ABC Supply owner: local businesses need to support IndyFest

Michael Andretti and his team have been working hard to bring the crowds back to The Milwaukee Mile. Can the event sustain long term?

ABC Supply Co. Inc. owner Diane Hendricks says she was thrilled to step forward as the naming-rights sponsor of Milwaukee’s IndyCar race, but more Milwaukee-area and Wisconsin businesses will need to join the sponsorship ranks to ensure the event’s long-term staying power at the Milwaukee Mile.

“If we don’ support it — all business leaders — then we don’t deserve to have it," Hendricks said in an interview with the Milwaukee Business Journal. “It would be a huge loss for the state of Wisconsin."

Sunday will mark the third year that Andretti Sports Marketing of Indianapolis has run an IndyCar Series race at the historic Milwaukee Mile. But it is the first year with a naming-rights sponsor, which Andretti Sports executives said was necessary for this year’s return engagement.

Also stepping up its sponsorship role this year is Direct Supply, a distributor of medical equipment to nursing homes that has about 1,000 employees on Milwaukee’s northwest side.

Direct Supply co-founder and CEO Bob Hillis is as committed as Hendricks to maintaining and growing IndyCar racing in Milwaukee.

“We see this as a prime asset for Milwaukee and the state of Wisconsin," Hillis told the Business Journal. “I think it’s very important that business leaders are the only people that can really keep these things going. They have to get behind these efforts and support them."

Hendricks predicted, based on information from Andretti Sports Marketing officials, that attendance at the IndyCar race Sunday will increase significantly from the 2013 figure of about 28,000. She said they expect attendance of 35,000 to 40,000, assuming no rain on race day, which hampered the previous two years’ attendance.

Such a turnout would represent a huge step forward for the race and Milwaukee IndyFest weekend, said Hendrickson, whose Beloit company is a major wholesale distributor of roofing and products for building exteriors.

“We’re an example here," she said. “We’re hoping other people see us as seeing the importance of this race — what it does for the community and other businesses. Lets’ call it a civic responsibility that we all share."

Hillis invited other area business executives to visit the Milwaukee Mile this weekend. He said continuing IndyCar racing is important to the local economy and another attraction for local residents and employees of area businesses.

“There’s a ton of history here that’s important to our state," he said. “The asset is so undiscovered but can be a great value to our community. A lot of business leaders have yet to discover it." Milwaukee BizTalk

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