The Growing Economic Might of Indian Country
The financial impact of Indian gaming beyond Indian country is fairly well-known. Less well-known is the impact made by noncasino enterprises—retail, housing, farming/ranching, tourism, Internet services, among many. When bundled with that gaming money, Native ventures have a hefty impact on state and local communities throughout the U.S.
Gaming remains the standout, of course. According to the 2013 Casino City Indian Gaming Industry Report, tribes had $27.4 billion in gaming revenue in 2011, up from $26.5 billion the year before. The report says those gaming revenues led to payments of $6 billion to the federal government, $3.8 billion to state governments, and $2.5 billion to local governments.
But gaming isn’t the only way tribal businesses help the economy. Take housing, for instance. The federal government, through the Housing Assistance and Native American Self-Determination Act, disburses some $600 million a year to tribes to build thousands of new housing units as well as maintaining existing ones. That housing money creates construction jobs, subcontractor contracts, trips to home retailers and, when mortgages are involved, fees for a swarm of attorneys, Realtors and closing service providers.
Below is an overview of how individual tribes contribute to local economies with a variety of revenue streams. The Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, for example, prides itself on its economic diversity. It is a gaming tribe but also has ventures in education, insurance, construction, logging, gas, grocery, radio, social services and more. These nongaming ventures employ 1,400 people, the tribe says.
The Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians in Michigan and Indiana has a successful gaming operation, but they have nongaming ventures as well. All in, the tribe paid $25 million to vendors in 2012, most of that in Michigan and Indiana, and made charitable donations as well.
In Idaho, the Coeur d’Alene tribe is the largest employer in the state’s Panhandle region, and pumped $309 million into the state’s economy in 2009. The tribe has ventures in agriculture, gaming, manufacturing and Internet services. It has been so successful, it says, that there is an employment opportunity for any tribal member who wants one.
The Nez Percé tribe has ventures in agriculture, tourism and a big fisheries division that employs up to 190 people in peak seasons.
A University of Idaho study of five state-based tribes in 2009 found the following effects of tribal activities: “$852.7 million in sales, $487.3 million in value-added gross state product, $325.4 million in payroll earnings, $23.7 million in sales taxes, property taxes and excise taxes, and 10,156 jobs.”
And that’s just Idaho!
The following list highlights the substantial economic impact of tribes across the country.
The Cherokee Nation’s economic impact is well documented. A February 2012 independent report commissioned by the tribe found the Cherokee Nation has an impact of more than $1 billion on the state’s output level, including $401 million in state income impacts.
“I think it becomes clear, when you look at the numbers in this report, that the Cherokee Nation plays a major role in the overall success of the state’s economy,” Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker said in a press release. “The Cherokee Nation is proud to be a vital and lasting part of the fabric of Oklahoma’s economy. With a presence in 14 counties throughout northeast Oklahoma, our roots are here and will always be here. We are proud of the progress of a generation and look forward to supporting northeast Oklahoma for generations to come.”
The Cherokee Nation government operations employ more than 3,250 individuals, and the tribe directly and indirectly supports another 13,500-plus jobs. Cherokee Nation Businesses, wholly owned by the Cherokee Nation, employs an additional 5,400 Oklahomans, making the Cherokee Nation a top employer in northeast Oklahoma. Cherokee Nation Businesses’ diverse business portfolio includes environmental and construction, health-care services, manufacturing, hospitality, industrial, real estate, safety and security and information technology.
Another major contributor to the Oklahoma economy is the Chickasaw Nation that represented a $2.43 billion impact in 2011 dollars, according to an independent report.
The Chickasaw Nation owns two of the largest casinos in Oklahoma including WinStar World Casino in Thackerville—the largest casino in the United States—and the Riverwind Casino in Norman.
“Chickasaw Nation venues attract thousands of tourists to Oklahoma each year,” the tribe said. “More than 100,000 people from around the world have visited the Chickasaw Cultural Center since it opened in July 2010. The Chickasaw Nation also operates two tourism welcome centers in the state.”
