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Study shows economic impact of Idaho tribes

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MOSCOW, Idaho – “Idaho tribes are pleased to release results of the study of economic impacts the five tribes of Idaho have on the state economy. It illustrates what we as tribal leaders have always said that the five Idaho tribes have a significant impact on the economy of Idaho and are an invaluable asset to the state and the region,” said Sam Penney, Nez Perce Tribal Executive Committee chairman.

Leaders of four of the five tribes recently met at the University of Idaho for a news conference to release the results of the study. Professor Steven Peterson, a research economist at the university, conducted the study which was jointly sponsored by Idaho’s five tribes. Peterson began studying nearly every part of Idaho’s economy 20 years ago and began working with the tribes 15 years ago. “This is the first time we’ve had all five tribes come together and participate in a statewide study. This is more than an update, it’s actually a new study.”

“When the estimated impacts are aggregated,” quoting the financial statement, “the sum of all the direct, indirect, and induced effects in 2009 for all tribal activities are: $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 10,516 jobs.”

Putting those numbers in perhaps more meaningful terms, if the five tribes were compared to the economies of the counties in Idaho, they would rank 23rd out of the 44 Idaho counties in terms of sales, 17th in total jobs, 17th in terms of payroll earnings, and 29th in indirect business taxes.

Continuing, it says the economic impact of the tribes created approximately $7.5 million in state income tax payments in 2009 from all tribal economic activities, including the multiplier effects.

This study was done for the fiscal year of January through December, 2009.

Peterson also pointed out that the Nez Perce Tribe is the second largest employer in their region, and have been for some years, and that the Coeur d’Alene Tribe is now the largest employer in their region.

“Many local businesses are supported by the spending and employment of tribal enterprises and tribal governments,” Penney said. “The growth of the tribes and their economic influence has been more rapid in recent years and this has been partially because of tribal gaming within the state of Idaho. However, as shown in this study the tribes are stepping up in other operations.”

“What this study shows is that we’re like any other government,” said Chief James Allan, Coeur d’Alene Tribe chairman. “We have hopes and dreams like anybody else, living that American dream. We want to take care of our people, their health and well-being, their economic recovery.

“Thirty or 40 years ago our people were one of the poorest in the country. We got tired of hearing that the tribe only wanted handouts. We never wanted that, we wanted to take care of ourselves. There’s a lot of talk now about health insurance. We’ve always been a leader in health care. We spend $9 or $10 million a year on health care for our people. We put our money where our mouth is. I would challenge other governments in the state to look at what we do. We’ve always given back to the people.”

Vice Chairman of the Kootenai Indian Tribe of Idaho Ron Abraham said when they declared war on the United States government in 1974 it changed the way the tribe was going. “Since then it’s been a lot different. We’ve gone forward, never stepped back. When gaming came in it again changed the direction the tribe went, a positive direction.”

Lee Juan Tyler represented the Shoshone-Bannock Tribe as a councilman. He spoke of the poverty and not having electricity or running water when he was growing up and how they weren’t allowed into restaurants until as recently as 1968. Things have improved, but he urges people to learn about the history. “It’s awesome we have this study. We’re moving to the future with the significance of the tribes.”

Responding to a question about the impact of the recession on this study, Peterson said, “The only effect I saw was a little bit in the hospitality sector. Other than that I saw a strong growth right across most of the sectors. I think some of the (tribal) operations were somewhat immune to the recession.” He said this provides stability in those regions and he anticipates economic growth to continue in 2010.