Numerous factors differentiate Tribal economic impact from that of other businesses. But among them is that Tribal Nations reinvest a substantial portion of their revenue back into the community through infrastructure, education and more.
Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin, Jr. spoke to many topics during his keynote delivered at the Native Business Virtual Summit — from healthcare to food security. But he began by drilling home this vital point:
“That’s what makes Cherokee Nation, and all the other Tribes, different from other companies that might be in Oklahoma. We’re here for the long haul. We may have been removed here forcibly. But this is our home, and we’re not leaving. And so when we generate economic activity, create a job, generate a profit, it stays in Oklahoma. It’s not going off to some offshore company, it’s not even leaving the state, it’s staying here in Oklahoma. That I think is common among Tribes as we keep the dollars flowing within our economy. That’s what makes us such great assets to our friends and neighbors across the region.”
“We’re also doing things that other businesses around the country aren’t doing, because they’re just not acclimated to do it. We look at the long-term growth of the region as being dependent in part on how the education system is. And so, for example, Oklahoma is on a decade-long retreat from investing in public education. We’re on a decade-long increase leaning into public education, spending on public education — $6 million last year to the public schools. Why?” Principal Chief Hoskin asked. “Because we know that education matters. $16 million on scholarships that largely are going to Oklahoma colleges and public universities — that is where our mindset is: That long-term growth requires those kinds of investments. And even if jurisdictions around us, like the state, are retreating, we’re not going to retreat, we’re going to invest, because we know what’s best for long term growth. We’re reaching out to communities, big and small, with a jurisdiction, helping them with economic growth. That’s one of the key things I think Tribes can do with their resources, is go to these small areas, these rural areas, if your Tribe is largely rural like ours is, and the Tribe can be maybe the one entity that can make the difference in attracting capital investment.”
To illustrate how this plays out across Oklahoma, a state home to 38 federally recognized Tribes: the state’s Tribal Nations had a $12.9 billion impact on Oklahoma in 2017, according to a study sponsored through the Oklahoma Tribal Finance Consortium.
The economic impact study found that the Tribes directly employ more than 50,000 people and support a total of 96,000 jobs to Tribal citizens and non-citizens, accounting for more than $4.6 billion in wages and benefits to Oklahoma workers in 2017.
Meanwhile, the state’s Tribes have invested heavily to support local communities and efforts. Oklahoma Tribes have paid more than $1.5 billion in exclusivity fees since 2006. More than $1.3 billion has been earmarked for public education. In 2017 alone, $198 million was paid to support Oklahoma education.