OPINION: Tribe’s economic impact grows to more than $2 billion

BY BILL JOHN BAKER
Former Principal Chief
05/01/2017 12:00 PM
Oklahoma’s core is firmly rooted in its 38 federally recognized tribes. Cherokee Nation and Oklahoma have a unique history based on our shared identity and heritage. According to a new study commissioned to the Oklahoma-based Economic Impact Group, our tribe and its businesses are responsible for more than a $2 billion impact annually on the Oklahoma economy.

Today, more than ever, the Cherokee Nation is an essential part of the economic fabric of our great state. As the largest tribal government in Oklahoma, there is no doubt Cherokee Nation makes undeniable and positive impacts on the state.

Cherokee Nation supports more than 17,000 jobs, and more than 11,000 of those jobs are through direct employment with our tribal government or one of the tribe’s businesses. We have more Cherokees working for the tribe than ever before, and we are proud of that. During the past year, we invested millions of dollars in expanding our economic footprint in northeast Oklahoma, which is essential to developing stronger and safer communities across Cherokee Nation’s 14-county jurisdiction.

The success we are experiencing today will have a positive impact for years to come. As a sovereign tribal government, Cherokee Nation makes positive differences in the lives of our citizens, which helps alleviate the burden on state finances and resources.

Cherokee Nation Businesses, the tribe’s corporate holding company, generated a record-setting $1.02 billion in revenue in fiscal year 2016, the year studied by economists. The profits allow the tribe to continue to expand essential services to the Cherokee people.

Oklahoma is our home, and we are proud to be a partner in its success. We invest in roads – 77 miles in our 14 counties; public schools – $5 million to 107 public school districts; health care – more than 1.1 million patient visits annually to Cherokee Health Centers; higher education – more than $13 million for academic scholarships this year; and infrastructure – public water line repairs and installations.

During my time as Principal Chief, I’ve seen firsthand the changes we are making in families and communities throughout northeast Oklahoma. Just some of the examples include:

• In Delaware County, we invested $30 million in a new casino that created 175 new jobs. In South Coffeyville, we collaborated with the state to attract Star Pipe, a manufacturing company, creating another 75 quality jobs.

• In Tulsa County, our Career Services Department continues to help Macy’s fulfillment center with staff recruiting and training.

• In Cherokee County, the capital of the Cherokee Nation, we attracted several new businesses, announced the construction of a $200 million health facility, preserved our iconic capitol building and expanded the Cherokee Nation Tribal Complex.

Those activities don’t just benefit Cherokees; they represent an investment in our home, Oklahoma. A strong Cherokee Nation equals a strong Oklahoma. Our success is the state’s success. Cherokee Nation remains strategically positioned to lead Oklahoma into a brighter and better future. As we prosper and create jobs, we play an essential role in keeping Oklahoma strong and vibrant, ensuring it remains the best place to live, work and raise a family.

That symbiotic spirit improves the lives of everyone throughout northeast Oklahoma. We are expanding our businesses and increasing our profits to do more, help more citizens improve their lives and make more of a difference from one generation to the next.

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