Cherokee Nation Remains a Steadying & Growing Economic Force With $2.2 Billion Impact on Oklahoma

Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin, Jr. speaks at a luncheon at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa on Tuesday to celebrate the Tribe’s most recent economic study, revealing the Nation injected nearly $2.2 billion into the Oklahoma economy in fiscal year 2018. (Cherokee Nation)

As the footprint of Cherokee operations continues to grow, so does the Tribe’s economic influence on Oklahoma. Cherokee Nation made a $2.169 billion economic impact in the state in fiscal year 2018, reflecting an increase of about 7% from 2016 and more than 100% from 2010. 

The Cherokee Nation celebrated its most recent economic study at a luncheon at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa yesterday, attended by several state, county and local officials. 

“A vibrant and strong Cherokee Nation is essential for northeast Oklahoma’s long-term success. As our businesses grow more prosperous and create more jobs, our role in the state’s economy expands as well,” Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin, Jr. said. “Our profits and the dollars we generate go directly to our people. We’re now helping more Cherokees improve their lives, as well as the lives of their children and their grandchildren.”

The Tribe’s economic upswing is seen across employment, labor income and more. The Nation’s production of the $2.17 billion of local goods and services supports 19,203 local jobs, generating regional labor income payments of $837 million. (The impact methodology of the biennial economic impact report does not include the nearly 1,977 Cherokee Nation contract workers that may be primarily located outside the Nation’s 14-county jurisdiction of northeast Oklahoma. ) 

The Nation’s steady financial impact and stimulus is particularly felt in Tulsa County. 

Mayor G.T. Bynum said the Tribe’s $673.7 million on Tulsa County extends well beyond that, adding that Cherokee Nation has supported public schools and college scholarships to the tune of millions of dollars. Mayor Bynum added that the Nation’s job training and world-class health care services make the Tribe a vital and unparalleled partner in city economic development efforts. 

“When a company is thinking about whether or not they’re going to locate in your community or they’re going to grow there, they want to know what the commitment is to education and they want to know if you have a healthy workforce. The Cherokee Nation is addressing both of those needs,” Mayor Bynum said.

The economic influence of the Cherokee Nation not only provides economic opportunity in each county, but serves more broadly as a single source that connects the regional economies together. “This connectivity, combined with the development of regional amenities and expressions of creativity, are the cornerstones of successful regional economic development,” the report states.

The direct economic footprint of the Cherokee Nation — constant and growing — is an estimate of the Nation’s economic influence before accounting for any multiplier, or spillover impacts. “If we expanded the scope of the impact reports to include statewide or beyond, the economic impacts would be even more significant,” Evans said. 

Evans emphasized the Nation’s continuous stream of economic opportunities to northeastern Oklahoma, and noted that “as economic conditions ebb and flow across the state, the Tribe remains a steadying force through its consistent support in areas of the state where those opportunities are often needed the most.”

Last year, in addition to building homes for Cherokee citizens, installing storm shelters at local Head Start properties, and continuing its efforts to restore historic Cherokee sites, Cherokee Nation also completed construction on the new Cherokee Casino Tahlequah, began a 65,000-square-foot expansion at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, and placed the final beam on the largest Tribal health center in the country. Each project created a new, positive influence on the local economy and brought an even larger total economic impact for each of the counties and for the state.

The Tribal government invests more than $6 million per year into its language department, Cherokee Immersion Charter School, Master Apprentice Program, and Cherokee Voices, Cherokee Sounds Radio Show. It also provides thousands in higher education scholarships, gives more than $5.7 million annually to Oklahoma public schools, and supports early childhood programs, such as Head Start.

Cherokee Nation works alongside county, state and local governments to improve roads and bridges, ensure communities have good, clean running water, improve access to health care, and provide much-needed educational funding. It also serves more than 60,000 houses with USDA food assistance and 3,671 households with low-income heating and energy assistance.

Through its Housing, Jobs and Sustainable Communities Act of 2019, the Tribe and its businesses plan to invest $30 million in housing and community building rehabilitation projects over the next three years. Under the act, 75% of the funding, provided by a special dividend issued by Cherokee Nation Businesses, will help Tribal citizens with housing repairs, and the remaining 25% will help upgrade and improve Cherokee community buildings. It will also create a wide array of construction-related jobs and provide a boost to the economy throughout the region.

In 2018, the Tribe donated more than $568,000 in special project funds and provided a major boost to local governments, schools, nonprofits, community organizations, churches and other organizations that make positive impacts within local communities. Cherokee Nation Community & Cultural Outreach awarded more than $274,000 in grant funding to Cherokee community organizations throughout the Tribe’s 14-county area.

“The Tribe’s investment in education, health care, housing and infrastructure is making positive and far-reaching changes,” said Cherokee Nation Deputy Principal Chief Bryan Warner. “Cherokee Nation’s sizable and consistent contribution to the state’s economy has simply continued to grow year after year. That is something all Cherokees, as well as all our friends and neighbors, can be proud of.”

RELATED: Cherokee Nation Approves Largest Annual Budget in its History for 2020: $1.16 Billion

The Cherokee Nation’s sizable and consistent contribution to the state’s economy mirrors the growth of its businesses — most notably Cherokee Nation Businesses, the Tribe’s non-gaming arm and the Tribe’s economic engine with record revenues of $1.1 billion and more than $134 million in profits during fiscal year 2018.

At Tuesday’s announcement of the report, Chief Hoskin underscored the significance of the Cherokee Nation’s strong alliance with the state. 

“I’ve seen what happens when the state and the Tribes work together,” Hoskin said, reported the Tulsa World. “For the past 15 years, they have had a stable and positive partnership, most notably through the gaming compact that is fair to all and is a win-win for the state of Oklahoma and the Cherokee Nation. Why in the world would we ever want to wreck that historic partnership?”

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