City officials and community leaders joined forces Wednesday morning to help “break ground” on a new $8 million investment in Waxahachie.

Waxahachie Autoplex has committed to invest another $8 million into its Waxahachie facility, the most recent investment being a new 40,000-square-foot Ford dealership to replace its current facility located at the intersection of Interstate 35E and U.S. Highway 287 Bypass.

The Autoplex, a division of RML Automotive, operates three facilities from its Waxahachie location: A Chrysler dealership (Chrysler, Dodge, Ram and Jeep); a Ford dealership; and a used vehicle super center.

The new Ford dealership will add about 20-25 jobs and sit on 14 acres “with lots of room to expand our inventory,” said Wesley Spence, owner/operator of Waxahachie Autoplex.

Pointing to renderings displayed on easels near the construction site, Spence said the new building will have a modern look, similar to the new Baylor Scott & White Medical Center located across the interstate.

In addition to a showroom, he said the new facility will feature a state-of-the-art service and repair center.

Spence said construction is expected to take 10 months, depending on weather.

Wednesday’s groundbreaking ceremony is the second major announcement this month regarding the dealership’s Ford store. On June 12, the franchise received Ford’s President’s Award for outstanding service and sales.

“Our philosophy is that no one should have to drive to DFW to purchase a vehicle,” Spence said. “We believe in having the vehicles you want in stock, providing you with the best service possible, giving back to the community and being actively involved in the community we serve.”

Noting the beautiful sunny day, Waxahachie Mayor Kevin Strength told those assembled Wednesday was another great day for Waxahachie.

“We have a new hospital across the road. We just passed a bond election to build a new high school down the road thataway. Today, I am truly honored to be able to be here and announce another major investment in our community — and it’s being made right here at the ‘Crossroads of Texas’ on the I3E/287 corridor,” Strength said, drawing a large round of applause.

RML Automotive CEO Franklin McLarty, who was on hand for Wednesday’s ceremony, noted how proud he was of Spence and his team.

“We are making an investment in the people of Waxahachie,” he said. “But we are also making an investment in Wes and the outstanding work his team accomplishes in the community every day. I couldn’t be prouder. Jim, do you have anything you would like to add?” McLarty asked, turning toward RML President Jim Press.

“Let’s start digging!” he shouted, as another round of applause dominated the din of the freeway traffic from the city’s busiest intersection.

Waxahachie Chamber of Commerce Board Chair Fercina Bridges and Waxahachie City Manager Paul Stevens also praised the Autoplex for its commitment to the community.

“They are truly a great group of people to work with,” Stevens said. “And for the sake of full disclosure, I’m a Ford truck guy. So on that level, I’m very excited about today’s announcement. But I can’t say enough how much I appreciate their investment in our community. They truly give back — to our schools, to our nonprofits and to so many community causes.”

In 2008, RML purchased the local General Motors and Ford dealerships, along with the used vehicle center from Thornhill Motors.

In 2009, it purchased the franchise rights for the Chrysler store located next door from Bossier Dodge. At the time, Chrysler was undergoing bankruptcy proceedings and announced it was closing more than 1,000 dealerships nationwide, the Bossier dealership was on the list for closure.

Following the purchase, Chrysler franchise rights were awarded to Waxahachie Autoplex, which also remodeled the dealership to sell and service Chrysler, Dodge and Ram products.

During that period, a pact was reached between Waxahachie Autoplex and Carlisle Chevrolet, which at the time held the Waxahachie franchise rights for Jeep. The Autoplex received the rights to sell and service Jeep products at its Chrysler dealership, while Carlisle (which has always held the Waxahachie franchise for Chevrolet and Cadillac), received the Buick franchise rights then held by the Autoplex.

Since purchasing the dealership, Spence said the inventory has more than doubled for each of its three stores (Ford, Chrysler and pre-owned).

“At any given time we can have more than 1,200 vehicles on the lot. And we’re steadily finding ways to continue that growth,” he said. “Folks shouldn’t have to drive to DFW to buy a car. That really is our philosophy.”

The current Ford store will remain open while the new facility is being constructed adjacent to the existing facility. Once the new facility is complete, the old building will be razed and that site will be used for outdoor inventory.