A Chance For More Than A Contract
MGM National Harbor Procurement Event Reveals More Than A Contract Gaining Guideline For County Small & Minority Businesses
By Raoul Dennis // Photography By Frank Solomon
A recent procurement event hosted by MGM National Harbor and sponsored by Prince George’s County Councilmember Monique Anderson Walker (D-Dist. 8) gave local business owners in attendance a pathway to doing business with the corporate giant.
The event, “Procurement Opportunity Outreach Session,” also shed significant light on the process for Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) certification with the county and the state.
“Our chairman, Jim Murren, made commitments to the community,” said MGM’s President and Chief Operating Officer Melonie Johnson at the opening of the Oct. 23 session. “He assured our partners that we would be committed to economic improvements and investments in Prince George’s. I’m very proud to say that it’s easy for us to live up to this commitment because we want to do the right thing when no one is looking: This is our community, these are our homes and we embrace that.”
Johnson reported, “46% of our employees reside in Prince George’s County.”
The event, which included one-on-one meet & match sessions between business owners and MGM managers, has become an annual gathering. This year, some 70 business owners attended in fields that spanned food service, kitchen equipment suppliers, maintenance firms, and interior decorators, among others. “It’s an honor to be able to co-host this great event with Prince George’s County Council for the third year in row,” said MGM’s Procurement Operations Manager Tobias Thornwell. “This is an event we look forward to every year; having the opportunity to present and meet with potential MBEs and discuss possible opportunities and benefits of MBE certification.”
Linking business ready small and minority companies with established, high-end corporate clients and partners can be challenging on both sides of the equation. While larger companies sometimes struggle to identify qualified minority-owned businesses to partner with, minority business owners struggle to get through walls of resistance to access contracts [See “Brokering For Better Business”].
The goal is to get more minority companies MBE certified and to break through systemic resistance to diversity.
Anderson Walker applauded the partnership between MGM and the county. “MGM National Harbor has been a phenomenal partner with Prince George’s County. We have a highly educated workforce and we are looking forward to greater capacity building—not just getting a job or a contract---but looking for opportunities to continue [and grow] that relationship.
The councilmember cited the new American Job Center National Harbor at Tanger Outlets. Scheduled to open January 2020, the center will “offer a full range of assistance to job seekers and businesses in Southern Prince George’s County, including career exploration, training programs, resume preparation and workshops to enhance job seeking skills and work readiness,” according to the office of the county executive.
“The county council is committed to economic development,” Anderson Walker said. “We are looking at ways we can bring public and private sector awardees together with business owners here.”
Gaming revenue at MGM in 2018 was more than $704.8 million. Since opening its doors in 2016, the entertainment complex has hosted over 10 million visitors.
As part of its relationship with Prince George’s, MGM is required to provide 20% of its contracts to local businesses. To fulfill its commitment to the county MGM prefers that all MBEs obtain a certification. Over the last reporting period (December 2018), MGM missed that goal by 3% as the company did 17% with CMBE’s.
It should be noted that MGM can only report dollars they spend with certified companies as minority contract deals. Organizers and advocates of minority businesses point to the regulation as to why it’s advantageous to companies to become certified.
To address the shortfall, MGM plans to deepen its hands-on approach to reaching local businesses in 2020.
“Our goal is to build a sustainable economic force here in Prince George’s County,” says MGM’s Director of Communications Malik Husser. “In doing so, we will continue to focus on supporting potential business partners to get and maintain their certifications along with hosting events like the MGM Procurement Conference where local, small and minority business leaders come to not only learn about opportunities with MGM National Harbor, but other significant businesses that exist in the county and the capital region.”
That may be the common thread and resounding takeaway from the four-hour session: that all parties involved have interests in seeing more county businesses get and maintain CMBE certification – and are taking an active role in the process.
“We provide certification workshops,” said Debbie Carter, executive director of the county’s Supplier, Development & Diversity Division. The office conducts certifications for minority-owned business and offers training and development such as technical training and how to price a business proposal. All options to achieve certification are offered at no cost to applicants.
“It’s important that you’re certified because then you can count on your dollars,” said Prince George’s County Council’s MBE Compliance Manager Mirinda Jackson who managed the program. Jackson, a veteran of diversity in contracting for over two decades, is a respected voice within the minority business community across the region.
“We are one of the most aggressive MBE certification [agencies] in the nation,” said Maryland Department of Transportation Outreach and Policy Manager Denise M. Merritt of MDOT’s goals in getting companies certified. Merritt refers to MDOT’s goals as being among the highest in the nation. “We aspire to have at least 29% of the state's spending going towards MDOT certified MBEs.”
Jackson attests: “Maryland is known for its Small Business/MBE Programs and Prince George’s County has more resources for businesses than any other jurisdiction.”
Shelly Gross-Wade, president & CEO of the Largo-based financial services firm FSC First, promised to walk MBEs through the lending process. “You are now talking to the right person. I’m going to tell you how and then I’m going to help you get there.”
Watch this space for updates