The Chickasaw Nation is additionally involved in banking and professional services. Bank2 in Oklahoma City is wholly owned by the tribe. Other businesses operated by the tribe include Bedré Fine Chocolate, hotels, motels, entertainment, convenience stores, radio stations, retail, and Chickasaw Nation Industries—a holding company of LLCs, several of which are SBA-certified 8(a), providing government and commercial clients with diverse products and services.
As the third largest tribe in the U.S., Oklahoma’s Choctaw Nation maintains a workforce of more than 6,000 and a payroll approaching $300 million. Chief Gregory Pyle says they have enjoyed 15 years of explosive economic growth and business diversification that generates millions of dollars annually from seven casinos, a manufacturing business, a management services company, 13 travel plazas, 12 smoke shops, a printing company and a document-archiving company.
Coeur d’Alene Tribe
The Coeur d’Alene Tribe is now the largest employer in Idaho’s Panhandle region. The University of Idaho conducted a survey of the economic impact of Idaho’s five tribes during 2009 and found that the Coeur d’Alene Tribe added $309 million to the state’s economy.
The tribe’s enterprises include agriculture-farming, gaming, manufacturing and Internet services, and it employs nearly 2,000 people. Economic growth has been rapid of late, and it is said that jobs are available for any tribal member.
In addition, the tribe has worked closely with neighboring communities, donating to many worthwhile causes. In the past year, $1.3 million was given to promote education, bringing the total donated to education to more than $20 million across the state since 1992.
The tribe also provides financial support to area libraries, fire and emergency service, roads and highways plus major funding for Citylink, a public bus service.
In Washington’s land of salmon, smelt and steelhead, “We’re continuing to develop infrastructure for the reservation and working to grow the tribe’s economy,” says Cowlitz Chairman Bill Iyall whose tribe wasn’t officially recognized until 2000. Equally optimistic is Vice Chair Philip Harju who notes: “We continue to grow and prosper, moving forward with limited funding.” They are currently exploring their options for building a casino.
Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians
Gaming operations of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians contributed approximately $300 million to the regional economy in 2009. The tribe and its enterprises are the largest employers in the westernmost counties of North Carolina. The tribe markets itself as a tourist destination at VisitCherokeeNC.com.
In addition, the tribe’s information technology division services all the band’s tribal enterprises. “Our growing technology industry has connected every school, hospital and court system in the region providing high-speed Internet connectivity with increasing opportunities for economic development,” the tribe says.
The Eastern Band owns several enterprises, including Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort, Cherokee Bottled Water, Fish and Wildlife Management, Sequoyah National Golf Club and the Cherokee Boys Club. In fiscal year 2012, the tribe spent $31.8 million with local vendors.
Harrah’s scholarship fund provided approximately $500,000 annually for Cherokee schools and individual students. The Cherokee Preservation Foundation distributes approximately $5 million annually to support economic development, cultural preservation and environmental projects throughout the region. The tribe also supports many groups and initiatives through its philanthropic activities, recently donating $18,000 to the Qualla Boundary Special Olympics Team, $18,000 to the Dialysis Support Group, $25,000 to the Veterans Group and $27,000 to the Cancer Support Group.
Fond du Lac Band Of Lake Superior Chippewa
A recently released study says the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa contributed about $305 million to the northeast Minnesota economy in 2011—an achievement the tribe largely credits to its business diversity.
The tribe’s main tourist attractions—Fond-du-Luth Casino in Duluth, Black Bear Casino Resort and Fond du Lac Black Bear Golf Course, both in Carlton, Minnesota—pumped almost $120 million, about one third of its economic activity, into the region in 2011, reported Fox21Online.com. Casino profits fund tribal services like health care and community centers.
The Fond du Lac Band credits its substantial economic impact to its diverse tribal enterprises that include education, insurance, construction, logging, gas, grocery, radio, social service and more.
