PANAMA CITY BEACH — Bill Cramer says plans remain on schedule to bring the first new car dealership to the beach.
Earlier this week, Bill Cramer Chevrolet Buick GMC President said he and his family are slowly moving through the permitting process to build a dealership on North Gulf Boulevard in Panama City Beach across from the Harley-Davidson store.
It would be the Cramers’ second car dealership in Bay County. Panama City’s longtime sales ground is at 2251 W. 23rd St.
“We are moving on our schedule,” Cramer said. “We should know hopefully in a month or two on a permit, and once we have that we can then move forward in terms of the construction plan.”
Cramer also said franchise agreements for the new venture have not been finalized, so it is not yet clear what brand of cars will be sold there.
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The dealership could also have a used-car center similar to the Cramers’ current location.
“It’s a matter of conversation with the various potential manufacturers,” Cramer said. “Right now we’re working on that process. It’s a bit more challenging given that there’s a very severe shortage of inventory, so most manufacturers are now more concerned with making sure every dealership has something to sell, rather than adding new dealers.
“…It added a little wrinkle to the process that no one anticipated, but we’re still optimistic.”
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The family’s purchase of the 25 acres for the concessionaire is one of the largest land purchases along the Panama City Beach Parkway in the past 30 years.
Cramer, who said he expected the new venture to create 30 to more than 100 jobs, added that the idea of building a dealership at PCB was sparked by the lack of a dealership on the island. .
He also cited the beach’s “enormous growth” in recent years, including record tourist numbers and the January 12 announcement by Bay Economic Development Alliance President Becca Hardin of plans to build a 320,000 square foot hospital on State 79.
“When you go out, the traffic is heavy, and of course car traffic is a big factor in auto sales,” Cramer said. “It’s an open market in terms of a brand new franchise or even a new used car operation.”
He noted that the construction of the project is expected to start in the next six months and last eight to twelve months.
McLane: Dealer will diversify economy and raise area wages
For Kristopher McLane, president and CEO of the Beach Chamber of Commerce, “it’s always great” when a new business comes to the beach that will create jobs and help diversify the economy.
McLane also said that because the car dealership will be the first of its kind on the beach, it could also create a sense of competition that could drive other dealerships into the area.
“Any time you can diversify the economy, (it) works better for residents and (it also creates) more for visitors who come to the area,” he said. “The service industry and the hospitality industry (have) so many job opportunities, but if people want to look for new opportunities or go into a new industry, they will have more (choices) when you have more companies diverse who will come to the beach.”
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McLane noted that the car dealership could also pay its workers higher wages than some local hospitality jobs, which could help more people buy homes in Bay County’s booming real estate market. .
“The possibilities are endless, and any time you can create new jobs, I think that’s really important for our beach, especially with the rate at which we’re growing,” he said. “I know there’s a small shortage (of affordable homes), but at least people will have more opportunities to afford those (available homes).”