Idaho’s Nez Perce Tribe might enter manufacturing

LEWISTON TRIBUNEOctober 22, 2013 

Ventures that involve agricultural goods, forest products, biofuels or limestone are among possibilities as the Nez Perce Tribe contemplates entering the manufacturing sector.

The brainstorming comes as the tribe wrestles with what to do with about 60 acres it acquired between the Spalding Bridge and the Nez Perce National Historical Park along U.S. 95.

“We’re in the very preliminary phase of understanding what might make sense,” says Jamie Olson, executive officer of the Nez Perce Tribal Enterprises.

Olson spoke at the Clearwater River Casino and Lodge during the fall meeting of Inland Northwest Partners, a nonprofit economic development group.

Any limestone venture would include rock from a quarry along Mission Creek near Culdesac.

“It is a very rich deposit,” Olson says.

The possibility of starting a manufacturing business isn’t the only economic development project being considered by the tribe.

Having spent $16 million to expand its casino and lodge east of Lewiston, Olson says the tribe is looking at other upgrades for the property. Adding hotel rooms and relocating a primary electrical transmission line that is 5 feet away from the building are among the priorities — more so than other ideas like a golf course or gondola.

Right now, Lewiston-Clarkston Valley hotels are accommodating those who don’t stay in the lodge’s 50 rooms. The casino’s event center can handle 1,400 people for concerts and 600 seated at round tables. But Olson says that might change in a couple of years.

At the same time, Olson says the tribe has recognized the need for an overpass to access the casino property from U.S. 12/95.

That project is still in the planning stages because it needs to overcome at least two obstacles. The estimated price tag is $14 million to $16 million. The tribe has unsuccessfully sought grants for the project from the federal government’s Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery program, Olson says.

Land across the highway needed for the overpass is goose pasture. Olson says the tribe would have to reach an agreement with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on how to handle that element of the project.

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