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25 Days of Sweetness

MGM National Harbor has proved to be all for the community and more than a resort in one year

With job creation, community engagement, minority partnerships and philanthropy, the destination has proved to be more than a resort

When the D.C.-Maryland-Virginia area learned of MGM National Harbor’s influx into the community, there was both excitement and apprehension. Now, one year and 6 million patrons later, the goals set by Prince George’s County, the establishment’s home location, have been met. Job creation, community engagement, minority partnerships and philanthropy are on the rise.

Nightclubs, restaurants, shops, meeting rooms and a 24-story hotel and casino make up the resort. Marcus Wigfall, just 30 years old, was working in the accounting field. He loves playing poker, and as he watched the construction phase of the building, he grew more and more excited to hit the casino. But, as the Dec. 8, 2016, opening date grew near, he’d decided on a different plan. In search of a part-time job, he applied for a busser position at the location’s TAP Sports Bar and landed the gig. Two months after it opened, he was promoted to a full-time position with benefits.

“I would say maybe in a full month’s time I had moved up to a server. Around March, the food and beverage director came and talked to me,” Wigfall said.

The director informed Wigfall of an assistant manager position. He applied and was promoted again.

“I’m sitting as assistant manager. I’m actually working on becoming a general manager, and that’s looking very bright in my future right now,” Wigfall said. “I really appreciate everybody at MGM. I remember the first day when we got there, it was like a big parade for all the employees. I never had that before. Never had that experience, all the bigwigs or the higher people high-fiving me. Why are they high-fiving me? I haven’t even done anything, but that was motivation. That was something I had never seen before, a different feeling. I was enthused to come to work every day, and I still am.”

Wigfall graduated from Saint Augustine’s College in Raleigh, North Carolina, where he earned a degree in sociology and moved from Charleston, South Carolina, to the Washington, D.C., area in 2010.

“MGM has been one of the biggest opportunities that I have ever experienced. I’m here, and it’s still mind-blowing to me. I talk to my daughter, and every time my kids ride past MGM, they’d be like, ‘Dad, you work in that big building over there?’ I take pride in it. It’s a good feeling just having your kids watch you, and your wife, and your parents, and everybody looking at you like, ‘You did it. You really did it.’ And I’m not done.”

When MGM decided to build in Prince George’s County, resort executives along with the local government signed a community benefits agreement (CBA) that consisted of specific requirements and expectations from the county to achieve over time.

“We’re really proud that we have met or exceeded every single goal that was set forth in the CBA of things like employment,” said Prince George’s County native and junior vice president of government affairs Kerry R. Watson. “Prince George’s County is a majority minority county. Lot of black and brown people live here, and the CBA sets a goal of 40 percent employment by Prince George’s residents, and we’re extremely excited that we actually are at around 47 percent. We were not asked to reach close to 50 percent until after five years, and we are moving quickly toward that direction.

“To be able to provide opportunities like Wigfall’s to Prince Georgians who just took a chance with this company and have achieved so much, to me is some of our best stories,” Watson said.

The company employs 3,700 resort staffers, with 47 percent of the workforce from Prince George’s County.

In one year, MGM is the highest-grossing casino in Maryland, with revenue of $600 million. It has consistently been the largest contributor to Maryland’s Education Trust Fund, adding more than $170 million. MGM has contributed more than $17 million to local impact grants in 2017 alone and has provided more than $1 million in philanthropic contributions to institutions including Prince George’s County Community College, Bowie State University, the University of Maryland, College Park, and the Community Foundation of Prince George’s County. MGM invested approximately $6 million in improvements to the former Thomas Addison Elementary School in Prince George’s County, where it will be available for community use beginning in 2018.

MGM is strongly committed to supporting women-owned and minority-owned business enterprises (MBEs) in Maryland. They have dished out more than $367.9 million to MBE-certified companies, awarded contracts to 170 MBEs during construction and paid more than $158 million to Prince George’s County Minority Business Enterprises.

“To actually work for a company that sincerely takes these efforts to heart, it’s been a big thing,” Watson said.

Employees are committed to giving back to the community. In September, the resort opened its doors to the nonprofit organization in which they are involved to meet and greet the staff.

“[We wanted them] to talk to the employees directly about what their organization does for the community,” said Danielle White, regional vice president of community engagement. “Without us telling employees, ‘Here are great organizations that you can volunteer at,’ the organizations came here and were able to connect directly with the employees themselves. Some of them signed up to volunteer with them, some of them wanted more information, because one of the other ways that we have to do is through the MGM Foundation.”

More than 5,088 volunteer hours have been put in by 526 employees.

“This is before, we had not even firmly launched our volunteer program. We launched our volunteer program probably in September, so most of those hours were just our employees taking initiative and getting out and doing street team volunteer activities. Those are pretty large numbers so far, and I think it’ll be much higher next year,” White said.

Kelley Evans is a general editor at The Undefeated. She is a food passionista, helicopter mom and an unapologetic southerner who spends every night with the cast of The Young and the Restless by way of her couch.