Drawn by the growing development in the Baton Rouge suburbs, Ricky Williamson is expanding his Kenner-based auto collision business into the Capital Region with a new location on Airline Highway in Prairieville.
The 20,000-square-foot Rivertown Collision Center in Prairieville is larger than his Kenner shop, which Williamson has operated more than 40 years, and is expected to open at the end of the month. Renovating the space, which was previously Maaco Collision Repair & Auto Painting, cost roughly $350,000.
Williamson is currently hiring for the new location but says it’s been a real challenge to find qualified staff. He’s planning to visit area vocational schools to recruit students.
“It’s an issue that we have throughout this country,” Williamson says, adding the field’s evolution toward more tech-based work has also thrown a wrench into the industry. “The autobody tech field is sort of a dying breed. There’s no young blood coming in and taking up where we left off. And these are not the cars of 10 to 15 years ago. They are really rolling computers.”
Williamson intends to continue expanding his business in south Louisiana, noting he would like to open his next shop in the Hammond-Covington area of the Northshore.