OKLAHOMA CITY — Tribes had a nearly $13 billion impact on the state in 2017, according to a study released Thursday.
The study was done by Kyle Dean, director for the Center for Native American and Urban Studies at Oklahoma City University, at the request of the Oklahoma Tribal Finance Consortium.
The findings were released during a press conference at the Oklahoma History Center.
“The study reinforces what we already know,” said Lisa Johnson Billy, Oklahoma secretary of Native American affairs. “Tribes have made significant economic contributions to the prosperity for all Oklahomans.”
The information comes as Gov. Kevin Stitt has asked tribes to renegotiate their gaming compacts.
Tribes have paid the state about $1.5 billion in exclusivity fees from gaming operations since class III games were allowed more than a decade ago. Those dollars go to education and mental health.
Elijah McIntosh is secretary of the Nation and Commerce for the Muscogee (Creek) Nation and chairman of the Oklahoma Tribal Finance Consortium.
“This report proves the tribes are good for Oklahoma,” McIntosh said.
Tribal direct employment alone well exceeds 50,000 people, he said. In total, tribes support 96,177 jobs, McIntosh said.
The 96,177 jobs represent slightly more than $4.6 billion in wages and benefits to Oklahoma workers, McIntosh said.
Through the tribal transportation program, tribes each year bring in federal dollars the state would not otherwise receive, McIntosh said.
Collectively each year tribal nations bring the state $42.5 million in federal dollars, which is used to improve roads and bridges for all of Oklahoma, McIntosh said.
The Oklahoma Department of Transportation estimates that since 1980, tribal nations have invested over $200 million for construction and maintenance of state of Oklahoma roads and bridges and other transportation projects, McIntosh said.
Tribal nations have also made significant investments in health care and education, McIntosh said.
As health care providers have been pulling out of rural areas, tribal nations have moved in, McIntosh said. As a result, they keep people and jobs in rural areas, he said.
Since 2006, tribes have provided $1.3 million to education through exclusivity fees from gaming operations, McIntosh said.
The estimated $13 billion included the impact on employment, wages and government and business activities, Dean said.
“Cities and states are in competition for employers and they often offer incentives to businesses to relocate in the state and hoping that business doesn’t get their head turned by some other incentive in another state in just a few years,” Dean said.
Tribes are not leaving the state, Dean said.
“When you hear these numbers, ask yourself how much would the state of Oklahoma be willing to pay in incentives to attract businesses that generate this much economic activity,” he said.
Dean said he gathered data from 15 of the 38 federally recognized tribes in the state. The study extended on a per capita basis the estimates to include the tribes that did not provide data, he said.
The study results are an estimate of all 38 federal recognized tribes in the state, Dean said.
Data was also gathered from several other sources, including the Oklahoma Department of Transportation and Bureau of Labor Statistics, he said.
The Oklahoma Tribal Finance Consortium’s mission is to advance tribal economics and strengthen tribal finance within the state. It represents all tribes in the state.
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