Disability hire no gamble for Mountaineer
(This story is part of a series in observation of October as National Disability Employment Awareness Month, highlighting local employers and employees who have found success.)
NEWELL, W.Va. — Officials of Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack and Resort knew they weren’t taking a chance when they hired a young man with a disability to manage their digital social media.
Michael Reiner was a sure thing.
“I was in on the interview with Michael back in June. He is a very impressive young man,” recalled Stephen Gresko, Mountaineer’s marketing director.
Michael was one of five candidates interviewed for the job of coordinator of social media. Gresko said all the candidates had good resumes, but “you can put anything you like on a resume,” so he put each of them on the spot by asking, with no advance warning, for them to come up with wording to respond to a hypothetical situation. “Michael stood out head and shoulders” in his response, Gresko said. He added that, “I talked to him about Google, how we could improve our exposure there, and he took it upon himself to get Google certified over the weekend, even before we hired him.”
His performance since being hired in July has validated Gresko’s first impression, especially his work in promoting a new online app for Mountaineer’s sports booking operation. Mountaineer has partnered with the William Hill company on sports betting since it was allowed by the state in 2018, but was behind competing casinos in offering an app that could place sports bets on mobile devices.
“Michael was able to start from basically nothing and turn it into a campaign. He got us right up there with our competition,” said Katey May, Mountaineer’s marketing manager.
“Once it was approved by the West Virginia Lottery we had to get the word out there,” said Gresko. “Michael jumped on it and got it done.”
Reiner constantly monitors Facebook, Twitter and other online platforms along with Mountaineer’s website. When a customer posts an online question or comment, it’s usually Michael who answers. For companies like Mountaineer, which relies on providing a positive gaming experience for its patrons, their online opinions and reviews are very important.
Being part of a generation that grew up in the saddle, so to speak, in the fast-track world of digital media, it’s second nature for Michael to ride that horse. But he also prepared himself well for a career in communications by following a traditional path: earning a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Kent State University, interning at WKBN-TV, and doing freelance sports writing for the Vindicator and other area newspapers.
He also interned with Reach 4 More, the Columbiana County Board of Disabilities’ employment development program, doing public relations and social media work.
Born with cerebral palsy, Michael has refused to play the part of victim, keeping a positive attitude and working hard to put the odds in his favor.
“CP mostly affects my legs,” he said. “I walk with a forearm crutch but my disability does not slow me down.”
Michael is a Wellsville area native and resident. His mom Paula is a second-grade teacher at Garfield Elementary. His dad Bill is in management with Office Depot. Michael’s fraternal twin brother Mitchell is a senior at Kent State and works in sales at a Fastenal Industrial Supply store.
A restless personality, Michael is always looking for some way to be productive and to help others.
As his immediate supervisor, and as the person who had that position before him, Marketing Manager Katey May is in perfect position to evaluate his work. “Michael’s a great employee,” she said, “He jumped right into this job and is a great asset. I see his work ethic. He asks a lot of questions and isn’t afraid to go outside the box.”
“The people here believe in me and it’s a wonderful organization to be part of,” said Reiner. “My favorite part of the job is when I work our Friday night promotion. We do a drawing. I have a microphone in my hand and call our players up to the stage to play the game.
“It’s really fun that I get to work in marketing,” he said, but he is very aware of his place in a larger picture. “I am grateful that I get to create a path that people with disabilities can follow.”
(To learn more about the benefits of employing individuals with disabilities, people may contact the Columbiana County Board of Disabilities and its Reach 4 More jobs program at 330-870-4272.)