Harsch will have booth at SEMA Show

Looking to build on automotive-related business at Speedway Commerce Center, owner Harsch Investment Properties has joined the Specialty Equipment Market Association and will be a first-time exhibitor at this week’s SEMA Show at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

Harsch is paying about $2,000 for a 10-foot-by-10-foot booth at the automotive industry’s largest aftermarket product trade show, which brings about 100,000 people to Las Vegas each year. The show runs today through Friday. It is closed to the public, but many custom vehicles are displayed in the convention center parking lot.

The Portland, Ore.-based commercial real estate developer is hoping to capitalize on Speedway Commerce Center’s location as a gateway to Las Vegas Motor Speedway, easy access to Interstate 15 and Nevada’s business-friendly tax climate.

Harsch is committed to SEMA not just for this year, but probably for the next five years, said John Ramous, vice president of operations for Harsch in Las Vegas.

Besides the exhibit booth, Harsch is sponsoring the SEMA businesswomen’s networking breakfast and the Young Executive Network’s 20th anniversary reception. The company has also scheduled a press conference Thursday to announce the release of 48 acres for build-to-suit opportunities at Speedway Commerce Center.

“Our thought is we have 2 million square feet here and the base of this is really automotive-related, whether it’s racing or manufacturing,” Ramous said. “What we found is with the uncertainty of taxes, wealthy individuals are putting money into race teams. They’d rather not pay Uncle Sam and do something fun. We understand that the automotive industry, like many other industries, is aggressively working towards recovery and growth.”

The $28 billion automotive specialty-equipment industry is showing tangible signs of economic recovery judging by early registration for SEMA. The number of exhibitors submitting contracts for booth space increased 20 percent from a year ago, including a record 1,621 new product registrations, show officials said. They also grew their footprint for contracted exhibit space by 16 percent, or 11,700 square feet, from 2009.

When late casino owners Ralph Engelstad and Bill Bennett built the $250 million Las Vegas Motor Speedway in 1996, they envisioned the adjacent industrial park being home to national racing teams and other automotive industries.

That vision has been slow to materialize, though the center’s tenants include a number of racing teams such as Orleans Racing, Kroyer Racing and Vision Airlines Racing, which recently expanded from 7,500 feet to 12,000 feet.

Shelby American is Speedway Commerce Center’s major tenant, occupying nearly 210,000 square feet in several buildings. Other prominent tenants include the Richard Petty Driving Experience, U.S. Legend Cars, Exotics Racing and most recently U-Drift from Alabama.

Exotics Racing puts drivers into the seat of a Lamborghini, Ferrari, Porsche, Aston Martin or Audi R8 for five laps around the track starting at about $300. The company is expanding from 3,775 feet to 14,000 feet of frontage along Speedway Boulevard.

“This is Vegas and a company like this can really thrive,” Exotics Racing marketing and sales director James Switzer said.

His goal is to expand the company’s Las Vegas fleet to 30 cars.

Canadian-based Big Rig Collision just took 57,000 square feet at the industrial park.

“It’s the closest proximity to California without actually being there,” BRC owner Rob Pek said. “Nevada is certainly a lot friendlier place to work and Las Vegas is a hub for our business with the tourism and RVs and trucking. It makes sense to be here.”

About 40 percent of Speedway Commerce Center is leased to automotive companies and 60 percent of lease transactions in the past 16 months have come from out-of-state and international companies, Harsch Assistant Vice President Reed Gottesman said.

Harsch bought the 95-acre, 1.4 million-square-foot industrial park from Las Vegas Motor Speedway owner Bruton Smith for $44 million in 2001 and added eight new buildings totaling 523,000 square feet. Harsch also acquired another 80 acres of vacant land at Speedway Commerce Center.

Contact reporter Hubble Smith at hsmith@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0491.

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