The Town of Benson has reached a milestone in its 131-year history. On Tuesday, the Hampton Inn — located at 100 Water Place Landing — celebrated its fast approaching opening date with a ribbon cutting attended by local leaders, business owners, elected officials, town staff, and area stakeholders.
Benson’s Hampton Inn has been a longtime project for town staff. From the groundbreaking at the site two years ago to this Tuesday’s event, the feeling was one of elation. The hotel is now accepting reservations for dates June 22 and beyond.
By noon, a crowd had gathered under a large white tent setup in the hotel’s parking lot. Benson Town Manager Matt Zapp welcomed everyone — his voice booming over a sound system. “This is a day that we have been anticipating for a long time,” he said with a smile. Mr. Zapp introduced Mayor Jerry Medlin, who also addressed the crowd.
“This is a great day in Benson, I’m truly proud to stand with these corporate leaders and local leaders who have worked together to bring this beautiful Hampton Inn into reality,” he began.
“I remember two years ago when the Leath Company first came to Benson. A Hampton Inn and a 10 million dollar investment was announced. The town worked hard, the corporate leaders worked hard and those that built the hotel worked very hard,” continued Mayor Medlin. “As a result we have a high-caliber hotel that will bring prosperity to Benson and its local businesses. We are truly grateful to all those that made this day possible.”
Adam Leath, Managing Director for the Leath Company, spoke second.
“We felt the support through this whole process, it’s been a long journey. There have been some challenges along the way that we’ve all overcome and it’s because of all the support you see around here today,” he said.
“All the credit here goes to our team and we wouldn’t have gotten any of this done without them. They have done a lot of things outside their job description on this project and the pride they have in their building — you’ll see it,” he added.
Mr. Leath also introduced his mother Suzanne Leath, President of the Leath Company, and sister, Shannon Leath, a company partner — noting how the business was truly a family affair. “They’ve been instrumental in getting us to this point as well,” he said.
Following Mr. Leath, Joe Cowling, Director of Hotels for Leath Company, was passed the microphone.
“I want to thank the Leath Family. I go back with the Leath Family a long way…it’s been a wonderful opportunity for me,” he said. “We’ve come a long way since we stuck the shovel in the ground over here in January two years back.”
“The Town of Benson has been an absolute pleasure to work with — Town Manager Matt Zapp and the two mayors we’ve worked with (William Massengill and current Mayor Jerry Medlin)… We want to grow with you and we hope you grow with us,” he continued.
Later in the day, Mr. Leath and the Hampton Inn team surprised Mr. Cowling with a plaque designating the the new hotel’s conference room as “The Cowling Room” in honor of his longtime hard work and dedication to the Leath Company.
Samantha Salazar, General Manager of the Benson Hampton Inn, was the last to speak on Tuesday. She thanked the crowd and introduced her staff. “They have been phenomenal,” she said to applause.
“I’ve worked with these people for many, many years and they are wonderful. I’m also glad to be back in my hometown, Benson. I graduated from South Johnston (High School)… and I’m just thankful to these guys for giving me the opportunity,” she added, turning to Mr. Leath and Mr. Cowling.
Following the opening ceremony, Benson Chamber President Loretta Byrd ushered everyone to the front door of the hotel where a large blue ribbon was strung and snipped.
Pastor Scott Betts of the nearby Crossroads Church provided the event’s invocation before lunch. Tuesday’s meal was catered by the award-winning Redneck Barbecue Lab. A door prize giveaway and tours of the property concluded the afternoon.