Chair of the Board: Letter to Membership
By: Paul Hess | March 2022
As I continue my tenure as the Chairman of the Michigan Restaurant & Lodging Association (MRLA), I would like to share my thoughts on the indispensable role that our Association plays in the overall health and success of Michigan’s hospitality industry. As we continue our emergence from crisis mode with our focus moving from the immediate to the future, it is a great time to take stock of lessons learned and progress made. We have demonstrated our ability to not only come back, but truly improve upon where we were two years ago, despite the uphill climb. The team of people representing all of us at the MRLA, together with the incredible leaders that make up our Executive Committee, continue to be devoted to finding new ways to deliver value to members and advance our overall mission of leading the hospitality industry through advocacy, education and innovation.
Beginning with our advocacy efforts, we can all recognize the influence our Association has on the industry as well as the Michigan business community at large. We can be confident that through the efforts of our President and CEO, Justin Winslow; our Vice President of Government Affairs, John McNamara; and our PAC Chairman, Jeremy Sasson, that the MRLA will continue to amplify our voices in Lansing, and in Washington, D.C. In the upcoming year. The stakes couldn’t be much higher as our legislative priorities include the all-important opportunity to retain the tip credit as an essential cornerstone of the hospitality industry. I encourage everyone to remain engaged in the effort to exercise our influence with legislators, an influence that stems from our advocacy efforts and is fueled in large part by your contributions to the MRLA Political Action Committee (PAC). The MRLA welcomes and needs your financial support and greatly appreciates any amount you may consider contributing.
On the education front, the MRLA has just unveiled perhaps the most significant achievement of our Association in decades. An achievement that has the potential to significantly impact the workforce concerns that we are all experiencing in one way or another. Attracting talent and sought-after skillsets has not been easy over these past months and we have been in need for breakthroughs to push down these barriers to further our success. Well, help has arrived. Led by our Executive Vice President of Education, Amanda Smith; The Hospitality Training Institute of Michigan (HTIM) is now open for enrollment offering new students comprehensive training and certification for career advancement in the hospitality industry. In just 12 weeks, graduates will develop the skills and knowledge required to bolster the workforce and advance their careers. Every student who completes a program from the Hospitality Training Institute of Michigan will leave with the confidence and skills needed to excel in the selected industry pathway. As you might imagine, this institute did not just blossom overnight. With years of thought and planning, and a great deal of hard work, Amanda has brought this vision of a true career development program into fruition, a program from which we will all benefit… thank you, Amanda!
When it comes to innovation, it is clear that the MRLA has consistently found many new ways to push through the most difficult two years of our association’s 100-year history, and actually thrive while doing it. With one hand tied behind their backs, innovative leaders within the MRLA have collaborated with leaders in government, academia and the greater business community to achieve real solutions. These solutions include resources and information to access additional funding, tax breaks, legislative action, marketing and communication, education, training, workforce programs, and a long list of additional intangible benefits. Our association will continue to play a pivotal role in addressing challenges by continuing in this innovative spirit that has been part of our foundation since 1921.
If you haven’t already done so, I encourage you to learn more about all of the information I’ve referenced in this letter, and to take advantage of an abundance of hospitality resources by frequently visiting the MRLA website at mrla.org.
Lastly, I would like to extend my gratitude and a big congratulations to Brad Keen, Thomas “Dewey” Bramson, and Ken Miller who were selected by a committee of their peers to receive this year’s Distinguished Service Award —the highest honor awarded by the Association—at the MRLA’s annual Chairman’s Dinner. These gentlemen have served our Association and our industry as leaders and role models for decades, and we owe them a debt of gratitude for their many contributions. This well-deserved recognition was a very fitting tribute to close out our centennial year and begin our second century of success.
With a great deal of optimism, I wish you and your families health, happiness and prosperity in 2022.
Epoch Hospitality Group