By Kurt Batdorf Snohomish County Business Journal
TULALIP — Mel Sheldon is bullish on the future of Quil Ceda Village and the Tulalip Resort.
While the economy continues to struggle and other tribal casinos are in financial trouble, the Tulalip Tribes took steps in 2009 to revise revenue estimates downward and cut expenses. Sheldon told members of the Greater Marysville Tulalip Chamber of Commerce at a meeting April 30 that those efforts are now paying off.
“It proved to be the right decision,” he said.
The tribe knows it’s in the same economic boat as its neighbors in Marysville, Everett, Snohomish County and Washington state, Sheldon said. Tribal revenue is down $2 million from a year ago. That’s why they’ve concentrated on keeping as many of their purchases as possible in the local economy.
The local focus has helped preserve the roughly 4,000 jobs in Quil Ceda Village businesses, the casino, hotel and outlet mall stores. Sheldon said Tulalip Enterprises’ payroll accounts for $120 million in salaries and $178 million in purchases of utilities, food, vehicles and construction materials.
“The majority of that money stayed local,” he said.
He said the tribe has made no secret of its finances or tried to hide from its members the effect of the recession, but the board is still pressing ahead with benefits and projects. Those include 60 homes nearing completion, the new administration center with consolidated offices and services, and plans for the tribal heritage museum.
With the casino holding its own with steady gaming business, the Tulalip Tribes Board of Directors has continued to look at all other promising business opportunities that could broaden their income base. While the recession has forced many businesses to put expansion plans on hold, the Tulalip board is close to a deal with a restaurant “that features a martini condiment,” Sheldon said coyly.
All the recession-induced belt-tightening and budget adjustments have made the tribe a leaner, healthier organization, poised for even stronger growth once the economy recovers, Sheldon said.