Revenues from commercial ventures, including gaming, brought in $139.6 million to the Osage Nation last year — 1.5 times more than mineral interests, according to an independent economic impact study released this week.
The Osage gathered $222 million in total revenues in 2007, including $25.7 million from government operations and $56.3 million generated by mineral interests. The mineral rights are a distinctive source of income for the Osage.
The tribe is experiencing strong financial momentum in the wake of constitutional reform and expanded gaming operations, said Sarasota, Fla.-based economist Jonathan Taylor.
The nation employed 1,336 people last year, paying $29 million in payroll. This puts the Osage economy on par with the statewide operations of Devon Energy Corp., DirectTV or Deaconess Hospital, according to Taylor.
Together, the wages, purchases and royalties of the Osage economy are associated with $176 million in Oklahoma gross domestic product.
The Osage Nation is the 25th largest tribe in the country and has long awaited economic growth, making the study’s findings even more remarkable, according to Osage Chief Jim Gray.
“From a standing start we have increased employment nearly seven-fold in five years,” Gray said. “We’ve always said that nobody benefits from a weak trial government and everybody benefits from a positive one. This proves it. Our success has spilled over into the non-Indian community, making life better for many. We’re building a better community and a better state.”
The last five years have been particularly strong for the Osage Tribe, according to the study, primarily because of government reform and casino enterprise growth.
Taylor, who specializes in natural resources, gaming and American Indian development, has studied the Osage Nation before, but not in about a decade. The change, he said, “is remarkable.”
“Without a doubt, the State of Oklahoma is benefiting from the strengthening Osage economy—Indians and non-Indians alike.”
He has provided tribes and bands in the U.S. and Canada with public policy analysis, strategic advice and economic research. He is president of the Taylor Policy Group, Inc. (which conducted the research) and a Research Affiliate at the Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development. He holds a master’s degree in public policy from Harvard University and a bachelor’s degree from Princeton.
Among other findings in the study:
-The Osage Nation purchased $79.1 million in goods and services to support its commercial and administrative operations. All together in vendor outlays, payroll and headright, the Osage Nation was responsible for $164.3 million in aggregate demand. Forty-two percent of the outlays went to vendors and employees in Osage County and seventy-three percent in Oklahoma.
-The Osage mineral estate paid $56.3 million in oil and gas royalties, mostly to individual Osages, the bulk of whom live in Oklahoma.
-In 2007, the Osage Nation received $25.7 million in government revenues derived from intergovernmental transfers and from program revenues. This revenue and additional enterprise income sustained a payroll of $7.5 million and 332 employees. The government also purchased $19.1 million in goods and services that ranged from electricity and office supplies to trucks and accounting services.
-Growth in gaming has been rapid in recent years. In 2003 Osage electronic gaming devices totaled less than 500 machines and by 2007 had grown to 3,139, more than six times larger. Employment jumped from about 650 in 2005 to 1,004 in 2007. In 2007, Osage casinos earned $140 million in revenues. The Million Dollar Elm Casino operates seven gaming facilities scattered around the Osage Indian Reservation.