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Diggs’ detailed financial reporting drove turnaround at Greenleaf Hospitality

When Ken Diggs began his role as CFO with Greenleaf Hospitality Group Inc. in 2011, he joined a company amid a series of financial challenges.

The Kalamazoo-based firm owned 23 separate business units, including the AA professional Kalamazoo Wings hockey team, the Wings Event Center, the Radisson Plaza Hotel, restaurants, retail shops and parking garages. Of those business units, only the parking garages were profitable, and the company was operating at a $3 million loss, Diggs told MiBiz.

To begin to turn the company around, Diggs first ingrained himself with all of the intricacies of the business. “I was selling merchandise at concerts, I assisted on banquet events and really tried to learn the business and understand how they make money and how they don’t make money,” said Diggs, a winner in the 2016 MiBiz CFO of the Year Awards. To read more click on the link below. https://mibiz.com/specials/cfo-award-profiles/item/23646-diggs%E2%80%99-detailed-financial-reporting-drove-turnaround-at-greenleaf-hospitality

Premier Partner Spotlight: Greenleaf Hospitality

Who would have thought that a part time job to pay the bills would turn into a career? Nate Shaw, Sous Chef, and Alexa Tipton, Event Coordinator for Webster’s Prime located inside of the Radisson Plaza Hotel & Suites, are amazed that 8 years later they have had the opportunity to progress their jobs into the careers that they have now.

Nate, originally from Flint, MI, first came to Kalamazoo to go to film school. When his plans changed, he ended up in the Radisson Banquet kitchen washing dishes during the night shift under his Supervisor, Max Winkle.

“What started as a dishwashing job progressed into a passion for cooking. It has always been something I had enjoyed and loved, but didn’t realize it was something I had a desire for doing professionally until I had Max Winkle’s help,” said Shaw.

It was this same partnership of passion and mentoring that continued to move Nate up in the company. Soon after, he followed Max over to Webster’s Prime, and while he eventually left, it was another mentor that made the most impact on Nate’s career, Stefan Johnson, Executive Chef/GM.

“Once Stefan came into the picture is really when my career changed,” shared Shaw.

Alexa Tipton had a similar experience. “When I moved to Kalamazoo, I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do. I was here for a couple years working at Texas Roadhouse, and got to a point in my life where I wanted a change. So I came downtown and was serving at Webster’s Prime for about 2 years before Stefan joined the team. This is when everything changed for me. He showed me that there was more opportunity here. I was on the cusp of leaving and moving on when one day we sat down and had some coffee and started talking.”

From there, they began to talk about the Event Coordinator position that was open, and about 2 weeks later Tipton started running the show. After about a year and a half, she agreed to help out in Old Burdick’s Bar & Grill as a Supervisor as well as Zazio’s restaurant. However, after meeting Nate and having the opportunity of working together since 2010, they realized they missed the drive and passion that was there when working together.

As Nate shared, “There’s a selfless investment that this company has in us. Most places would have run from a couple wanting to work in the same place. But the support we’ve received here has been amazing. We both did our jobs sufficiently, but we were starting to lose our passion being separated in different restaurants. That in return makes us so much more invested here. I’ve never felt anything like that in my life, and I don’t know that we could ever find it again.”

Since both returning to Webster’s Prime, their lives and experiences have grown even more. After getting married in December 2014, they used their honeymoon to attend the Italian Culinary Institute for a 4 month, fully-immersive program, The Master’s Program of Italian Culinary Haute Cuisine.

Alexa explained, “Nate was enrolled in the program and they offered a spousal enrollment opportunity. I decided to enroll and go through the whole program and graduated with Nate, and it was such a fun experience.”

Nate ended up graduating first in the class and Alexa went on to receive certification in another program, passing the Introductory Sommelier Course and Examination. She also plans to take the Certified Sommelier Exam in early 2017. This will give Alexa the opportunity to lead classes and wine dinners.

“It’s great in furthering my knowledge of perfecting our wine list and always keeping us up to date on trends. You also get to drink a lot of wine, so if you’re looking for a new hobby, I suggest that,” shared Alexa.

The future is looking bright for these two. They’re happy to be a part of Greenleaf Hospitality Group’s thriving restaurant. Not one to shy away from her affection for GHG, Alexa explains, “I think this is the type of place where if you’re willing to put in the passion, the effort, and the time and care in this company, the possibilities are endless.”

