December 06, 2006 Edition

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Cavenaugh Auto Group
named Industry of Year

Don Cavenaugh (left) of Cavenaugh Auto Group accepts the 2006 Industry of the Year Award from Clay Sloan, chairman-elect of the Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce.
Cavenaugh Auto Group, owned and operated by Don Cavenaugh, has received the 2006 Industry of the Year Award from the Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce. Begun as a single dealership, Cavenaugh Ford in Black Rock, the company has steadily grown to evolve into Cavenaugh Auto Group with numerous automobile dealerships in several Arkansas cities.

Lawrence County is fortunate to be the home of three of the Cavenaugh dealerships and home of its administrative offices.

Don Cavenaugh's father, Charles Ray Cavenaugh, got the ball rolling when he purchased Verkler Ford Co. in Black Rock in November of 1978 from Wave Ed Verkler, who is now deceased. Verkler's daughter continues to work for the company today in Black Rock, Don said.

While his dad financed the dealership in the beginning, Don ran the company. The elder Cavenaugh passed away in 1988.

Don began to expand by purchasing the Hyundai dealership in Blytheville, which he moved to Jonesboro in 1994. Then, in September of 1997, he bought the Aycock GM, Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep dealership in Walnut Ridge from John Aycock.

In the summer of 1998, he bought out Jimmy Snapp and Snapp Ford Motor Co. in Walnut Ridge. The Ford corporation did not want two dealerships located so close together, so Cavenaugh closed the Ford dealership in Walnut Ridge and moved the Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep dealership to the Snapp buildings on East Main Street in Walnut Ridge.

Cavenaugh continued his dealership expansion in December of 2000, when he purchased McCarty Motor Co., a Lincoln-Mercury dealership in Jonesboro, from Fred Pasmore.

In 2004, Cavenaugh acquired the Suzuki dealership in Jonesboro, and in May of 2005, the company bought the KIA dealership in Jonesboro.

In January of this year, Cavenaugh moved into its new building just north of the U.S. Hwy. 67 bypass in Walnut Ridge. The new location houses the Cavenaugh GM SuperStore, with its lines of Chevrolet, Buick, Pontiac and GMC vehicles. "It's proven to be a really good location for us," he said.

Cavenaugh also acquired and opened Hyundai of Hot Springs this year. Cavenaugh also operates used car businesses: Car Today and Don Cavenaugh Motors in Jonesboro and Cavenaugh Auto Center in Blytheville.

Cavenaugh said he is pleased that his company has also been able to create jobs in Lawrence County by moving his administrative offices to Walnut Ridge about seven years ago. Twenty to 25 people work in that office, which was previously located in a downtown Walnut Ridge building owned by Bob Hutcherson. The offices are now housed in the renovated former Gemini Manufacturing building, located behind the new Cavenaugh GM SuperStore.

Through use of computers and the Internet, Cavenaugh is able to keep costs down. Accounting, payroll and employee benefits record keeping for all the dealerships is done in the administrative offices in Walnut Ridge. The building also houses the company's own internal advertising agency. Bill Little oversees this advertising division to produce the company's television, radio and print advertising.

Today the company employs close to 250 people. A third generation in the Cavenaugh family, Don's son, Blake, is also involved in the business.

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