NASCAR driver Brad Keselowski drove to Elk Grove High School on Monday in his #6 Ford Mustang, spinning the car around a tight circle to announce his arrival.
Keselowski, the former NASCAR Cup Series champion, will be racing on the streets of Chicago next year, sponsored by Elk Grove Village. The Chicago Street NASCAR Tournament a raceslated for July 2, will bring the auto race to a 2.2-mile track on Michigan Avenue, Duplex Lake Shore Drive and around Grant Park, with the start and finish line at Buckingham Fountain.
The village will spend $400,000 a year for at least two years to get a “Makers Wanted” logo on the car to promote what officials say is The largest commercial complex next door in the country.
Previously, the village sponsored NCAA Football Bahamas Bowl, track and field and wrestling teams in the United States. Mayor Craig Johnson said that this time he wanted to get involved in the sport that is said to attract the most spectators, at about 75 million people a year.
Johnson said the “out of the box” promotions were worthwhile investments to bring attention to the 5-square-mile industrial zone with about 3,600 businesses adjacent to O’Hare International Airport.
Keselowski, 38, won the NASCAR Cup Series in 2012 with Team Penske, who left it to become part-owner of Team Roush Fenway Keselowski, or RFK Racing. And since Keselowski also owns a 3D-printing company in Statesville, North Carolina, his experience and advocacy for manufacturing make the partnership a good fit, Johnson said.
As evidence of the success of previous promotions, Johnson said the business park has a vacancy rate of 1%. He said a love gas station opened in the village after a village executive heard him across from the Bahama Bowl. While auto racing isn’t as big in the Midwest as it is in the South, the mayor said, NASCAR racing will raise its profile.
“With the race being right around the corner in Chicago…we want to make sure we’re a part of it,” the mayor said. “It will bring a lot of publicity.”
“This partnership has come together,” Kiselovsky said. “It’s not just a sponsorship or a partnership; it’s something that we really live and breathe through our commitment to manufacturing. … It’s so important, not just to our economy and our children, but to our nation and our security.”
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The cost of the promotion, like other sponsorships, must be paid for from the Business Pool’s Tax Increase Fund. Under the TIF, any increase in property tax revenue is used to pay for improvements in the business park, rather than going to other tax authorities such as school districts.
But Johnson said the village would invest $750,000 in building an industrial kitchen for high school culinary studies.
Mayor and Keselowski toured the school’s manufacturing lab, which included computer-controlled digital production. Students there were working on a car to enter a race competition to see who could go the farthest they could with one gallon of gas.
On Monday, the school also hosted the village’s Manufacturing and Technology Fair, where dozens of businessmen gathered to attract investment and workers.
Brian O’Rourke, Vice President and COO of Broetje Automation, which was the village’s first technology park tenant, and manufactures robotic machines and flight robots.
“The hardest challenge for me now is finding the skilled people,” O’Rourke said. “So if[car care]gets the name and makes people think of us… then I’m all for it.”