Info session highlights opportunity, community, diversity
by Melanie Jongsma
GARY, Ind. (March 12, 2021) – “We’re here to present opportunities,” said Jon Lucas, Chief Operating Officer of Hard Rock International. He was speaking at the 9 a.m. info session hosted by Hard Rock at Arthouse: A Social Kitchen on Friday, March 12. More than 20 local vendors had registered for this session, and attendance at the 11:30 a.m. and 2:15 p.m. sessions would bring the day’s total to more than 80 vendors.
Hard Rock Casino Northern Indiana is on track to open this spring. Friday’s info sessions provided an opportunity for a variety of local businesses to learn about the range of services involved in running a casino and five restaurants. The Hard Rock team listed not only the more obvious needs, such as those related to food and entertainment, but also needs like carpet cleaning, locksmith services, signage and printing, snow removal, landscaping, office supplies, and other services and products associated with any large building. Senior executives were onsite to make presentations and then meet one-on-one with business representatives interested in applying to become a Hard Rock vendor.
The new Hard Rock Casino is located south of 80/94, off the Burr Street exit. The 200,000-square-foot complex will house 1,650 slot machines and 80 table games, totaling more than 2,130 gaming positions. The five food venues on site include Hard Rock Cafe, Council Oaks Steaks & Seafood, YOUYU Noodle Bar, Fresh Harvest Buffet, and Constant Grind Coffee Shop. A Hard Rock Center Bar and Hard Rock Sportsbook are also on location. The entertainment venue will have a capacity of 1,954.
“Our involvement in the community is very important,” said Matt Schuffert, President of Hard Rock Casino Northern Indiana. “And part of that is in support of local businesses.” Friday’s informational event was organized in partnership with three area Chambers of Commerce—Gary, Lakeshore, and Crossroads Regional. Hard Rock International was represented not only by Schuffert and Lucas, but also by other members of the corporate team who made presentations to the vendors in attendance.
While unwilling to speculate specifically on how opening Hard Rock Casino Northern Indiana might transform Gary, Schuffert did say, “This is great for the city of Gary. This property and this casino is going to do very well, based on its brand, based on its location right off 80/94. The location is just key and is going to drive a lot of visitation, not only from that core casino customer but also folks who are just driving by and stopping to eat.” Schuffert also mentioned that the Hard Rock Live entertainment venue would draw visitors once COVID restrictions ease further.
“This is just an adorable little town,” said Tracy Bradford. “This is just simply precious, and part of our endeavor is to try to make a difference and help to grow the successes of the businesses.” Bradford is the Executive Vice President of Administration for Hard Rock International and is part of the Procurement Team. “It’s very important to us that we’re giving back to the community,” she added. She and the other presenters highlighted Hard Rock’s values as summarized in their mottos: Love All-Serve All, Take Time To Be Kind, Save The Planet, and All Is One.
Director of Purchasing Justin Armstrong emphasized that Hard Rock has high expectations of their vendors, and they promise the same level of commitment in return. “If you make a commitment to us, you must keep that commitment, but we will also do the same to you,” he told the businesses represented at the information event. “If we make a commitment, we will absolutely hold up our end of the bargain.”
“We’re gonna make sure they do that,” said Gary Chamber Executive Director Charles Hughes later, taking note of the promise.
Though all but one of the Hard Rock executives who took the stage were white, all stressed that diversity is very important to the Hard Rock brand. Stephanie Piimauna, who is of Hawaiian descent and was hired as Hard Rock’s Senior Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion one month ago, explained to the audience, “My role is to ensure that we create access to opportunities for all of you, so that you can join us in imagining the possibilities of growth and income and the economic growth and development within this organization.”
In a follow-up conversation, Piimauna and Bradford shared information about diversity at the leadership level at Hard Rock International. “Six years ago we created a program called Women in Leadership in Seminole Gaming and Hard Rock,” explained Bradford. (Hard Rock is owned by the Seminole Tribe in Florida, which Bradford described as a “very diverse” tribe.) At that time, said Bradford, “the numbers weren’t great,” but following the creation of Women in Leadership, Hard Rock International’s “diversity numbers” improved and now are “definitely above” national averages in terms of management level and higher.
Piimauna added that Hard Rock’s hiring her at the Senior Vice President level is evidence of their commitment to diversity. “It’s extremely telling of the organization saying, ‘We can do better,'” she said. “This is a very strong message of ‘We can do better.'” Piimauna said she and other senior leaders at Hard Rock are asking “What are some of the things we can do tactfully and strategically to ensure that the pie charts at the bottom reflect more closely the pie charts at the top.”
Hard Rock International is ranked 291 on Forbes Magazine’s 500 Best Employers for Diversity in 2020. It is ranked 243 on Forbes Magazine’s 2020 list of 300 Top Employers for Women.
“We can’t wait ’til it opens,” said Janice Bowden on behalf of the Gary Chamber of Commerce. “We’re trying to come back—and we are coming back—and this is a good start.”
- Hard Rock Casino Northern Indiana recruits staff for five restaurants (December 2020 article)
- Future casino works with food bank to donate 400 turkeys to Gary residents (December 2020 article)
- Trustee Zeldenrust asks Board to consider effects of gambling on community (October 2019 article)