Jonathan Cary, pantry worker and prep cook at the new MGM National Harbor Hotel and Casino
Jonathan Cary, pantry worker and prep cook at the new MGM National Harbor Hotel and Casino (Shevry Lassiter) Credit: Shevry Lassiter

A major part of an agreement to construct the $1.4 billion MGM casino resort at National Harbor was for the company to promise about half of the 4,000-member workforce must be Prince George’s County residents.

Thousands applied for positions such as cooks, sales representatives, table games supervisors and locksmiths.

The unemployment rate in Maryland in October stood at 4.2 percent, which ranks lower than the national figure of 4.9 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

That’s why MGM Resorts International Chairman and CEO James Murren called jobs at the National Harbor complex a “pathway to the middle class.” So far, he has said about 47 percent of the jobs are filled by those who live in the county.

“We made a lot of promises that we have kept,” he said hours before the Dec. 8 grand opening. “There are 1.8 million Americans working in this industry here in the United States. We are a force to be reckoned with … and our jobs are every bit as patriotic as any of other kind of job in the United States and I am proud of everyone at MGM.

“Talk to [the MGM employees] you see,” he said. “You will see that magic. That’s what MGM resorts is all about.”

Hours before the doors opened to the public, three MGM employees spoke to The Washington Informer about their new jobs and their excitement level working for a billion-dollar company that employs 72,000.

Theater Usher

Karen Harris calmly stood and smiled inside MGM’s 3,000-seat theater as she greeted politicians and other guests who visited the resort last week.

Harris will join dozens of others who will sport uniforms comprised of a long-sleeve maroon collar shirt, black pants and a black vest.

A general description of an usher: “greet all guests with eye contact, a smile … [and] addresses guests service needs in a professional, positive and timely manner. Checks guest’s tickets and directs them to the correct seat.”

Harris will conduct those duties during certain events that include the Boyz II Men concert on Thursday, Dec. 15, the Miss World finals pageant on Sunday, Dec. 18, and the sold-out Bruno Mars concert on Dec. 27.

The 72-year-old retired D.C. government employee gave one reason why she chose the job.

“‘Cause it’s close to home,” said Harris, who lives in Oxon Hill. “I like being an usher. I love meeting people. I’ve always been in customer service. My thought is, ‘Treat people the way you want to be treated.’ If I treat you nice, then you will treat me nice.”

Pantry Worker/Prep Cook

Jonathan Cary, 27, calls himself a jack of all trades.

He worked in a warehouse packing and stocking boxes. He also worked as a mechanic with various tattoos of the trade displayed on his right arm.

But his dream job? Culinary arts.

Cary, who grew up in Landover and now lives in Oxon Hill, applied for a position as a pantry worker/prep cook at the restaurant of Marcus Samuelsson, an internationally renowned chef and restauranteur with establishments in Harlem, Chicago, Sweden and elsewhere.

While continuing his work as a mechanic, Cary and his mother prayed he would get the job.

Instead of changing oil and tires on vehicles, the preacher’s kid will slice melons, chop ham for a hash and other food for the cooks to prepare various dishes. He’ll also ensure the staff has enough items such as aprons.

He considered his first day last week at Samuelsson’s an early birthday gift. He turns 28 on New Year’s Day.

“I did not think I was going to have this opportunity ever in my life,” said Cary, who has two children ages 6 and 3. He also plans to attend culinary school. “I’m going to soak up everything that I can from Marcus … and everybody that I work with. This is definitely a blessing.”

Second in Command

Chrystal Tibbs chatted with one of the MGM security personnel in making sure a particular area was covered.

Minutes later, she attended a meeting hours before the casino’s grand opening.

The 49-year-old former Prince George’s police officer will help oversee more than 200 personnel as MGM’s security operations manager, second in command of resort security.

The security force has three patrol cars, two K-9 vehicles and utilizes a multimillion-dollar high-tech National Harbor Traffic Command Center. A helipad on the property will be available for emergencies to accommodate state and county personnel.

Prince George’s police will assist in traffic control around the garage and outer parameter of the resort, but MGM security can make formal arrests if necessary.

On a more intimate level, members of security will stand behind podiums and greet patrons while checking ID’s before they enter the casino and advise guests that various items such as backpacks aren’t permitted.

She said officers will receive in-service training. Some officers will get additional instruction with the Maryland Police and Correctional Training Commissions which offers specialized teaching on firearms, driving and other crime prevention methods.

More importantly, Tibbs said, security staff wants to ensure customers feel safe and want to come again.

“This facility is absolutely beautiful,” said Tibbs of Greenbelt, who received a bachelor’s degree in business management from Howard University. “This is a great county. The county is ripe for something like this. We’ve always been on the map. This place is so rich in diversity, talent [and] skills. There’s so much here.”

Coverage for the Washington Informer includes Prince George’s County government, school system and some state of Maryland government. Received an award in 2019 from the D.C. Chapter of the Society of...

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