|By Jane Brissett, Duluth News-Tribune, Minn.|
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Oct. 13, 2004 - Landscaping isn't complete, the pool's still under construction and the elevator doesn't work yet, but the Country Inn & Suites North near Duluth International Airport had a full house last Friday.
It was the first night the 82-room hotel in Duluth, Minn., was open, and each room that was ready was filled with walk-in customers.
Country Inn & Suites is the newest addition to the Duluth area's fleet of hotels; its pool and elevator will be in operation by the end of the month.
In addition to spanking-new rooms and suites, the $6 million hotel offers a fitness center, business center, pool area with a large water slide, a meeting room and is primarily masonry construction to help soundproof the building.
Room rates range from $69 to $189 per night, according to manager Janet Broin. The hotel employs about 30 people.
Hospitality Investors Hermantown LLC built the hotel, its 12th lodging place. The partnership includes Dave Goldberg and Cheryl Batnich Goldberg of Duluth, Michael Ives of Grand Rapids, Richard Hayman of Elk River and Willard Ogren of Iron River, Wis.
Their other properties are located throughout Michigan, Iowa, Wisconsin and Minnesota. One of them is the Proctor AmericInn, built in 1996.
The Country Inn expects to cater to business and commercial traffic, although leisure travelers will be an important market, too, Dave Goldberg said.
The partners didn't know it when they bought the property, but Gander Mountain plans to build a large store almost next door on Haines Road. Site work there has begun, and construction contractors will be among the hotel's guests in coming months, Broin said. Customers at the store also are expected to be a source of guests when construction is complete.
Tourism is a cornerstone of the region's economy, and the industry couldn't exist without hotels. But with the addition of more rooms, everyone will have to work harder to keep them filled, said Terry Mattson, executive director of the Duluth Convention and Visitors Bureau.
While the hotel will produce more tax revenue and jobs, Mattson pointed out, "everybody gets a little nervous the more you add rooms."
Part of the Country Inn & Suites plan is to have an upscale, casual restaurant and lounge on the property. Goldberg said Hospitality Partners is negotiating with a local restaurant and a national chain, but declined to name them. Construction is expected to begin in May 2005.
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