The tribe employs about 2,200 people, making it the second biggest employer in northeast Minnesota. Its Black Bear Casino and Resort creates about 1,080 jobs, and Fond-du-Luth Casino about 339 jobs. The band’s other enterprises are responsible for another 1,400 jobs.
Entirely surrounded by the larger Navajo reservation, the Hopi tribe earns most of its income from natural resources, primarily coal mining by Peabody Western Coal Company on the Navajo Partitioned Lands (NPL). This income comes by royalty sharing of sub-surface mineral resources by both tribes since the NPL was formerly a part of the Hopi Indian Reservation of 1882 and provides $13 million of the tribes $22 million operating budget. Local tourism is a second monetary source that supports some 200 wage-based jobs in on-reservation lodging, restaurants and shops, connecting a local network of other self-employed Hopi-Tewa artisans.
Kickapoo Traditional Tribe of Texas
The annual harvest from their pecan trees brings in mere peanuts for this tribe while gaming at their casino remains the big revenue generator. In 2011, the tribe announced an investment of $90 million in economic development projects and Chairman Juan Garza is eager to cut the ribbon this spring on a major expansion of the seven-story Kickapoo Lucky Eagle Casino.
Oregon’s Klamath-Modoc-Yahooskin peoples live by the mantra, “We help each other—we will live good” and apply it to their business mantra. The Klamath Tribes employ more than 250 taxpaying residents in its tribal administration and health departments and at Kla-Mo-Ya Casino in Chiloquin, and contribute nearly $25 million annually to the local economy through goods and services.
Las Vegas Paiute Tribe
Think Las Vegas and casinos immediately come to mind. But this Paiute tribe on the Snow Mountain Reservation doesn’t have a casino. It generates revenue with three golf courses, a mini-mart and a thriving retail cigarette business at two tribal smoke shops—one boasting “the largest walk-in humidor in Nevada.”
Mandan, Hidatsa And the Arikara Nation
The Mandan, Hidatsa and the Arikara (MHA) Nation, also known as the Three Affiliated Tribes, sits on top of the Bakken oil field in North Dakota. The tribe, which employs about 700 people, is taking greater control of its oil-rich lands and working toward increased self-reliance, as opposed to leasing its land to outside companies. It hopes to create its proposed tribal-owned refinery, the MHA Nation Clean Fuels Refinery, on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation. Construction of the refinery is expected to start by early to mid summer 2013 and create an estimated 1,000 jobs over two years and 65 permanent jobs. The tribe is currently working with a financial advisor to secure its funding package for Tribal Economic Development bonds that the tribe will sell. The MHA Nation has already committed $40 million to the project.
Contributing to the surrounding communities is an important tribal tradition for the MHA Nation. Most recently, on February 14, the tribe presented New Town, Parshall, White Shield, Mandaree and Twin Buttes school officials with checks of $100,000 each. They also gave $1 million to the Drug & Alcohol Task Force. In a press release, Chairman Tex G. Hall said, “When working on the budget, we wanted to include schools in the war on drugs and alcohol; as tribal leaders, we view education as more crucial in forming a young person than fighting drugs and alcohol later in life.”
As part of its commitment to improving the health of its people and others, the tribe operates a dialysis center, as well as the Elbowoods Memorial Health Clinic with branches in three of the outlying segments of the reservation.
Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation
The Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation owns one of the largest resort casinos in the world, Foxwoods Resort Casino, along with several other economic ventures, including the cultural tourism attraction the Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center, Lake of Isles Golf Course, The Spa at Norwich Inn and the Foxwoods Development Company, which is dedicated to world-class resort development throughout the United States and Caribbean. The tribe also provides significant financial contributions to state and local nonprofit organizations that support neighboring communities.
Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe
The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe employs approximately 60 people. The tribe opened its first ever on-site health clinic in December 2012, and it is in the process of adding a dental clinic. A community and government center—made possible by a $12.7 million low-interest loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture—is currently under construction, employing tribal members and other local construction-industry workers.
The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe also operates First Light Oysters, which sells oysters wholesale to upscale restaurants as well as to local fish markets. The project supports a key tribal priority: cleanup of pollution in nearby waters. Shellfishing is a historic economic and cultural practice of the tribe.
The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe is developing a $500 million destination resort casino in Taunton, Massachusetts. The construction phases of the project would create 1,000 jobs, with a payroll of approximately $230 million. The tribe estimates the casino would provide $120 million in annual economic benefits to the city of Taunton.
Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe
The Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe is the largest employer in east central Minnesota, with more than 4,100 employees in its various businesses entities and more than 700 employees of the tribal government and its agencies. Its main revenue source has been gaming, including Grand Casino Mille Lacs and Grand Casino Hinckley, but the band also owns and operates more than 30 businesses, including casino-related hotels, restaurants and entertainment venues, as well as convenience stores, a grocery store, a movie theater and several branches of Woodlands National Bank.
“The band is further diversifying its economic investments beyond gaming to include the purchase of hospitality industry assets in other major markets around the country,” the tribe wrote in an e-mail to ICTMN.
The Mille Lacs Band tribal government uses gaming revenues to improve life for Band members and for its non-Indian neighbors. “The band has invested in community infrastructure, economic development, and other benefits for the entire region and is an important economic catalyst throughout East Central Minnesota,” the tribe said.
Since 2006, the Mille Lacs Band and its businesses have given more than $3.2 million in charitable donations to educational causes, law-enforcement agencies, hospitals, food shelves, and other organizations and projects that serve local communities and the East Central Minnesota region.
The Mohegan Tribe owns the Mohegan Sun, in Uncasville, Connecticut (the second-largest casino in the U.S.), and the Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs in Plains, Pennsylvania. It also operates 40 dining and retail establishments and three entertainment venues, plus the 1,200-room luxury Mohegan Sun Hotel and Spa.
Along with Connecticut’s other Indian casinos (the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation’s Foxwoods Resort Casino and MGM Grand at Foxwoods), the tribe contributes 25 percent of all slot revenues to the state—one of Connecticut’s largest sources of revenue after the federal government. The tribe is also regularly donates to local children’s programs.
Morongo Band of Mission Indians
The Morongo Band of Mission Indians has led its region in economic development, generating thousands of local jobs and nearly $3 billion in annual economic activity in a wide variety of industries.
Morongo has a diversified business portfolio with holdings in gaming, finance, health care, agriculture, restaurants, recreation and manufacturing. The tribe employs about 3,000 people in its various enterprises.
Morongo puts its revenues toward the betterment of its tribal members. It operates a tuition-free college preparatory academy on its reservation, and the tribe also pays 100 percent of the college tuition and expenses incurred by any of its members. The band also funds its tribal health care, public safety and public works departments, and helps support nongaming tribes across California.
The Morongo Band supports thousands of local jobs both directly and indirectly. Morongo has contributed millions to area law enforcement, youth sports and schools, and works collaboratively with its neighbors to tackle regional transportation and environmental issues.
The tribe also contributes more than $1 million annually to support community groups and nonprofit organizations across Southern California. Morongo’s community outreach programs include its annual donation of 10,000 turkeys to provide 220,000 holiday dinners to children, families, seniors and veterans in need. In December, Morongo provided $100,000 to fund an annual holiday shopping spree for more than 1,500 disadvantaged children.
The Navajo Nation has many funding sources—internally, through taxation on coal and gas, as well as hotel occupancy and sales taxes, and externally, from state, federal and private grants.
The Navajo Generating Station and the Kayenta (coal) Mine are huge money-makers. A recent federal report covering the past 25 years used a figure of $1.3 billion in revenue, with $772 million of that going to the Navajo Nation for royalty payments, bonuses and water fees. The payrolls for just those two totaled 1,000 employees (85 percent to 90 percent of whom are tribal).
