Magazine Online    The Authority On African-American Conventions, Incentives, & Leisure Travel
Issue: March/April 2010
Arthur Keith Always Sees The Possibilities
By: Patricia Ann Jordan
Arthur Keith knows humble beginnings. He was born in Elmira, NY, to the son of a minister, a former country bumpkin who conquered every odd to become the city’s first Black police officer. Pushing on to become a professor, his dad left him an invaluable legacy: “to always see and push the possibilities.” Perhaps Keith, president and GM of Stratosphere Casino Hotel and Tower in Las Vegas, was destined to lead. After all, Elmira had produced the great Ernie Davis, the first Black Heisman Trophy winner.

A graduate of Cornell University, where he played football, Keith made a decision to switch (early on) his major from economics to hotel management/administration. This major housed under Cornell’s premier School of Hotel Administration, which Keith refers to as a business/management curriculum with manners, focused on hotel and casino case studies with culinary emphasis. This decision was a turning point in his life.  A career that began as a prep cook has spiraled Keith into a leader who re-shapes hotels to top tiers. Prior to the Stratosphere Keith was senior VP and GM for the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center in Nashville, TN. Every year during his tenure, Opryland was ranked as one of the world’s best facilities and received numerous awards. Keith was given the American Hotel & Lodging Association’s General Manager of the Year award in 2006.

“There are tremendous lessons to be learned from the crossovers of what you learn in sports to what you learn in the business world,” voices Keith. “You can pull together or pull apart like teams.” He goes on to emphasize, “Great coaches or teachers really mean a lot in the business world — it’s about the team.”

Keith’s duties at Stratosphere, operated by American Casino & Entertainment Properties (ACEP), include overseeing day-to-day operations as well as developing opportunities for improving the Stratosphere experience. Keith believes he is like a Duracell battery; he keeps on going and believes in continuous improvements. He applies this strategy to the Stratosphere. He views Las Vegas as a MECCA of Creativity and innovation. Every three to five years, a property comes along that kicks it up a notch. Existing properties always have to remain extremely competitive.  One way that Keith keeps the Stratosphere on its toes is by building great teams. He admires the book, Good to Great, (author Jim Collins) and stresses, “What separates good companies from great ones is how great a team they build. It’s all about maximizing talent.” His advice to individuals wanting to get into the industry, “Go out and get the best education.” Then combine that with a wide variety of work experiences. Understanding those job experiences and what they entail will help grow leaders. He advises, “Seek out leadership positions. Learn how to compromise.”

Keith’s passion is “getting people to see the possibilities.” Negative people are his biggest peeve. In business especially, you have to see the “turn around opportunity.” Keith follows the creed: Think Big; Act Small; Fail Fast (if you’re not failing, you’re not growing); and Teach. To him teaching is never an individual endeavor. This proud father has passed his “possibilities” legacy down to his daughter, Alijandra and son, Austin. His daughter is a freshman at Vassar and participates in horse polo. Sixteen-year-old Arthur has set his sights on MIT to prepare for a career in Technology. His missing only one problem on the SAT section indicates that he’ll make it!

Keith sits on the boards of the National Coalition of Black Meetings Planners (NCBMP) and the Nevada Hotel Lodging Association. He loves wining, dining and is interested in anything dealing with food and design. He chuckles about his favorite channels being the Food Network and HGTV. Though, this takes nothing away from him being an avid sports enthusiast.  The combination of legacy, education, sports, food, design, and leadership have brought Keith to where he is today. Sitting on top at the Stratosphere and always seeing more possibilities.  Keith can be reached at (702) 380-7777.