During his Oct. 6 state of the nation address, Chickasaw Nation Governor Bill Anoatubby said a spirit of determination, creativity and community has helped the Chickasaw Nation to thrive.
His declaration that “the state of the Chickasaw Nation is strong, and growing stronger,” was met with thunderous applause by the crowd in Fletcher Auditorium and overflow tent on the Campus of Murray State College in Tishomingo.
Gov. Anoatubby pointed to the success of tribal businesses as one key to the growing strength of the Chickasaw Nation.
“Tribal businesses enable us to meet our mission by providing employment opportunities and funding for our many programs and services,” said Gov. Anoatubby. “Thanks to sound fiscal management, creative thinking, diversification efforts and a strong team of employees, we have seen tremendous economic growth.”
The Chickasaw Nation has more than 50 businesses in a variety of fields, including tourism, entertainment, manufacturing, medical technology, medical services, government contracting, banking and communication, among others.
A recent study by Oklahoma City University showed that the Chickasaw Nation had an economic impact of more than $2.4 billion in Oklahoma in 2011.
“Business diversification is a vital component of our long-term economic development strategy,” said Gov. Anoatubby. “While it is important to reinvest in our established businesses to maximize their growth potential, it is also essential to carefully build a diverse business portfolio.
“Employment opportunities continue to grow. But most importantly, this prosperity has directly contributed to our ability to create and enhance nearly 200 programs and services that directly benefit Chickasaws!”
Tourism is a major focus of tribal business diversification and economic development. The Chickasaw Cultural Center, which has attracted more than 130,000 visitors since opening in July 2010, offers an anchor for additional tourism attractions being developed by the Chickasaw Nation.
Construction is currently underway on the Artesian Hotel in Sulphur, which is scheduled to open in early 2013. A visitor center under construction between the Artesian Hotel and the Chickasaw National recreation Area is scheduled to open in summer of 2013.
The visitor center will feature an art gallery, gift shop, video room and bike sharing system.
“The addition of these facilities will help develop a tourism corridor from Interstate 35 along Highway 7 from Davis into Sulphur and to the Ada and Tishomingo areas as well,” said Gov. Anoatubby.
Other construction projects focused on enhancing tourism in the area include a welcome center and new Bedré Fine Chocolates factory at the Davis exit on Interstate 35. The welcome center will feature information about tourist attractions in the Chickasaw Nation, while the new Bedré factory will include an area where visitors can view the manufacturing process and experience chocolate making firsthand.
“The welcome center will serve as a gateway to Chickasaw Country,” said Gov. Anoatubby. “These new features will enable us to attract more visitors and create a destination for tourists traveling on I-35.”
Health care business
While the tribe has delivered health care services to Chickasaws and other American Indians through its division of health for decades, it has recently opened its first health care business available to the general public.
Sovereign Medical Solutions recently opened a family practice clinic and pharmacy in Ada, and plans are underway to expand services into the Norman area and broaden the scope of health related business services.
Growth of tribal businesses has also enabled the tribe to enhance health care services. The Chickasaw Nation used tribal funds to construct its new medical center in Ada. Since that facility opened in August, 2010, the Chickasaw Nation Division of Health has seen a steady increase in the number of patients served.
This year alone, the health system served more than 500,000 patient visits and filled more than 1.1 million prescriptions. Chickasaw Nation wellness centers had more than 140,000 participant visits.
More than 250 additional jobs were created by construction of the medical center in Ada. Expansion of health clinics in Ardmore and Tishomingo will create more than 150 new jobs in the region.
In July, the Chickasaw Nation broke ground on the Chikasha House on the campus of the medical center in Ada. This facility will offer a place for families to stay while loved ones are in the hospital for an extended treatment period. The 2,300 square foot facility will include two units with four bedrooms, private bathrooms, and a shared kitchen, dining room, living room and laundry room.
“Chickasha house is one way we can relieve a small part of the stress and concern that comes when a family member is receiving care,” said Gov. Anoatubby. “We believe this will be a great addition to the medical center campus.”
Education has also long been a high priority for the Chickasaw Nation.
“We work hard to ensure that Chickasaws have every opportunity to obtain a quality education,” said Gov. Anoatubby. “Whether you are eight or 80, if you want to learn, we can help you find a way.”
Chickasaw students pursuing higher education were awarded more than 21,000 scholarships and other incentives totaling almost $16 million.
Almost 700 junior high and high school students gained on the job training through the summer youth employment program.
“This program allows students to function in a real workplace where they can learn the skills and attitudes needed to succeed,” said Gov. Anoatubby.
More than 10,000 books were distributed to children five and under through the Chickasaw reading program, while more than 7,500 awards were distributed through the Chickasaw Honor Club to encourage perfect attendance and good grades.
Gov. Anoatubby said that homeownership opportunities continue to be a high priority because quality, affordable housing is vital to quality of life. Those programs range from home loan services, to storm shelters and home maintenance.
The Chickasaw Nation has helped more than 1,000 families obtain home loans totaling more than $105 million dollars since starting its home loan program. The tribe has also distributed more than $4 million in down payment and closing cost assistance.
Tribal business revenues have enabled the tribe to create programs that assist with storm shelters, home repair and landscaping. More than 2,800 storm shelters, 875 home repair grants and 680 landscaping packages have been distributed under these programs.
Seniors have unique housing needs that are being met by the Chickasaw Nation.
Chickasaw Elder Living Apartments opened this year in Ardmore are within walking distance of the health clinic, senior center, nutrition center and wellness center.
“This was the first project of its kind in the Chickasaw Nation,” said Gov. Anoatubby. “This project has exceeded our goals as the families have developed a strong bond as they assist one another with errands, picking up mail, doing yard work and more.”
New senior centers were opened in Ardmore and Connerville this year. Chickasaw Nation senior centers in 12 communities have served almost 150,000 meals, as well as offering health screenings, wellness classes and social activities.
Gov. Anoatubby noted that seniors hold a special place at the Chickasaw Nation.
“We raise you up,” he said. “We support you as you have supported, encouraged and guided us. Your spirit of determination, creativity and community has helped build the Chickasaw Nation.”