STEUBENVILLE - Construction began Tuesday on the 80-room, $6 million-plus Microtel Inn & Suites in Steubenville, a project owner Bill Williams sees as a community catalyst.
Williams, a Charleston, W.Va., native, said the four-story structure should be done by late summer.
"I'm really excited about it," he said. "I think as you look at the Rust Belt region, when you look at all of the demolition and the decline in population growth, the challenges the Rust Belt has had, it's really meant there are older properties along that region, from Pittsburgh on down. It's brought about an opportunity for new growth, new development, and I think it can really be the start of some good infrastructure for other companies to come and grow."
The hotel will be located "on the bluff" where All American Lanes once stood.
Williams said the property will feature one- and two-bedrooms and suites and a state-of-the-art fitness center. There will be a "really nice deck with a grill area," as well as a patio extending off the breakfast area, he said.
"It's my goal to create the best customer experience possible, and we're going to really invest into creating great value for our customers," he said.
Williams considers it a smart investment, given Franciscan University of Steubenville's "solid growth plans," as well as the shale oil and gas development. He said Jefferson County "will be in the epicenter of the supply chain of opportunity ... in a great position, logistically, to really handle the supply activity."
"I see that location, that area, as the gateway to the Utica shale," Williams said. "Coming from U.S. Route 22, which is Pittsburgh and the Marcellus shale region, you cross over into Ohio and the Utica shale. Our hotel is going to be up there on the bluff. It will be a very nice property."
Williams opened a Microtel in Waynesburg, Pa., in January 2010.
Before deciding on Steubenville for his second hotel property, he said he also looked at New Philadelphia and Youngstown.
"I was really looking to take advantage of the growth opportunities that (shale development) brings," he said. "There'd been negative growth, population declines, and things of that nature hadn't been needed. But now, there's a need for quality lodging to handle the growth that's coming."
Williams said he researched options for eight months before making his site selection.
"I think this will be the start of really positive growth," he said."I think the ... logistics growth is going to be where we are."
Microtel is part of the Wyndham Hotel Group, and Williams said the executive in charge of franchising at Wyndham, Weirton native Chris Burdette, had "made me aware of Steubenville."
Even more impactful were local developer Dominic Teramana and Progress Alliance's Kim Cline, who Williams said "searched me down."
"She called Dominic when he was down in Florida, tracked him down and got us together," he said. "I would say she's the one who made this happen in terms of connection. She has a ... great passion to be involved in the positive things that are happening in Steubenville. That's why I'm building in Steubenville before I build in New Philadelphia or Youngstown.
"It's going to be a great project for Steubenville," he added. "It's going to be wonderful."