Southlake Style Community Impact Award 2017 - Mike Hutchison
Dec 18, 2017 09:28AM
● By Ashley Madonna
A little more than 10 years ago, Mike Hutchison relocated his family from Houston to Southlake so that he could open Southlake’s first hotel, the Hilton Southlake Town Square. As general manager of a hotel in what is known as a very transient business (Hutchison had come to Houston via hotel positions in multiple states), Hutchison could have settled in any North Texas town and awaited his next post. But Hutchison, his wife Lisa and their young son settled in Southlake to live and to work.
Now, as the Hilton celebrates its tenth year in Southlake (the hotel opened in June of 2007) Southlake Style is celebrating a man who has become as much a part of the Southlake landscape as the revered hotel, which he still manages. Based on his 10-plus years of service to the community, Mike Hutchison was a natural choice to be awarded the magazine’s 2017 Community Impact Award recipient.
From the time he and his family came to Southlake, Hutchison has been involved in the community both in his role as general manager of the hotel and in his roles in many volunteer organizations here.
Even before the hotel opened, the Hilton has been a setting for functions held by many of Southlake’s charitable organizations. Carmen Evans, who currently runs sponsorship for Art in the Square for the Southlake Women’s Club, remembers meeting Hutchison for the first time in 2006, when she and Barb Cohen put on their hardhats for a tour of the facility. At the time, they were looking for a venue for Art in the Square’s VIP Party, and the soon-to-be-opened Hilton felt like the perfect spot.
“He was very agreeable and excited,” Evans says of Hutchison, and they decided then and there that the Hilton would be a perfect venue. But as construction can tend to go, the hotel wasn’t ready by April of 2007 when the event was to be held.
Still, some creative thinking and extra effort by Hutchison meant the party would go on. It was held in the Town Square building that now houses Charming Charlie’s, and Hutchison arranged for the still-unopened hotel to cater the event.
“He really supported us then,” Evans says. And he continues to, she notes. Since then, the event has been held at the Hilton, where Evans says Hutchison goes above and beyond, often employing his “sparks of brilliance,” as she calls them, to come up with creative ideas for their group.
“He puts so much thought into it,” she says. “Not a single little detail is missed.”
Brad Bradley, chairman of the Pro Players Foundation, has known Hutchison since he first came to town, and he too echoes this sentiment. Hutchison, a lifelong baseball fan (had he been able to make a career out of playing in the minor leagues, he might not have ever wound up in Southlake, by the way) has been involved in the Pro Players Foundation. Bradley says Hutchison is every bit as helpful with the foundation and the many charities he has been involved with as he is with his work at the Hilton.
“Vision without execution is delusion,” Bradley says. But Hutchison “talks the talk and walks the walk. He has definitely made an impact on Southlake.”
In addition to his work with the Pro Players Foundation, Hutchison has been involved with the Miracle League, Carroll Education Foundation, the Southlake Women’s Club Advisory Board, the Southlake Chamber of Commerce, Kids Matter International, and, as his son (who is now 19) progressed through Carroll schools, Hutchison volunteered his time and efforts for the schools as well.
“Mike has been an invaluable supporter for the Carroll Education Foundation,” says Laura Grosskopf, Executive Director of the Carroll Education Foundation. “Through his service both on the board, in an advisory role and as a major sponsor, the foundation has been able to give back thousands of dollars in teaching grants to the district.”
“Almost every organization in this town, somehow Mike is tied to them,” says former mayor John Terrell. “There are few people in this community who have had as much of an impact in so many different areas than Mike. A lot of people have benefitted from his kindness and generosity.”
Like many of the people with whom Hutchison has worked with these past 10-plus years, Terrell says that his relationship with Hutchison has evolved over many years of working alongside each other in various professional capacities. “It has become a friendship,” Terrell says.
John Slocum, who too has worked with Hutchison on various charitable organizations including Miracle League, considers “Hutch” a great friend as well—at least until the competition heats up in the fantasy football league on which they both participate. Friendly competition aside, though, Slocum has only good things to say about Hutchison.
“He has a lot of goodwill; people really like him,” Slocum says. “He knows so many people. He can just tap people’s shoulders and say, ‘Hey, I need a little help.’”
Indeed, Hutchison himself feels that one of the benefits of being in Southlake, and of managing a hotel in Southlake, is that the community supports one another. From the start, he says, “The idea was to make the hotel feel like part of the community.”
Those who have worked with the Hilton and with Hutchison feel as though the hotel has done just that. Conversely, Hutchison feels as though the community has embraced the hotel as well.
“It’s nice to have this small, supportive community,” he says, though “small” might be a relative term here, especially for Hutchison. He grew up in a community of just 100 people in western New York. He held many odd jobs growing up in the farming community of Linden, including milking cows. When he entered college at the University of Buffalo, he took his first hotel job as a night auditor at a roadside Holiday Inn. By his fourth year of school, he was offered the post of assistant manager.
“The economy was pretty bad back then, so I took it,” he recalls. “I didn’t know a lot but I thought it would be a good starting point.”
From there, he held hotel management jobs in Williamsport, Pennsylvania; Warren Niles, Ohio; and Sanford, Florida, before moving to Conroe, Texas. Next, it was off to Jackson, Mississippi; St. Louis; and Boston, before he made his way back to Texas, this time to Houston, where he worked for the company that would go on to open the Hilton in Southlake.
Yes, it’s a transient business, but Hutchison notes that the Hilton Southlake still employs 30 of its original employees. “I’m proud of that,” he says.
Another thing Hutchison is proud of, from a professional standpoint, is that the Hilton has been in the top 5 Hilton of Americas hotels (meaning, North and South America). This ranking is based on guest surveys, and Hilton Southlake has attained it for all but one of the years the hotel has been operating. This year was no exception, as they ranked in the top 5 out of 287 properties.
It’s a testament to Hutchison and his staff that the hotel is ranked so highly and has become the backdrop for so many of the community’s events. And always there, behind the scenes, is Hutchison—a man whom many are proud to call a friend and someone who is most deserving of the honor of being named our Community Impact Award winner for 2017.