What hotels did WEDC recommend to Foxconn?


Although The Pfister Hotel in downtown Milwaukee once again received a four diamond rating from AAA in January,  the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp.’s director of events last summer described the hotel’s rooms as “tired” and said the Pfister was “just OK” when giving hotel recommendations to a Foxconn executive.

While Foxconn executives were planning a trip to Wisconsin in July, John Garnetti, deputy director of Foxconn’s U.S. strategic initiatives, asked Rachel Best, director of events for the WEDC, for hotel recommendations in Milwaukee and Madison.

The Pfister Hotel.

Copies of emails included in 16,000 pages of documents related to Foxconn, that were released by WEDC on March 1, reveal what hotels were recommended by Best to the company.

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In response to Garnetti’s inquiry, Best recommended four hotels in Milwaukee: The Iron Horse, the Hilton Milwaukee City Center, the InterContinental Milwaukee hotel and The Pfister Hotel.

“I would recommend one of the following hotels in Milwaukee,” Best wrote in an email to Garnetti. “The Iron Horse (boutique smaller historical hotel, but often gives good rates). Hilton City Center (as you can imagine, it’s in the center which is good and a nice historical hotel but rooms are updated). InterContinental Milwaukee (modern, chic). Pfister Hotel (well rated but I think it’s just OK, not the best value cause it’s rep drives up prices). Most VIPs do tend to go to the Pfister because of its reputation. But I feel the rooms are ‘tired.’ If your CEO and VIPs aren’t so traditional, I’d put them at the Iron Horse. Newer rooms but still cool and historic.”

For Madison, Best recommended three hotels: the Hilton Madison Monona Terrace, the Edgewater Hotel and the Marriott AC Hotel Madison Downtown.

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“I would recommend staying close to downtown for ease of your meetings,” Best wrote to Garnetti. “Hilton Monona Terrace (traditional city Hilton, pretty standard fare but reliable and comfortable). The Edgewater Hotel (beautiful, on the lake and recently remodeled. This is where I put my VIPs and inbound delegations whenever possible). Marriott AC Madison (super brand new, but smaller and modern).”

Best handled many of the logistics for Foxconn visits, coordinating schedules, transportation, seating arrangements, food menus and other details.

When reached for comment today, WEDC spokesman Mark Maley said it is common for the agency to make hotel recommendations for business leaders visiting the state.

“In coordinating meeting logistics for visiting VIP delegations, it is not uncommon for WEDC’s meeting and events team to make hotel recommendations based upon the requirements of the visiting party,” Maley said. “This is standard practice that draws upon the insights and experience of WEDC’s highly qualified staff, who provided a range of options for Foxconn’s consideration during their visit to Wisconsin. In this case, Foxconn representatives availed themselves of a number of Wisconsin hotels during their stay.”

During the July 9-11 trip, Foxconn executives stayed at the Hilton Milwaukee City Center hotel. That hotel, the Pfister, the InterContinental Milwaukee and the Hilton Madison Monona Terrace are all hotels owned by Milwaukee-based The Marcus Corp. The company recently announced that the InterContinental will be converted to an independent arts hotel.

A spokesperson for Milwaukee-based Marcus Corp., declined to comment, saying the information was not newsworthy.

Greg Hanis, a hotel industry analyst and president of New Berlin-based Hospitality Marketers International Inc., said he was surprised the Marriott, Westin and Kimpton Journeyman hotels, all located downtown were left off of the list of Milwaukee hotels recommended by Best.

“I would have thought the Kimpton would have been on there, which is comparable to Iron Horse as an upscale boutique hotel, but I agree with what is being recommended,” Hanis said.

BizTimes reporter Arthur Thomas contributed to this report.

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