Machens still part of local business community despite sale

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COLUMBIA- Columbia Chamber of Commerce president Matt McCormick spoke out Thursday about the recent sale of Joe Machens dealerships.

He said he thinks Machens will contiue to be an important part of the local business community. 

"They've been a great fabric of Columbia," McCormick said. "I expect them to continue to do so." 

Erik Miller is a Columbia resident and said his insurance company uses the Machens Collision Center. He recently got into an accident and called his insurance company and found out that Machens was bought out by the McLarty Automotive Group. 

He said that may mean he can't use Machens to fix his car.

"Well, we found out that when they change over to the new company, we would be looking at a new business," Miller said. "Potentially, up until the point that new business gets registered properly with our insurance, we have to look elsewhere. Hopefully we can transition without any big issues."

Miller said it was conveninent to know Machens had a relationship with his insurance company. Now, he hopes that the new company can maintain the same service. 

He said his immediate thoughts went to how the change would affect the city of Columbia. 

"I've known the Machens name since I was 5 years old. You begin to hope and wonder, is there anything in the deal or does anything become affected overall?" Miller said. 

McCormick said the impact of the deal won't be fully known until the new ownership announces its plans. 

"We haven't had that opportunity to sit down with the new owners and talk with them and see what their future plans are," McCormick said. 

McCormick said Columbia's local business is thriving since the recession even though the 12th largest employer in Boone County is changing ownership. 

"We're seeing our established businesses continue to look at growing and hiring again and startups and new businesses coming on board," McCormick said. 

McLarty Automotive Group, based in Little Rock, Ark., bought 14 of the 16 area Machens dealerships. Current Machens president Gary Drewing will retain ownership of the BMW and Mercedes dealerships in Columbia. 

Chairman Mark McLarty said the McLarty Automotive Group will "continue to carry on the Machens family tradition." He also said employees will not lose their jobs because of the transition. 

[Editors note: This story has been updated to add content from Mark McLarty, the chairman of McLarty Automotive Group.]