Donnie Virts, a twelfth generation farmer, is the kind of local partner that defines 2018 for the National: Fresh and innovative but also neighborly
“People want to eat fresh, even when they’re not at home. You’d expect to find farm-to-table at a top steakhouse, but not necessarily at a large conference center,” says Donnie. “That makes it such a great surprise for guests of the National. They really savor the quality here.”
Virts, a Loudoun County farmer is supplying the National with his hydroponically-grown produce and Loudoun-raised beef. He’s also a bit of a pioneer, advocating that the best way for Loudoun to grow big business is to stay true to its roots – a philosophy shared by the National. So much so that the conference center buys all that it can from local vendors, from office supplies to wedding favors to tomatoes.
Donnie Virts is an unlikely symbol of progress for the National. In the past few years, they’ve taken a deeper look at who they are, what they are good at, and where they fit into the community. This navel-gazing has uncovered brilliant truths: The National is as relevant as ever, and the good things happening here have built an irreversible momentum.
A wave of energy has brought a local farmer into the fold as a valued partner at the largest hospitality facility, in the largest industry in Loudoun, a county where shining bright has become a bit of an art form.
The National is first and foremost a venue of learning. But with some heavy-hitting industry awards under its belt, it’s clear that training workshops aren’t all that’s being done right here. Hotel of the Year, General Manager of the Year, Tourism Branding, and even wine education are among the accolades – and the stuff of dreams for heavy hitter hotels.
The catalyst for the National’s success is a combination of factors, all with an underlying theme of community. Local efforts established the now-thriving Project SEARCH school-to-work program, hosting ten local students each session. And sparked a relationship with EatLoCo to test the wares of local farmers and food artisans, where Donnie Virts met Chef Todd Goldian.
Giving back wasn’t a strategy but it had massive ROI, as the National gained recognition for doing what they do -but doing it differently. And that started the wheels moving, and momentum building.
Sitting on the first page of 2018’s calendar, the National’s year ahead looks like a target, with the visitor’s experience as its bullseye. Those coming for work, for events, for fun can all expect something special, and likely, something they didn’t imagine.
“Seeing is believing,” says GM, Geoff Lawson.