Defender Resorts Celebrates 35th Anniversary
Defender Resorts reflects on the past and the future of their Myrtle Beach based timeshare management company
MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. – Locally owned and operated, Defender Resorts, Inc. is holding an honorary celebration in conjunction with their annual General Managers conference to celebrate and acknowledge their successful 35 year run in timeshare management services and pay tribute to all the employees who have been part of the journey.
In 1979 Defender Industries began developing the Links Golf & Racquet Club. A project that started as a development project turned into overseeing the management services of the property, an endeavor that led to the last 35 years of expansion. There are currently eight Grand Strand resort properties and sixteen additional properties throughout the East Coast, Florida and the Caribbean that are managed from the Myrtle Beach corporate office.
After beginning business in Myrtle Beach it was never questioned that it would be the best location for the corporate offices to call home. Locally, the company employs over 150 staff in their Myrtle Beach resorts and over 400 in total.
“South Carolina is the third largest timeshare state in the US and we are happy our company calls the state home,” said Frank Baker, Executive Vice President of Defender Resorts. “It has never been questioned to relocate our offices and Myrtle Beach has been a great home and pairs nicely with our company’s sincerity and integrity – two qualities that have been instrumental in our growth as a company.”
Even when the country suffered from multiple recessions, and the travel industry was hit harder than any other, Defender Resorts never laid off a single employee.
“In 2008 we had to cut back and all of our managers agreed they would all rather cut their hours a little than have to lose any employees, so that’s what we did. It was hard, but the entire company stuck together and got through – together,” said Ken McKelvey, Chairman and CEO of Defender Resorts.
The company hasn’t been a quick career stop for most employees. They have an extremely low turnover and most employees retire from the company. Some of the longest tenured employees include Cal Frances Cooper Holmes who has been there for 29 years and Gerald Watts who has 27 years under his belt.
The company has retained enough employees that many people within the company recall what happened in 1989 as something that binds them together in remembrance.
After Hurricane Hugo wreaked havoc on the Grand Strand, the Maritime Beach Club in North Myrtle Beach was left in a devastating situation. There was the physical destruction and the developer had disappeared, leaving the massive resort without funds or bank accounts, doors fastened shut with chains and padlocks, power turned off and insurance policies cancelled due to non-payment. At that time there were more than 5,000 owners who had purchased a piece of ownership at Maritime, but little paper trail existed from the resort to acknowledge that ownership. An outraged group of those owners hired an attorney and began to file lawsuits in Horry County, which ruled in favor of the owners that they could legally elect a valid board of directors. Their first order of business – fire the developer that had left them stranded and team up with Defender Resorts to help them rebuild.
The group got to work immediately. With the courts permission standing security guards had to be physically moved, bolt cutters were purchased and with crowds of owners amassed in the parking lot the locks were slashed and the doors finally opened. The momentum slowed a bit as the electric company and electricians were the first to enter the resort. For hours more than 400 owners and Defender Resorts employees stood patiently in solidarity in the parking lot as nighttime fell.
“Around 8 pm a single light flashed on and captured all of us, then it flickered off, then back on to stay. Then another light and another until a string lit up an entire floor,” said Ken McKelvey, CEO of Defender Resorts, Inc., “until finally the whole building lit up like a Christmas tree. We were all cheering, crying, hugging and rejoicing with hope. It was the first moment in the fight that you could really feel that everything was going to be ok. The Maritime was going to be rescued from the physical damage that Hurricane Hugo caused and the financial and emotional mess that the developer caused.”
The fight didn’t stop there, but eventually it got better. Bank accounts, records and more had vanished and hundreds of man hours were put into searching for documents, finances while hundreds more hours were being put into restoring the resort.
Twenty-four years later the Maritime is still proudly managed by Defender Resorts and things are going well these days, they have moved from a past of sketchy management and disappearing funds to the present when the association had enough funds to do major improvements without special assessing the owners.
The Maritime has become one of Defender Resorts cornerstone properties and annually holds a conference in its meeting room for all the General Managers with Defender. This year will be special though. The two day conference will also contain a special celebration to commemorate the past thirty five years and recognize employees who have been part of the company for a large part of those years. Such as President and COO, Mark Westbrook, who began with the company in 1985 as a nighttime auditor straight out of the military. McKelvey describes Westbrook as the future of the company and one of the biggest players in its success.
“Mark is the epitome of someone who can seamlessly merge today and tomorrow’s operations in one fluid, successful stream,” said McKelvey. “To look back and see a young, driven man work his way up to the President of a company and be instrumental in it’s success is an amazing thing to have witnessed.”
The celebration, being held in North Myrtle Beach on March 31st, is intended to celebrate where the company has been, honor those who have made careers out of being with the company and look into their bright future and the next 35 years.
“I was an accountant, a numbers guy, who was working with the development of a few resorts. Thirty-five years ago I could have never predicted it would become my passion and the company would be a major player in the timeshare management industry,” said McKelvey while reflecting on the history of the company. “We’ve been through struggles, great times and even a couple recessions, but I couldn’t be happier about the path Defender Resorts and I have gone down together.”
About Defender Resorts
Defender Resorts, Inc. has been providing quality management service to the timeshare and vacation ownership industry for more than 30 years. We currently manage 23 resorts (25 Associations) with offices in five states. Our corporate headquarters are located in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Defender Resorts specializes in customized management services utilizing experienced personnel and finely tuned systems, which provide a significant foundation for analyzing existing operations and a formula for excellence. We have vast experience in areas of owner databases, owner communications, rental and sales marketing, refurbishment and renovation, budgeting and long-term planning, quality controls, financial reporting and analysis, and most importantly, human resources management.