|By John Nolan, Dayton Daily News,
OhioMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
January 24, 2010 --DAYTON -- These are the final days for the Dayton Airport Hotel, an operation that Dayton International Airport's management considers to be a money-loser and no longer wants.
Employees are looking for new jobs, with the hotel scheduled to be padlocked on Jan. 31 as city officials have directed. The undistinguished, 40-year-old building -- except for a PSA Airlines training center that is part of the structure -- likely is to be demolished in the upcoming months to make way for an economy-rate parking lot.
A sheet on an easel in the lobby spells out the terse details: The last night that guests can eat dinner and spend the night will be Thursday, Jan. 28, with the official close of business at noon Friday. Guests who have parked cars in the hotel's lot for up to 14-day stays must retrieve them no later than Sunday, Jan. 31.
General manager Larry Wheeler and other managers are trying to help the 35-member staff find new jobs. They work for CWB Property Management Inc., a contractor that runs the hotel for the city. Emotions are beginning to show, as employees who regard their colleagues as family realize the end of that relationship is near.
"This is hard," said Wheeler, whose 30 years in the hotel business have never included shutting one down.
They held a job fair this month, brought in government employment officials for information, and offered coaching on how to prepare resumes.
Jackie Hemsel, the hotel's dining room and bar manager, couldn't recall ever having prepared a resume. She has worked 33 years at the hotel, as its longest-serving employee, without missing a single day of work for illness. She is looking for work.
"I want to do something ... anywhere I can meet people," Hemsel said. "I've given the hotel everything I had."
Julie Lisle, director of marketing, is finding it hard to tell callers that the hotel has no future.
"You know these people, you say hi to them, they've stayed here for years," Lisle said.
Since 2001, Lisle has helped arrange the hotel's annual events, including the Trans Am National car show and the Scottish Terrier Club of Greater Dayton show.
The hotel's management has had to find other regional locations for those events. When the city originally announced in 2008 that the hotel would shut down in January 2009, management had to arrange for the August 2009 Trans Am show to be located. That cost the Dayton Airport Hotel about $100,000, revenue that could have helped it survive, Wheeler said.
Iftikhar Ahmad, Dayton's director of aviation, said the decision to close the hotel was a business assessment. The hotel's revenue had been declining over time, customers wanted an economy parking lot with credit-card payment capability, and a consultant's report showed that a parking lot could generate more revenue than the hotel, Ahmad said.
A private developer is to construct a new hotel at the airport, beginning later this year, and bear the construction expense, Ahmad said.
Contact this reporter at (937) 225-2242 or jnolan@DaytonDailyNews.com.
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