This story was originally published in the December 2012/ January 2013 issue of Chattanooga Magazine.
In 1991, Hiren Desai had just graduated from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga with a bachelor’s degree in economics and business administration when he was given an opportunity to work as a general manager of a Chattanooga hotel. Twenty years later, he is Owner and CEO of a multi-million dollar hotel management and development firm with 18 hotels in the Southeast. Formed in 2000 by Desai and two other partners, Harshad Naik and Harshad Shaw, 3H Group Hotels has grown into one of the premier hotel management and development companies in the industry and was named one of the Top 100 Management Companies and Top 100 Owners and Developers by Business Magazine in 2012. These awards are just two of dozens the company has received over the last decade, including the coveted Horizon Award from Marriott in 2011, which recognizes the “best of the best” in companies that partner with Marriott.
“Who would have thought 20 years ago that we would be sitting here today with 18 hotels, a corporate staff of 15 and more than 500 employees across five states?” asks Desai, who fondly calls Chattanooga his “adopted home”—far from the boarding school he attended in England or his family’s home in Zambia. “I attribute our success to the family culture we have created among our associates, partners, investors, corporate staff and the staff who run our hotels. Whether I make a good decision or a bad decision, they all believe in the company. It is a great family.”
In a time of economic uncertainty, 3H Group Hotels has had its busiest year yet, developing three new hotels in Chattanooga and taking over management of a hotel in Nashville. The company’s new Chattanooga hotels include SpringHill Suites by Marriott, a downtown riverfront hotel that opened in May 2012, and two hotels located near Hamilton Place Mall that will open by the end of 2012: Town Place Suites by Marriott and Four Points by Sheraton (reconstruction of the former Clarion Inn). 3H Group supports more than 275 jobs among its nine Chattanooga hotels, with 100 of these jobs created in 2012.
Beyond the impressive growth and awards—which are too many to name—3H Group Hotels has also set itself apart with a commitment to implementing “green-friendly” methods of developing and operating hotels. In October 2012, SpringHill Suites became the first riverfront hotel property in Chattanooga to obtain LEED Silver Certification, a rating system that recognizes environmentally conscious building practices and operations.
“Obtaining LEED Silver Certification is a wonderful achievement and reflects our commitment to the environment,” says Jake Honegger, General Manager of SpringHill Suites. “Guests appreciate the sustainable practices the hotel has implemented. 3H Group Hotels’ passion and efforts to be an environmental leader in Chattanooga is shown by achieving this great recognition.”
SpringHill Suites incorporates green practices implemented throughout all 3H Group hotels, such as, recycling plastics and using environmentally friendly laundry detergent. 3H Group’s hotels also participate in the Global Soap Project, a soap recycling program that reprocesses discarded soap from hotels and distributes it to vulnerable populations throughout the world. In addition, a majority of the company’s Chattanooga hotels are part of the Chattanooga Green Lodging Certification Program, and its Florida properties are “green-certified” by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.
3H Group is also leading the way in supporting the use of electric vehicles. In September 2011, the Residence Inn by Marriott and Conference Center and Staybridge Suites Downtown each added two Level 2 Blink EV Charging Stations, which are complimentary for use by hotel guests. Implemented by ECOtality, a leader in electric transportation, the EV Stations are four of 14,000 Level 2 Stations located in 18 cities across the U.S.
For Desai and his employees, giving back to the community is part of the family culture that has kept many employees with the company since its inception.
“I am thankful to work at a caring company with a great group of people who respect and care for their employees, as well as the community they are in,” says Rocky Moses, Chief Engineer, Residence Inn by Marriott Chattanooga, who has worked for 3H Group for 11 years.
One of 3H Group’s largest community outreach efforts is with Habitat for Humanity. 3H Group employees throughout the Southeast work locally on a Habitat for Humanity home building project each year, committing critical volunteer hours, in addition to a financial commitment made by 3H Group in each community.
“Without the support of companies like 3H Group we would not be able to do our work,” says Dawn Hjelseth, Director of Volunteers for Habitat for Humanity of Greater Chattanooga. “Over the past two years they have sent out 40 volunteers, which translates to 200 volunteer hours in a single day—a substantial commitment toward completing a house.”
Other community projects 3H Group and its staff have been involved with locally include: the Susan B. Komen Race for the Cure, the Chattanooga Dragon Boat Race benefiting T.C. Thompson Children’s Hospital, Extreme Home Makeover: Home Edition, the Ronald McDonald House, food drives and a Remote Area Medical clinic at Camp Jordan primarily serving the uninsured. Employees have also given back to one of their own colleagues who lost everything in a house fire. Staff quickly came together to gather monetary resources and in-kind donations, and their colleague soon had everything she needed to start over.
“That spirit of giving and helping others is something we strive for as a company and that I personally try to instill in my own children,” says Desai. “Chattanooga has been good to us, and we try to do whatever we can to give back.”
To learn more about 3H Group Hotels visit 3hgrouphotels.com or call 423-499-0497.
Photography courtesy of 3H Group