Arrow-right Camera


Coeur d’Alene Tribe climbs ranks of Idaho employers

The Coeur d’Alene Tribe has become one of North Idaho’s largest employers, issuing paychecks to nearly 1,700 people last year.

Only Kootenai Health, the parent company of Kootenai Medical Center, a cancer and heart center, and several clinics, had more workers.

The tribe employed 1,699 people last year at the Coeur d’Alene Casino and other government and business ventures, according to a University of Idaho study released Tuesday. The Idaho Department of Labor, which calculates employment slightly differently, said the tribe had 1,549 workers in 2009, compared to 1,813 at Kootenai Health.

“The real story here is the tribe’s emergence as one of the region’s largest employers,” said Steven Peterson, UI economics professor who did the study. “They have diversified and expanded in all directions.”

About 1,400 people work at the casino, its resort hotel and the Circling Raven Golf Course, the study said. The tribe expects to hire another 200 people in 2011 after a $75 million expansion of the casino-hotel complex wraps up.

In addition, the Coeur d’Alene Tribe employs workers through its tribal government and Echelon, formerly known as Berg Manufacturing. The company makes fuel bladders for the U.S. Army.

“Gaming is our bread and butter, but the tribe wanted to diversify its economic interests,” Chief Allan, the tribe’s chairman, said in a prepared statement. “We’re proud that Echelon supports our military in Afghanistan and Iraq.”

Native-owned casinos have provided the seed money to help Idaho tribes expand into other ventures, said Peterson, who has also done economic studies for the Kootenai, Nez Perce, Shoshone-Bannock and Shoshone-Paiute tribes.

“What has always fascinated me about the tribes is the wide scope of their economic activities,” Peterson said. “They operate a lot like a state government, but they’re also involved in entrepreneurial ventures.”

Peterson estimated that the Coeur d’Alene Tribe has a $300 million annual impact on the region. The figure includes money the tribe spends on wages, purchases of goods and services and a multiplier effect of that money turning over in the local economy.