started what was then Hurd & Goldberg, Inc. Chris Hurd said his grandfather “literally risked every penny he had” to start the company, which moved from Cranston to Johnston 22 years ago. The move has been a positive for the company, Hurd said, and he thanked town officials for their support of the business and its expansion.
“Johnston is our home. This town mobilizes to support business,” he said, calling Mayor Joseph Polisena “the best mayor in the state of Rhode Island.”
The mayor says the feeling is mutual.
“There is no doubt about it, he has a true commitment to our town,” Polisena said. “Chris has proven today that the town of Johnston is part of his extended family.”
Hurd also thanked Building Official Ben Nascenzi, calling him “so reasonable and fair,” and the Fire Marshal, who approved expansion plans in less than one week.
“That just doesn’t happen – it happens in the town of Johnston,” Hurd said.
Keeping Hurd in the town is important, said Council President Robert Russo, who thanked company officials for turning the property into a “beautiful site” that keeps attracting people into the town.
“It brings people who are not from Johnston into the town,” he said, pointing out that they, in exchange, “spend their dollars on other vendors in the town.”
He said the expansion and redevelopment project is part of an ongoing economic development trend in the town.
“Most cities and towns have budget red; we have construction yellow in our town,” he said.
Don Crowder, New England zone manager for General Motors, said that Hurd Auto Mall is an example of how American-made cars are making a comeback. The buying local trend at small businesses has extended into the automobile industry, bringing with it a boost for American manufacturing. In 2011, General Motors sold 2.5 million vehicles in the United States – 1.8 million of which were Chevrolet.
“General Motors is back,” he said.
He too thanked the community for their support of GM and the Hurd company.
“I could write a book on towns that are unfriendly to business. This is a very friendly town,” Crowder said.
For more information, visit the Hurd Auto Mall at 1705 Hartford Avenue, go to www.HURDautomall.com or call 751-6000.