PLUMMER, Idaho - The Coeur d'Alene Tribe has become a dominant financial player in the panhandle of Idaho. The University of Idaho's College of Business and Economics was commissioned by the tribe to determine just how large the financial impact was on the region's economy. The bottom line showed an impact of a quarter of a billion dollars. The tribe is the largest employer in Benewah County, where much of the reservation lies; the second largest employer in all of northern Idaho; and is rapidly closing the gap towards becoming No. 1.
More than 1,400 people are employed directly in tribal operations that generate in excess of $13 million annually in sales, excise and property tax revenue. Employees also paid $3.84 million in state income tax last year alone. An additional 2,100 jobs beyond the reservation are indirectly involved with the ripple effect that results from purchases of goods and services.
The major employer and largest moneymaker is the Coeur d'Alene Casino Resort Hotel. Presently 865 jobs are offered, and that number may reach 900 by summer. Large as that is, the tribe's other operations provide nearly as many jobs and those numbers will rise substantially with the planned expansion of Berg Integrated Systems within the next year. Government operations employ 362 people. The Benewah Medical
Center/Wellness Center employs another 237, and other enterprises and farming support 45 more jobs.
Tribal Chairman Chief Allan commented on the tribe's contribution to regional economy. ''We have long since arrived as a major player in the north Idaho economy. Our role is to work hard to create a better life for all people here, Indian and non-Indian, on the reservation and throughout our traditional homeland. Not only are we immensely successful, but we pour those dollars directly back into the economy of the region. Everyone benefits, and Idahoans recognize what we're doing for ourselves and for the whole state.''
Allotments and homesteading 100 years ago had reduced 80 percent of the tribe's land base, causing a rapid decline into poverty and loss of pride. The first gaming operation was a bingo hall in 1993 that provided 90 jobs; the total tribal employment at that time was only 125 people. That was a turning point: and the development of a casino and hotel a few years later was the major factor in increasing not only jobs and income, but pride as well.
A similar study was conducted in 2002; and during the five years since, the level of employment has grown by 300 workers, a 27 percent increase. Jobs are now available for tribal members who want a job, an incredible achievement in 14 years.
The Coeur d'Alene Tribe has also been a good neighbor to surrounding communities. The tribe made a commitment to give 5 percent of its gaming profits to education, which has resulted in payments of $8 million to schools, both on and off the reservation, primarily throughout the counties of northern Idaho. It has also committed $1.38 million over three years to a free transportation system that covers several neighboring towns and communities within the reservation. Another $1 million was donated to construction of the Kroc Community Center in Coeur d'Alene, plus $100,000 for a Chamber of Commerce building in Coeur d'Alene.
Allan commented on the great leadership, ''visionary leadership,'' over the years and said, ''We've created this success with tribal members at the helm of government and business, never dependent on
partnerships or outside agencies.''
Allan concluded by saying, ''The Coeur d'Alene Tribe and its members represent one of the great success stories in Idaho history. We are far from complete. This state and this region can depend on us for much more and for many years to come.''