Economy, lack of demand force Plaza Conference Center to close

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The economy has claimed another business in Southeast Missouri.

Plaza Conference Center ceased day-to-day operations and closed earlier this month.

John Echimovich, director of operations of the hotel division at MidAmerica Hotels Corp. in Cape Girardeau, said the closing was based on more than one factor.

"The closure is a result of the economy, current business climate and high operational costs," Echimovich said. "Demand for a facility of this size and scope has decreased over the last five years."

MidAmerica will continue to host meetings and events at the adjacent Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites and the Victorian Inn & Suites. Echimovich said the corporation will focus its efforts on smaller groups of five to 40 people that require meeting space along with sleeping rooms.

"Regarding the timing, we didn't have to cancel any events due to the closure," he said. "The Plaza was able to honor every contract and booked event prior to closing. We let our clients know and avoided booking anything past the closure date in the latter part of 2008."

MidAmerica had used Plaza Conference Center as an extension of the food and beverage operation of Holiday Inn until the hotel closed in September 2003. The facility then was remodeled, with carpet, vinyl and improved lighting added to its rooms.

The conference center, which has 13,000 square feet of meeting space, had been used for craft shows, youth conferences, bridal shows, talent contests and conventions. Echimovich said the company does not have any plans for the building at the moment.

Plaza Conference Center is not the only business to close this month because of the recession.

Thorngate Ltd. will close its doors this month. The move affects 320 jobs at the Cape Girardeau manufacturer of high-end men's clothing.

Jackson Bakery also recently went out of business. Building owner Chad Hartle hopes another bakery can occupy the space.


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