For 11 years Lehigh Valley Grand Prix LLC in South Allentown has been pumping up the adrenaline of local residents and visitors who drop in for a day or evening of indoor go-kart racing. And at 48,000 square feet, it is one of the largest indoor racing tracks in the northeast, and the only one in the region.

It hosts groups, birthday parties, bachelor and bachelorette parties, and race parties. It also does social events, corporate team building, and fundraisers. Over the years more features have been added to help entertain guests while their friends race, including the Octane Bar and mini bowling lanes.

“The revitalization going on in downtown Allentown has really helped put the city on the map,” said LVGP Owner Mike McCreary. “Years ago when people would contact us and we’d tell them we were located in Allentown, they’d voice concern about coming here. Since the city’s growth downtown there’s been a change in perception and I no longer get those kinds of reactions from guests. There’s a synergy here now.”

In the fast lane for success

One thing McCreary is most proud of is how his business has grown back to its year one high numbers. “Almost every business sees a boom in its sales its first year just because its new and people are checking it out,” he explained. “Then you expect a drop-off and to settle into what your norm will be. In 11 years we’ve grown our business back to what it was 2007-2008. That’s almost unheard of.”

One thing McCreary admits he underestimated was the impact that Lehigh Valley tourism and weather would have on his business. “Most days in the warm weather months we’re here doing the rain dance!” he said. “Rain drives people indoors and families who are visiting the region to do outdoor activities still need activities, so they come to us.”

“I’m still getting the word out about our team building,” McCreary continued. “We have fun opportunities for a full day or evening session that’s structured in such a way that it allows your employees to bond and develop trust and they don’t even realize it’s happening because they’re having fun doing it.”

But there have been some sharp turns in the road. When the economic downturn took hold in 2008-2009 he had to cut costs almost overnight, which included firing friends who worked for him. “The corporate market tanked as well and things got really tight for awhile,” he said. “But on the other hand, the bachelor parties boomed. Guys that could no longer spend a weekend in Atlantic City or fly to Las Vegas were coming here and doing it up big instead. I guess you could call that the silver lining to an otherwise bad situation.”

Advice for entrepreneurs

Now an experienced business owner looking back on his startup, McCreary encourages other entrepreneurs thinking of starting a business to do their research early on and do it well.

“There’s a difference between chasing a passion and starting a legitimate business that will succeed,” he said. “The business failure rate for startups is really high. So do the groundwork at the outset and know what you’re getting into. And create a solid business plan based on market research.”

“The Lehigh Valley is a great place to start a business, Allentown in particular. The city has become more accessible than before and much easier to do business with now,” he continued. “The quality of life is great here for families and there’s so much going on that there’s always something to do. I’m proud that I chose Allentown for my business.”