Business

Gozinsky: Crowne Plaza purchase illustrates beneficial relationship between out-of-state, local businesses

With an unusual cylindrical shape that is easy to see from I-81, the Crowne Plaza Hotel is easily recognizable to most Syracuse residents. A short walk from the Oncenter, the Syracuse Stage / SU Drama Complex and Phoebe’s Restaurant & Coffee Lounge, the downtown staple is representative of the fact that Syracuse businesses should not be neglected — regardless of whether it’s local or out-of-state investors who are doing the preserving and protecting.

After selling off its senior living properties for more than $200 million and beginning to acquire hotels, privately held Florida-based real estate company TJM Properties recently purchased the 276-room Crowne Plaza hotel on East Genesee Street. Syracuse.com reported the purchase was worth $15 million, though Cem Erenler, vice president of hotel operations and business development for TJM’s three northeastern hotels, said that it is against TJM company policy to disclose such details.

Regardless of the Crowne Plaza property’s price, TJM’s investment has the potential to breathe new life into the hotel and thereby attract more people to the Syracuse area to bolster existing local businesses. While the prospect of buyers with no real, personal ties to the city could make some residents nervous, business opportunities like this one will revitalize Syracuse’s economy by creating jobs and showcasing the city. So instead of shunning “big business” outsiders, residents should recognize that out-of-state and local businesses can coexist and contribute equally to a city economy.

The discontent with “big business,” such as a company like TJM that acquires and updates hotels, is understandable. City residents may fear that corporations will move into the area to overshadow and derail Syracuse businesses. But it is important to understand that the work of outside sources, like that of TJM preserving the Crowne Plaza, is a crucial stepping stone on the path to economic prosperity for other Syracuse-based businesses. Not only will these ventures benefit buyers of local properties such as TJM, but Syracuse’s economy will improve overall if these business opportunities bring about reinvestment.

Anne Sweeney, a public relations consultant who is the spokeswoman for the Crowne Plaza purchase, cited the influx of potential customers from central and upstate New York’s tech startups, hospitals, schools and family-oriented activities, including Syracuse University sporting events, as reasons for TJM purchasing the Crowne Plaza property. If nothing else, TJM is betting on Syracuse’s economic prosperity and is an example of an outside company that has not come to tear the city down — it’s trying to build it up.

What’s more is that if a business like the Crowne Plaza can succeed even more fruitfully in Syracuse, outside investors will take notice of the prosperous nature of the city. In turn, whether it is another hotel, a restaurant, a retail store or other type of company, more entrepreneurs will be inclined to base their own businesses out of Syracuse — ultimately creating more local jobs and helping turn the city’s economic situation around. In the face of concentrated economic depression, sometimes it takes a “big business” outsider to help local businesses thrive.

Still, apart from the fear of out-of-state companies invading the local economy, another concern could be the ups and downs that a particular buyer has faced in acquiring new properties. In the case of TJM, the company purchased the Atlantic Club Casino Hotel in 2013 with intentions of reselling it, but the Endeavor Property Group deal fell through in January. The culpability was more on Endeavor’s side than TJM’s, as Endeavor was not able to find the funds to accommodate its plans to refurbish the hotel with a water park, restaurants, shops and event and conference facilities, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.

This appears to be an isolated incident as the company has had a largely positive track record so far. TJM paid a reported $15 million last year for the Radisson Philadelphia Northeast, which has been garnering mostly 4- and 5- star reviews over the past year. The year prior, TJM acquired Atlantic City’s Claridge Hotel from Caesars Resorts and re-opened the hotel to solid customer acclaim.  And beyond the subjective success of customer satisfaction, the Claridge was also among the newly opened businesses that helped stimulate Atlantic City’s struggling economy  — one that faced a steep loss of 8,000 jobs in 2014, according to CBS News, due to the closure of 12 of the city’s lucrative casinos.

Because TJM was able to reopen the Claridge as a non-casino hotel, it enabled the business to sufficiently adapt to and bounce back from the demands of the Atlantic City economy. Syracuse, which has faced its own major industry declines, could very well see the same growth of corporate conferences, entertainment events and subsequent new business opportunities with the new management of the Crowne Plaza.

And while it would be nice to see locals owning the large businesses that draw in those with disposable income and that employ members of the Syracuse workforce, those concerned about Syracuse’s economic growth should acknowledge that any investor who takes interest in the city should be welcomed.

In fact, since the end result will be the same with both local and non-local investors, it’s only fair that Syracuse gives out-of-state buyers a chance. It may ultimately be those very outsiders that pose as the helping hand needed to pull Syracuse out of its current economic slump.

Sam Gozinsky is a sophomore finance and public relations dual major. His column appears biweekly. He can be reached at slgozins@syr.edu and followed on Twitter @SamGozinsky.

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