N.C. Senator Jim Davis spoke about the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians’ contribution to Western North Carolina at a tribal council meeting in Cherokee last week.
Harrah’s Cherokee Casino and Resort contributes about $375 million to the economy in Western North Carolina, and it’s benefit “goes far beyond that,” said Davis, R-Franklin.
Council members inquired how much the state gave to the Eastern Band each year.
“Not enough,” responded Davis, who did not know an amount offhand.
The casino has been an economic engine for the area.
“Swain County for many, many years was the poorest county in the state,” said Bo Taylor, a tribal council representative from Big Cove. “We provide jobs in WNC.”
Harrah’s, which employs about 2,000 people, is the largest employer west of Asheville. It doles out more than $53 million in salary and wages each year.
Casino jobs account for 5 percent of all employment in Swain and Jackson counties, according to a June 2011 economic impact report by the Frank Hawkins Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill.
Taylor added that money generated and wages paid from Cherokee businesses, including the casino, go back into the local economy, promoting further economic growth.
More than 80 percent of the wages and salaries paid out by the casino is fed into the local economy, according to the report.
During his visit, Davis praised the independence for the tribe and received a gavel with a beaded handle.
“I have great admiration for your tribe, for the sovereignty you have,” he said.
Many members of tribal council thanked Davis for supporting Cherokee and for being easily accessible.
“I want to thank you for stepping forward and supporting the Eastern Band,” said Councilwoman Tommye Saunooke. “There’s not many legislators that would do that.”