At Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa, Jessica Smith oversees a team of over 100 employees responsible for building maintenance and other vital facility functions. At home, she’s a wife and mother of four boys—a role that’s prepared her for anything the workplace throws her way by influencing how she leads.
“I recognize not everyone is identical,” explains Smith, vice president of facilities at Borgata. “My experience as a mother has taught me to approach each child differently, knowing they will not respond the same. This holds true for anyone you interact with in life. Similarly, I use this technique with recognition. Communicating appreciation is vitally important regardless of the hat you wear. You need to know your team and what resonates with each person to be effective.”
Those considerations stay at the forefront of Smith’s mind as she leads the efforts of Borgata’s most exhilarating initiatives. Recently, Smith supported the $55 million reinvestment, rebrand, and redesign of the Water Club, targeted for completion by mid-2023. The iconic second hotel tower at Borgata will be rebranded as the MGM Tower and will include upgrades to the building’s more than 700 guestrooms and 9,000-square-foot event space.
The renovations take inspiration from the beauty of the hotel’s geographic location in the Marina District and surrounding waters. The rooms feature bright yet warm décor reflecting a sophisticated coastal feel with a nautical palette of neutral and blue tones accented with wood finishes. Borgata is also introducing new luxury Vista Suites at the tower’s corners. These 900-square-foot suites offer incredible panoramic views spanning the Atlantic City skyline.
As the Water Club redesign nears completion, Smith remains focused on the company’s sustainability efforts and minimizing its carbon footprint. Facilities contribute to these efforts by evaluating energy and water usage along with collaboration with the MGM Resorts International corporate team on enterprise-wide initiatives.
Smith and her colleagues are engaged in ongoing efforts to reduce energy by converting the property’s original neon and fluorescent lighting to energy-efficient LED Lights. Additionally, Borgata is partnering with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) and has joined the NJDEP shell recycling program. Discarded shells from seafood dishes served throughout Borgata restaurants are collected, cured, and placed in the Mullica River to enhance oyster reefs by rebuilding marine habitats. This process benefits the ecological health of New Jersey’s iconic coastline waters.
Projects of this size require a great deal of collaboration not only between well-known companies and state agencies, but also among Smith and her team of electricians, mechanics, plumbers, painters, and more. As a leader, she understands that she sets the tone for the work they face, and she does that by a consistent display of charisma and showing appreciation to her team. Each month, Smith demonstrates this by showcasing a subdivision within her team through special celebratory occasions—with a 24-hour operation, each month is customized for the selected team.
“Understanding someone’s perspective, exercising empathy, and showing appreciation is incredibly important to me,” she says. “Demonstrating this philosophy consistently sets the stage for positive work relationships.”
Growing up, Smith could be found under the hood of cars, working side by side with her father in the garage. Her childhood passion for auto mechanics inspired her, placing her on a path toward mechanical engineering.
“My father wanted to ensure I could care for myself, teaching me everything he knew. He taught me how to place filtration systems into the house, how to place the copper piping, and sweating them. I was able to do that type of work before I was even out of high school,” she recalls. “To this day, I love to do work around our house and on our cars. I even put a lift kit in my golf cart to be more efficient around the farm.”
As told to Noah Johnson
“I’m from North East, a small town in Pennsylvania, and I wanted to recreate the feeling of home when I relocated to New Jersey. In 2016, my husband and I purchased a three-acre plot of land, and by 2019, we started bringing animals home. I currently breed giant Flemish rabbits; I have a fainting goat, an alpaca, and chickens. At one time, I also had pigs and a cow. Having animals at my home is joyful for my children as well; they really love helping with them. It’s incredible to be in the country and decompress for the day, and it also helps my children grow and learn.”
She went on to get a mechanical engineering technology degree from Pennsylvania State University-Erie before starting her career in Newark running beer lines and heading up maintenance efforts. After that, she worked multiple manufacturing jobs, inspected mechanical and electrical components for nuclear reactors, oversaw facilities for pharmaceutical buildings, and was the principal controller for a cement block plant.
Those multiple experiences gave her an affinity for facilities and provided the steppingstones that brought her to Borgata in 2022. Smith is the only female on Borgata’s executive management team and one of two female vice presidents of facilities in the MGM Resorts Enterprise. She views both statistics as thrilling and an opportunity to set the stage for the future.
“Gaming leadership has historically been male-dominated, especially surrounding facilities,” she says. “I put my best foot forward daily, and I pride myself on being hardworking and compassionate in my role.”
Smith works to inspire others to do the same, performing outreach to local schools to show young girls that there’s a space for them in mechanical fields and in leadership positions.
“I tell them that just because you are female doesn’t mean you can’t do it,” she says. “Even when the day is hard, never stop believing in yourself. As long as you work hard toward your goals, you can accomplish anything.”