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For Drury Southwest, light jets prove an ideal business partner
When hotel developers Drury Southwest saw the historic Board of Education building in Cleveland, Ohio would soon be on the market, they jumped at the chance to restore the 1930s building and convert it to a unique hotel property.
They quickly discovered they weren’t the only ones eyeing the property, on sale through a last-minute auction. Preparing for a competitive acquisition usually takes months of preparation, but with only three weeks to spare, the clock was ticking. If Drury Southwest wanted a chance to purchase the building, they would have to act soon.
Company leaders, engineers and architects based in the company’s main offices in Cape Girardeau, Missouri would first need to scope out the site in downtown Cleveland. For Drury Southwest President Dennis Vollink and his team, however, the trip would not be a challenging race for time filled with commercial airport lines and connecting flights. With the company’s Citation® M2® jet, travel time to Cleveland was cut by more than half.
By mid-morning, Vollink and his leadership team were in Cleveland. Architects and engineers spent the afternoon inspecting the property to ensure they would be able to secure the proper permits needed to take on a large restoration project. After returning to Cape Girardeau later in the day, they met with the with the company’s accountants and finance teams to discuss their options and opportunities. They would make the back-and-forth trip multiple times during a three-week span. It ultimately allowed Drury Southwest to submit a confident bid on the landmark building.
“We were able to mobilize our forces so quickly with our team, which we could not have done if we were using commercial travel, because we wouldn’t have had the time,” Vollink said.
“Timing is critical”
Today, the Drury Plaza Hotel Cleveland Downtown is one of the city’s most popular, and just one example of how the company remains competitive in an industry that has been experiencing steady growth. The family-owned company began building Drury-branded hotels in 1973 and today their properties can be found in 21 states in the U.S.
As a vertically integrated company, Drury Southwest purchases land and buildings for hotel use, and also builds and designs each property. The 250-employee company is comprised of in-house architects, interior designers and engineers who oversee each hotel development project, from new builds to historic renovations.
When Vollink joined the company he took on a role as a pilot and an engineer within the company’s fledgling flight operations department. As the concept of business aviation was emerging in the 1980s, Drury Southwest leaders sought out a way to incorporate it into real estate development. During this time they operated a variety of aircraft, including a CitationJet®. It quickly set them apart from the competition.
With locations in 21 states, Drury Southwest makes use of its Citation M2 almost daily. The company logs approximately 300 hours per year in the aircraft.
“In real estate, timing is critical," Vollink said. “You have to be able to get a group of people to a location very quickly. And having your own aircraft works very well so you can decide whether a site is worth pursuing or not pursuing. ”
The company now regularly operates the Citation M2, which makes direct travel to and from Drury Southwest headquarters in Southeast Missouri, easily accessible. From Cape Girardeau Regional Airport, Vollink and his team can travel nonstop to other regional airports in smaller cities like Louisville, Kentucky.
“A lot of the locations we travel to aren’t just the major metropolitan areas; they’re in places that require multiple flights with the commercial airlines. It would still take us a full day from the time when we travel from our offices, go to the airport and make multiple flight connections. Being able to fly in the corporate airplane takes that day’s worth of travel down to two hours of travel for multiple people.
”Dennis Vollink, President, Drury Southwest
The step up to the M2 allowed Vollink and the company’s three pilots to take advantage of the aircraft’s next-gen technology and class-leading performance.
“We like the extra speed the Citation M2 offers. Also, the aircraft performs very well at higher altitudes.”
As early adopters of business aviation, Bob Drury, Vollink and the leaders at Drury Southwest have witnessed firsthand how an airplane can make the difference between a successful deal and a missed opportunity. They count aviation as a valuable business tool that, more than 20 years later, is providing the company with a strategic advantage.
“We can come into a project and bring all of our resources in one trip. The airplane is a key element when it comes to helping us mobilize those resources.”