Study reveals how tribe helps Kitsap

SUQUAMISH — The Suquamish Tribe has a lot to be proud of, and it showed that pride May 17 during an afternoon lunch when it presented the first economic impact study for 2006. Heralding such visitors as 23rd District Representatives Sherry Appleton and Christine Rolfes, Poulsbo Mayor Kathryn Quade, Poulsbo Councilman Jim Henry, Suquamish Tribe Executive Director Wayne George and many other tribal members and local government officials, the tribe and Port Madison Enterprises showed how much they have grown and helped Kitsap County since 2001.

Compared to 2001, when the Clearwater Casino employed 244 people, in 2006 it had 1,531 employees and the Suquamish Tribe had a total net impact of $138.5 million, which is the amount of money affecting Kitsap County because of the tribe.

“We have a lot of capital projects the tribe is involved with right now,” said Tribal Chairman Leonard Forsman, who was a panelist at the presentation. “We are doing these things to try to get back to where we were before we got caught up in the years when we didn’t have the means.”

The tribe and PME are also making an effort to improve the community and county with several grant programs that include the Appendix X and PME board approved grants. The study listed $645,955 given to 56 local organizations in 2006 — $396,802 of that was to non-tribal groups.

“To put this in perspective, in 2001 we had 244 employees,” said PME CEO Russell Steele, who also served as a panelist. “We now pay 100 percent health benefits, and we send two employees to college every year.”

Quade congratulated the tribe and PME on their accomplishments, but asked about some of the negative impacts that have come about from the renovated casino and year-old hotel and resort.

Forsman said there was some concern when the new casino opened July 8, 2003, and it can attract troublemakers like any large business, but the security officers are well trained. The dealers take a course to know how to spot problem gamblers and how to handle those who have made a habit of the fun, said Clearwater Casino Human Resources Director Barbara Griffin. This is similar to methods bartenders employ when they refuse service to inebriated customers.

“The problems can be multiplied because of gambling problems, and we are working on that,” Forsman said. “Mostly, people have a good time here.”

The study is something the Suquamish Tribe and PME will hopefully do every year, said Clearwater Casino media coordinator April Leigh, to show economic progress and contributions to Kitsap County.

“I think the final number really popped out at me,” Steele said of the amount of money impacting the county.

“The business is growing,” Forsman added. “There are a few people who have been here since the casino opened, and they see the growth as much as anyone. It’s been a real exciting two years.”

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