Orange County hotel manager discusses diversity, community impacts

Justin Williams set to leave Grand Bohemian hotel for new opportunity in Atlanta

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – A local hotel general manager has made it his mission for the past six years to not only manage hundreds of employees, but also give back to the Central Florida community.

Justin Williams and his family are leaving Central Florida for a new opportunity at a property in his hometown of Atlanta, but as he departs, he also has a message about the importance of inclusion, representation, giving back and getting results.

News 6 was with Williams this week as he walked through his multi-million dollar, newly-renovated property for the final time.

He’s served as the General Manager at the Grand Bohemian hotel in downtown Orlando for the past six years, but he wants his journey to be an inspiration for others.

“I started out in housekeeping. I was cleaning toilets, elevator tracks,” said Williams.

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He came from humble beginnings, but he worked his way up at different properties over his 26-year career in hospitality.

“Some people they’ll look at it, and they’ll say, ‘wow you’re a black general manager, that is awesome,’ and I say the fact that you notice it, means that there’s a problem,” said Williams. “.004% in Central Florida, about 5% in the nation, are African American general managers.”

For the past six years, he’s gotten results in the community, from feeding first responders on Sept. 11 to mentoring kids in the community, including Man Up Mentoring, My Brother’s Keeper and the Parramore Kidz Zone to name a few.

“They just have to be exposed to something different, but that exposure comes from looking at people who look like them,” said Williams.

The Grand Bohemian Hotel has a partnership with kids in the Holden Heights and Parramore Kidz Zone programs where the kids operate Black Bee Honey. The hotel purchased the kids’ honey to use for the hotel’s cheesecake. A portion of the proceeds are given back to the Kidz Zone programs for scholarships.

“It’s inspiring to them because we do have a lot of students who do want to work in hospitality - and to see someone in that role, it’s just uplifting,” said Alexis Hicks.

Alexis Hicks works for the City of Orlando and with kids in the program who also get the chance to tour the hotel and learn about jobs in hospitality.

“They absolutely love it. We have kids everyday asking to go back to have lunch, just to go see the chef or meet with Justin,” said Hicks.

Justin Williams said it’s all about giving back and working together.

“Let’s stop thinking about how we can separate each other, and bring all of these cultures together to be the best that we can be,” said Wiliams.

Williams said he’ll surely be back to visit Central Florida - a community which he will forever love.

About the Author:

Jerry Askin is an Atlanta native who came to News 6 in March 2018 with an extensive background in breaking news.