By John Wolcott SCBJ Freelance Writer
TULALIP — Despite a sluggish economy, the Tulalip Tribes will continue to expand the retail mix at their Quil Ceda Village development, Tulalip Tribal Council President Mel Sheldon told the Marysville Tulalip Chamber of Commerce Feb. 24.
“The main building for Cabela’s is nearly finished and they will soon begin their interior work,” Sheldon said in his annual State of the Tribes report, noting that the store will be a major new attraction for the development. “We expect the store to open sometime in April, with 250 new jobs to be filled.”
He said the tribes started with bingo more than 30 years ago, which became so popular it spurred the creation of Quil Ceda Village and its extensive commercial development, including the Tulalip Resort Hotel and Casino.
“We now employ more than 3,500 people, both tribal members and others, making us the third-largest employer in Snohomish County,” he said. “Like other gaming sites across the state, we have become a major engine for strong economic development.”
He noted the general economy continues to be a challenge, but said the tribe’s conservative approach to development still continues to expand on the reservation.
“In 2012, we have a cautious optimism,” he said. “We’re trying to make reasonable budgets, be disciplined and prioritize projects just as many other businesses do. Presently, it looks like we will make our projections and be able to move ahead with some projects.”
One of those projects is the expansion of the internationally popular Seattle Premium Outlet Stores at the north end of Quil Ceda Village, nearly 100 stores that attract tens of thousands of people annually from the region and Canada.
A parking garage is under construction on the west side of the development. When it’s completed, another 40 stores will be built on the east side to expand the outlet mall’s retail merchandise choices, he said.
“Beyond that, the board is considering around $250 million of further development on the site, but these projects are only under study at the moment because we need to set more priorities to stay within our budget and conservative approach,” he said.
Sheldon said possibilities on the long list of ideas, which are being considered for projects over the next decade, include “whether the tribes should build a justice center to house their police and court system, an indoor event center to house weekly concerts, additional conference and convention space and other things that make a wonderful list of projects to look at,” he said.
“As long as we keep our business healthy we can continue turning dreams into reality,” Sheldon said. “Twenty or 30 years ago, we didn’t have a lot of money. Today we can do much more, such as building an alcohol treatment and recovery center on land we have in Stanwood. To be right up front, we have a heroin and drug problem on the reservation and we want to confront that.”
Also, the tribes are working to encourage and enable tribal youth to complete high school and move on to college.
“We are working to make the reservation a place where our children will want to grow up and where there are resources to help them,” he said. “Right now, we have one lady who is in her third year at Harvard Law School. Another student graduated from the University of Arizona and is now working with the Marysville School District.”
Sheldon also mentioned the continuing community assistance grants for area nonprofit groups, plus financial help for police, fire and other government agencies off the reservation, including Boys &Girls Clubs, Red Cross and others.
“We have been successful at our resort hotel in attracting conferences and conventions, including groups such as Microsoft, McDonald’s, Fluke Corp. and United Way and we want to continue that growth,” he said.