It's time for communities to give back to the dealers

Donna Harris covers retail issues for Automotive News
Three local officials -- the city manager, the county commissioner and the city's economic development president -- testified on behalf of Thomas Motors as owner Donald Thomas, of Moberly, Mo., pleaded for his GM franchises during recent arbitration.

Thomas, who's sold Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, GMC and Pontiac, is one of hundreds of GM dealers challenging the company's decision to shut down their franchises after it emerged from bankruptcy.

One of the factors arbitrators will consider in each case is the impact the dealerships had on the community.

That shouldn't be a tough sale for many dealers. In addition to providing employment and fattening the tax base, dealers often contribute heavily to local charities, athletic teams and schools.

In the fight for their franchises, the dealers are approaching local officials for help. Now communities have the opportunity to give back to some of their biggest supporters.