For the first time in tribal history, Muscogee (Creek) Nation officials crunched the numbers to learn more about their economic impact on the state and local cities. According to a report released Wednesday, that impact is $866 million, based on the 2017 fiscal year.
"I’m very pleased with this report," says James Floyd, the tribe’s principal chief about the report that also states the tribe has a $1.4 billion economic impact nationwide. "This is the first comprehensive economic report we’ve done. We’re an Oklahoma-based business that’s not going anywhere. This Nation and this business are here to stay. This report is a sign of the viability of the Muscogee Creek Nation."
More than a third of the tribe’s economic impact is comprised of $303 million in wages and compensation for 8,649 employees statewide. In Tulsa County, the tribe employs and supports 3,104 people with an annual payroll of $136 million.
Due to recent flooding of the Arkansas River, the tribe’s south Tulsa-based River Spirit Casino was closed for two pay periods. Creek officials paid the 1,800 employees during that time, equating to $5 million in payroll.
"The last month showed how important we are to the local economy," says River Spirit Casino CEO Pat Crofts. "We’re extremely important to the city because most our employees are local and spend their wages at local businesses and on the necessities needed to live, like utility bills and their mortgage or rent."
The principal chief says that while the casino staff was compensated, there were many who felt the negative impact of the casino and hotel being closed for a lengthy time.
"Our local impact goes beyond the employees," says Floyd. "When we closed, we stopped buying locally and people noticed that. Many businesses depend on this property right here. We work with many local businesses to help us operate."
Crofts says he doesn’t know the exact number of local vendors that work with the casino, but estimates it is more than 200 area businesses coming and going throughout the year.
"Some of those businesses may only work with us once or twice, but there are many we rely on for daily operations," says Crofts. "A lot of our food and alcohol is replenished daily. We go through a lot of supplies here."
The tribe also invested nearly $20 million in The Riverwalk, a Jenks entertainment and shopping district along the west bank of the Arkansas River. It currently has a 95% occupancy rate compared to 30% when the tribe purchased it in 2012. In 2015, the tribe invested $22 million in an expansion.
The Creek Nation, headquartered in Okmulgee, is the fourth largest federally recognized tribe in the country with more than 87,000 citizens, including 75% who reside in Oklahoma.
According to the report, the tribe provided more than $12 million to state and local education support and $7.6 million for transportation infrastructure.