The McCamly Plaza Hotel will be a place to stay for guests and a place to learn for hospitality students

A $59 million investment in the complete overhaul of the McCamly Plaza Hotel will also pay huge dividends for area high school and college students interested in pursuing careers in the hospitality industry, said Joe Sobieralski, President. and CEO of Battle Creek Unlimited, which is leading the redevelopment project with its subsidiary 50 Capital Avenue Development Corp.

As he and his team work to finalize the financial portion of the project and look forward to putting up “Under Construction” signs, Sobieralski also continues to have conversations with representatives from the Battle Creek, Grand Valley Public Schools. State University, Kellogg Community College, Goodwill Industries and Michigan Works.

“The hospitality industry has a lot of upward mobility and that will give students greater exposure to a new career path,” says Sobieralski. “There are many facets of the hospitality industry that provide opportunities for students to learn technical and soft skills and give them exposure to the business and how it works.”

The renovated hotel will operate as a DoubleTree in hilton and will be managed by 6:00 p.m. Host Partners based in Zeeland. The hotel is expected to reopen in late summer 2023 and Sobieralski says it anticipates the creation of 165 operational jobs. He hopes those jobs will be filled by area residents and says a percentage will be set aside for student-dedicated internship opportunities.

The exterior of the Double Tree by night as shown in a design concept.Those on the hotel’s inaugural staff will work in different areas of a 265,000-square-foot resort that will feature 239 brand-new guest rooms, in addition to a new lobby, ballroom and breakout spaces. meeting. The hotel will occupy 180,000 square feet of the complex. It will have a new restaurant with a farm-to-table menu, a new bar and beer garden, and a new kitchen. The 16th floor of the hotel will feature a lounge bar with panoramic city views, complemented by three meeting spaces that can be configured for a large event.

The 85,000 square foot McCamly Place, which is separate from the hotel, will be demolished from April 2022. Festival Market Square will not be included in the demolition.

Plans call for the construction of approximately 19,745 square feet of new space. The new space will include a Kellogg Arena ticket office, pre-function/exhibitor space, bathrooms, a new restaurant and the hotel lobby extension. It will also add outdoor green space to complement the existing Festival Marketplace structure, located in the heart of downtown Battle Creek.

A video illustrating the proposed plans can be found here.

Sobieralski says the new hotel will be the first such teaching hotel in the region. BCU “will work closely with our local/regional workforce and education partners to create meaningful training and career opportunities for local residents and young people,” he said.

The Double Tree’s hotel lobby by day as seen in a design concept.Although discussions of the training and education component are still in the “ideas” phase, those teaching students in a hospitality career are eager for this additional opportunity to give their students essential hands-on learning opportunities.

“The mission of GVSU and our host program is to try to incorporate experiential learning into the curriculum as much as possible,” says Paul Stansbie, Associate Dean at GVSU College education and community innovation and professor of hospitality and tourism. “Successful managers are clearly smart textbooks, but they’ve also applied knowledge to know what the real world looks like when they step outside.”

Students enrolled in the program can earn a Bachelor of Science in Hospitality and Tourism Management.

Stansbie says internships in the hospitality industry offer students the opportunity to gain real-world experience before they graduate and enter the hospitality management track. At GVSU, students must have a minimum of 1,000 hours of internship before graduating.

Spending an entire summer doing an internship that exposes them to the inner workings of every department in a hotel — everything from food service to housekeeping to front desk operations — gives them plenty of hands-on experience. Those managing these different areas need to know the inner workings of each department, Stansbie says.

A green space outside the renovated hotel.“We’re looking for ways to engage students in this way,” he says.

GVSU has already partnered with the JW Marriott Hotel in Grand Rapids. The partnership allows students in GVSU’s Hotel Management program to be taught on-site by a professor from that program when exposed to different departments at that hotel. The school also works with the Ottawa Hills High School Hospitality and Tourism Academy. This program gives students entering their first year the opportunity to take electives focused on hospitality and tourism.

“It introduces ninth graders to what the industry is like and that there are career paths,” Stansbie says. “These students gain a solid foundation in the industry that enables them to go on and pursue a career in hospitality or elsewhere. They walk into hotels and live, breathe and touch what the industry really looks like and build their resumes early on.

Too often, says Stansbie, the general view of the hospitality industry is limited to the most visible employees such as housekeeping or reception staff.

“I tell students to think about their last vacation and who they came into contact with,” he says.

Supply and demand

Much of what is learned in the GVSU program can be used in careers outside of a hotel environment. Some are sports management, event planning, or destination marketing and management, Stansbie says.

These career fields have all been impacted by the pandemic as workers have left, many of whom have not returned. Stansbie says the hospitality industry is starting to rebound, but not as fast as he and other industry experts and executives would like. Opportunities such as those offered at the new hotel will help increase the number of people seeking careers in the industry, he says.

Paul Stansbie, associate dean of college education and community innovation at GVSU and professor of hospitality and tourism. “What we are seeing is a recent phenomenon created by the pandemic in the state of Michigan and elsewhere where one in 10 jobs in the hospitality industry have been lost,” he says. “Some people did it as a side hustle and some people looked at it and went into other service industries. We lost a huge number of career professionals.

The industry is bouncing back and efforts are being made to bring leisure travelers back to Michigan, but, he says, “hotels can’t sell all the rooms because they don’t have the staff and we’re seeing their growth stunted. because they don’t have enough bodies to work there. We’re really trying to see how we can help the industry recover.

Although KCC does not currently have a program focused on hotel management and tourism, they have had preliminary conversations with Sobieralski and his team about what a program like this might look like if one were created, says Eric Greene, vice president of KCC. Strategy, relations and communication.

“If there is some sort of multi-party partnership where we can provide 100 or 200 level courses in hospitality, we would be open to that,” says Greene.

KCC has already established partnerships through its nursing program that allow students taking lower-level courses at KCC to seamlessly transition to a four-year school to complete their education.

“We’re very deliberate in creating market analysis,” Greene says. “We need to know that there will be enough students in a program to justify the expense of creating a program. This work begins with conversations like we had with the college and the BCU. We have done this in other areas where there was a need for specific jobs that need to be filled where there is already a shortage.

The Double Tree Entrance Access Canopy as shown in a design concept.Stansbie says the impact of the pandemic on the hospitality and tourism industry “has left everyone guessing whether it’s for them or not. In 2003 we had 150 students in our program and by 2016 that number had grown to 600. It grew like crazy when the state invested in the Pure Michigan campaign. We’re really in a phase of decline right now and that’s partly because people have looked at what’s happened in the industry and people are being hired without a degree into these positions because these jobs have to be filled.

GVSU is in the recruiting phase and Stansbie says he and his colleagues are trying to show students that the courses they take in disciplines like accounting, finance, human resources or marketing and strategy are transferable to the world of business if it’s a career path they’re interested in. He says they are also working to recruit more students of color who may not see this as a viable option.

“One of our biggest challenges is filling the talent pool,” says Stansbie. “We want to show that this is a career path, especially for people of color who have been underrepresented. These managers earn excellent salaries and can travel all over the world. »

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