Another major cash infusion comes from travel and tourism. According to the most recent Navajo Nation Visitor Survey, the total annual economic impact of tourism is approaching $144 million—and nearly 80 percent of it comes from spending by out-of-region visitors. The tourism industry supports nearly 1,800 full-time jobs. “Visitors are captivated by our scenery, but what makes Navajo-land truly unique is our culture,” says Senior Economic Development Specialist Roberta John. “We want to share that heritage, and tourism is one way to do that.”
Gaming is also an important revenue generator, with three casinos in New Mexico making a $63 million annual economic impact. A fourth casino is expected to open in Arizona in summer 2013.
With eight industrial parks throughout the reservation, developing an industrial base is a key for future economic diversification, attracting branded entities like Coca-Cola, which has a bottling plant in the Chinle Industrial Park. “We’re doing a lot. We’re booming here on Navajo-land and can’t turn back now,” says Albert Damon Jr., the Navajo Nation’s director of economic development.
Nez Percé Tribe
The Nez Percé rank second in economic impact in North Central Idaho among the tribes there, according to a 2009 independent study. It is now the third largest employer in the region, directly employing 987 people, with an additional 341 jobs created by tribal expenditures in tourism, agriculture and other local industries. Using the multiplier effect from direct, indirect, and induced jobs that number jumps to 2,842.
The tribe owns 157,020 acres, and 31,700 of those acres are in dry land agriculture. Their fisheries division is a major employer, with roughly 190 people during peak times.
The contribution to the economy through sales transaction and including the multiplier effects was $191,560,000. Not included in that total is a new $16 million addition to the inn-casino now under construction, which is creating additional jobs and income.
Oneida Indian Nation
The Oneida Indian Nation is the sixth largest employer in the Central New York region of 16 counties, employing 4,500 people. The tribe contributed $6.3 million every two weeks to the quality of life of its employees in Central New York in 2012. That includes $128.9 million in salaries and wages; $31.4 million in medical and dental coverage, social security and insurance; and $4.4 million into employee 401(k) accounts.
In 2012, the Oneida Indian Nation spent approximately $140 million with 1,080 local vendors in Oneida, Madison and Onondaga counties. Capital project and construction spending accounted for another $16 million spent in 2012.
The Oneida Indian Nation opened the first legal casino in New York state in 1993, and has turned it into one of the largest tourist destinations in the state, drawing 4.5 million visitors a year to Central New York. The Oneida Nation’s other business enterprises include Turning Stone Resort Casino, SavOn Convenience Stores, Four Directions Productions, Indian Country Today Media Network and marinas.
The success of its businesses has allowed the tribe to invest in programs and services for its members, including an award-winning health clinic, a children and elders center, tuition assistance and incentives program from pre-K through post doctorate levels, a recreation and youth development program, continuing cultural education initiatives like Oneida language and dance classes, and an affordable housing residential community.
The Oneida Indian Nation also spreads its profits beyond the reservation. In 2012, it gave $10 million to the Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia, $1 million to the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C. (as part of an installment payment toward a $10 million total pledge made in 2002), $100,000 to the Verona Fire Department (contributions now total more than $1.2 million since 1993), and more than $50,000 in donations to local and American Indian charity organizations through the Oneida Nation Foundation including $20,000 to the Muscular Dystrophy Association in conjunction with a fund-raising campaign held at the Oneida Nation’s SavOn chain of convenience stores.
The Onondaga Nation is a traditional Haudenosaunee nation that does it accept money from the U.S. government. The nation’s revenue sources stem from four enterprises. The first is a smoke shop. The second is the tribal-owned lacrosse and ice hockey arena, the Nation Arena Tsha’HonNonyen Dakwha’. The nation founded Plantagon International with Swedish company Swecorp Citizenship Stockholm AB in 2004. Plantagon develops systems and technologies like vertical greenhouses for urban agriculture for the global market. The socially responsible company aims to provide fresh organic produce directly to urban consumers while reducing the carbon footprint and environmental damage.
