Considering their hectic schedules, it’s almost news alone that seven elected officials, including Governor Lincoln Chafee and Mayor Scott Avedisian, were all able to attend a press conference in the middle of the day last week.
But Thursday afternoon presented an exception, as Chafee, Avedisian and five Warwick City Council members were present at Balise Toyota showroom at 1400 Post Road when co-owner and vice president Mike Balise officially declared that he and his family are investing $8 million to expand their business.
Balise, who happily welcomed officials to the showroom, said he is appreciative of the support.
“It feels fantastic,” he said. “We had a great reception from the city and the state since we’ve been here. That’s what makes us so eager to invest and improve our facilities here. It’s very exciting.”
Chafee agreed. He also commented that the dealership has a wide variety of lines, such as Buick GMC, Chevrolet, Ford, Honda, Hyundai, Lexus, Mazda, Nissan, Scion, Subaru, Toyota and Volkswagen.
“I’m thinking, ‘What do you not have? Delorean?’” Chafee said. “You have just about everything else.”
As the Warwick Beacon reported last week, the expansion will be done in two phases, with the first phase involving construction of a new Nissan facility beginning in July, and the second phase involving a new Chevrolet facility that will commence as soon as the Nissan building is completed. Balise said he anticipates it will take nine months to finish the first phase.
The buildings will fit on approximately 20 acres of the Balise property at 1400 Post Road and be set back and in line with the Toyota dealership, allowing for similar landscape, vehicle display and customer convenience.
Moreover, it will create 200 temporary construction jobs, as well as 45 new and permanent jobs.
“It’s a nice shot in the arm for the city,” Avedisian said at the assembly. Looking at Balise, he continued, “Thank you and your family for making this investment in this city with this beautiful facility. We look forward to having these buildings. I’m wishing you a long history and many years to come.”
While the attending council members didn’t address the assembly, they shared their feelings in separate interviews. In fact, Council President Bruce Place, as well as Ward 8 Councilman Raymond Gallucci, said they both have purchased vehicles at Balise.
“I bought my last truck here,” Gallucci said. “Why would I go out of the city to buy a vehicle when I can take my business right here?”
Place said he has purchased several vehicles there, including his first brand new car, a 1963 Corvair Monza Spyder.
“I’ve been buying cars here ever since,” he said. “It’s a neighborhood dealership that’s grown into a world-class, trusted automotive dealership. I’m very happy the Balise family made the investment here and I’m sure the community will return that investment.”
Ward 3 Councilwoman Camille Vella-Wilkinson, whose ward the showrooms reside in, felt the same. She said she is grateful for the way Balise President Jeb Balise handles the business.
“The people in the neighborhood also appreciate the outreach that Jeb has personally made whenever they’ve expanded,” said Vella-Wilkinson. “If the neighbors did have any concerns, he acted immediately. I couldn’t ask more from any of our neighbors.”
Ward 4 Councilman Joseph Solomon added that Balise is not just a dealership to the city of Warwick. Rather, it’s an asset.
“Whenever Balise has come before the City Council in the past, they’ve always fulfilled all the representations they made and built a record of credibility,” he said.
For Ward 1 Councilman Steven Colontuono, he’s not only impressed with the jobs it will create; he’s also pleased with the aesthetics of the buildings.
“It’s good for the economy and beautification for the city, too,” he said. “Look what they did to this building. If they are going to do that for this building, this is going to look real nice, as well. From what I understand, it will be environmentally friendly. That’s important.”
According to Balise, the facilities use environmentally friendly equipment, such as specially made compressors that spray paint with nitrogen instead of oxygen, as well as a filtered downdraft booth to eliminate fumes expelled into the air, among other things.
“With anything we do, we think of how it will impact the environment, whether it be lighting we use or recycling,” he said. “When you build nicer stores, you sell more cars. We want to make it an easier experience for our customers and that’s what we’re doing.”
Balise Motor Sales Co. is one of the largest retailers of new and used automobiles in New England and also operates three collision repair facilities. Paul E. Balise founded it in 1919 and today his grandson, James E. Balise Jr., also known as Jeb, serves as president and dealer. Headquartered in West Springfield, Mass., the company employs more than 1,000 associates at facilities in Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island.