Minority- and women-owned businesses gain experience on CityCenter project

Marc Winard used his electrical supply company's designation as a minority-owned business to get his foot in the door during the early stages of CityCenter.

Everything else was based on performance.

And that's exactly what officials from MGM Mirage and Perini Building Co. hoped would happen as some 200 designated Disadvantaged/Minority & Women Owned Business Enterprises participated in the construction of the $8.5 billion CityCenter.

Some 700 contractors, subcontractors, small businesses hired by the subcontractors and consultants worked for either Perini or MGM Mirage during CityCenter's five-year build-out.

Winard, an American Indian whose Las Vegas-based Nedco supplied electrical products to CityCenter's hotels, beat out national competitors, such as General Electric Co. and Westinghouse, for the CityCenter work.

Now, with its CityCenter work wrapped up, Winard, whose business was started by his father 28 years ago, believes the company can use its CityCenter experience to its advantage.

"It puts us on the same page for large government projects," Winard said. "MGM Mirage said to use them as a reference. The (minority designation) got us in, but we proved we could do the work."

That type of experience is what Phyllis James, MGM Mirage's senior vice president, deputy general counsel and chief diversity officer, envisioned when the company asked Perini, CityCenter's general contractor, to embrace the company's diversity initiative.

"I can cite a number of success stories that came out of this project," James said. "That was a major goal we had going into CityCenter. Not only did we want to have significant (minority- and women-owned business) participation in CityCenter, we wanted those companies to grow and strengthen and be able to move forward once CityCenter was finished."

MGM Mirage established a corporate diversity initiative in 2000, following the company's $5.4 billion buyout of Mirage Resorts. Perini needed to understand the fundamentals of the diversity initiative, in which minority- and women-owned businesses and vendors are identified and given opportunities to work with MGM Mirage.

"That was a major focus of our negotiations with Perini," James said. "Many of the Perini principals went through our diversity championship training program to understand our approach."

At the outset of CityCenter's development, MGM Mirage and Perini formed a Construction Diversity Team that went around the country to identify small, minority-owned firms to encourage their participation in the CityCenter bidding process.

The team facilitated joint ventures, helped mentor partnerships between minority-owned and larger companies and initiated contract unbundling, in which contracts were divided into smaller portions to accommodate the more limited resources of smaller companies.

CityCenter Chief Executive Officer Bobby Baldwin said some minority contractors doubled and tripled the size of their firms and their bonding capacity.

Perini Vice Chairman Dick Rizzo said the builder was initially familiar with about 30 minority-owned firms. During the outreach program, about 20,000 minority-owned firms were contacted.

In the end, roughly 200 picked up work at CityCenter during its five-year building process, earning some $700 million in construction and design contracts. However, Perini, a national construction company, now has a listing of some 600 minority-owned firms it can contract with around the country.

Rizzo said a goal was to give 50 percent of the CityCenter work to local businesses.

"We sought out the most qualified local firms, then used our national contacts to cast our net far and wide," Rizzo said. "For many of these companies, CityCenter represented the business growth opportunity of a lifetime."

Winard said the company's work on CityCenter, in the midst of the recession, allowed Nedco, which had employed about 115 workers, "to get through the year."

With new casino construction all but off the table, Nedco is hoping to pick up contracts for remodeling projects and government business by capitalizing on its CityCenter experience.

Meanwhile, Detroit-based Hamilton Anderson Associates, an African American-owned architectural design firm, hopes to expand its business in Las Vegas now that CityCenter has ended.

The company, which worked with MGM Mirage on the MGM Grand Detroit, set up a secondary office in downtown Las Vegas to further its work with the casino operator, handling remodeling projects at the company's Strip resorts.

When CityCenter began, Hamilton Anderson became one of three architects of record for the interior design and support spaces inside Mandarin Oriental, Veer Tower, Crystals and the now-on-hold Harmon Hotel. Hamilton Anderson was also architect of record for the $24 million CityCenter Sales Pavilion that houses the model condominium units.

Rainy Hamilton Jr., the company's president and founder, said the work on CityCenter enabled Hamilton Anderson to expand its experience and compete against national and international competition.

He said the company enjoys community building and is hoping to get involved in the downtown Las Vegas redevelopment effort.

"Having CityCenter and MGM Mirage raises our profile," Hamilton said.

Contact reporter Howard Stutz at hstutz@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3871.