Hampton Inn Somerset puts community on the map for new technology
EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the final installment in a four-part series that highlights SPEDA’s 2021 mini-grant recipients.
With the majority of the country’s hotel rooms empty in early 2020 because of a global pandemic, Tim Kelly had his eyes open for something new.
The Hampton Inn Somerset manager is constantly looking for the next best amenity that will bring visitors to Somerset and drive occupancy to the hotel. The downtime that came with the COVID-19 pandemic allowed Kelly to put this in focus — when business demand increased to normal levels and he started welcoming more guests, he wanted them to see something no one else in Somerset could provide.
That’s when electric car charging stations came into view.
“When I go to bigger markets, I see these more and more,” Kelly said. “And I noticed there’s not one in Somerset.”
But there are electric cars in Somerset — in fact, he’d been asked a few times by guests if there was a station nearby. This technology is only going to become more visible, Kelly thought, and his hotel could capitalize.
All he needed next was the incentive. And the availability of a mini-grant from the Somerset-Pulaski Economic Development Authority (SPEDA) gave him that extra push.
“At the time, we were in the midst of COVID, budgeting and thinking technology was on the back burner,” Kelly said. “We needed the incentive. The SPEDA mini-grant program was a great partnership that gave us partial funding to adopt new technology. The timing was excellent to bring this on board.”
So he applied. And soon, he would be learning more than he ever thought he’d know about electric car charging stations.
Hampton Inn guests will now see one of these stations in the hotel’s parking lot. It primarily serves Tesla cars but is fitted with an adapter for many other brands. It is designed for the overnight guest — it takes a few hours to completely power up an electric car with the station’s 40-amp charge.
Use of the station is free if you’re staying at the Hampton Inn, which is an important part of Kelly’s customer service philosophy — giving guests a return on their investment. And it’s yet another forward-thinking, technologically advanced feature of the hotel, he said.
“It all ties into our features and amenities,” Kelly said. “Now you can do everything from your phone, from making your reservation to checking in and getting into your room with a digital key. The charging station continues on what’s next — what technology is out there, how do we make it work and make it work for our customers. It’s just another piece to that great puzzle.”
Kelly said he is fortunate to be encouraged by his parent company, Thoroughbred Hospitality Group (THG), to explore new ideas and ways to continuously improve. The Hampton Inn Somerset charging station is a first for the company — THG’s Hampton Inn at Brannon Crossing, a new hotel currently under construction in Nicholasville, will have multiple stations when it opens in the fall of 2022.
“We’re blessed to be part of Thoroughbred, a newer company that brings a fresh look to hospitality,” Kelly said. “We have to rethink what younger generations want and what new infrastructure is available. Thoroughbred brings new ideas and new ways of doing things that streamlines our processes, provides a cleaner and safer environment for our employees and guests with COVID protocols, and looks to the next big thing for our customers.”
Kelly said he feels equally fortunate to have the mini-grant opportunity from SPEDA. It not only provided $2,500 for the station and an additional $2,500 in marketing and advertising services, but it also provided an important connection: Kelly met Epperson Engineering owners Cody and Justin Epperson at the mini-grant award ceremony. They connected Kelly to their family’s business, Epperson Electric, which later served as the licensed electrical contractor on the project.
“I have to give a big thank you to SPEDA. I think we still would have done this but would have been a long time down the road,” Kelly said. “The mini-grant program gave us the push we needed to make it happen sooner rather than later. Keeping our eyes open for these opportunities puts us on the map with a new audience. We appreciate SPEDA’s vision for making businesses like ours more competitive in the marketplace.”