As recession hit Columbus area, Haydocy took on neigborhood rescue mission

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"The chance lies in the middle of a crisis."

That quote hangs on the wall of Chris Haydocy's office. Haydocy Automotive Group's president in Columbus, Ohio, was already recovering when the Great Recession hit: the closure of two General Motors franchise services and the closure of a nearby car-sharing factory that decimated the neighborhood. Then came the financial crisis and the dealer nearly lost his financing.

The first priority for Haydocy was not the short-term obfuscation of costs or employees of its activities. Instead, he focused on the deeper problems his neighborhood was facing.

Haydocy: "Unconventional" grassroots effort

Add, lose brands

Having started as a Pontiac dealer in 1954, over the years the group has acquired GMC, Buick, GMC trucks for medium-duty and Oldsmobile franchises. The group opened a new building for Oldsmobile – retaining the other brands in a second building – only one month before GM stopped the Oldsmobile brand.

The group was able to recover from that loss. But when Pontiac was shot down, sales in just a few years fell back to 29 new units per month from 100 before. Pontiac represented more than 60 percent of the group's sales.

"It came as a shock to many about Pontiac's" elimination, "Haydocy said. "At a national stage, General Motors did what they saw best to keep the company running."

For Haydocy, giving up was not an option. "We did not have the possibility to go bankrupt and reorganize," he said. Instead he saw the possibility and the need to revitalize.

Chris Haydocy

    Then title: Dealer principal
    Dealers group: Haydocy Automotive Group
    Where: Columbus, Ohio
    Survival strategy: revitalization of a dilapidated neighborhood

The empty neighborhood around the dealership was a unique challenge. The recent closure of a Delphi Corp car-sharing plant in the field immediately behind the dealership hit hard, as did the closure of other nearby industrial buildings and Westland Mall. The industrial area had few small businesses.

In 2009, an Associated Press analysis showed that almost 70 percent of the houses and apartments at the Haydocy buildings were empty. It labeled the area "America & # 39; s Loneliest Neighborhood."

"Business after business stopped and it became a very, very challenged neighborhood," Haydocy recalled. "There was absolutely no external investment in this area."

To change the neighborhood and work to stimulate local sales, Haydocy started a basic organization called Weston Vision Inc. to attract new investments along the West Broad Street corridor. The organization eventually pulled a $ 400 million casino to the former Delphi building, which has since initiated the development of more than 40 nearby businesses.

"This area would be a ghost town" as Penn National Gaming Inc. Hollywood Casino Columbus had not opened, Haydocy said.

"It was a chance to revitalize the neighborhood in an unconventional way," Haydocy added. "The alternative to not finding these opportunities would have been a bankruptcy."

Haydocy opened Haydocy Airstream and RV in the former Oldsmobile building, which has since been a regular part of his business.

financing

The renewal of the real estate loan by the dealer with GMAC was initially rejected because the finance company did not see any progress, despite the fact that the dealer never misses a payment in 60 years. Haydocy reached out to his congressman, who was responsible for dealership as a crucial cornerstone of the neighborhood. In the end Haydocy renewed his loan.

"The experience I had is something I never want to go through," Haydocy said. "We had to pass the wire through the needle perfectly to survive."

In 2009 the Haydocy Group sold 457 new and 492 used vehicles. Last year, the group sold 545 new and 602 used vehicles, Haydocy said, along with 331 new and 107 used recreational vehicles. Despite these increases in sales, Haydocy still sees ongoing effects from today's recession.

"We never returned to the level that we were before," Haydocy said. "Our trials and trials were so strongly reflected and comparable to the total trials and tribulations of the entire neighborhood."