Native Organizations Boost Interior Economy
At left, Doyon Limited CEO and President Aaron Schutt talks about the economic contributions of Interior-based Native organizations with, from left, Fairbanks Native Association Executive Director Steve Ginnis, Tanana Chief Conference President Jerry Isaac and Interior Regional Housing Authority CEO Irene Catalone. Photo by Matt Buxton/News-Miner.
FAIRBANKS — Interior-based Native organizations make up a large chunk of the local economy, according to a study of 2010 numbers released Monday, and the organizations are hoping those numbers will help establish the economic importance of the Native community.
According to the study released jointly by a handful of Interior Native organizations, the more than 70 Interior-based Native organizations provided an economic impact exceeding $300 million in 2010 through the wages of more than 2,725 jobs and direct spending at other businesses.
Aaron Schutt, the CEO and President of Doyon Limited, a for-profit Native corporation that employs thousands of people, said it’s a concrete recognition of the significant role Native organizations — both for-profit and nonprofit — play in the Interior.
“If you combine our spending, it’s quite significant here in Fairbanks,” he said at a press conference at Doyon’s headquarters in downtown Fairbanks. “We are rooted here and we have a commitment to Alaska.”
Doyon, Tanana Chiefs Conference, Denakkanagga, Fairbanks Native Association and Interior Regional Housing Authority paid for the study, which was conducted by Fairbanks-based Information Insights.
The report shows that, when combined, the region’s Native organizations are the fifth largest employer in the Interior, after the U.S. military, the federal government, the University of Alaska and the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District. With about 2,750 employees, wages are estimated to make up about 7 percent of all civilian wages in the Interior, according to the report.
While many of those employed by the organizations are Native as is especially the case in smaller, rural organizations, many jobs go to non-Native employees, Schutt said. He said it’s a misconception that Native organizations hire only Native.
At Doyon, which is made up of multiple companies with work in the oil and gas industry, just 500 of the companies nearly 3,000 employees are Native shareholders and, in all, 75 percent of the corporation’s employees are non-Native.
At the press conference, Fairbanks Native Association Executive Director Steve Ginnis said the report should be a wake-up call for politicians and government officials that the Native community is a key part of the community and should be treated fairly.
“My whole hope in this study is to reach out to the community and the people of the community to recognize the significance of our contribution to this economy,” he said. “The thing that I really want to point out to all of you is that despite this our villages are hurting and my hope is that our political leaders will begin to pay attention to people in our villages.”
Ginnis, as well as other members at the press conference, agreed things are getting incrementally better for the Native community, but there are still plenty of disparities remaining. They recognized that federal money and policy helped many Native organizations weather the economic downturn, but they would like to see Native communities be treated more fairly.
“We’re looking for respect,” Tanana Chiefs Conference President Jerry Isaac said.
The report is the first of its kind to specifically look at the economic impact of Native corporations and villages based in the Interior, Doyon spokeswoman Sharon McConnell said.
To view the report, click here.