By Jennie L. Ilustre
When the $1.4-billion MGM National Harbor casino and international resort formally opened on Dec. 8 amid a lot of fanfare in Maryland, MGM Resorts International Chairman and CEO Jim Murren thanked the people that made it happen, including minority businessowners in the area.
One of these entrepreneurs is Hedy Leuterio Thomas, president and CEO of Leuterio Thomas Architects and Engineers in Oxon Hill, Maryland.
Hedy’s company was responsible for the structural design of the 3,000-seat theater, the huge, five-story MGM marquee sign over the Potomac, and the VIP canopy by the building’s entrance.
Structural design is one of the most critical parts in construction, because it is directly linked to building safety. It ensures that the building can withstand all imposed loads. “Imposed Loads” could be the people, or snow, wind and even earthquake.
MGM Resort CEO Murren thanked Thomas during a photo op that followed his press conference and the morning program, which saw the surprise appearance of actress Sarah Jessica Parker, whose SJP boutique is one of the resort’s draws.
Remarked Thomas, wife of architect Graham Thomas, the firm’s principal architect since 2007, and mother of two: “Being a part of the MGM Design Team was a tremendous opportunity for Leuterio Thomas, as this type of grand and high profile structure only comes once in a generation. I have been in the Design and Construction business for over 30 years, and this is certainly the highlight of my career.”
As a Filipino American immigrant, she added she was grateful for the opportunity, adding the “American Dream” is alive and well, stressing hard work and dedication. She said it would have meant a lot to her if her father, Mariano P. Leuterio, had been around for the MGM resort opening.
Her father passed away in 2007. A civil engineer, he was the Director of the National Irrigation Administration in the Philippines. He worked at Delon Hampton and Associates in Washington, D.C., and was the Construction Engineer for the South-East South-west freeway, now known as I-695.
Thomas received her Master’s Degree in Civil Engineering with concentration on Structural Engineering at the Catholic University of America. LT was just a one-woman enterprise when Thomas started it in 2000, after working as structural engineer of record for most local cellular carriers, including AT&T, Verizon and Sprint.
Today, LT has 14 full-time employees, with an average annual revenue of $3 million. Its major clients include Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Prince Georges County Public School System.
Her company began preparing to be a part of the MGM project two years before MGM acquired the casino license in Prince George’s County, with Thomas taking part in town hall meetings. In 2013, LT was interviewed for the MGM project, and heard the good news “early in January 2014, and began designing immediately,” said Thomas.
She said that the “icing on the cake is that it is built in my neighborhood of Prince George’s County,” and will bring economic progress to the area. “I am very grateful to MGM for its true commitment to having a Minority, Woman-Owned Small Business like ours be part of this monumental endeavor.”
MGM Resort ‘Open for Business’
At the resort opening last December 8, MGM Resorts International Chairman and CEO Murren, proudly announced, acknowledging MGM’s brand of success, that the MGM National Harbor resort’s doors will be open for business – “and they will never close.”
He thanked everyone involved, and painted a confident outlook in terms of the economic growth it would bring to the national capital region, including domestic and international tourism. He stressed that the resort has already brought 4,000 local jobs. The media reported that when the doors opened to the public at 11 p.m. on December 8, over 9,000 customers flocked to the venue, with an enthusiastic overflow crowd gaining entry later.
Other opening program speakers were: MGM National Harbor President Lorenzo Creighton and MGM National Harbor GM Bill Boasberg; Maryland Governor Larry Hogan and Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker, III. Others present were the MGM resort Food & Beverage Partners: Chefs José Andrés, Marcus Samuelsson, Bryan and Michael Voltaggio, Jason Johnston (MGM National Harbor Executive Chef) and Clique Hospitality Founder Andy Masi. The topnotch MGM team includes the following Architects and Designers: Eddie Abeyta, HKS (Design Architect), Marshall Moya (National Market), Ed Libby (The Conservatory).
Success Story Q & A
Leuterio Thomas President and CEO Hedy Thomas graciously took time to share her story in a Question and Answer format, as follows.
Q: How did you get the MGM Account?
We had that project on our radar two years prior to MGM acquiring the casino license in Prince George’s County. I participated in town hall meetings to see and understand the progress on MGM coming to the county. As Leuterio Thomas is a local minority business in Prince Georges County for many years, we have marketed our practice with the selected Prime Architectural firm, Smith Group JJR. The selected primary Structural Engineer is Cagley and Associates, which had actually interviewed our firm. The interview took place sometime in October of 2013. We heard from them early in January 2014, and began designing immediately.
Q: Who at MGM approved the contract with your Company? And when? Gerri Harris, the Director of Contract Administration and Construction at MGM, was instrumental in us getting the contract. This took place sometime in the spring of 2013.
Q: How much was the contract worth to LT? This I cannot provide as part of our non-disclosure agreement with MGM.
Q: How long did it take your company to complete the 3 projects: the 3,000-seat Theater, the 5-story (5 floors) MGM Marquee Sign overlooking the Potomac, and the VIP Canopy by the resort’s entrance?
A: We started the design of the Theater Super Structure Effort in January 2014, and turned over the design for permitting and review by Prince George’s County sometime in October 2014. By the beginning of 2015, we were reviewing shop drawings from the steel fabricator, in an effort to make sure the design team and the steel fabricator and erector were on the same page. My team put in a considerable number of long hours – and consumed quite a lot of pizzas – in order to meet the tight deadline.
Q: Who made up your MGM National Harbor Resort design team?
- Hedy Leuterio Thomas, PE: Principal and Project Manager
(PE stands for Professional Engineer, meaning Board Certified)
- Janelle Ozusta, PE: Lead Structural Design Structural Engineer.
- Daniel Whipple, PE (No longer with LT): Structural Design Engineer
- Rachel Usdan, PE: Structural Design Engineer
Q: Please give us your educational background.
I graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Architecture from National University in Manila, Philippines. When we immigrated to the US, I decided to go back to college and get a degree in Structural Engineering. I received my Master’s Degree in Civil Engineering, with concentration on Structural Engineering, at the Catholic University of America, Washington, DC.
Q: When you started your own company, what was your capital and source?
I founded Leuterio Thomas (LT) on March 18, 2000. LT started as a structural engineering firm. My starting capital is pure sweat equity. I performed the design and have a CAD operator that draw the construction documents. All done remotely in our basement. The business started to take off during the cellular technology boom in the early 2000s.
Q: How many employees do you have? Leuterio Thomas currently has 14 full-time employees, with 5 Architects and 5 Structural Engineers.
Q: Who are your major clients?
We have at least 3 GSA (General Service Administration), FBOP (Federal Bureau of Prisons, IDIQ), WMATA (Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority), DC Water/Smith Group/Skanska, NAVFac, Prince Georges County Public School System, NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), among others.
Q: Please tell us about your father’s work in terms of his legacy to this great country.
My late father, Mariano P. Leuterio, was a Civil Engineer, and retired as the Director of the National Irrigation Administration in the Philippines. He worked with an Engineering firm, Delon Hampton and Associates in Washington D.C. He was the Construction Engineer for the South-East South-west freeway, now known as I-695. He was so dedicated in his work, with all those long hours. This is a part of the legacy he instilled in all of his children: Dedication and hard work in all aspects of life, from family to one’s profession. He was truly an inspiration, not just to us, but also to anyone aspiring to achieve the American Dream.