Williams Investment Company Rides I-75 to Prosperity

Barbara Kieker

Wednesday, October 10th, 2012

In the early 1960s, John L. Williams had the foresight to realize that the construction of Interstate 75 would change the way people traveled between the northern and southern United States.  He set about building a business based in southern Georgia to take advantage of that travel.  Today, Williams Investment Company operates 14 hotels, several restaurants, RV parks, apartments, a gasoline distributorship and convenience stores, the King Frog, a billboard company and other commercial, industrial and residential development projects.

"The majority of our businesses are on I-75," said Rick Williams, John L's son.  "My father is still very active in the business and we are a family operation.  My brothers Mike and Steve, my brother-in-law Paul McNeal and I are the nucleus of the operations team.  And our spouses and some of the kids are all involved in the business also."

The company operates several branded hotel properties including Holiday Inn Hotel & Conference Center, Holiday Inn Express & Suites, Comfort Suites, Comfort Inn & Suites, Country Inn & Suites, four Days Inns, three Super 8s, and a Ramada Limited. Its properties are located along I-75 in Adel, Tifton and Valdosta.

Dealing With the Uncertainty of an Election Year
This year has been a mixed bag for Williams Hotel Group, the hotel operating unit within Williams Investment Company.  Results have varied by hotel brand and by location.

"We have the uncertainty of an election year and we hope we're on the tail end of a four-year down-cycle.  It appears the corporate market is able to travel but most families have less spendable income and are traveling less," Rick said.  

"Our upper tier brands like Holiday Inns and Comfort Suites that cater to business travelers are doing well.  Our mid-market brands like Days Inn and Super 8 are not doing quite as well, but we are up over last year."

According to Rick, Williams Investment Company is continuing to invest in its properties, train its staff members and promote its hotels.  Their hope is that the national economy will slowly gain momentum.

"We're optimistic about the future and our local communities like Valdosta have a lot going for them that complements our business – attractions like Wild Adventures, regional medical facilities, VSU, Moody AFB and shopping.  But things in the Midwest and along the I-75 corridor affect us because they affect vacation travel to places in Florida so we need the national economy to improve."

While hopeful, Rick believes it will be a slow climb out of the down economy.  And none of the Williams hotel properties are seeing occupancy rates similar to those in 2007 and early 2008.  "We don't expect to touch those kinds of numbers for a few years," Rick said.  

Investing in Valdosta
In late 2011, Williams Investment Company acquired the former King of the Road in Valdosta. After several months of remodeling, the property recently reopened as two hotels – a Days Inn and a Super 8. Additionally, the company converted a former Days Inn in north Valdosta to a Howard Johnson.  

"We have eight hotels in the Valdosta area and we've invested heavily in them over the past 12 months," Rick said.  "We believe in investing in our community and we're very involved in civic and other activities."

The Williams family is from Adel. Rick and many of the family members graduated from VSU and now live in Valdosta.  

"Valdosta is home to us.  I think the dynamics in our community are excellent. And our city and county leaders are doing a good job. We wouldn't want to live anywhere else," Rick said.

More information on the Williams Investment Company is available at www.williamshotelgroup.com.

About Barbara Kieker

Barbara Kieker is a freelance writer who writes on business-related topics for a number of web-based properties. She also provides communications services to Fortune 500 corporations, small businesses and nonprofit organizations.