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EDITORIAL: New hotel brings potential for more economic growth

A new hotel is on the horizon, and with it comes potential for more economic growth in Powell.

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.

1 comment

  • posted by WyomingGal

    January 13, 2017 12:55 pm

    How many people is this place going to hire when completed? What types of employment opportunities will there be? Are all the jobs going to be permanent, or on an on-call basis as needs dictate? Those questions were not addressed in the article. That, in my honest opinion, would be most beneficial to know. Another question; Why are the businesses closing? The same reason why most new shops and stores go under; no one supports them here. Since Hansel and Gretel's closed, on social media there was a whole lot of people upset that we are getting yet another pizza place. While true this new business is going to have that and more, the point I want to make is this: A large number of the people posted complaints about not having more 'family-friendly' dining here in town. Why didn't THEY buy the business and make it what they wanted when the opportunity presented itself? Or an even better, and more easily accomplished goal, of actually dining in the family-friendly restaurants when they were here? Funny that they complain, yet I have seen three restaurants in the space right next to H&G's providing just this style of dining, yet they are all closed now due to lack of patronage of the locals. One could say that they protest over-much, while exacerbating the problem, by not going to these places that they state would be a more pleasurable dining experience for themselves. While I hope that the newest venture takes off and is successful, I won't hold my breath. A couple of final questions. What will happen to the property if it isn't a success? Will there be this big empty place in our new business 'area' yet again, like the Timbers used to be before it was converted to government offices? I'm not trying to be a gloomy Gus, but we've all seen this before. Just saying...

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