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Cabinet makers bring jobs to Cherokees in Tahlequah

TAHLEQUAH, Okla. ? The Cherokee Nation and the city of Tahlequah received a gift just in time for Christmas this year. The city and tribe have lured the American Woodmark Corporation into opening a new manufacturing plant in the area, providing 400 to 500 jobs for local residents.

American Woodmark Corporation, a leading supplier of kitchen cabinetry, announced they will open a 300,000-square foot plant on a 40-acre site in the Tahlequah Industrial Park, at a cost of around $20 million. The first cabinets are expected to be shipped to customers in the south central United States by August 2002.

The company is one of the three top cabinetmakers in the United States. Its new Tahlequah plant is seen as a victory for city and tribal cooperation.

The two governments worked as a team to put the deal together, said Chad Smith, Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation. Part of the teamwork was showing the company that the Indian population in the area was hard working and dependable.

"We put together a very compelling package for American Woodmark," Smith said.

Smith also said the Cherokee Nation wanted to make sure that the company understood that some stereotypes about Indian people weren't true. "I think we were able to convince American Woodmark that the Indian population was a very solid, dependable, productive work force," Smith continued, "contrary to stereotypes they may have encountered in other places."

Creating new jobs and a stronger economy for the Cherokee Nation is one of the goals Smith has set for himself during his term in office, so when the possibility arose to convince American Woodmark to relocate to Tahlequah, he quickly put together a team to work on the project.

"We believe that we have to have a strong economy for the Cherokee Nation," Smith said. "Becoming less and less dependent on social programs, we need to be personally independent. So jobs that have a future to them and a good product are something we embrace. We have developed a very strong partnership with the city."

Because of their teamwork both the Cherokee Nation and the City of Tahlequah were able to convince the Virginia-based company that the pool of possible employees and the quality of living in the area would be an asset to any company willing to relocate there.

"American Woodmark's Tahlequah plant will be a state of the art manufacturing facility that will help meet our customers' needs well into the future," said Dave Blount, senior vice president of American Woodmark. "The company selected Tahlequah because the community offers an economically competitive environment and will provide a high quality way of life for our employees."

"We are very pleased that our economic strategy and partnership with the city of Tahlequah has helped bring American Woodmark to the capital of the Cherokee Nation," Smith said. "We are pleased to work with American Woodmark to provide good career-path jobs for Cherokees and other members of the local community."

An official groundbreaking ceremony will take place on January 9, 2002, at the construction site.