American Indian Center will boost state economy
BY J. BLAKE WADE
Friday, April 27, 2012
4/27/12 at 3:45 AM
Oklahoma is in a position unlike any other time in its history. Our population evolved in waves as America's history was being written. Today there are more languages spoken in Oklahoma than on the European continent.
As a cultural crossroads Oklahoma has been empowered by this great fusion of ideas, where creativity and collaboration merge.
Cradles of jazz sprouted in Tulsa, Muskogee and Oklahoma City. Western heritage stars emerged as national celebrities on the radio and in Western cinema. Route 66 brought a newly mobile nation to our doorsteps. Will Rogers was a cowboy and a Cherokee Indian, as well as an icon of popular culture. As a state, we are unique and unique is what sells.
We have learned through years of studies that Oklahoma's cultural tourism industry has great potential for economic development and job creation. Those studies revealed that in order to be successful in cultural tourism, we have to focus on two of the things that make Oklahoma unique: the prevailing presence of cowboy and Western heritage and American Indian cultures.
European and Asian travelers are fascinated with Western heritage and American Indian cultures. The American Indian Cultural Center and Museum and the National Cowboy and Western Heritage museum will serve as anchor destinations for travelers who will also come to cruise the mythic Route 66 and revel in legends of American music, from Woody Guthrie and Charlie Christian to Chet Baker.
Now is the time to invest in the American Indian Cultural Center and Museum, Oklahoma's newest international attraction.
Tourism is the third-largest industry in Oklahoma with a $6.1 billion economic impact. According to the American Association of Museums, "Visitors to cultural and heritage destinations stay 53 percent longer and spend 36 percent more money than other kinds of tourists. Cultural centers employ more than a quarter-million Americans, who spend an estimated $14.5 billion annually and rank among the top three family vacation destinations."
The center's economic impact for the state is projected to be $3.8 billion over the first 20 years. It is also projected that the center will provide $150 million in state tax revenues. Travelers will naturally visit other museums and attractions, such as the Gilcrease Museum and Woolaroc Museum and Wildlife Preserve, leading them to Frank Lloyd Wright's Price Tower and the Philbrook Museum of Art.
It is now 50 percent complete with $40 million in new dollars raised from a diverse cross section of generous citizens, businesses, nonprofit organizations and Indian nations.
Our Legislature has the power to complete construction and open the doors. The American Indian Cultural Center and Museum will be owned, operated and held in perpetuity by the state of Oklahoma.
Our message to the Oklahoma Legislature is, let's capture more of the tourist market and begin realizing the state's investment. It's more than just another tourist attraction. This will position Oklahoma as an epicenter for cultural tourism.
As any corporate Titan will tell you, this is the moment to sharpen our competitive edge by investing in the future. Let's stand together and work together to create Oklahoma's next great international tourist destination.
J. Blake Wade is executive director of the Native American Cultural and Educational Authority, which is developing the American Indian Cultural Center in Oklahoma City.
J. Blake Wade: The (American Indian Cultural) center's economic impact for the state is projected to be $3.8 billion over the first 20 years. It is also projected that the center will provide $150 million in state tax revenues