Holyoke Community College, MGM Resorts and the city of Holyoke announced a new partnership yesterday designed to enhance the region's hospitality workforce and prepare students for jobs in the casino MGM is building in downtown Springfield.
As part of this partnership, Holyoke will contribute $400,000 toward HCC's new center for hospitality and culinary arts from $1.28 million the city will receive from MGM through neighboring community impact payments over 15 years. MGM is also contributing an additional $100,000 toward the center, which has been given a name that reflects this partnership -- the MGM Resorts HCC Center for Hospitality and Culinary Arts at Holyoke.
The 19,888-square-foot facility is now being developed on the first two floors of the Cubit Building on Race Street in Holyoke's Innovation District, the site of yesterday's announcement.
"This additional half million dollars is going to allow us to get on with the renovations and to open this facility by this time next year," said HCC president Bill Messner. "This is really going to be a first-class facility. It is beginning to take shape right now, and a year from now, it's going to be ideal."
Once completed, the center will house HCC's associate degree and certificate programs in Hospitality Management and Culinary Arts as well as its non-credit workforce training programs in hospitality and culinary arts. The new center will allow for increased capacity in HCC's credit programs from about 200 students now to nearly 350 when the center opens in 2017. HCC expects to enroll 400 students a year in workforce training courses.
"The college has been in the culinary and hospitality business for a long time," said Messner. "This is an area of expansion for the region. With the advent of MGM coming to town we knew darn well we had to expand our programming and do a better job of turning out graduates for the employers in the area."
MGM officials have said they expect they will need to hire 800 workers for hospitality and culinary jobs at the Springfield casino, which is scheduled to open in September 2018.
"When we look at aspirations, when we look at the talent that is going to come through here in Holyoke -- it's not necessarily just about Springfield and the MGM property," said Anton Nikodemus, regional chief operations officer for MGM Resorts International. "It's about our company and the opportunities we're going to provide for careers throughout our entire company."
HCC's partnership with the city and MGM guarantees 50 free seats each year for Holyoke residents in HCC's non-credit hospitality and culinary arts workforce training programs at the new center.
"I think this announcement today is a testament to our community's commitment to making this economic development investment a regional opportunity for all of us," said Holyoke mayor Alex Morse. "As we decided to invest an additional $400,000 of our mitigation payments over the next 15 years, we had a commitment to Holyoke residents first and foremost. So, through this partnership, 50 Holyokers will have access to this program for free, per year. Fifty Holyokers and their families -- that's impacting hundreds of thousands of people in this city over the next 10 years and beyond."
The total cost of the center is now estimated at $4.3 million. In addition to the $500,000 from the city and MGM, HCC was awarded grants from the state executive office of Housing and Economic Development for $1.75 million and the U.S. Dept. of Commerce Economic Development Administration for $1.55 million. Another half million will be provided by the HCC Foundation.
Yesterday's announcement at the Cubit Building included cooking demonstrations by HCC Culinary Arts students and faculty and remarks from U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, D-Springfield, Springfield mayor Domenic Sarno, Bruce Stebbins, commissioner of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, and Marikate Murren, director of Human Resources for MGM Springfield.
"Throughout these remarks this morning you've heard the word 'partnership' multiple times," said Murren. "MGM believes success only comes when we are mutually invested in the communities we exist in."
"The MGM brand is synonymous with entertainment and world class service," she said. "We know that workforce needs to provide a gold standard of hospitality exist right here in western Massachusetts and today's announcement proves we are committed to investing resources to train local residents and prepare them for thousands of jobs when we open in 2018. MGM is proud and privileged to partner with Holyoke Community College on this wonderful facility that will lead the transformation of the culinary and hospitality training for the region."
PHOTOS by CHRIS YURKO: (Left) HCC Culinary Arts students prepare fruit plates for guests at yesterday's announcement at The Cubit Building in downtown Holyoke. (Right) Anton Nikodemus, regional chief operations officer, MGM Resorts International, U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, D-Springfield, HCC president Bill Messner, and Holyoke mayor Alex Mayor share a laugh.