The nation is also an investor in EcoLogic Solutions, a Brooklyn, New York–based company that makes organic cleaning products, which are now being manufactured and distributed partially from the nation.
Revenue from all tribal businesses goes to fund services for the nation’s citizens; none of the chiefs are paid. Among the many services provided are health care, a fire department, heating assistance, home repair, healing-counseling, historic preservation, a language program, a water system and a solid waste and recycling program.
Several years ago, faced with an unemployment rate that is five times higher than that for the rest of workers in Arizona and a median household income at half that of the rest of the state, the Pascua Yaqui community put together an Economic Development Plan—“a blueprint to set the tribal course for development—self-sufficiency and financial prosperity through economic diversification.”
To help fulfill that mission, a Tribal Enterprise Corporation was created six years ago. The most significant achievement has been the 2011 opening of the $130 million Casino del Sol resort. The tribe is also actively exploring expanding solar energy production.
Poarch Band of Creek Indians
The Poarch Band of Creek Indians operates three gaming enterprises in addition to the Creek Travel Plaza; Muskogee Inn; Muskogee Technology, which supports the U.S. Department of Defense with “zero-defect custom manufactured products”; Magnolia Branch Wildlife Reserve; and Creek Smoke Shop.
The Poarch Band of Creek Indians’s three tribal gaming entities employ 1,792 employees and had a total payroll of $68.4 million in 2012. The tribal gaming enterprises collectively spent more than $40.6 million on Alabama vendors last year.
Over the past two years, the tribe has donated more than $3 million to schools in Alabama.
Pokagon Band of Potawatomi
The Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians contributed $35 million to the regional economy in 2012, in addition to its annual payments to the state of Michigan, per the Band’s compact, and ancillary benefits from its Four Winds Casinos and other businesses. The 4,500-member tribe services 10 county areas: four in Southwestern Michigan and six in Northern Indiana.
Chairman Matt Wesaw said the Band “makes it a priority to support local vendors and hire locally” for its gaming and other ventures. Last year, the band spent $25 million with 3,132 vendors nationwide. Of that, $5 million was spent with 1,332 vendors in Michigan, and $5 million was spent with 372 vendors in Indiana. The Pokagon Fund, which is supported by 0.75 percent of electronic gaming revenue from Four Winds New Buffalo, gave $2.6 million in grants to various projects in the New Buffalo region. Additionally, through its casino locations, the Pokagon Band also made contributions of $5.6 million to the New Buffalo Local Revenue Sharing Board and copy million to the Hartford Local Revenue Sharing Board. The local revenue sharing boards were set up through the Pokagon Band’s compact with the state of Michigan to provide funding to local municipalities in lieu of taxes.
In-kind donations from the band totaled more than $365,000 in 2012. The same year, the tribe also sponsored the inaugural Four Winds Invitational, bringing a professional golf tournament and pumping tourism dollars into the area. Plus, the tournament enabled donations of $53,000 to Memorial Children’s Hospital and $10,000 to its Ronald McDonald Family Room.
The tribe currently runs two gaming facilities: Four Winds Casino Resort in New Buffalo and Four Winds Hartford. Its third casino, Four Winds Dowagiac, will open in 2013. The operation is expected to create 100 new permanent jobs in addition to employment opportunities during construction.
The Quapaw Tribe’s economic impact of its recently expanded Downstream Resort Casino in Oklahoma on the region where Oklahoma, Missouri and Kansas meet is estimated at more than $1 billion over the past five years. The casino has pumped more than $225 million into the economy annually since its July 2008 opening, and has created more than 1,640 permanent jobs. The resort’s future annual economic impact is projected at more than $300 million.
Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community
Although bounded by major metropolitan population centers, the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community sovereign tribe still cultivates crops on 12,000 of its 52,600 acres, in addition to on-property commercial development. The tribe is involved in a variety of industrial and commercial enterprises such as the Casino Arizona, Talking Stick Resort & Spa, a 36-hole golf course and Salt River Fields, a stadium complex that is the spring training home to two Major League Baseball clubs, the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Colorado Rockies. They also own the Pavilions at Talking Stick, a shopping mall with dozens of stores, restaurants and entertainment venues, adjacent to Salt River Fields, and invested $32 million in improvements and expansion of commercial lands, which they now lease out.
San Manuel Band of Serrano Mission Indians
Since the San Manuel Band of Serrano Mission Indians invested in a high-stakes bingo operation in the mid-1980s, it has grown to become one of the largest employers in the Inland Empire. Revenue from the San Manuel Indian Bingo and Casino in Highland, California supports governmental operations, provides for the general welfare of the tribe and health-care needs, supplies infrastructure needs such as roads, and supports continued economic development. The tribe follows a culture of giving or Yawa’, a Serrano word meaning “to act on one’s beliefs” through its partnerships with charitable organizations and regularly giving back to the surrounding community and other tribes.
Seminole Tribe of Florida
Some analysts say the Seminole Tribe of Florida is worth several billion dollars. The Seminoles of Florida were the first American Indian tribe to establish a casino on Indian land more than 30 years ago. Now the tribe operates seven casinos in Florida.
In March 2007, the Seminoles of Florida purchased the Hard Rock International from the Britain-based company Rank Group PLC for an estimated $965 million. The unprecedented deal now includes 177 venues in 58 countries: 141 Hard Rock Cafés, 18 Hard Rock Hotels and 8 casinos. The tribe, which has more than 3,800 enrolled members, also acquired in the deal the largest collection of rock memorabilia in the world, including Jimmy Hendrix's Flying V guitar and one of Madonna's bustiers.
The Seminole Tribe of Florida directly employ more than 20,000 persons, including more than 10,000 in their Florida gaming operations, and more than 7,000 at Hard Rock International. Another 15,000 persons are employed by Hard Rock licensees around the world, or by vendors who operate various businesses under contracts at Seminole gaming sites. In addition, the Tribe generates billions of dollars in economic impact in Florida and elsewhere through vendor contracts and indirect spending spun-off from its gaming and governmental operations, as well as other business interests.
Seneca Nation of Indians
The Seneca Nation is the fifth-largest employer in Western New York and has invested tens of millions of dollars in the region. Its gas and convenience stores and gaming enterprises create thousands of jobs and add value to the area by attracting tourists and bolstering the local economy. In 2009, the tribal council formed Seneca Holdings, LLC to diversify its economy and create wealth for the nation and its people by investing in and buying companies.
Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community
The Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community (SMSC) has given away more than $258.2 million in the past 17 years in grants and charitable donations, in addition to loans exceeding $523 million to other tribes for economic development projects. In fiscal 2012, the tribe donated $29 million, including more than $15 million to other tribes.
The SMSC employs 4,216 people and has an annual payroll of $157 million for tribal enterprises and its tribal government. The SMSC is the largest employer in Scott County in Minnesota, employing 2,021 Scott County residents with a collective annual pay roll of $69.5 million.
SMSC Gaming Enterprise operates Mystic Lake Casino Hotel—the Twin Cities’ only casino hotel and one of the largest Midwest gaming facilities—as well as Little Six Casino. The tribe also owns an award-winning golf course, convenience shops, an RV park, a childcare center, a sports and fitness facility with an ice-skating rink, a storage service, an organics recycling plant and a water bottling facility.
