|By Tom Dochat, The Patriot-News,
Harrisburg, Pa.McClatchy-Tribune Business News
Feb. 1, 2007 - Hasu P. Shah has seen his business grow from the Riverfront Hotel in Shipoke to a riverfront headquarters in Harrisburg.
It took 23 years for that transformation, and the one-time state engineer said Wednesday he was "very thrilled" with the accomplishment.
More than 50 people attended a ceremony to mark the official opening of the headquarters of the Hersha Group of Companies. Five businesses in the group are involved in owning, managing, developing and supplying hotels.
The companies include Hersha Hospitality Trust, a publicly traded real estate investment trust that owns nearly 70 hotels in areas such as New York City, Philadelphia, Boston, Washington, D.C., and central Pennsylvania.
Hersha -- named for Shah's wife -- spent $5.5 million to buy and renovate the 52,000-square-foot headquarters building that once was the Susquehanna Center nursing home at 1909 N. Front St.
About 90 Hersha employees work on the first two floors of the building, which includes corporate dining facilities, an exercise room, a training room and a glass-enclosed atrium. They started moving into the building last August from offices in Fairview Twp. and elsewhere.
Jay H. Shah, CEO of Hersha Hospitality Trust, said he expects the Hersha companies to occupy all four floors of the building in five years or so as they continue to grow. In the meantime, he said, Hersha is seeking tenants for the unused space.
Hasu Shah entered the hotel business in 1984 when he and his wife purchased the Riverfront Inn.
Mayor Stephen R. Reed called the Hersha companies "a quintessential American business success story."
He noted that the Shahs have developed the business into one of the leading hotel-management operations in the Northeast "through hard work and vision and dedication."
Hasu Shah, now chairman of the Hersha trust, credited the growth to many people, "starting with God."
"I've been very lucky in central Pennsylvania to find the right people to work for us to grow it to this level," he said.
Jay Shah, Hasu's son, said the trust has an enterprise value of $1.2 billion. The other Hersha companies would add more than $100 million, he said.
"We're very excited to be part of this community," Jay Shah said, noting that his parents were always attracted to the Harrisburg region. "The values of the people in this area make just a wonderful environment to raise a family and conduct a business, whether it be a small, entrepreneurial venture or a national-scale enterprise," he said.
To help finance its move into the new headquarters, Hersha received $1.5 million Wednesday from the Governor's Action Team. Dan Wheeler, director of the action team, said, "It's a good deal for us and a good deal for Harrisburg."
"It's a fabulous rehab of an existing building that was just sitting here," Wheeler said. "Great jobs, high-paying jobs, exactly the kind of deal we're looking for in Pennsylvania."
The building had been vacated in late 2002 when the 110-bed Susquehanna Center closed.
The headquarters is at Front and Muench streets. The first block of Muench Street has been renamed Hersha Drive to "reflect the new company's presence," Reed said.
To see more of The Patriot-News, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.patriot-news.com.
Copyright (c) 2007, The Patriot-News, Harrisburg, Pa.
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Business News. For reprints, email firstname.lastname@example.org, call 800-374-7985 or 847-635-6550, send a fax to 847-635-6968, or write to The Permissions Group Inc., 1247 Milwaukee Ave., Suite 303, Glenview, IL 60025, USA.