Chamber to honor Bill Jacobs Joliet
By Cindy Wojdyla Cain email@example.com November 2, 2012 8:54PM
Brad Wise, general manager for Bill Jacobs Auto Group, stands next to a 2013 ZO6 Anniversary Edition Corvette Coupe at Bill Jacobs Joliet Thursday, Nov. 1, 2012, at 2001 W. Jefferson St. in Joliet. Bill Jacobs Auto Group is the Joliet chamber's business of the year. | Matthew Grotto~Sun-Times Media
Updated: December 5, 2012 6:21AM
JOLIET — Bill Jacobs Joliet faced some big challenges a few years ago.
After GM filed for bankruptcy in 2009 it attempted to close the Joliet auto sales company’s Cadillac dealership along with others in the United States. In 2010, Bill Jacobs Jr., chairman of the Bill Jacobs Auto Group, died of cancer at age 55.
Those were trying times for the business. But Bill Jacobs Joliet not only has survived, it is thriving, general manager Brad Wise said.
GM emerged from bankruptcy, the Cadillac dealership in Joliet was saved, and Bill Jacobs’ family and a new company president, Cynthia Thrall, who has a banking background, have pulled together to keep the company strong, he said.
Now Bill Jacobs Joliet, which was founded in 1955 by Bill Jacobs Sr., is being rewarded for its perseverance, innovations and community involvement.
The Joliet Region Chamber of Commerce and Industry has selected the company for its Business of the Year award. Bill Jacobs Joliet will be honored at the chamber’s annual “Celebration of Success” dinner Monday evening at Syl’s 150 West.
“We’re humbled and surprised because we still have a lot of challenges ahead of us,” Wise said of the award. “But we’re no doubt heading in the right direction. It solidifies the fact that we’re doing the right thing and it’s being noticed.”
Bill Jacobs Joliet’s Chevrolet, Cadillac, Mazda, Subaru, Kia and Mitsubishi dealerships sell about 4,000 cars a year and do $150 million in business.
This month, the company is ranked first in Cadillac sales in the state and it is 150th in the country for Chevy sales.
Bill Jacobs Joliet was selected for the award for its expansion efforts and improved customer service and community involvement, chamber CEO Russ Slinkard said. Slinkard also cited the company’s new solar charging stations that are free for customer use.
Many other projects are in the works. The company is about to start construction on Bill’s Garage, which will house a new showroom featuring new and used Corvettes ranging in price from $5,000 to the $102,000 505 horsepower ZO6 coupe.
“It’s paying homage to Bill Jacobs Jr.’s love for cars,” Wise said.
The “sales museum” will open in the spring and it will be housed in the dealership’s former GM parts area. The parts business, which does $1 million a month in sales, has moved to a renovated warehouse in Rockdale.
A new Kia dealership will open in about 16 months across Jefferson Street from the Chevy/Cadillac dealerships at 2001 W. Jefferson St. The Cadillac and Chevrolet showrooms will undergo major remodeling. The Mazda dealership’s customer lounges will be renovated.
“I think it’s important for the city to be able to point to luxury on Jefferson Street,” Wise said of the remodeling projects, which will add upscale interiors and amenities.
In addition to the brick-and-mortar changes, Bill Jacobs Joliet is paying its sales people differently. A big chunk of their pay is salary instead of 100 percent commission, which will allow the employees to focus more on customers’ needs.
Community involvement also has ramped up. Employees are participating in fundraisers and community groups more than ever, Wise said. Also, food donations can be dropped off at the Chevy dealership on Saturdays year-round.
The changes have been good for employees, good for customers and good for the community, Wise said.
“We’re all just reinspired and very optimistic about the future,” he said. “We have the best people. They’re worth their weight in gold.”