The greater community is also directly benefits from the tribe’s businesses. The SMSC pays vendors $136.8 million annually for goods and services. And in addition to matching $11.4 million in Federal Insurance Contributions Act and Medicare taxes annually, paying $685,000 a year in property taxes to Scott County on the land the tribe owns in fee status, and paying more than $1.8 million in sales and excise taxes on cigarettes, fuel and liquor to the state of Minnesota each year, the tribe voluntarily gives money to local counties. The SMSC has voluntarily paid Scott County and other jurisdictions $30,190,448 over the past 17 years for services. Some of the SMSC payments have funded road projects, park improvements, wastewater and sewer fees, property taxes, transit and Scott County Association of Leadership and Efficiency studies, emergency sirens, and police and fire protection. Each year, the SMSC voluntarily gives $380,000 to the city of Prior Lake and $280,000 to Scott County for services.
Southern Ute Indian Tribe
With more than a million acres of reservation land in three counties in Southwest Colorado, the Southern Ute tribe proudly claims it is one of the largest employers in the region with 1,668 employees, whose business activity generates millions of dollars each year. The Southern Ute Indian Tribe Growth Fund, formed in 2000, operates and manages the tribe’s businesses and business investments. Operations and assets are spread out over 14 states and the Gulf of Mexico.
The tribe currently operates 500 gas and oil wells and works to create and operate additional oil/gas businesses both on and off the reservation, as well as expand its real estate development and gaming interests. The reservation is home to the Sky Ute Casino and Resort, the SunUte Community Center and the new Southern Ute Cultural Center and Museum.
The Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe
The Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe in Northern New York contributes millions of dollars annually to the economy of a relatively economically depressed area. The tribe operates Akwesasne Mohawk Casino and Mohawk Bingo Palace and continues to work toward attaining self-sufficiency and better serving the needs of the Akwesasne community members.
Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation
With only 130 members, this small San Diego County tribe wields a big economic stick because it owns one of the largest casinos in the area, plus a hotel and golf course. The Sycuan Tribal Development Corporation also has such projects as the $35 million Marina Gateway waterfront development, that created 1,000 jobs in the construction phase and resulted in 200 new permanent jobs.
This small tribe owns the Sycuan Casino, a hotel, a golf course and two wastewater treatment plants. The Sycuan Band recently spent more than $6 million to help pass ballot initiatives that added 17,000 slot machines for four tribes: the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Mission Indians, Morongo Band of Mission Indians, the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians and the Kymeyaay.
Tohono O’odham Nation
The start of the 21st century saw these desert peoples making economic inroads with a trio of casinos, a hotel, and the promise of another major economic boom forthcoming once legal hurdles on the proposed West Valley Resort are cleared. Chairman Ned Norris Jr. is hopeful construction can start soon on the facility, which will have an estimated annual impact of $300 million. According to the tribe’s web page, construction on the resort could create 6,000 temporary jobs, and the resort should offer 3,000 permanent jobs once the doors open to an annual estimated 1.2 million visitors.
Umpqua Tribe, Cow Creek Band
Under the auspices of the Umpqua Indian Development Corporation, the tribe operates a variety of businesses that benefit members and area residents, including a casino (average visitor spending of $212 per day), a truck center and Umpqua Indian Foods, which makes a renowned beef jerky. The most recent available statistics show a tribal workforce of 1,300, with an annual payroll of $40 million and a net economic impact in excess of $107 million annually. Employees of the tribe and its tribal businesses also pay more than $1 million in residential property taxes.
Ysleta Del Sur Pueblo
The Ysleta del Sur Pueblo Economic Development Department maintains a self-supported business environment. In addition to federal contracting activities including transporting fuel, the tribe (boasting a 79 percent employment rate) is focusing on becoming a data-driven nation through collection and analysis of information. The pueblo recently established its Tigua Business Center, which serves as a small business development center for tribally owned enterprises and businesses owned by individual tribal members. Another extension of that in the design-phase is the Tigua Technology Enterprise Center, which will aid businesses with a combination of incubators as well as a computer lab with sophisticated software, such as construction and auto mechanic software and computer aided design software.