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Carroll County Diversity Conference - May 2006

Later on this month, Carroll County will be the site of an all-day conference entitled “Investing In Our Community: Diversity, A Hidden Asset.” The title conveys the idea that diversity is an asset, even though it may be unrecognized. Like any asset, it needs to be acknowledged, cultivated, shared, and leveraged. While we can do this in any number of ways, the value of diversity is sometimes most evident when we look at personal experiences.

All year long, my son Jimmy earns money for his summer vacation by working at Walmart. Two years ago, my wife Pat asked Jimmy where he would like to go for his summer vacation. Out of the blue, Jimmy says Las Vegas . Needless to say, this caught my wife and me a little off guard. But my wife agreed, figuring that if Vegas was where Jimmy wanted to go, then she was game.

After a lot of research and planning, Pat decided to make reservations at a hotel owned by MGMMIRAGE- New York -New York Hotel & Casino. When she arrived in Vegas, the community welcomed her and Jimmy with open arms. This was particularly true at the hotel. Upon returning home, Pat and Jimmy were all smiles. Why? Well, perhaps this letter to the VP of Hotel Operations at New York New York says it best.

Dear Mr. Rappaport:

I am writing to let you know what a spectacular vacation I had with my son at your New York New York Hotel & Casino. My son is a 27 year old man with autism. He speaks and behaves in manners that are quite unusual. When we go places together, the following is the standard.

Since he appears quite normal until he begins to speak, people who are there to help customers will approach him, or respond to him in a normal fashion – until he starts to speak in sentences. His way of expressing himself is an intriguing mix of memorized phrases from TV, children's books, songs, movies, etc. and his rate of speech is too fast. After he tries to communicate, everything changes. The smiling person who wanted to be helpful immediately gets this panicked look on his/her face and starts talking to me instead of him; even when he is the one doing the business and has cash in hand. Jim is an independent adult and quite capable, but is rarely treated that way by people who don't know him. I'm sure people think you get used to this, but you don't. You just cope.

So when I arrived at your hotel with Jim, I was pretty much hardening myself in preparation for the experiences we often have when we travel. Wow – what a surprise. I was absolutely AMAZED at the communication and interpersonal skills of absolutely EVERYONE we interacted with at your Hotel/Casino. Jim was paying for the trip and wanted to handle everything. I never thought that possible, but your people at the front desk were nothing less than spectacular. When they recognized the differences about my son, their immediate reaction was to tune in even better and show even more warmth and willingness to help. As the week went on, we found this to be the way we were treated in your shops, your bars, your restaurants, casino, and even in the hallway when interacting with our maid.

You must have some kind of incredible diversity training for your staff and it shows!!!!! I am the head of two different organizations that are connected with disabilities in the Baltimore/D.C. area. You can be more than certain that I will spread the word to all my peers that your hotel is the best and that they should go out of their way to stay there.

I want to thank you for the most wonderful, relaxing, gratifying vacation Jim and I have ever had. As we were heading for the airport, Jim asked me how soon it would be before we could come back. This is remarkable, because he's never done that before on any of our travels. We WILL be back!!

Sincerely, Patricia Bucher.

I took it upon myself to inquire about the training that hotel employees receive. The Executive Director of Hotel Operations wrote back. For 15 minutes, before the start of each work day, staff members discuss how to ensure that all guests are treated with the same care and quality of service. Management attends a one-day class on diversity each year and all new employees focus on diversity as part of their orientation. Within each department, specially trained advocates for diversity called “Diversity Champions” ensure that diversity is integrated into the culture of the organization. For the last two years, MGM MIRAGE has been recognized as one of the top companies for minorities by Fortune Magazine .

MGM made a commitment to diversity. It then made a substantial investment of time, money, and resources. What was the ROI (Return on Investment)? Well, I think I'll let Jimmy answer that question.

Last summer, Pat and Jimmy made a return visit to Las Vegas . Jimmy has decided he wants to go back this summer as well. People, regardless of who they are, want to go somewhere for vacation where they are welcomed and appreciated. Clearly, the employees at New York New York have excelled in that respect.

Back to the conference on diversity; it will be held on May 22 nd at the Best Western Conference Center in Westminster . For information about the program and registration, contact Beverly Massicot of the Carroll County Local Management Board (410-386-3600). Hope to see you there.

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