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The Northwest Georgia Trade and Convention Center Signs Letter of Understanding with John Q. Hammons
 to Develop $50 million 220-240 room Embassy Suites Hotel
 
By Erin Fuchs, Chattanooga Times/Free Press, Tenn.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News

Jun. 28, 2007 - DALTON, Ga. -- Trade Center Executive Director Rick Tanner said he has been striving to bring a hotel to the city's meeting facility for more than three years.

"When I got here three and a half years ago, it was clear that you can't have a convention center without a hotel," he said.

His objective is finally coming to fruition.

The Northwest Georgia Trade and Convention Center Authority presented at its board meeting Wednesday an initial agreement on the long-awaited deal for a hotel attached to its facility.

"I have never worked so long or hard on any project," Mr. Tanner said.

The Trade Center and John Q. Hammons Hotels & Resorts, one of the nation's largest hotel developers, signed a letter of understanding for the construction of a 200- to 240-room Embassy Suites Hotel.

The agreement allows 90 days to complete the official development plan. During this time, the Trade Center has agreed not to consult with other developers.

"What this does from the developer's standpoint is put them in a situation where they can spend money on a project... (and) do detailed architectural renderings," said Charlie Bethel, chairman of the Trade Center Authority Board.

The new Embassy Suites likely will open in summer 2009, Mr. Bethel said.

Mr. Hammons' firm was chosen as the developer in part because he didn't require the Trade Center to pay for the hotel's construction.

"John Q. Hammons didn't ask for a nickel," Mr. Tanner said. "If he feels like it's going to be a successful, long-term hotel, then he's willing to build it."

Several factors influenced Mr. Hammons' decision to build in Dalton.

He often chooses locations near interstates and colleges, according to J.C. Ebach, site locator for the company.

"I-75 is an excellent, busy interstate," Mr. Ebach said.

Still, Dalton is smaller than most of the communities where Mr. Hammons builds, Mr. Ebach said.

"It is small in population," Mr. Ebach said. "But when you think of it from an industrial point of view, it really does have a very, very major market clout in the carpet industry."

He added, "When people come to buy furnishings for their home ... they like to make a nice trip out of it and stay in a nice facility and relax and so forth."

Of course, the hotel also will get business from the Trade Center, and vice versa.

This new business from out-of-town groups staying at the Embassy Suites will limit some of the use of the Trade Center for local groups, Mr. Tanner said.

A provision in the agreement prohibits the Trade Center from booking local groups more than 14 months in advance.

"We're not going to have the availability that we used to," Mr. Tanner said.

This decreased availability hasn't dampened local leaders' enthusiasm for the hotel.

"This is going to attract an awful lot more folks than we've had in the past," City Councilman Terry Christie said. "Good gracious alive, this is going to be wonderful."

E-mail Erin Fuchs at efuchs@timesfreepress.com

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Copyright (c) 2007, Chattanooga Times/Free Press, Tenn.

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