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Best of Liz Benston

Gaming Guru

Liz Benston

South Coast Resort Faces Staffing Challenges

11 August 2005

LAS VEGAS -- With Clark County's unemployment rate hovering at around 4 percent, Kathy Caudell knows her company will face a tough job market when it begins searching for some 2,400 employees to staff the upcoming South Coast resort in southwest Las Vegas.

"But Caudell, human resources director for South Coast, also believes Coast Casinos' reputation will bring plenty of people through the door Saturday when the company hosts its first job fair for South Coast workers at the Orleans Arena. Starting Monday, parent company Boyd Gaming Corp. will open an employment center near McCarran International Airport.

"Employers all over the city are having challenges finding people (but) the Coast name draws people," Caudell said. "We're a very positive workplace and we're known for having a family atmosphere."

For the first time, Coast will offer an online application process open to anyone with computer access and will also have computers available at the employment center, located at 980 Kelly Johnson Drive. Internet applications are convenient and can be especially appropriate for job seekers who are still employed and might not be able to visit the employment center, Caudell said.

While some Boyd Gaming properties employ more people, the South Coast hiring process marks the largest single job search in Coast Casinos history, she said.

The tight job market hasn't changed much from 2000, when the company opened the Suncoast in Summerlin with about 2,000 employees, she said.

"It was a challenge when we opened Suncoast," she said. "The unemployment rate was about the same then. At Suncoast it was difficult to find specific categories of employees."

Keith Schwer, director of the Center for Business and Economic Research at UNLV, said Las Vegas has witnessed a tight job market for at least the past two years. The labor market was relatively flat in 2002 as Clark County was emerging from the effects of 9-11 and the tail end of a national recession, he said.

"There may be a shortage in certain job descriptions and it may be that (companies) can find people who are willing to work but don't have the training," Schwer said. Companies may also need to offer more competitive salaries these days, he said.

"In order to get people to move you have to pay them a higher wage," she said. "Workers are finding that the cost of a home (in Las Vegas) has shot up so in order to get them to move they have to be justly compensated. They might have had a home in Michigan but their home was paid for."

The upside for casinos is that Las Vegas' reputation as the fastest-growing job market is generally well known nationwide, he said.

About 7,000 people are moving to town every month, he said, and many are minorities seeking jobs and careers.

Census data shows that Clark County's Hispanic population grew to 22 percent of the county's total in 2000 from 11 percent a decade ago.

The South Coast's largest department will be food services, which includes cooks, food servers and table bussers. About 600 people will be hired for gaming jobs including dealers and slot services.

Some positions will require little to no actual casino experience while others such as hotel services and dealers will require some background in the hotel and gaming business, Caudell said.

In keeping with past resort openings, Coast intends to fill a significant number of jobs with people from other company-owned properties.

Caudell estimates that about 600 people, or about 25 percent of job openings, will be filled by employees of other Coast and Boyd casinos.

"It's a strong philosophy at the company," she said. "We promote from within."

The company is still interviewing internal candidates for jobs, which will be filled before those positions are opened to the public, she said.

Most Coast and Boyd properties, with the exception of the Stardust and Barbary Coast on the Strip and the Fremont and Main Street Station downtown, do not have contracts with Las Vegas' largest union, Culinary Workers Union Local 226. The Culinary represents food-service workers, maids and others.

But Caudell said Coast wages and benefits "match or lead" the industry relative to other locals casinos.

Health benefits with no premium costs to employees are available, with employees hired before February 1 eligible to join after 120 hours of work, she said.

South Coast, which will open sometime early next year near the corner of Silverado Ranch Road and Las Vegas Boulevard, will cost about $600 million and feature Las Vegas' first equestrian center as well as a 64-lane bowling center, 16-screen movie theater, nightclub and showroom.