Kemna Auto Group is upping its commitment to Fort Dodge. A massive expansion and revamping of the company's Fort Dodge operations is in progress.
Carey Kemna, who co-owns the company with his father, Ken Kemna, said Wednesday the entire look and feel of its local General Motors dealership and related businesses - as well as the services they can offer the community - are being upgraded.
The game plan includes:
-Messenger photos by Hans Madsen
Carey Kemna, co-owner of Kemna Auto Group, holds an artist rendition of the new Kemna Valvoline Oil Change that’s part of the dealership’s Fort Dodge rebuilding project. The main building, including the showroom, will also be torn down and replaced with a new structure.
Constructing a new 32,000-square-foot building to house the Fort Dodge General Motors dealership,
Opening a Valvoline quick lane facility and a car wash on the corner of First Avenue South and 25th Street, and
Moving the company's AutoSmart used car outlet into a new home located just north of the soon-to-be-built Valvoline operation.
"One of the things that we as a company have been committed to for a long time is making sure that we invest back into the community that supports us," Carey Kemna said. "My grandfather, who founded the company, had that feeling. My father has always had that feeling. And I want to be able to continue that tradition. ... We are giving back and we are helping make the community better."
He stressed that a major goal of the substantial investment being made is to contribute positively to making First Avenue South a more successful commercial venue. The goal, in part, is to help "clean up this corridor of Fort Dodge."
"We wanted to build a brand new dealership here on the corner," Kemna said.
Construction is scheduled to start in about a month. Once the new structure is finished in September 2014, the plan is to demolish the more than six-decades-old building that currently is the home of Kemna Auto of Fort Dodge at 10 S. 25th St.
Kemna said this change is in sync with what General Motors is trying to accomplish throughout its dealership system.
"General Motors is investing in their stores going forward," he said. "They want today's dealerships to look more professional ... making sure that their dealerships represent the quality vehicles that they sell."
Kemna said the new building will have a showroom, service and detailing departments and incorporate the state-of-the-art features patrons expect and deserve.
"It will enable us to take care of customers in a much better atmosphere," he said, adding that putting an upscale coffee shop in the complex is being considered.
Kemna stressed that in line with the company's commitment to the communities where it does business, it is using local contractors for this expansion.
He also emphasized that the company's success is a reflection of customer loyalty.
"We really want to thank the Fort Dodge community for giving us this opportunity," Kemna said. "If it was not for the Fort Dodge business that comes in and patronizes us, and appreciates us, we would not be in business and able to do what we are doing now."
Quick lube and more
The Kemnas have acquired a Valvoline franchise and a new building just across from the current dealership is under construction. It is due to be ready for business in March.
"We knew that in order to have a great customer experience we also needed to put a quick lane in ... in order to take care of customers with the maintenance of their vehicles - getting them in and out quickly," Kemna said. "We're going to have a three-bay, quick lube facility and we are going to be able to do up to 15 quick lubes an hour. The average quick lube is 15 minutes."
He said the decision to introduce the Valvoline system locally was the result of a thorough evaluation of industry options.
"Valvoline has got the best business model in the country with how to take care of servicing cars and trucks, taking care of customers - making that whole process convenient and efficient," Kemna said. "They provide the best training. They provide the best oil."
The quick lane will do oil changes, tire rotations and other light maintenance. Lubes will still be available in the dealership for customers who prefer to get service there. Valvoline of Fort Dodge will be open from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday, and 8 a.m., to 5 or 6 p.m. on Saturdays. Kemna said Sunday hours may be offered.
The same building that will be home to the Valvoline operation will also house an advanced car wash.
"It will be a brushed car wash," Kemna said. "The car wash will be able to do 40 car washes an hour easily. It's promised to be able to do up to 60 to 65 an hour. Waiting in line for a car wash will not be an issue."
About Kemna Auto Group
Joe Kemna, who died in 1995, founded the business in Bancroft in 1956. His son, Ken Kemna, became the owner in 1987. Ken Kemna's son, Carey Kemna, joined the team in 1999 after graduating from Iowa State University and became a co-owner with his father in 2007. Kemna now has General Motors dealerships in Algona, the corporate headquarters; Fort Dodge; and Jackson, Minn. It has AutoSmart outlets in Algona, Fort Dodge and Spirit Lake. The new Valvoline quick lane will open in Fort Dodge in March.
Carey Kemna is the company's managing partner. He lives in Algona, but said he spends about half of his time in Fort Dodge. He said the Kemna system currently has a work force of about 110, which will increase by 10 when Valvoline opens in 2014.
Kemna said his company's huge systemwide vehicle inventory has a value of about $15.5 million.
The investment in expanding the Kemna presence in Fort Dodge represents a bullish assessment of the local economy.
"It's a good place to operate a business," Kemna said. "We feel really good about where Fort Dodge is heading and the 20-mile radius around Fort Dodge."
The major upgrades taking place at Kemna Auto of Fort Dodge will have a positive impact on the city's tax revenues.
"Currently, our property taxes are $30,000," Kemna said. "When we get done with the properties it will be in the neighborhood of $180,000. It's good for Fort Dodge. ... I'm proud to say, we'll be donating back to the tax base of Fort Dodge."