2019-01-01 / Spotlight

Around the World

with Lance Shaner, CEO of Shaner Hotel Group

Lance Shaner isn’t just a shrewd local businessman; he’s also a gracious host. In fact, he’s helped to put up thousands of travelers not just in State College, but all over the world.

“My first real motel was a 10-room motel in Wellsville, New York. Then my brother joined me, and our first real hotel was a Sheraton in Niagara Falls. We learned the business by doing everything at that hotel — maintenance, sales, marketing, all of it.”

Now the Shaner group has 52 hotels, including Toftrees Golf Resort and four others as well as company headquarters here in State College, and is set to add six more, expanding internationally and adjusting to changes in the industry. “There is a very strong trend for people to invest in experiences,” Shaner says. “For instance in our resort in Tuscany, there are organic wine vineyards and authentic cooking classes where you cook your own dinner.”

And Shaner has seen a fair number of trends come and go, in the hotel business as well as in his other investments in energy and venture capitalism. “I started when I was 21 years old, so I’ve been doing this for awhile,” says the 65-year-old. “If I was going to give any kind of a message to anyone who really wants to start a business, kind of the attitude has to be ‘Whatever it takes is what I’m going to do.’”

“It’s been a great ride,” he says, but is quick to note he has no plans to retire — ever. “It just will never work for me. I love going to my office in the morning.”

He hopes his employees do too. “I try to be a leader in employee benefits and profit sharing,” he says. “We’re big on rewarding people who bring success.” And he’s big on philanthropy, encouraging his workers to volunteer and contribute, following his example in the State College community (like the Lance and Ellen Shaner Cancer Pavilion at Mount Nittany Medical Center)  and internationally.

“It’s very important to me. We were always brought up to try to serve other people in any way that you can. And it makes me happy. You can’t take it with you. You’re only here for a visit. So I think it’s really rewarding to give money when you’re alive and you can see the results of it.”

GLOBE TROTTER “I love to travel. I love Greece, Italy, the Bahamas. I just finished a trip around the world in 24 days in an airplane with my wife, Ellen. We went to Peru, Samoa, Easter Island, Australia, Cambodia, India, Africa, Jordan and Morocco. I’m kind of a Marco Polo type. I like to see the world and the customs of people in other countries.”

WELL READ “Liberal arts education is super because you take philosophy, history, economics, writing, speech… I think that is really the best preparation for somebody to be really well-rounded, be it in business or whatever kind of profession. I was a Russian history major and Roman history major. That really accelerated my love of reading. I’m not really a TV person.”

BUILD TO SUIT “I take a lot of pride in our hotels that we build. I personally get involved, like in Hershey. We just built a beautiful hotel on Chocolate Avenue a year and a half ago. I took pictures of all the historic buildings in Hershey to meet with our architects and said, ‘We’ve gotta make this hotel look like it was built when Milton Hershey was still here.’ I really want to be proud of something that I build. I think you owe it to the people in a community to stretch yourself to build beautiful buildings.”

LIFT FOR LIFE “I played racquetball for 40 years but finally had to quit. I play tennis, I like to bike, I like to walk. Five days a week I work out. I run on the treadmill, ride the bike and pump iron. I think that helps you feel younger. It’s getting a little harder though, to try to stay at the same weight. I’m not willing to go any less!”

GOAL GETTER “Every year in December or January, I write out my goals for the year. It’s always right there on my desk by the phone. I’ve been doing it since I was in my 20s. I keep it simple: five things that I think are achievable. Do that and that’s enough.”

Return to top