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Meet Barry Owens, Doing a ‘Tree’-Mendous Job

By Megan Swoyer

It’s been nearly 35 years since Treetops Resort General Manager Barry Owens got his start in the resort industry. The father of three grown children began his career at Garland Resort and stayed there some 24 years before heading to the legendary 2,500-acre Treetops, home to five golf courses, downhill ski hills and more in Gaylord.

“This area is absolutely beautiful,” says Owens, who lives with his wife, Ursula, in Michigan’s bucolic Lewiston. “My work commute is about 23 miles and along the way, the scenery is magnificent.”

A graduate of Kalamazoo College with a degree in economics, Owens says he uses what he learned in school through the course of his job, which includes overseeing some 600 employees. In the past year, the resort’s guest rooms have undergone a $4.5 million renovation.

“The best part of my job is working with a team that relishes accomplishing projects and goals. Anyone who’s in the hospitality business likes to make people happy, whether it’s in wedding planning, meeting planning or setting up golf and skiing events and outings. All of us in this industry find great joy in the fact that we’re providing something very special to people.”

An additional bonus for Owens, who also is a member of the Michigan Travel Commission: He’s in a feel-good industry. “We’re fortunate because we’re surrounded by a good vibe. When guests show up here, they’re in a good mood. The only thing that might bring them down is they got lost or are late for a tee time,” he laughs.

It’s not always a bed of roses in the resort industry, as insiders know. “There’s been some staffing pressures,” he says. “But we’re not complaining— the economy in Michigan is good.” He explains that because Detroit is improving by the day, other regions may experience a downside to that, including staffing at specific levels.

He’s excited about the season’s Skiable Feast, Wilderness Sleigh Ride Dinner, Winter Fest, and Beer and Wine Festival. “I love the food and beverage world,” he enthuses. Not to mention that gorgeous scenery. “We’re located on an incredible piece of property, so sometimes I’ll just grab a sandwich and go out to the north property in the back and enjoy the view. It’s special.” Just like that commute, where “deer and turkeys are our only concern,” he laughs, “and the occasional elk. I can’t think of a time I’ve ever been in a traffic jam up here.”