The Merrill Hotel and Conference Center held its official grand opening on April 12. James Howe introduced two speakers, Lieutenant Governor Adam Gregg and Chairman of Finance of the Chinese Consulate Xu Zhao Wang. The Merrill Hotel and Conference Center is a member of the International Association of Conference Centers and is the only certified IACC venue in the state of Iowa.
Howe began the ceremony thanking those in attendance and stated that without the support from the public and private sectors, this hotel would not have been possible.
“The sole purpose behind the Merrill Hotel was [to provide] economic development in downtown Muscatine,” Howe said.
Wang spoke of the connection that Iowa and Muscatine have to China, with the current Chinese President, Xi Jinping, visiting the state twice in the past. Iowa is the third largest trading partner with China, with large soybean and beef exports going to the country. Wang stated that the hotel will be promoted in Chicago and wished success for the hotel in the future. He also stated that they would encourage more Chinese to visit the Friendship House and the hotel in Muscatine.
“I think, for the people in the United States and China, everyone should cherish this cooperation. I think everyone should make every effort to make it more successful,” Wang said.
Howe stated that Muscatine received a $10 million portion of the Iowa Reinvestment District program, which was launched four years ago. This program sets aside as much as $100 million in tax revenue. This program is for economic distress zones, according to Howe. The hotel would not have happened without this program, and Howe stated that the program has expired and needs renewed so that other communities can take advantage of the opportunities it can provide.
Lt. Gov. Gregg was then introduced by Howe. Gregg gave Gov. Kim Reynolds’ regards. Reynolds could not attend, as she was needed in Washington, D.C., to meet with President Donald Trump to discuss the importance of trade. Gregg said that the hotel will help the economy and will make Muscatine even more of a destination for travelers than it already is.
“Muscatine is such a vibrant community and this hotel adds to the attraction and energy of eastern Iowa. The hotel also brings new dollars into the local economy, by making Muscatine an enhanced destination for travelers all across the country, and really all around the world,” Gregg said.
The Merrill Hotel hired over 70 employees before the official opening. Many companies and employees were involved in the construction and planning of the new hotel. Gregg said that this project was one of the first to be approved under the Reinvestment Act. Gregg congratulated the investors, developers, and the Muscatine community for supporting this project.
“Today is a great opportunity to acknowledge the hard work and commitment of area residents and leaders. This afternoon, we are extremely fortunate to add this beautiful new venue to our state’s landscape,” Gregg said.
The Merrill Hotel and Conference Center board members and investors then came forward to participate in the ribbon cutting. Howe held the scissors and thanked all for coming and sharing in this occasion before cutting the ribbon, signifying that the Merrill Hotel and Conference Center was officially open for business.