It was about jobs, and it was a fair. But don’t call it a jobs fair.
MGM Resorts International officials setting up shop for the day Thursday at Bowie State preferred terms such as, “career showcase,” and “employment event.” That was because they are not quite ready to hire anyone for the 4,000 jobs the company needs to fill before it opens at National Harbor in 2016. Instead, they had come to sell the jobs to prospective applicants, hundreds of which flocked to Bowie State Thursday to hear the pitch. There was a 20-something man, with the collar on his white dress shirt turned up, fumbling with a tie as he crossed the parking lot to ask about security jobs. (Going to a casino for fun? “Not my cup of tea,” he said.) There was a woman interested in finance who remembered MGM Resorts officials coming to to her polling station in 2012 in a last ditch effort to convince Marylanders to put a gambling venue in Prince George’s. And there was a weary older gentleman, weighed down with reusable bags who said he had not come for a job because he already had what he referred to as a “Driving Miss Daisy” gig, shuttling around his wife, a state delegate. (MGM Resorts officials got to know the roster of local elected officials two years ago during its $30 million-plus effort to convince voters they needed more Vegas on the Potomac.)
Among the most sought after qualifications: a home address in Prince George’s county. MGM Resorts officials told reporters at the event that the company’s goal was to draw 50 percent of its workforce — estimated at about 4,000 — from Prince George’ s County. Job creation was a major selling point for legalizing casino gaming in the state. Horseshoe casino has made similar promises in Baltimore City, where the jobless rate, as of April (the most recent available figures) was higher than the nation’s. By contrast, Prince George’s county’s unemployment rate as of April was lower than the national one, federal data show. But there was still a palpable sense Thursday that more jobs were needed. There was so much interest, the event was moved from Oxon Hill Manor to Bowie State and people had to reserve a ticket in advance.
In neighboring D.C., big development projects that promised a certain portion of local hires have fallen short of their targets. And MGM Resorts will be competing for workers with two nearby rivals: Maryland Live! and, starting in late summer, Horseshoe casino in Baltimore.
But company officials said that was partly why they had come to Bowie two years ahead of opening day. They said they are trying to increase the odds of hiring locals by giving them enough lead time to get the training and qualifications needed for the jobs they want. Company officials would not say whether they plan to throw a massive job fair in a stadium, send buses to rival casino’s job fairs to try to poach applicants, or descend upon area churches, only that actual job fairs are still a long way off.