April 26, 2017
By William J. Ford
Eastern Food Services of Laurel distributes various products to several clients, including Prince George’s County Public Schools.
The bottled water and food service company, founded more than 30 years ago, had to add 20 additional employees when it signed a contract to partner with MGM National Harbor casino resort. In addition, the company invested $1.5 million to expand its operation.
“It’s a huge opportunity for us to support MGM,” said Chris Umstot, senior director of purchasing and sales at Eastern Food. “My family has been here for over 75 years in College Park. I wanted to stay and help boost the county.”
Umstot showcased the business April 19 for Rep. Anthony Brown (D-Maryland) and other officials to highlight the noodles, poultry and other products stored inside the 45-degree warehouse. The company, which has a freezer 10 degrees below zero and coolers even colder, also provides bottled water for the MGM casino.
The walk around the warehouse coincided with the American Gaming Association’s first stop on a nationwide tour to promote how the casino industry helps small businesses thrive.
Geoff Freeman, CEO and president of the gaming association, said the association plans to tout small-business ventures in all 40 states where casinos are located this year. The second stop on the tour hasn’t yet been determined, but could take place sometime this summer.
“For every casino, there are businesses like Eastern Food Services who are benefiting immensely in terms of new product, new jobs they are able to add,” Freeman said. “This is the impact that a major casino can have on a local community.”
As part of the association’s nationwide tour, it released a study commissioned by the Spectrum Gaming Group of Lindwood, New Jersey, showing the $240 billion casino industry’s role in creating job growth and boosting the economy, including:
• 350,000 small-business jobs across the country;
• $13 billion in income for small-business employees; and
• $7 billion in federal, state and local tax revenue annually.
The report also highlights some of the small-business industries that benefit, including 108,000 construction jobs, 45,500 in the health care and social services and 35,500 in retail.
The summary outlines the importance of the casino industry in America: “Gaming is more than just a source of entertainment for millions of people. It is an economic powerhouse that improves communities and strengthens lives.”
MGM briefed the county council this month on how the company exceeded its goals to ensure minority-owned businesses participated in building the $1.4 billion complex that opened in December.
For instance, 40 percent of minority business was contracted at nearly $368 million to handle construction work on the resort. About 1,900 county residents worked 27 percent of the nearly 4.1 million construction hours on the site.
So far, about 47 percent of county residents have been hired at the more than 4,000 jobs at the resort.
The county projects MGM could bring in $34.2 million in revenue, with at least 50 percent designated for education, per the community agreement.
“As a Prince Georgian, I’m certainly enthusiastic that MGM was willing to invest in a world-class facility,” Brown said. “More importantly, they fulfilled a commitment to work with local businesses like Eastern Food to provide opportunities for men and women who live and work in Prince George’s County.”