Lessons from MGM National Harbor

02 May, 2019

Source : Laisar Management Group | Florence Amate


When Amazon announced the location for HQ2, there was considerable excitement that after a very public process the wait was finally over. Hearing the news reminded me of another company that had the Washington metro area abuzz with their announcement. The new company in December 2013 was MGM National Harbor and the Maryland Lottery and Gaming Commission had just announced that the fifth and final license for a casino in Maryland would go to MGM National Harbor. I realize that the only thing that these two companies have in common is that they are big, and in their very different ways are household names. Also, for different reasons there was a lot of fear of what the coming of these behemoths would mean to the communities in which they would be situated. Full disclosure…MGM National Harbor hired my company Laisar Management Group as a consultant to develop and monitor and track their supplier diversity and workforce inclusion goals during the construction of this destination resort. Having been in this business for 10 years there was a lot about their entrée into this market to like….

1. Corporate leadership was committed long before the license was awarded to invest in Maryland. I was a witness to a meeting between Jim Murren, the chairman and CEO of MGM Resorts International, his executive team and the people that were charged to develop and build MGM National Harbor. His charge was that he wanted people in Maryland to feel the economic benefits by ensuring that small, local and diverse businesses would receive preference in the many opportunities that would result from this project and that dollars would stay in these local communities. The same was true for the workforce. Mr. Murren was there to rally and to make clear to employees and contractors alike that this was personal to him and he wanted to ensure that the folks in the room knew it. His talk was infectious, and it was inspiring to see the entire team get on board with his vision.

2. It was all about community! The development team at MGM National Harbor understood that the success of this project was all about engagement and there was a concerted effort to involve community members from all walks of life. It was a true grassroots effort, and churches, community associations, schools, the business and non-profit community were given a voice to share their hopes and concerns about their new neighbor.

3. Community Outreach to local and diverse small businesses supported both the mission and vision. At the end of the construction phase almost 40% of all company spend went to these businesses. Analysis at the end of the project showed that the construction project had more businesses and workers from Prince Georges County in Maryland and Baltimore City. It is no coincidence that these are two areas that are typically forgotten when it comes to a project of this magnitude. Promises made were actually promises kept.
4. MGM willingly negotiated and signed a Community Benefits Agreement that would hold them accountable to meeting the commitments established early in their relationship with the community coalitions and local elected officials in Prince George’s County. This Agreement has ensured that opportunities continue to be available to local and small businesses in Prince George’s County and beyond.

MGM understood the importance of community and realized the clear link between their bottom-line success and ensuring meaningful economic impact to the neighborhood they now call home.

Florence Amate is the President/CEO of Laisar Management Group
The opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the organization. This article is for general information purposes and is not intended to be and should not be taken as legal advice.