September 10, 2010
When Jake Hatch was a WVU senior management major, wondering where life would lead after graduation, he had no idea he’d soon land a job at one of the nation’s grand dame resorts, The Greenbrier, in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va.
Dating to the late 1700s and known for its curative spring water, the hotel has had guests that included Andrew Jackson, Davy Crockett, Dolley Madison and a host of modern day presidents and dignitaries from across the globe. In the mid-90s a newspaper revealed the secret that under the hotel was a “bunker” built during the Cold War to shelter the United States government in the event of nuclear war.
Hatch didn’t know much about the hotel before a guest lecturer came to speak to his hospitality management class at the College of Business and Economics during the spring semester 2010. Now, he’s part of a team that brings customers to the hotel from across the nation.
“I was taking Frank DeMarco’s hospitality management class, and John Klemish of the Greenbrier’s Sporting Club came and spoke at one of our last classes,” Hatch recalled. “I was fascinated by the Greenbrier, and he gave a great speech about being prepared every day of your life because you never know who you’re going to meet and how someone once cut him a break a long time ago.”
Hatch sent Klemish a text message as soon as he left the classroom—and Klemish invited him to the Greenbrier. He got the “grand tour,” played golf and had dinner with Klemish, then met with members of the Greenbrier sales staff and hotel Vice President Jeff Kmiec. The next week he had a formal interview and was hired.
“They all are taking a chance on me, and it’s an honor to be given this opportunity at a place like The Greenbrier and have the chance to prove myself at such a young age,” Hatch commented.
He is responsible for speaking to businesses across the nation to attract them to The Greenbrier as a possible destination for events.
“A large portion of our rooms at The Greenbrier are filled by corporations holding their retreats, conventions, and meetings here,” he said. “It is my job to develop a relationship with the planners for these events, to spark their interest and to invite them for a site visit, which gives us a chance to show off the hotel and have them experience everything first hand.”
Hatch is focusing on law firms and is visiting several in the Washington, D.C., area. “I have set up meetings with eight different law firms and will speak to them about having their firms’ retreats at The Greenbrier,” he said. “It will be my first business trip on my own—so I’m pretty excited.”
His hospitality course gave an overview of the industry that in 2008 provided 1.9 million jobs in the hotel and accommodations area alone, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That is expected to increase by about 5 percent by 2018. According to the web site hospitality management grads “are highly sought by employers in this industry because of their familiarity with technical issues and their ability to learn related skills quickly. Eventually, they may advance to a top management position in a hotel or a corporate management position in a large chain operation.”
That’s exactly what Hatch hopes for. “Touring the resorts and hearing the guest speakers in class really opened my eyes to how exciting the hospitality industry is and the number of jobs that are available, even in this down economy. There is so much room to grow in the industry that it doesn’t really matter where you start,” Hatch said. “It’s just how much ambition and persistence you have to go on to the next level.”
Frank S. DeMarco is director of rooms and guest services at the Waterfront Place Hotel, a 205-room 11-story hotel in Morgantown and adjunct professor at the College of Business and Economics. He said Hatch has what it takes to make his mark in the profession. “Because Jake had initiative and pursued a job opportunity available through a guest speaker from the Greenbrier, he has opened the door for a successful career in hospitality by being employed by one of the finest resorts in the world and the state of West Virginia.”
For Hatch, focusing on hospitality management in his management major has been a good decision. “The people that I am meeting and will continue to meet are priceless,” he commented. “In three months I have met celebrities, famous golfers, CEO’s of companies, and I’ve made a great deal of contacts.”
WVU’s Faculty Senate is reviewing the hospitality management area of focus in the College of Business and Economics. The group must approve it before it becomes an official program. If approved, the program will include a hospitality overview course and courses on hotel management, restaurant management and tourism management.
Hatch thinks it’s a good plan. “I really hope that the hospitality program continues to develop at WVU, eventually into a major,” he commented. “We have some really great teachers in place that are very passionate about the industry. They have the knowledge to spread the word to students in an exciting manner—and they can create opportunities for them.”