Oklahomans are well-acquainted with the numerous tribal casinos across our state. However, many may be surprised by the vast reach and variety of tribal businesses, as well as their economic impact on Oklahoma. Cherokee Nation Businesses, for example, operates in seven industries.
“People are often surprised at the size and the true economic impact of the Cherokee tribe,” says Molly Jarvis, vice president of Shared Services Marketing and Cultural Tourism. “The Cherokee tribe has a $1.3 billion economic impact to Oklahoma.”
The unique mission of tribal business sets the organizations apart from traditional businesses. The tribes have established for-profit businesses in order to fund services to address the needs of their respective tribes.
“Our stakeholders are the Cherokee people,” explains Jarvis. “Our goal is to make this a better Cherokee Nation for all our citizens.”
The Choctaw and Chickasaw tribes share the same goal.
“We get to take the profits and give it back to the Choctaw people,” explains Shannon McDaniel, executive director of Tribal Management.
“It’s like a family business,” adds Mendy Watkins, director of the Office of Management and Budget. “It’s for the Chickasaw people.”
As sovereign nations operating within and alongside the state of Oklahoma, each tribe is able to make its own determination in what way it uses those funds and how to best meet the needs of its citizens.
“We determine the best avenue to benefit our citizens,” explains Haskell Alexander, deputy gaming commissioner.
For example, Native Americans face an increased risk of developing diabetes. Therefore, the Choctaw Nation takes special care in providing members access to proper care.
“It’s important to not have to drive long distances for health care,” says McDaniel. “We want our people to have the means to manage their health and get the treatment they need.”
Each of the tribes agrees that community involvement is a high priority. Cherokee Nation Businesses has a community impact team that addresses the needs of the community in 14 northeast Oklahoma counties. The Choctaw Nation supports local schools and emergency service providers in several communities in rural Oklahoma.
The Chickasaw are premier sponsors for Ada’s yearly National Night Out celebration as well as many other functions throughout the year.
In addition to their community focus, the tribes are some of the largest employers in their respective areas, employing thousands of people at various levels.
“The opportunities are so vast (with the Chickasaw Nation),” comments Watkins. “There are so many things you can do and lots of room for advancement.”
“We strive to have a very low unemployment rate in all the counties we operate in,” says McDaniel.
“People are always wanting to work for the (Chickasaw) tribal businesses,” adds Alexander.
There is no denying the economic impact of tribal businesses in rural Oklahoma.
Cherokee Nation Businesses
Benefits: A comprehensive package including paid leave, medical, retirement, and tuition reimbursement for full time employees.
Industry: gaming, hospitality, personnel services, distribution, manufacturing, telecommunications and environmental services.
Benefits: A comprehensive package including paid leave, medical, retirement and tuition reimbursement for full-time and some part-time employees. Also feature an Individual Advancement Plan with financial incentives.
Industry: travel plazas and trading posts, gaming, chocolate factories, newspaper, radio stations, as well as many other small businesses through its Small Businesses Development Center.
Benefits: A comprehensive package including paid leave, medical at no cost to the employee, retirement and tuition reimbursement for full-time employees; additionally, a training program for employee advancement.
Industry: gaming, travel plazas, manufacturing and supplies for the federal government and branches of armed services and contracts with federal government to provide medical care to branches of armed services overseas.