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'A bright star' in a dark economy

| April 14, 2010 9:00 PM

PLUMMER - The Coeur d'Alene Tribe released an economic impact study that shows the effect the Tribe's government and business operations have on the North Idaho economy.

"We are charged with the unique responsibility of providing government services and creating sustainable economic development, and while we are making great progress, we still have a long way to go before we accomplish our goals," said Coeur d'Alene Tribe Chairman Chief Allan. "The Tribal Council's decisions are based on what's best for the long-term health and prosperity of our people and our community."

The Coeur d'Alene Tribe is the largest employer in North Idaho with 1,699 employees. Hagadone Corporation is second with 1,500 and Kootenai Medical Center is third with 1,200 employees, according to the Idaho Department of Labor.

"The Tribe is a bright star during these dark economic times," Allan said. "This is no accident. Our elders started us on this path of economic success. Their vision is the reason we're the leading employer in North Idaho."

Steven Peterson, a professor of economics at the University of Idaho, recently completed an economic impact study of the Coeur d'Alene Tribe and its business activities. He concluded that the total economic impacts of the Coeur d'Alene Tribe were $309 million in sales, $119 million in earnings and $12.4 million in taxes.

Also, the Tribe's government and business operations create a total of nearly 4,000 jobs in the region.

"Over the last decade the Coeur d'Alene Tribe has emerged as a fast-growing, leading economic growth engine for the greater Coeur d'Alene regional economy," said Peterson. "The Tribe is particularly important for regional economic diversification and extending employment opportunities into the rural regions."

The Tribe's business operations include the Coeur d'Alene Casino Resort Hotel, Circling Raven Golf Course and Echelon (formally doing business as Berg Integrated Systems). The economic activity of the Coeur d'Alene Tribe generates an estimated $4 million in state income taxes.

The operations of the casino resort result in 1,441 jobs and sales of $103.8 million.

"The Tribe's story here is an epic one. But we strive not to be just the biggest employer in the region. Our goals include being the best employer in the region," said Dave LaSarte-Meeks, the CEO of the Coeur d'Alene Casino Resort Hotel. "The growth for the resort and for the region's economy remains steady, successful and visionary. Great leadership at the Tribe, in the past and present, is clearly behind this success. To be honest, the future looks just as good."

The Tribe's manufacturing company, Echelon, makes giant fuel bladders for the U.S. Army used around the world. Echelon employs 82 people and is in the midst of fulfilling a contract valued up to $400 million.

"Gaming is our bread and butter, but the Tribe wanted to diversify its economic interests," Allan said. "We're proud of the fact that Echelon supports our military in Afghanistan and Iraq."

The Coeur d'Alene Tribe donated $1.8 million toward education in 2009 and continues to donate 5 percent of gaming revenue toward education. Since 1993, the Tribe has donated nearly $14 million toward education.

"The Tribe has made powerful promises and bold commitments to its membership and to the people of the Inland Northwest," LaSarte-Meeks said.

The Tribe is in the midst of a $75 million expansion of its casino and resort. After its completion in early 2011, the casino resort hotel is expected to hire an additional 200 employees to staff the new restaurants, spa and additional rooms.

"The Coeur d'Alene Casino and Resort is an important expanding Idaho destination resort, which is strongly augmenting the regional economy's retail trade and service sectors," Peterson said.