Construction of a new Mercedes-Benz car dealership is shifting into high gear in south Rochester as it drives toward a goal of opening sometime in March.

The Ballweg Family of Dealerships is moving its Mercedes dealership from Wausau, Wis., to a spot at Shoppes on Maine near Target South and Rochester Toyota.

Officials from Ballweg and Mercedes were at the site Monday for a ceremonial groundbreaking as big machinery roared by moving dirt in the background.

Ballweg CEO Jason Brickl says the project is moving forward quickly because of interest in Mercedes in Rochester.

"They did a market study and Rochester looked incredibly appealing," he says.

Jack Holt, Mercedes' franchise manager for the central region, said the company's research found that this location looks very promising.

"We think Rochester is the right place to be and we think we have the right partner in Ballweg," he says. "We think this will be great."

Already, area customers have been calling to inquire when the dealership will open.

"We've never had that kind of interest this early in a project before," he says.

Rochester has been without a new Mercedes dealership since about 1998.

Brickl expects to hire between 20 to 25 employees to staff the 21,000-square-foot dealership. It will have nine service bays. He has already brought in a general manager to run the Rochester operation.

Beyond Mercedes' well known line of vehicles, this dealership will also offer its smart brand of mini and micro cars and its line of Sprinter commercial vans.

Once open, Ballweg's Rochester dealership will keep between 100 to 150 new and used vehicles on display.

At the groundbreaking, both Holt and Brickl pledged to keep construction moving at top speed to get the new dealership to the starting line as soon as possible.

"We're in a 100-hundred-yard dash here," says Holt of Mercedes. "This is a not a marathon."

Columnist, blogger and reporter Jeff Kiger tracks business action in Rochester and southeastern Minnesota every day in Heard on the Street. Listen for him Thursday on Rochester's Good Morning with Rich Peterson on KROC AM.