Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker examines an infographic breaking down Cherokee Nation’s $1.55 billion economic impact on Oklahoma.
Tribe strengthens state’s economy by providing jobs, improving health care and supporting education
TULSA, OKLAHOMA – A new economic impact report by Dr. Russell Evans of Meinders School of Business at Oklahoma City University shows the Cherokee Nation now has a $1.55 billion impact on the state’s economy, making the tribe one of the state’s biggest economic drivers. That’s up nearly 50 percent since the 2011 economic impact report, also produced by Dr. Evans.
The report shows Cherokee Nation and its businesses have expanded their economic footprint by creating jobs, expanding operations and providing services to the Cherokee people.
“The economic strength of the Cherokee Nation means better lives for Cherokee Nation citizens and all citizens of Oklahoma,” said Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker. “When our businesses grow and we expand tribal services, that’s a direct investment in Oklahoma. This means more money for housing, health care and vital infrastructure, like roads, bridges and waterlines, which everyone uses. When the Cherokee Nation is successful, all of Oklahoma benefits, and unlike other corporations, we’re not going anywhere.”
The study showed Cherokee Nation either directly or indirectly supports more than 15,600 jobs and $645 million in wages throughout northeast Oklahoma. The tribe’s direct economic activities provided employment opportunities to more than 10,000 people, including contract workers, and its operations and activities are valued at $1.2 billion.
“Cherokee Nation’s economic engine is a critical component of the broader regional economy,” said Dr. Russell Evans, executive director of the Steven C. Agee Economic Research and Policy Institute, who authored the recent study. “Its economic influence continues to grow in northeast Oklahoma, and that economic strength not only provides valuable opportunities to workers and their families throughout the region, but it also facilitates expanding Cherokee Nation’s government services.”
The tribe’s capital is located in Tahlequah. Its businesses and field offices are spread throughout the tribe’s jurisdiction, which covers all or part of 14 counties in northeast Oklahoma. During the past four years, the tribe has driven significant economic activity in both government service expansion and its businesses throughout the Cherokee Nation.
During 2014, the fiscal year studied by the economists, the tribe began a major overhaul of its health care system, investing $100 million to provide better facilities and improved access for citizens. New health centers in Ochelata and Jay and expanded facilities in Stilwell and Sallisaw are nearly complete.
Also factoring into the increased impact was an upstart in new home construction. The tribe began building homes again for its citizens in 2012, the first new home construction program by the tribe in more than a decade. Along with the growth in housing, the tribe also added field sites for career services and tag offices throughout the Cherokee Nation.
“With the kind of revenue growth being generated within the tribe’s business arm, the future looks bright for the Cherokee Nation,” said Chris Benge, Oklahoma secretary of state. “I believe the Nation and the state of Oklahoma will have opportunities to work together to create more job growth and prosperity for our citizens. The job numbers are impressive, and the focus on diversification with a disciplined business approach is paying dividends.”
In 2014, the tribe’s businesses generated record revenues. In fiscal year 2014, Cherokee Nation Businesses generated more than $829 million.
Cherokee Nation Entertainment, the Cherokee Nation’s gaming and hospitality company, built a new casino in South Coffeyville and began construction on an $80 million casino and hotel in Roland. In addition to gaming and hospitality, the tribe operates companies in the security and defense, environmental and construction, health care, aerospace manufacturing, technology and real estate development sectors. Those companies primarily perform work for the United States government and secured hundreds of federal and commercial contracts totaling more than $383 million, with revenue being spread across multiple years.
“The state of the Cherokee Nation is strong, and our strength helps fuel the economy of Oklahoma. During the past four years, we’ve put ourselves back on a growth trend, and we expect that growth to continue,” Baker said. “Our businesses are achieving record financial results and employ more Cherokee citizens than ever before. When our businesses are successful, it helps us meet and exceed the needs of our people. Looking ahead, the economic prospects are better now than they’ve ever been, and we’re eager to continue working with state and local leaders to create opportunities for everyone.”
The research team at the Steven C. Agee Economic Research Policy Institute carefully collected and reviewed data to ensure the Cherokee Nation’s impact on the state is accurately presented. The economists also released similar economic impacts studies in 2011 and 2013, reporting Cherokee Nation impacts of $1 billion and $1.3 billion, respectively.