published Wednesday, August 28th, 2013

Truck dealer doubling size at new Chattanooga location

Commercial truck traffic flows in both directions on Interstate 24 between Brainerd and East Ridge.
Commercial truck traffic flows in both directions on Interstate 24 between Brainerd and East Ridge.
Photo by John Rawlston.
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A Chattanooga truck dealership is shifting gears and moving from an inner city location to a high profile site off Interstate 75 as it builds a new $5 million facility.

"We're in a growth mode," said Bobby Bethune, branch manager of MHC Kenworth, which has broken ground on a nine-acre tract on Lee Highway north of Bonny Oaks Drive.

He said the dealership will more than double its footprint to 60,000 square feet as well as bolster its workforce by nearly 30 employees.

"We'll probably get up to 60 to 70 [employees] pretty quick," Bethune said.

The facility will sell new and used heavy and medium-duty trucks. Bethune said MHC is the nation's largest Kenworth dealers group with 55 locations, also selling Hino, Ford, Volvo and Isuzu trucks.

In addition to sales, the new facility will hold 30 state-of-the-industry service and body shop bays and expand its retail parts offerings, according to the Kansas-based company.

Chattanooga has a heavy trucking presence with two of the biggest over-the-road transportation companies in the industry headquartered in the city. Both U.S Xpress Enterprises and Covenant Transportation Group are key players in the sector.

Also, trucking logistics operator Access America Transport, founded and based in Chattanooga, is one of the state's fastest growing businesses. Additionally, Chattanooga is located at the convergence of three interstate highways and has close proximity to the nation's major markets.

Parker Wamack, of the Chattanooga firm NAI Charter Real Estate Corp., cited the high visibility of MHC Kenworth's planned facility along I-75 and about a mile away from both the Volkswagen Drive and Hamilton Place exits.

The site has an estimated 75,000 vehicles a day running past it, said Wamack, who facilitated the land deal along with Chad Wamack.

"It has wonderful visibility going both north and south," he said. Currently, MHC Kenworth is located on East 29th Street. Wamack called the new site "a great improvement from Kenworth's previous location."

Dillard Construction, the facility's general contractor, is expected to finish up on the dealership by next summer, said Bethune.

Plans are to offer extended hours from its existing location, opening from 7 a.m. to 1 a.m. Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Saturday and 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, according to the company.

MHC Kenworth is an expansion of Ozark Kenworth Inc., which started in Springfield, Mo., in January 1975, opening for business without a parts or service department and only three employees in a temporary facility. Now, MHC operates across 11 states with its array of dealerships, four full-service transport refrigeration locations, 34 full-service leasing and rental operations, and a finance company.

Contact Mike Pare at mpare@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6318.

about Mike Pare...

Mike Pare, the deputy Business editor at the Chattanooga Times Free Press, has worked at the paper for 27 years. In addition to editing, Mike also writes Business stories and covers Volkswagen, economic development and manufacturing in Chattanooga and the surrounding area. In the past he also has covered higher education. Mike, a native of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., received a bachelor’s degree in communications from Florida Atlantic University. he worked at the Rome News-Tribune before ...

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