Tipton went on to share, “We talk about it all the time; we grew up here. Kalamazoo is a place that is continuously growing and you are seeing all these new small breweries and businesses pop up. When I started working here, I was 20 years old and my life was totally different. I went from a kid to an adult here. I’m so grateful for Greenleaf because if I would not have started working here, I do not know where I would be right now. I would not know Nate and my life would be completely different and not as great as it is now!”

Nate has similar feelings about the company, “Being able to go to Italy for 4 months to learn and better ourselves, and give us the chance to do that and bring back what we’ve learned is amazing. Italy was a wonderful experience and we learned so much, but Kalamazoo is where our home is; it’s where our heart is. It’s where we bought our first home, where we got married, and none of that would have happened without Greenleaf and all the support we received throughout the way!”

“Once I realized that I loved food, I knew that’s what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. Greenleaf helped me find that. A career found me, and so I jumped in and swam. There’s no looking back.”

Wings Pursues Event Business & Upgrading Hockey Fan Experience

Kalamazoo, Mich. – Wings Event Center announced their name change from Wings Stadium to Wings Event Center in March showing a change both in offerings and the company’s direction moving forward.

Director of Sales for the Kalamazoo Wings Toni Daniels said with the growing variety of events at the facility, “we wanted to show that we are able to execute diverse events and offerings to people seeking entertainment, a place to meet or even celebrate.”

The core of the Wings’ line up of featured events in its facility will continue to include hockey entertainment tradition with minor league hockey team Kalamazoo Wings, a tradition for the past 41 years since the venue was built in 1974. Furthermore additional sporting events such as youth wrestling, youth hockey, synchronized skating, muay thai and roller derby are just a few examples of events we will continue to add to the venue’s line up of events.

“We are working with each of these groups on being better partners and finding ways how we can better support their events as well as help them grow organizationally,” said Rob Underwood, entertainment director for Wings Event Center. “The growth and success of these amazing sporting events is extremely important to us in providing great entertainment choices for our community.”

In addition, Wings will be pursuing more concert shows and large-scale events such as trade shows, conferences and expos for its 75,000 sq-foot facility. “Catalyst University is a great example of a partner that we have worked with recently to host their annual leadership conference,” Underwood added. “We were able to help take their conference to the next level not only with a larger space but also with our digital scoreboard as a stage enhancement to their event.”

A variety of new dedicated event spaces have been created to provide potential guests greater flexibility for breakout sessions, corporate meetings or life’s celebrations.

The Kalamazoo Wings 2015-16 season on the other hand will also showcase a number of changes from a capital investment perspective, an estimated $2.8 million property improvement plan, geared at elevating the guest experience. Beginning late June, the main ice arena will undergo construction of new flooring which also includes new dashers, NHL standard goal nets, water filtration system, and glass to provide better sight lines for our guests.

“We are partnering with Jet Ice to help us manage and maintain our ice throughout the facility to ensure we deliver a great ice product not only for our users but also for our fans watching the game,” said Nick Bootland, director of hockey operations and head coach. “We surveyed our hockey fans this past season and we are addressing many of their wish list items this season, which includes cleaner glass for a better view of the game.”

Another notable change that guests can anticipate when they come to a hockey game is the overall energy and small touches that truly enhances the fan experiences. A few examples include refreshed game promotions and branding.

“As a team we are working on every aspect of a guest experience before, during and after a game – from themed nights that you can truly immerse yourself to digital engagement through social media,” Toni Daniels said. “It is truly an experience not to be missed this upcoming season.”

For more information about the Kalamazoo Wings and Wings Event Center, please contact Sarah Lee, director of marketing and communications for Wings Event Center, at (269) 226-0370.

Wings Event Center, owned and operated by Greenleaf Hospitality Group, is home to the minor league hockey team Kalamazoo Wings and a full entertainment venue offering concerts, sporting events, family shows and trade shows. Built in 1974, Wings Event Center values partnerships with the community to bring events and attractions that enrich the lives of residents in the Kalamazoo area.

Wings Stadium Is Now The Wings Event Center

Kalamazoo, Mich. – For the first-time in 41 years, Wings Stadium will have a new name. Effective immediately, Wings Stadium will be known as the Wings Event Center.

The name change will be the first of several changes made to the facility located at 3600 Vanrick Drive. Primarily known as the home of the Kalamazoo Wings, concerts and youth hockey, the name change is being made to better illustrate everything that can be held at facility.

