During the last decade, when other hoteliers seemed to be building on every available block, executives of Loews Hotels gathered in conference rooms wondering what they were missing.

These days, they've stopped wondering, glad to have chosen a slower course of expansion, said Jonathan M. Tisch, Loews Hotels president and chief executive officer.

"In the l980s, when other chains were undergoing expansion, we were skeptical about our financial footing," said Tisch, after addressing the Greater Annapolis Chamber of Commerce Friday during the group's annual breakfast. "But now we're in a better position to expand than our competitors.

They key to the corporation's success, as evidenced by a financially stable 15-hotel chain in the United States, Canada and Monaco, is creativity, discipline and the willingness to takechances, Tisch told the business group.

"We at Loews are a relatively small company now compared with the big names," he said. "We tryto compete through creativity."

Because the West Street hotel lacks a waterfront advantage, it has tried to gain an edge in other ways, such as by expanding its meeting space and launching a compnay-wideGood Neighbor Policy last year. Loews has owned the hotel, a former Radisson, since January 1990.

Tisch addressed the group just a week after Loews Annapolis Hotel put the final touches on a $4 million renovation project encompassing all 217 guest rooms, the first-floor ballroom, atrium and restaurant and a next-door building, known as thePowerhouse.

The 80-year-old building once served as a power substation, providing electricity to the old railroad and city. It housed the Annapolis Dairy until 1951.

The renovated building opened in September, providing three floors of extra meeting rooms, including a third-floor ballroom accommodating up to 140 people.

The new Powerhouse doubles the hotel's meeting space capacity with an additional 5,000 square feet.

Tisch focused most of his comments on the hotel's new Good Neighbor Policy.

"Given the fact that government is so overburdened by the recession and the economic crisis, it has become even more important, if not essential, that the private sector share some of the responsibility for responding to the growing social problems and issues facing our cities," Tisch told business leaders.

Aspart of the Good Neighbor program, each hotel donates excess food from banquets and restaurants to area food banks. In Annapolis, donations go to the Lighthouse Shelter and the Anne Arundel County Helping Hand Shelter.

The hotels also recycle newspapers and office products and purchase recycled products. They donate furniture, linens and towels to local charities and shelters as well.

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