Last week, a Billings hotelier announced plans to build a new three-story hotel in Gateway West, with the hope to open by April 2018.
Powell has needed additional lodging for decades.
“As we all know, there’s a lot of missed opportunities,” said Christine Bekes, executive director of Powell Economic Partnership. “How many of the buses that go west, how many professional events you don’t host here.”
We’ve seen it too many times over the years.
Most recently, Powell hosted several tournaments last weekend — the Gene Dozah Invitational swim meet, Big Horn Basin Classic basketball competition, Trapper Rendezvous forensics tournament and RoboRumble robotics competition.
While some teams and visitors stay overnight in Powell, many travel to Cody. When they leave our town, so does their business.
With a new hotel, more visitors can stay here and eat at local restaurants, shop at local stores and fuel up at local gas stations. For too long, Powell has lost out on those dollars.
Powell offers wonderful facilities to host events — the Yellowstone Building at Northwest College, the Park County Fairgrounds and The Commons, to name a few — but we don’t have enough lodging.
Powell Economic Partnership, which has been working for years to make the project a reality, highlighted the need for an additional hotel in a 2014 report.
“Powell is primed for growth in tourism, but only if they overcome a specific challenge: where the tourists will stay,” the PEP report said. “Motels are available for smaller groups, but the development of a new hotel is something that was identified as a priority time and again by the community.”
It’s encouraging to see that in addition to 65-75 rooms, plans call for a large conference-meeting space in the hotel. That adds the possibility of year-round availability to host weddings, conferences and other events.
It’s important to note this is a community effort.
Years ago, local leaders laid the groundwork for the Gateway West business park, where the new $6 to $7 million building is proposed. Greg and Rachael Anderson paid for a market study on the potential for an additional hotel in 2012, and later donated the report to Powell Economic Partnership.
Drs. Bob Chandler and Mike Tracy of 307Health owned the large center lot in Gateway West and wanted to sell it for a project to benefit Powell. Kay Dooley of Powell then stepped forward, purchasing the lot as an investor in the hotel.
Thanks in part to an introduction made by Powell entrepreneur Seaton Smith, hotelier Steve Wahrlich of Billings got in touch with Bekes at the Powell Economic Partnership. Wahrlich has since committed to moving forward with a three-story hotel with 65-75 rooms and a large conference meeting space.
We suspect there are others, not named here, who have contributed toward this project; we know for certain that in order for it to succeed, more residents must step forward.
It’s up to the community to support this new venture — and to continue supporting the local businesses that already serve our rural area.
We all want to see Powell thrive, and it truly takes the community to make it happen.
After seeing several longtime businesses shut down in recent weeks, the announcement of a new hotel gives Powell a reason for renewed hope on the economic front.