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Checking in to sign the official letter of intent with Orem for the new University Plaza Hotel and Orem Convention Center, hotelier John Q. Hammons said the community of Orem has great promise.

"I'm excited to be here. Instead of rushing to the big, glitzy cities, I went to the country," said Hammons, who currently has five major hotels under construction and 15 more in development across the United States including the one in Orem and another in St. George. He has developed more than 94 hotels and owns 50."We are very pleased that Utah is being recognized as one of America's long-term high-growth areas. Good days are ahead."

Hammons Industries has been successful through economic downturns and recessions because it focused on rapidly growing areas and projects in cooperation with cities and counties coupled with convention centers.

He said that in the hospitality industry, "the demand is picking up, escalating in occupancy and rate structure."

Hammons said he looks for areas that have a university, like the Provo-Orem area, because the economy tends to stay more stable. Also, security risks are much lower in smaller cities and rural communities, he explained.

He praised the location, the mountains and the tourism possibilities within minutes of the hotel site.

He said Utah Valley Community College, if allowed to go to a 20,000-student enrollment, will do much to keep the economy vital.

"That kind of growth really does something for a community," said Hammons.

Whatever his reasons, it apparently works well because, as Hammons puts it, "I happen to be the onlyperson today building major hotels" at an average cost of $12 million each.

The University Plaza Hotel and Convention Center at the mouth of Provo Canyon on the old Hales power plant site, is expected to cost $17 million, with Orem con-trib-ut-ing $9 million to build the convention center.

The seven-story, 235-suite luxury hotel will feature a roof-top glassed-in restaurant to be known as "Top of the Roof," 15 meeting rooms, a junior and senior ballroom, state-of-the-art conference and corporate facilities, and a total of more than 80,000 square feet of public assembly, meeting and conference space.

The facility will seat more than 2,000.

Hammons' partner, Dr. Rick Parkinson, said the hotel will provide "hundreds of jobs and inject millions of dollars" into Utah County.

Parkinson said the smooth sailing through Orem's channels of approval can be credited to the fact that the project is a community one.

"The city is highly motivated for this business," said Parkinson. "This is an Orem project because this is where we were welcome."

Mayor Stella Welsh welcomed Hammons and said the project is the answer to several needs in Orem.

"Over the past few years, every time we've taken a needs assessment, it always showed a need for a hotel, a convention center and a nice restaurant," said Welsh.

"This holds as great a potential for Orem as anything I've seen in the last 15 years. It's exciting," said Welsh.