MGM Mirage Efforts to Improve Staff Diversity Sincere
By Linda
MGM Mirage's two-year effort to improve diversity at the company is more than just a knee-jerk response to community pressure, a Hispanic leader said following a speech by the casino giant's CEO on Friday.

'I don't think they would have gone as far as they have' if that were the reason, said Tony Sanchez, president of the Las Vegas Latin Chamber of Commerce. 'They've dedicated extensive manpower to working through these issues.'

MGM Mirage aims to improve this year upon efforts begun about two years ago to promote diversity, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Terry Lanni told a monthly meeting of the Latin Chamber.

Following the announcement of the planned merger of MGM Grand with Mirage Resorts in 2000, leaders in the black community protested the companies, criticizing the gaming industry's record in hiring minorities for contracts and in management positions.

Soon after, the company launched a host of initiatives to support diversity. They include hiring minority-owned firms as vendors and contractors as well as filling upper-management positions with minorities.

The company has paid more than just lip service to the issue, Sanchez said Friday.

'It's a serious effort,' he said. 'Their corporation is a trailblazer in terms of gaming industry outreach.'

With the company's help, the chamber met last year's goal of securing at least $10 million in purchase contracts for members, Sanchez said. How much of that was with MGM MIRAGE wasn't immediately available.

The casino operator also contributed about $25,000 to help the chamber relocate to a new headquarters near city hall, which the organization expects to occupy in September.

Employees at MGM Mirage will soon have two big opportunities to move up in the ranks when the company opens its planned Borgata luxury resort next year in Atlantic City and another nearby hotel-casino at Renaissance Pointe later on, Lanni told chamber members Friday.

The Borgata and the nearby MGM Grand Atlantic City will provide new opportunities for minorities at MGM Mirage properties in Nevada to move up to higher positions within the company, Lanni said, opening up more rank-and-file positions locally.

The Borgata, which aims to be Atlantic City's first luxury hotel-casino on par with Las Vegas Strip resorts, would also be that city's first new casino in more than a decade. It is jointly funded by Boyd Gaming Corp. of Las Vegas, which will also manage the property and be responsible for hiring some 5,000 employees. MGM Mirage executives have met with Boyd Gaming officials to discuss and implement the company's diversity initiatives at that property, Lanni said.

Boyd Gaming has already named some Borgata executives. Details on how many employees have been hired were not available by press time today. MGM Mirage is already outpacing last year's figures in some categories, Lanni noted.

In 2001, about 26.5 percent of managers and higher-level employees were minorities. So far this year, that figure has climbed to about 28.5 percent, he said.

Also last year, about 6.6 percent of construction projects had some component led by minority-owned or otherwise disadvantaged businesses.

The company expects to be ahead of that figure this year.

Growth, not favoritism, is offering new opportunities for minorities, he said.

'It is not our goal to fire white males.'

The company in May hired an ad agency to devise an as-yet undetermined multi-cultural ad campaign. Last month, the company launched a Web site to help minority firms obtain purchase contracts.

The company expects to release its second annual report on diversity initiatives in March.

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