CINCINNATI – When Empire Corporate Transportation won a contract to provide hotel shuttle service and house cars for Horseshoe Casino Cincinnati, the casino instantly became the company’s biggest customer.
Over the past year, the contract has only gotten bigger, said Mike McKinney, operations manager for Empire. The Fairfield-based business is owned by a woman who also is a veteran.
Empire hired 25 more full-time drivers to service the initial contract and will be hiring more in the next few weeks, McKinney said.
“They’ve extended across to some Northern Kentucky hotels now, and we’re cutting down on the time the guests spend on the bus,” he said. “We’re doing 45-minute rides now. That will cut down to 20 minutes.”
Contracting with businesses owed by women and minorities was a goal for the casino’s owners long before the facility opened its doors March 4, 2013. Now, a year later, General Manager Kevin Kline said that commitment remains as strong as ever.
“We’re very proud of our ability to have had such an impact from an economic inclusion standpoint,” Klein said. “My goal would be to continue to work with our partners we have here in the community and try to continue to grow our level of diversity.”
In its first year, 23 percent of the casino’s operating contracts went to companies owned by women and minorities and small businesses. Kline said most of that spending was with women- and minority-owned firms. The casino has not released the dollar value of those contracts. Its operational contracts with all Ohio and Cincinnati companies amounted to $27 million over the past year.
Percentage-wise, Horseshoe Casino Cincinnati appears to spend more with diverse suppliers than the industry average. A report prepared for the American Gaming Association in 2008 found that casinos as a whole purchased 13.2 percent of their total eligible commodities from businesses owned by women and minorities and those characterized as "disadvantaged business enterprises" based on the backgrounds or personal assets of their owners.
Kline called the local results “very positive” and said the casino has been able to get quality products and services from its vendors at a competitive price.
West Chester-based RCF Group won the contract to supply the casino with furniture for ongoing operations. The company also worked on landscaping the casino during construction of the $450 million facility.
Other companies that won contracts in 2013 include:
• Oscar Robertson Solutions , a minority-owned firm, to supply copy, printer and fax machines.
• Delhi Foods , a woman-owned company, to supply fresh fruits and vegetables.
• And Xerve , a minority-owned company, to provide ongoing facility maintenance.
Wright Brothers Global Gas supplies carbon dioxide for the casino’s soft drink and beer machines and propane for its forklifts and outside heaters.
The account is “small to medium” for the woman-owned company, said CEO Ashley Werthaiser. Still, it’s been good for the company because managers at the casino have been “very easy to work with,” she said.
And having such a high-profile customer can help generate other business, Werthaiser added.
“It’s definitely a good account to have,” she said. “We’re very proud to support the casino.”
For more stories by Lucy May, go to www.wcpo.com/may . Follow her on Twitter @LucyMayCincy.