Community perspective

There are more than 70 Alaska Native organizations, including Doyon, Tanana Chiefs Conference, Fairbanks Native Association and Interior Regional Housing Authority, based out of Interior Alaska’s vast landscape. The organizations include for-profit regional and village corporations, tribal governments, service providers and nonprofits. Recently a survey measuring the economic impact of our organizations was released, detailing the significant contributions made.

Collectively, the impact made by Interior-based Alaska Native organizations goes beyond the social and cultural fiber of our communities and significantly impacts our economies as well. Our Native organizations have impacts on jobs, payroll, spending, dividend distributions, construction, charitable giving, infrastructure and services and also include the taxes paid to our borough governments. The impacts are measurable and considerable here in Fairbanks, in the region, and across the state.

Our investments here in Fairbanks continue to grow and be very substantial. Our combined economic impact in the region is more than $300 million, and our organizations account for nearly one in 12 non-military jobs.

Our collective organizations are among the largest employers in Fairbanks, following the federal government, the university system and the Fairbanks North Star Borough. Alaska Native organizations hire people, full-time, part-time and seasonally. In Fairbanks, our organizations directly hire 1,238 people; if you include those hired across the region, the number of jobs grows to 2,725. Statewide, our organizations provide 3,705 jobs to Alaskans.

When you count the multiplier effects when vendors spend the money they receive from Alaska Native organizations and our employees, then the total number of jobs in the region grows from 2,725 jobs to 3,574 jobs, with an associated payroll of $147.7 million dollars. Statewide, the total number of jobs grows from 3,705 jobs to 5,161 jobs, with an associated payroll of $216.7 million dollars.

Alaska Native organizations spend money to provide goods and services; in 2010 Interior-based Alaska Native organizations spent $178 million dollars in Alaska’s Interior, with more than 40 percent spent on purchases from local businesses. These numbers do not reflect the spending to and from our own organizations. Across the state, Interior Alaska Native organizations spent more than $287 million.

Our impacts are not limited to jobs, wages and spending. We also have a strong connection to our communities. In 2010, our collective organizations contributed back to Fairbanks $2.5 million dollars in charitable giving. We invested in infrastructure across the region, spending $9.8 million in 2010 on construction projects in Fairbanks, and we paid more than $3.8 million in taxes to the borough.

Doyon, TCC, IRHA and FNA are committed to Fairbanks. Interior Alaska is our home, and the dollars we bring into the region, we invest in our communities. We have a strong record for hiring locally and providing benefits and services to all Alaskans, both Native and non-Native. The dollars we spend do not just help Native peoples, but everyone.

Aaron Schutt is president and CEO of Doyon Limited, the Interior regional Native corporation established under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act. Jerry Isaac is president of Tanana Chiefs Conference, Interior Alaska’s largest nonprofit corporation providing health and social services. They prepared this column with Fairbanks Native Association Executive Director Steve Ginnis and Interior Regional Housing Authority CEO Irene Catalone. FNA offers education, behavioral health and community services. IRHA administers federal housing programs to tribes in the region.