May 5, 2009 at 10:22 am

Officials meet on moving auto show

NAIAS talks to Rock Showplace, Oakland County on event in '11

Novi -- Saying they want to "check the temperature" for such a move, officials with Oakland County, the North American International Auto Show and Rock Financial Showplace met Monday to discuss the possibility of transferring the auto show to Novi for 2011.

Douglass Fox, co-chairman of the auto show's leadership committee, said the discussion involved himself; Gerald Poisson and Robert Daddow, who are deputy county executives to L. Brooks Patterson; and a representative of Rock Showplace. The focus of the talk was expansion of the facility to host the auto show, he said.

Patterson declined to comment Monday afternoon and referred calls to Fox. The Detroit Auto Dealers Association committed to keeping the auto show at Cobo next year, but Patterson has said he's open to bringing it to the suburbs in 2011 if a suitable location is found.

"They are certainly working right now with their legislative people to first check the temperature and the interest level of this. And possibly to start considering legislation" for expanding the Novi center, Fox said.

The Novi facility, which is 215,000 square feet, would need to be at least as large as Cobo -- 700,000 to 800,000 square feet -- or bigger.

"I think 1 million (square feet) is the number they are looking at," he said.

A second focus of the talk was how to fund the expansion.

Fox said a lawmaker in Lansing would need to craft a bill to create a funding mechanism for the expansion. Under the Cobo deal, a hotel-liquor tax from Oakland, Wayne and Macomb was used.

"This project would be significantly less (than the tax that's collected). In the $150 million range," Fox said, adding officials would need only a portion of their Oakland County receipts on the tax along with contributions from Wayne and Macomb counties.

A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop, R-Rochester, said he's not aware of any movement to craft legislation to fund the expansion of the Novi facility to handle the auto show.

"Keeping the auto show in Michigan is of utmost importance to the state and the Metro area, so the Senate majority leader will listen to any plan that may be out there," Matt Marsden said.

"If it involves a setting in Oakland County, he's open to the discussion, but he has not been directly involved."

Fox said his job is to wait and see who makes the next move.

"We are not lawmakers. We are the customer. We have done our due diligence of what we need physically, meeting rooms, utility drops. We have to wait to see and what happens," he said."> (248) 647-7402 Detroit News Staff Writer Charlie Cain contributed.