Since opening in 1974, the Wings Event Center has been the home of the K-Wings and thousands of special events, such as concerts, World Wrestling Entertainment and other family shows. The largest indoor facility in southwest Michigan, the Wings Event Center will continue to bring in those beloved events; however, by adding event center to its name, the facility will be marketing their other capabilities to local, regional and national companies and promoters.

“With the variety of events at the facility, we have decided to select a name that best encompasses the diverse offerings that we can deliver,” said Michael Oswald, vice president of food and entertainment.

With the large meeting spaces, the Wings Event Center is the perfect place to host off-site meetings, company outings, specialty events and shows.

The next phase in the name change will occur along I-94, where motorist will notice the removal of the Highway Marquee. A new state-of-the-art digital Highway Marquee is expected to be installed by Wednesday, April 1.

Following the Highway Marquee, new external signage around the facility and a new outside Wings Event Center sign will be installed on the building.

Expected in the next 90 days, a State of the Wings Event Center and Kalamazoo Wings will be held to discuss all the positive changes being made.

For more information about the Wings Event Center, please contact Mike Modugno, director of public relations and broadcaster at 269.226.0384.

Radisson Wins Carlson-Rezidor Responsible Business Award

Kalamazoo, Mich. – Radisson Plaza Hotel & Suites, a proud company of Greenleaf Hospitality Group, was awarded Responsible Business Award recently at the Carlson Rezidor Annual Business Conference in the Bahamas.

“It’s an honor to be recognized by Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group as the 2014 Responsible Business Award winner,” said Tim Rayman, general manager at Radisson Plaza Hotel & Suites. “This award showcases our company’s efforts to make a lasting impact on our team members that work for Greenleaf Hospitality Group, our local community, and the larger effort around the world.”

Rayman added that he is, “very proud of the efforts from the team to get out and volunteer in our local community, to be a strong mentor to KRESA students program, and collect and recycle the bars of soap and plastic bottles that are left behind when our guests depart. It’s a complete team effort and our team is passionate about their involvement.”

The Radisson Plaza Hotel was recognized for its philanthropic efforts such as the backpack program for its associates, mentoring program with KRESA students, volunteering with Ministry with Community and Kalamazoo Habitat for Humanity. Furthermore, the Radisson Plaza Hotel was ranked the number one contributor to Clean the World, a not-for-profit organization that recycles discarded soap and shampoo from hospitality companies and distributes it to impoverished people around the world. In 2014, the Radisson Plaza Hotel donated 618 pounds of used soaps and shampoos, distributing 2,358 bars of soap, recycling over 133 pounds of plastic, and providing over 352 plastic bottles to countries in need.

“We are delighted to recognize the Radisson Plaza Hotel & Suites Kalamazoo with this award for the amazing work they have done in their community and across so many different initiatives,” said Javier Rosenberg, chief operating officer, Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group, Americas. “As a company we pride ourselves on being a force for good and supporting in the communities we serve in, the Radisson Plaza Hotel & Suites Kalamazoo leads by example.”

In addition to an award, the Radisson Plaza Hotel was presented with a $5,000 check from the Worldwide Carlson Foundation to be donated to the Kalamazoo Valley Habitat for Humanity.

“Habitat works to end poverty housing and to empower our community to engage in itself through our mission,” said Don Jones, Kalamazoo Valley Habitat for Humanity executive director. “We are grateful for the volunteer service and corporate support of our Greenleaf Hospitality Group partners. This gift will help Habitat provide more housing solutions in our community.”

Greenleaf Hospitality Group offers an unmatched choice in world class hospitality through a variety of offerings from hotel lodging and events to dining, retail and entertainment. The Kalamazoo-based company owns and operates the Radisson Plaza Hotel & Suites, Wings Stadium and Wings West. In addition the following businesses are part of the Greenleaf Hospitality Group: Blush Salon + Spa, Burdick’s for Breakfast, Old Burdick’s, Rio Coffee, Sydney Apparel, Kalamazoo Athletic Club, Kalamazoo Wings, Webster’s Prime and Zazios Italian Restaurant + Bar.

Photo Line Up (L-R): Rich Flores, VP of Branding, Radisson & Radisson Red Hotels at Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group, Tim Rayman, General Manager of Radisson Plaza Hotel & Suites, Susan Mason, VP Franchise Operations, Radisson, Americas

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