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Keeping Up with The Jameses: Meet The African American Couple Who Bought a Quality Inn Hotel Right After the Height Of COVID

An African-American couple has joined forces with other investors to acquire a 70-room hotel property in Memphis, Tennessee.

For a little under $4 million, Norland James and his wife, Dr. Amina Gilyard James, are now the proud co-owners of a Quality Inn hotel in the birthplace of rock ’n’ roll and home of the blues.

Norland James and his wife, Dr. Amina Gilyard James (Photo: Instagram)

History of Investing in Hotels

The founders of Duke Ventures, the Jameses first entered their hats into hotel investment in 2019. Once the two stuck their respective toes in the market pools, they were able to invest in two Hilton-branded hotels as limited partners and passive investors. They are investors in a Home2 Suites in Oklahoma and a Hampton Inn in Georgia.

According to Forbes, a limited partnership “is a business entity with at least one general partner (who has unlimited personal liability) and one limited partner (whose liability is limited to their investment in the company).”

The general partners are responsible for the daily management of whatever business the two parties are engaged in, making business decisions on behalf of the partners. The limited partners are often called silent partners, investing capital into the enterprise, and allowing the general partners to take lead.

The Jones also see themselves as passive investors, business strategists who patiently fund projects with an expectation that their investments will experience long-term growth.

“We learned a lot as limited partners, and we just knew that we wanted to buy our very own hotel in 2022. Ultimately, our goal is to acquire more midscale hotel properties in secondary markets in the Southern and Midwest regions of the country,” said Dr. Amina, who is part of the adjunct faculty at The George Washington University – Graduate School of Education and Human Development. She also serves as an Employee Engagement Program Manager at a unnamed regulatory government agency.

Norland James is a 20-year career U.S. Army officer. He serves as Medical Logistics Special Operations Officer for the Army and as Management and Program Analyst for the U.S. Coast Guard.

A year after the couple jumped into the hospitality market, the world was mandated to stand still as the pandemic hit.

Hotels were forced to close because no income was coming in because they had no guests. The problem was, their owners still had mortgage payments. The thought was that this would damage the industry, but it did not. Many thought the hotel owners would be looking distressed and looking to sell their properties at rock bottom prices, but they bounced back, Wealth Management reports.

Kevin Davis, CEO of JLL Hotels & Hospitality, Americas, based in New York City, told WealthManagement.com in August 2022, “There has been far less distress than people initially anticipated.”

Part of this is due to the government stepping in to help the industry. When things started to get dark, the Federal Reserve slashed its benchmark interest rates down to zero. The agency also made numerous purchases of bonds to support the capital markets and keep interest rates low.

Davis said, “The Fed encouraged lenders to work with borrowers.”

Investing in Quality Inn–and Beyond

The lifeline propelled many in the industry to feel comfortable investing, and Memphis, where the Jones’ purchased their Quality Inn, is a perfect location for the entrepreneurs to set up shop.

The Jones are not the only ones with their sights on Memphis. According to Corey Davis from the Memphis Business Journal, “There are 49 hotel projects, with a total of 6,834 rooms, either under construction or in the planning process through 2026.”

Before locking into the Southern city, the two did their research on the market and noted that the city, with a population of a little over a half million according to the US Census, had the strongest pandemic bounce back in the entire nation. Also, tourism continues to thrive in the city, many because it is located near other big cities like Jackson, Mississippi, Atlanta, Georgia, and Nashville, and sits the near the state lines of Arkansas and Missouri state.

“We know this will be a success,” Norland Jones says. “We already have plans and consultants in place to increase customer satisfaction, implement sales and marketing strategies, and enhance property conditions.”

The two also said they have a single goal. As the years move forward, the couple has their eyes set on acquiring “a portfolio of limited-service midscale hotel properties in secondary markets in the Southern and Midwest regions of the United States.”

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