Native American owned businesses are responsible for a $2 billion boost in Colorado’s economy, according to a preliminary report from the Colorado Commission of Indian Affairs. The report was announced at the CCIA's quarterly meeting at the end of May.
Perhaps the most crucial observation brought forth in the report is that Native Americans are not just consumers. “This is going to change the narrative,” Colorado Indian Education Foundation spokesperson Darius Smith, a vocal supporter of the report, toldThe Cortez Journal. “This shows that Natives are contributors.”
The report said that "Native American-owned private businesses employ more than 6,500 workers and generate at least $800 million in direct revenues; Native American-focused nonprofits use more than 250 employees, creating $55 million in direct revenue; and the 2,600 Native American students who are enrolled in higher education create more than $22 million in direct revenue."
The Ute Mountain Ute and Southern Ute Indian reservations are key employers in the state. CCIA executive director Ernest House, Jr., “Even without the economic impact generated by ventures owned directly by the tribes, which is still being analyzed, Colorado benefits from $1.2 billion in economic activity, nearly $500 million in wages and nearly 9,300 jobs that it wouldn’t otherwise have,” House said. “Including the direct revenue and employees, those numbers move to over $2 billion in economic activity and over 16,000 jobs.”
Native American represent 2 percent of Colorado’s population, but there are more than 400 Native-owned businesses, the report said. Acquiring more economic opportunities off the reservations is the next step in the community’s effort to expand.
“We have to think outside the box,” Ute Mountain Ute tribal council member Regina Lopez-Whiteskunk told The Cortez Journal. “We have to think outside our reservation boundaries.”
A final report reflecting the coalition’s three-year study is expected next month.