Isle of Capri hires firm to find minority-, women-owned business for casino construction

Thursday, October 27, 2011
Workers at the Isle of Capri casino site begin pouring the concrete for the basin which will hold the floating casino floor on Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2011. (Kristin Eberts)

ST. CHARLES, Mo. -- Isle of Capri has hired a company that specializes in finding minority- and women-owned businesses to participate in the ongoing construction of its $125 million casino in Cape Girardeau.

The company informed the Missouri Gaming Commission of the decision during a closed-door meeting Wednesday, chairman Jim Mathewson said.

"They have anticipated at some point they were going to run into a problem," Mathewson said. "But finding a minority contractor in Cape Girardeau, Mo., is not an easy task. Consequently, now they're focused on it."

Isle executives would not comment on the private discussion, which took place Wednesday morning following the commission's open meeting at city hall in St. Charles.

The commission only requires that casino companies make their "best effort" to use such companies, both during construction and after toward operational costs. Commission spokeswoman LeeAnn McCarthy said there are no specific goals casino companies have to reach or maintain.

But the commission, which regulates the state's gambling industry, takes an active interest in promoting minority- and women-owned businesses and reviews participation, Mathewson said.

Isle knows what the commission's expectations are, said spokeswoman Jill Alexander. In this case, the commission was talking about the construction phase, which would include plumbers, electricians, suppliers and the like, Alexander said.

At the same time, she said, Isle is committed to including local vendors.

"It just makes it a challenge," Alexander said. "In our quest to maximize our efforts, we recognize that there are some hurdles to overcome, and we had a dialogue with the gaming commission to that effect."

Isle declined to release any numbers about how many minority- and women-owned businesses have been used so far in the construction of the casino, which is expected to open in December 2012.

Such scrutiny continues following the construction of casinos. During the regular meeting, commissioners questioned executives from Lumiere Place Casino and Hotel in St. Louis. One pointed out that Isle of Capri's casino in Boonville, Mo., does a better job of using minority-owned vendors for operating its casino than Lumiere does in metropolitan St. Louis.

"How does that happen?" commissioner Barrett Hatches asked.

Locally, the demographics may offer the biggest clue: according to 2010 U.S. census data, Cape Girardeau County is 88.7 percent white, while the largest minority group, blacks, make up 7 percent of the population.

Of the 7,342 companies in the county, only 2.5 percent are owned by blacks, the data shows, while 24.6 percent are owned by women. Construction, however, is a field largely dominated by men.

So finding a local firm that is owned by one of those two groups looks to be difficult, according to economic development officials.

In 2009, the Cape Girardeau city government was forced to rebid a contract for construction on Fountain Street because not enough minority- and women-owned subcontractors were involved at first.

"I think the biggest thing is to find the two together," said Mitch Robinson, executive director of Cape Girardeau Area Magnet. "You can find local. You can find minority and women-owned businesses. But in Southeast Missouri and in other parts of the state, there's a major shortage of those eligible companies to do business with."

During the open meeting, Isle's vice president of design and construction Dick Meister gave the commission a construction update. Construction is slightly ahead of schedule, he said, adding that the concrete portion of the basin that will hold the floating floor is complete. The floating floor, he said, is expected to be completed by February.

Mathewson said after the meeting he was pleased with Isle's progress.

"They're really moving," he said.

smoyers@semissourian.com

388-3642

Pertinent address:

200 N. Second St., St. Charles, MO

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