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Springfield, MO

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A Conversation With … Jeff Portman

General Manager of Vib Springfield

Posted online

What sets Vib apart?
It is definitely not a cookie-cutter hotel. This is the Best Western’s first Vib hotel in the country. What sets it apart is the technology, the environment, the gaming pods, the TV system, the room design. I wouldn’t come here and make this work if I didn’t believe in all of it. From the moment you walk in the door, you have all the opportunities for food and beverage and great customer service. We have gaming pods and gaming tables, TVs, hang-out spaces, charging areas – to going upstairs to a world-class fitness center to the rooms which are designed to flow expressly for the business client, with unbelievable desks. We’ve got 4K TVs going in there. You’ll be able to access your home Netflix, Hulu through that system. It’s amazing.

Is there a particular client you’re marketing to?
The hotel design is mostly trying to attract the millennial business traveler. But honestly, there is something in that hotel for everyone.

How would you describe Springfield’s hotel needs?
Our company [Elliott Lodging Ltd.] is seeing on average a 10 percent increase in overall revenue from last year. Last year, it was up over 10 percent itself, so the demand is there.

What are the biggest challenges facing the hotel industry?
Coming up with new ideas. A lot of hotel rooms are the same. They’ve been the same for 50 years, and one of the challenges is making sure that we attract. We’re getting ready to see the largest transfer of wealth and jobs in the history of the United States. We’re at the beginning of it right now. All those folks coming into the workforce are looking for something different. They want to make their own name, their own mark, do their own thing, and they want something new and fresh.

What’s your background?
I grew up in Buffalo, Missouri, graduated from Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, and moved back to the area in 2001. I took a job with Elliott Lodging; I went to go get my master’s and then just kind of found a home in hospitality. It’s not what I set out to do, but I liked it and decided to stick with it. I’ve been with the company for 15 years. I played college football, loved it and loved the team aspect, and (hospitality) has been one of the few things that I’ve been able to find that can replace that.

I’m intrigued by your lease agreement with The Wheelhouse to trade space for 10 percent of sales. How did you come up with that?
Mr. [Gordon] Elliott oversaw that. He wanted to make sure that these kids who are working so hard to pursue their dreams have an opportunity to make money themselves and they’re not all stuck just paying the lease. With them being successful inside that building, we’ll be that much more successful.

Why did you choose The Wheelhouse, B + B Boulangerie & Bakery and KeenBean Coffee Roasters as your food and drink vendors?
No. 1, we wanted great product. No. 2, we wanted to be different.

What’s the update on hotel construction and grand opening?
The grand opening has been set for Aug. 10. We are set to have a temporary occupancy around the first week of July. You can’t see it from the street, but the inside is nearing completion.

Jeff Portman can be reached at jeffportman@elliottlodging.com.

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