Quapaw Tribe contracts with firm employing disabled people

QUAPAW, Okla. – The Quapaw Tribe of Oklahoma recently celebrated the opening of its new casino: the Downstream Casino and Resort, located just off the I-44 corridor at the spot where Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma meet.

The tribe’s new hotel, boasting 222 upscale rooms, luxury one- and two-bedroom suites, penthouse-level VIP lounge, valet parking, wireless check-in and other high-end amenities, is set to open Nov. 1. As part of offering its clients the best service and helping to provide more job opportunities for people with special needs, the tribe signed a deal with Joplin Workshops at about $3 million a year to provide hotel laundry services. The Quapaw, as part of the contract, also helped purchase more than $100,000 of new equipment to handle the increased workload.

Joplin Workshops Executive Director Ron Sampson said, “We are in the people business. Our partnership with the tribe will have a major impact on our local community. We already process about 600,000 pounds of laundry a month and will be processing another 30,000 pounds once the hotel opens. Our laundry service currently employs 178 people with disabilities. ”

Joplin Workshops employs area citizens with disabilities in their assembly and packaging enterprise and laundry services. In addition to serving the needs of the Downstream Hotel, Joplin Workshops also has contracts with 10 local medical centers to provide laundry services.

Quapaw Chairman John Berrey said, “The Quapaw Tribe is very community oriented. What impressed me the most about the whole organization is the large community of handicapped people in our area that you never see. When I toured the workshop, it seemed like a perfect fit for the tribe.

“When I left after my first visit, I sat in my truck and cried like a baby because I was so sympathetic to those people. It provides a necessary service for us and we pay a premium price that is higher than some of the bids we got for our laundry. The fortunate thing about being a tribe, as opposed to a business, is that you get to make decisions that are community-based sometimes and not always profit-based.

“It has turned out to be a great relationship. There are Native people that are members and part of our society that I was told work at Joplin Workshops. When we delivered our first 50,000 pounds of laundry in preparation for the hotel’s opening, it was an amazing and gratifying feeling. It makes me feel good about what we do.”

Sean Harrison, Downstream Casino Resort public relations liaison, said he admires Joplin Workshop’s work ethic and enthusiasm. “We saw workers smiling and happy to be there, grateful to have some work to do. It is a great community organization that serves an important purpose. By using their laundry service, we are helping support an important segment of the community.”

According to Harrison, the casino’s front entrance and driveway is located in the state of Missouri, the parking lot is in Kansas and the casino and hotel are in Oklahoma. “If you look at a map, you will see where the three states all touch: that is where we are. We adhere to Oklahoma gaming laws because the casino is in Oklahoma, but only by a few feet.”

When the casino opened July 5, with five restaurants and two bars, it broke a record for speed of construction on a facility of its size and scope, according to Berrey. Construction took 10 months and 26 days. It was also the first time that a Native casino opened with all of its restaurants and bars operating at full capacity.

“It is the jewel of the region and we are extremely pumped that we were able to get it done before the downslide in the market, which makes it difficult for tribes and other entities to get the sort of capitol it takes to get into this business on such a big scale,” he said.

The casino opened about a month ahead of schedule and millions of dollars under budget. “We have opened up a new dynamic environment for tribes in terms of developing a resort gaming facility. We believe we have opened the doors for the other 38 tribes in Oklahoma and other tribes in the country in terms of gaining financing and the respect of Wall Street,” Berrey said.

The casino offers 1 million square feet of building space, a 70,000-square-foot gaming floor, conference center, entertainment, salon and spa with massage, oversized outdoor swimming pool, sun deck with Jacuzzi and fire pit, fitness center and two 18-hole championship golf courses at Eagle Creek Golf Club at Downstream Casino Resort.