As Fife braces for the growth spurt expected to accompany increased traffic through the Port of Tacoma, it has aggressively added a secret weapon to its economic arsenal—auto dealerships.

Fife has become one of the most active regions in western Washington for auto dealers. Several aspects of the region make it attractive to dealers.

“The visibility from Interstate-5 is clearly one of the great advantages to locating in Fife,” observes veteran dealer Jerry Korum of Korum Motors in Puyallup. Korum plans to develop a new facility on nine and a half acres in Fife this summer.

“Fife is one of the few areas anywhere along the I-5 corridor in Washington where there’s land to be developed and is easily accessible to a large population base,” says Korum.

Son-in-law Kevin Carl will be the principal at the new facility—which, Korum says, will compliment rather than replace Korum’s Puyallup operations. The new facility will sell primarily recreational vehicles and used trucks. he explains.

“The proximity of other car dealers is attractive,” Carl says of the Fife site. “When people are shopping for a car, they like to be able to make comparisons easily. That’s why ‘auto rows’ tend to form—it makes sense for dealers to develop around each other.”

Fife has at least one other attractive quality.

“Fife government is very business-friendly,” says Richard Garchow, president of nearby Great American RV. “They’ve been very responsive to our concerns. They’re a pleasure to deal with.”

“The City Council is working to try to create better quality of life here,” explains Fife Community Development Director Steve Worthington. “We’re looking to develop more parks. We’ll probably join the Pierce County library system.”

Tax revenue generated by car sales will go a long way to fund such improvements to Fife’s lifestyle.

City Manager Howard Schesser estimates that Fife earns about 1 cent per dollar on every auto sold there—or $450 on a $45,000 car. From only one dealership, in 1964, the industry has grown to almost a dozen—with more on the way.

“We’re very open to car and recreational vehicle dealerships here in Fife,” Schesser says.

“Auto sales are definitely a major contributor to sales tax revenues in Fife,” he explains. “In any given month, looking through the sales tax reports, we’ll generally find at least one dealer in our top 10.”