Study says Benson hotel could work

pseligson@newsobserver.comAugust 5, 2013 

Benson leaders are looking for a developer to build a hotel.

A feasibility study completed in July concluded that Benson has enough potential business for a second hotel.

The study recommends a limited-service hotel that’s part of a recognizable chain. The 80-90 rooms should go for $80-90 per night, it adds.

Now Benson officials are trying to find an interested developer, said Joe Stallings, the town’s economic-development coordinator.

“We’ve been sending out to potential hotel developers,” he said. “We’re trying to find someone to partner with to bring this project into fruition.”

Stallings said town leaders had previously identified hotels as a potential growth area in the Benson market, prompting them to commission the study.

“And the study goes to prove it – or at least provides some sort of credibility to that assumption,” he said.

According to the study, almost 100,000 people pass by Benson each day via the two interstates. Stallings said the town hopes to capture some of that traffic with the hotel.

“The amount of people who travel up and down I-95 and I-40 that are going places – from home to vacationing or whatever – might be able to be captured,” he said. “It plays into our plans on trying to continue to grow the Benson market and trying to provide those services that people are wanting.”

Stallings said Benson does not yet have a timeline for building a hotel; right now, the town is focused on attracting a developer.

Benson has a Days Inn. But according to the study, many people pass it by, opting to stay in Smithfield and Dunn – even if they have business in Benson. The study said a new hotel might be able to capture those travelers.

Benson would offer a financial incentive to the developer. In the first year, the town will refund half of the property taxes. In the second year, the refund will fall to 40 percent. It will continue to fall 10 percentage points each year, expiring after five years. To qualify, the developer would have to build a hotel of at least 50 rooms and spend at least $2.5 million on the property.

Hotel studies typically costs $4,000 to $6,000. The economic-development branch of ElectriCities paid for Benson’s study.

ElectriCities, which serves North Carolina’s public power towns, funds these studies for members upon request, said Rebecca Agner, manager of strategic communications.

“It is one of our standard offerings, and mostly it’s to see if the community can support a hotel,” she said.

Having such data is important for towns to be able to attract developers, especially large chains, Agner said.

“Retailers have a very scientific approach,” she said. “They use numbers, and you have to be able to prove demographics and traffic counts and statistics about the area before a retailer will consider the area.”

Agner said hotels play an important role in a community.

“(Their role) is to promote tourism, to encourage more use of the local restaurants and local shopping, and to, of course, give people a place to stay and bring visitors into town,” she said.

Donna Bailey-Taylor, director of the Johnston County Visitors Bureau, said the tourism industry generates $191 million annually in the county.

“So it’s quite a big impact to all areas of the community,” she said. “Whether it’s hotels, restaurants, attractions, all that money is figured in there.”

Seligson: 919-836-5768

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