cbuzz: Jim Merkel, Rockbridge: Investing in Columbus Hospitality Experience

July 1st, 2023

Rockbridge co-founder and CEO James ’Jim’ Merkel has over two decades of experience building and leading successful hospitality, investment, and operating brands. Jim has always focused on creating great teams while providing a vision for how to grow, lead, and identify opportunities for success in what is an ever-evolving industry landscape.

Under Jim’s steady hand, Rockbridge continues to evolve and grow. Rockbridge has raised eight hospitality-focused funds and executed over 290 hotel investments in 39 states with transactions totaling over $10 Billion. Through Jim’s vision, Rockbridge develops, designs, and builds award-winning, independent and branded hotels that have delighted guests and investors, alike, such as Emeline in Charleston, SC (Best New Hotel in the US), Noelle in Nashville, TN (Best Public Spaces, Best Bar), The Eliza Jane in New Orleans, LA (Best Hotel Conversion), and The Cliff House in Ogunquit, ME (Most Beautiful Hotel in the World). Jim also formed RBHD, a leading hotel development and construction management business. In 11 years, RBHD has performed $2.4 Billion in renovation and ground-up construction in over 60 hotels.

Jim founded Rockbridge with his partners in 1999. He led the company through a 20-year anniversary celebration in 2019, creating the R20 brand which identifies four core themes called Rocks – Relevance, Relationships, Resilience and Responsibility – that drive Rockbridge’s success. The R20 brand symbolizes slowing down to move forward, being reflective, and planning for the future.

RTRX raises awareness and funding for high-risk cancer research and benefits Pelotonia, a 2-day cycling event in Columbus, Ohio. Through RTRX, Rockbridge has raised over $6 Million in 11 years. Additionally, Jim is the top, individual fundraiser in the nation for Big Brothers, Big Sisters’ signature fundraiser, Bowl for Kids’ Sake. His leadership has driven Rockbridge to raise over $1.4 Million dollars for BBBS. Because of Jim’s dedication to the community, Rockbridge has been honored for four consecutive years as a top, community-focused company in Central Ohio.

Over the past 23 years, Jim has held key leadership positions on multiple, industry boards, including the Marriott Hotels Advisory Board, AHLA Board of Directors, Hilton Hotels & Resorts Owner Advisory Council, Davidson Hotels & Resorts, Hospitality Ventures Management Group, Makeready, FHG Advisory Board, ILC Advisory Board, and the Lodging Industry Investment Council. In addition, Jim is a member of the Columbus Partnership. He was honored as the C-Suite Executive of the Year in Central Ohio in 2018 and as a Top CEO in 2021 and 2022. He has also been recognized as a Power 100 Executive in Columbus for the past 4 years and was inducted into the Junior Achievement Central Ohio Business Hall of Fame. In 2020 and 2021, Jim was honored as a Smart 50 Business Executive in Central Ohio.

To learn more about the Rockbridge, visit www.rockbridgecapital.com.

Tune in today as Jim Merkel sits down with cbuzz host Mikaela Hunt to talk about the hospitality industry in Columbus and bringing people together.

A note about cbuzz production: We are thrilled to be back recording episodes for our Central Ohio community. Stay tuned for new episodes, which will share the stories of some of our best and brightest Columbus Chamber members. Thank you to our listeners for their patience and understanding as we worked to establish a virtual recording setup. You can learn about Capital University here and learn more about cbuzz host Mikaela Hunt here.

Cbuzz is the Columbus Chamber of Commerce’s business-focused podcast and was named Best Business Podcast in 2019 by the Columbus Podcast Awards. The show is produced in partnership with Capital University and its students, and the show is hosted by Mikaela Hunt, brand journalist and storyteller.