BY KAREN GERHARDINGER | MIRROR REPORTER — Whether coming to town for a sporting event, work assignment or family gathering, visitors to Northwest Ohio often find a place to stay – overnight or for weeks at a time – in Maumee-area hotels.
With WoodSpring Suites’ opening on Indian Wood Circle last month, Maumee now has 18 hotels in its city limits. The growth in this area is no surprise to Joe Savarise, president of the Ohio Hotel and Lodging Association.
“Northwest Ohio is on an upswing and Maumee is one of the hotter areas. Developers are looking at starting projects up,” Savarise said.
Ohio has about 1,500 licensed hotel properties that employ over 35,000. The sales and revenue produced by hotels helps local communities pay for public services and infrastructure, and funds local convention and visitors bureaus to attract more tourism.
In 2017, Lucas County captured $6.6 million, Maumee $778,000 and Monclova Township $41,586 in loading taxes. That same year, 725 employees worked at 17 hotels, said Donna Helle, assistant tax commissioner for Maumee. Those employees pay an income tax that helps fund services and infrastructure.
“Hotels have a very positive effect on the communities they serve,” Savarise said. “It’s not just someone from Kansas staying there. It’s families, local employers and organizations and businesses relying on a healthy hotel infrastructure. Good places to visit are usually a good place to live.”
In most cases, hotel and lodging jobs pay more than minimum wage and include rapid advancement opportunities.
“Nationally, 90 percent of hotels start above minimum wage. In Ohio, that’s much higher and 98 percent offer benefits to full-time employees, including education assistance and tuition reimbursement. That leads to higher job satisfaction,” Savarise said. “It’s a challenge keeping people, in part because of the misperception that the starting job is menial labor. People who are starting as housekeepers or engineers are becoming managers. Some of the CEOs of national hotel chains started as hourly workers.”
As WoodSpring Suites general manager Taylor Barney assembled a team of front desk guest service agents, housekeepers and a maintenance technician, he looked for those who would be good to the customers and each other.
When he saw Stephanie Gibson’s resume, he called her up and offered her a job. She’d worked with him at another hotel chain. When he observed Sahar Rimawi’s excellent customer service skills at his favorite local restaurant, he encouraged her to think of switching careers.
“I’m a customer service person. I like taking care of people,” he said. “I think with all of my travels around the world, I always have something in common with travelers,” said Barney, who spent 20 years in the U.S. Navy. “When people show up at the front desk, you’ve got to have good customer service skills. You can’t take it personally if they’re tired and upset.”
The 123-room Wood-Spring Suites doesn’t have a restaurant, bar or pool, but the simple rooms are outfitted with a kitchenette and the downstairs laundry room is geared toward those staying for more than a night or two. Barney has been knocking on doors for local construction companies and large industries to let leaders know about the hotel’s affordable rates.
A ribbon-cutting ceremony will be held on Wednesday, February 19 at noon with the Maumee Area Chamber of Commerce.