Benjamin West Lands Work with Chains, Opens Locations in D.C., Las Vegas, N.Y., Minneapolis

January 17, 2003

New York - Despite a soft market, hospitality FF&E firm Benjamin West has won contracts to perform renovations for two hotel chains and opened four new offices since August. The company set up full-scale offices, complete with project managers in Washington and Las Vegas, and it established smaller-scale sales-only locations in Minneapolis and New York in mid-November. The offices support a flurry of new work for the Boulder, Colorado-based firm.

In September Benjamin West landed renovation work for 48 Residence Inns, owned by Apple Hospitality. In August the firm forged an agreement with a private owner to renovate 50 of its Fairfield Inns.

''You catch fish with the size of the hook you throw out there,'' said Bill McBain, Benjamin West founding partner. ''We like chains and portfolios these days.''

Meanwhile, the company has won contracts for work on smaller projects and individual hotels, including a full-service Hilton in Orlando, Fla., a pair of Residence Inns in Colorado and Maryland, and a handful of Sheratons, including a full-service Sheraton in Madison, Wis., and another on the marina in Ventura, Calif.

''We're expanding greatly in a relatively soft market,'' said Alan Benjamin, principal of Benjamin West.

Benjamin said the company was doing about 70 percent renovation work. ''We have a trickle of new work,'' he said. ''I expect in 2003, we will do 80 percent renovation and in 2004 we expect new work to begin increasing.''

The slew of renovations is characteristic of the hotel sector overall. ''Someone buys a hotel with a vision and they want to make it better,'' Benjamin said. ''Long term, well capitalized owners are taking this time to renovate because occupancy is down. Not only do they want to have a better property to fight for every dollar of business today because it's so competitive, but they also want to be there when the economy turns. The whole hospitality business is timing. There are entry, management and exit strategies.

''The one thing that has come back to bite some people is that they planned to sell the hotel but then Sept. 11 happened and they've had to wait another year.'' F&FI

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