EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the last in a series of stories profiling the award winters announced last week by the Yankton Chamber of Commerce.
For one Yankton firm, hospitality means more than treating guests well — it’s also good business.
Slowey Management LLC is a hospitality company with Yankton roots dating back to the original construction and excavator business of the 1950s. Today, the company has branched out to hotel construction and management. Its SRK Development has built and operated eight hotels in South Dakota, Iowa and Nebraska.
And the rapid growth continues, including a $12 million hotel and event center opening in June at Dakota Dunes. By 2020, Slowey Management expects to add $60 million to its portfolio with SRK’s completed projects, those under construction and those in the pre-construction phase. The company employs 200 individuals.
Such success is enough to bring you a good night’s rest.
It also brings you recognition — such as the Yankton Area Chamber of Commerce’s "Family Business of the Year" award. SRK Vice President Tim Rutjes accepted the award on behalf of Steve and YaVonne Slowey. Besides his executive role, Rutjes is the Sloweys’ son-in-law.
"(My thoughts were) that I shouldn’t be the one accepting (the award)," Rutjes told the Press & Dakotan. "Steve and YaVonne Slowey have been contributing to the success of Yankton for decades, far before my time. Unfortunately, they were unable to attend the ceremony. I simply did my part by accepting the award on their behalf."
The Sloweys were unavailable for comment for this story.
SRK’s sister company, Slowey Management, also based in Yankton, manages eight hotels in the tri-state region. Besides its Holiday Inn Express in Yankton, the company owns and operates hotels in Brandon; Omaha and Bellevue, Nebraska; and Carter Lake, Iowa.
Slowey Management incorporates a contemporary style, not only in its buildings but also in its landscape and design. Its properties promote not only clean, comfortable rooms but also amenities that many guests have come to expect.
The company has run both long-term and short-term hotels, including the two types side by side. In that way, the hotels can meet the best needs of guests, ranging from the overnight stay to those who may need accommodations for a week or longer.
Slowey Management operates multiple brands and franchises, Rutjes said.
"We focus mostly on IHG (Intercontinental Hotels Group) brands which include the Holiday Inn Express and Candlewood Suites," he said. "But we’ve also owned and operated Choice and Carlson brands, and we are an approved management company for Marriott."
In June, Slowey Management will open its hotel and event center in Dakota Dunes, Rutjes said. The 92-room Holiday Inn Express will be located near Interstate 29. The event center covers 11,000 square feet and can host a variety of functions.
"The event facility is multi-purpose and will do everything from weddings to chamber events, with a capacity of 500 guests," Rutjes said. "We’ve focused our efforts on creating a beautiful environment, whether inside the facility or out on the huge patio, furnished with extravagant design features and multiple large fireplaces."
The same type of event center could benefit Yankton, Rutjes said.
"In many cases, convention, event or sporting facilities — similar to (the operation of) hotels — economically function as an export business in that they bring in out-of-town dollars in exchange for a product that is sourced locally. Additionally, these visitors from out of town will spend money on other local products and services," he said.
"This process serves the local economy well, and every community leader understands the importance of bringing new dollars to town. But attracting out-of-town dollars should be the result of a strategy and should not be the strategy in and of itself."
This is the point where many communities lose efficiency in using those outside dollars, Rutjes said.
These communities are taking the right path in using out-of-town dollars to expand the economic pie, he said. However, they need to make those dollars more accessible for reinvestment.
"Think of the proverbial snowball getting larger and accumulating more snow as it rolls down the hill," he said. "So, yes, an event center would be good for Yankton, but it needs to be structured in a way that keeps the revenue here in Yankton."
Slowey Management is expanding its own reach outside the Midwest, Rutjes said.
"We’re currently developing hotels in Anthem, Arizona, and Glendale, Arizona, across the street from the Arizona Cardinals stadium," he said. "They’ll both open at the end of next year."
TAKING CARE OF YOURSELF
Slowey Management builds, owns and manages its facilities, Rutjes said. The company works only with its own projects. In that way, the company can remain more particular about the design and building process, along with the construction pace.
In choosing its locations, Slowey Managements looks at the market base, traffic numbers and local regulations. The company measures factors related to current and future supply and demand, including whether a market can survive long-term business cycles.
The company also looks at the business and tax climate of the cities and states where it builds and operates its hotels, Rutjes said. The Rushmore State compares favorably in how it treats investment and business, he added.
"South Dakota is an extremely business-friendly state," he said. "I believe, over time, capital will continue to flow from areas where it is treated poorly to states like South Dakota that reward hard work, appreciate investment and allow you to keep more of what you earn."
Slowey Management has succeeded because of the care which goes into the family operation, Rutjes said. The approach promotes greater involvement in the decision-making process and a sense of ownership, he said.
"In a small business, I’m of the belief that nobody will care more about that business than its owner," he said. "Our success comes from our people running this business as if it was their own. My role is simply to empower them and to provide the resources they need to accomplish the mission."
Through the years, Slowey Management has combined what it does well in terms of both building and management. The company has focused on hospitality and then building upward, using its resources in real estate, finance and construction.
The company has changed greatly since its origins about 60 years ago.
LeRoy Slowey founded Slowey Construction in the 1950s. At its beginning, the company was a small excavation and utility contractor with a number of employees in the low single digits.
Steve Slowey, LeRoy’s oldest son, incorporated Slowey Construction in 1982. The company specialized in highway-heavy excavation and utility work. Steve and his wife, YaVonne, decided to invest heavily in capital equipment and earth-moving machinery.
YaVonne worked as a court reporter to meet the family expenses. Meanwhile, Steve plowed the company’s profits back into the business to pay down equipment and other capital costs. In the meantime, the Sloweys raised two children, Stephen and Michelle.
The strategy paid off, and the business expanded. In 1993, Steve’s brother, Pat Slowey, moved from the job site to the office for full-time estimating and job coordination.
As a lifelong Yankton resident, Steve pursued other ventures in the community. Steve purchased Charlie’s Pizza in 1999 (later selling the business) and developed Holiday Inn Express in 2003. The success of these and other ventures prompted him to create Slowey Management in 2004. The spin-off entity handled everything outside the construction business.
Steve brought Rutjes into the business in 2008. Rutjes graduated from the University of South Dakota with a major in finance. In 2012, Tim and Steve formed the limited liability company, Slowey Management, LLC.
"I saw an area where I could potentially contribute in the new hospitality part of Steve’s organization," Rutjes said.
The move also brought the Slowey family together as Rutjes and his wife, Michelle, moved to Yankton with their children, Rylee and Mikayla.
In 2015 Slowey Management — along with some talented individuals including Steve’s son Stephen Slowey — created a hotel construction company, SRK Development.
Steve Slowey is a lifelong Yankton resident and has actively contributed to the community his whole life. He has served on various boards, including Mount Marty College and Yankton Area Progressive Growth (YAPG). He also has supported many community organizations and initiatives through his various business entities.
The Chamber’s "Family Business of the Year" award reflects Slowey Management’s values, Rutjes said.
"Two important values at the core of what we do are family and community," he said. "So not only is this award important to us, I can’t think of anything better to be recognized for."
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