|By Ed Waters Jr., The Frederick
News-Post, Md.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Apr. 20, 2010--Michael Henningsen planned to be a computer programmer for IBM.
A part-time job at a Holiday Inn in New York in 1982, however, led to a career of more than 25 years in hospitality.
For his outstanding leadership, not only in the industry, but the community, Henningsen received the State Leadership Award for Maryland from the National Hotel & Lodging Association.
Director of Hotel Operations for the Plamondon Hospitality Partners, Henningsen believes in a hands-on approach to his position, personally checking the six hotels owned by the company in Frederick and Hagerstown. Plamondon Hospitality recently took over management of the Hampton Inn on Opossumtown Pike.
Active in the Tourism Council of Frederick County, Weinberg Center for the Performing Arts and the American Red Cross, Henningsen said it is a part of being a responsible business to be involved in one's community.
"Tourism is a natural fit," Hennigsen said in the lobby of the newly renovated Residence Inn on Westview Drive. A booster for Frederick County and its many historic and cultural attractions, he was named an Ambassador of the Year by the Tourism Council in 2003. He saw the Weinberg Center as a major part of the community's ambiance and vibrancy and joined its board of directors.
The Red Cross connection came about when the local chapter asked the Plamondons if it could use the hotels for people left homeless by fire or other disaster.
"We became their home," he said of the victims.
The move so impressed insurance companies used by those in need that business travelers from those firms began using the hotels when possible. Henningsen serves on the Red Cross board of directors.
The local market is a strong one for hotels, Henningsen said, with its geographic location close to many historic and cultural sites, as well as for business and government travelers to Fort Detrick or bioscience firms or Bechtel, which is just a short distance from the cluster of three Plamondon hotels on Westside Drive.
"We are lucky to be in this market right now," he said.
People tend to stay in hotels where the name is known for quality and consistency, Henningsen said, and the Marriott name is one that stands out. The Hampton Inn will see some upgrades, but no name change.
The Residence Inn, though only seven years old, went through a major renovation from top to bottom with new room decor and amenities and a new lobby area. Other Plamondon hotels are consistently kept up-to-date in design and amenities.
Guests range from those staying only a night or two on business to vacationers for a week to long-term (a month or more) for people relocating to the area and staying in the hotel as they search for a house.
"We get people from around the world staying here," he said. "It is an exciting business."
Henningsen had moved up in management at the Holiday Inn in New York when he joined Marriott Corp. "In a company like Marriott, you had to move to move up," Henningsen said.
He and his wife and two children moved from New York to Virginia to Maryland to New York and back to Maryland. In 1994 he went to work at a Marriott Courtyard Hotel in Rockville, where his wife had grown up. They were expecting their third child and living in Frederick .
"In 1996, the Plamondons built their first hotel, a Marriott Fairfield Inn. I had worked as a Marriott representative with them. They enticed me to come to work for them. My wife was happy as I was no longer a commuter."
In 1999, Henningsen was named director of hotel operations and general manager of the Marriott Courtyard and Fairfield Inn and, in 2002, opened the Residence Inn. In 2006, he opened the Marriott SpringHill Suites in Hagerstown and joined the corporate office as director of hotel operations.
"There is a national standard, a state standard and a Plamondon standard," Henningsen said. "We bring that to all of our hotels, that personalized service to our guest and being part of the community."
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