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Colville Tribes’ business arm wins UW minority award

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NESPELEM — Recognized for its impressive turnaround, the Colville Tribal Federal Corporation was given the University of Washington’s Minority Business of the Year Award on Dec. 5.

Owned and operated by the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, CTFC employs about 450 people and operates 13 businesses, including three casinos.

In 2009, CTFC and the Colville Tribal Enterprise Corporation were operating at an $8.1 million loss. The tribes hired Joe Pakootas as CEO in 2010, and after nine months, CTFC made a $10.4 million turnaround, ending with $2.3 million in profits, according to a news release about the award.

Pakootas said to make the turnaround, the tribal corporation had to lay off employees and close businesses that were mainly responsible for losing money. That included shutting down a boat house operation on Lake Roosevelt that had averaged $250,000 annual losses for 20 years, and the continued shut-down of two Omak mills — Colville Indian Plywood and Veneer, and Colville Indian Precision Pine, he said.

It was just something we had to do. We couldn’t sustain those losses with the Corporation bleeding as it was,” he said.

During the process, the Colville Tribal Council created the Federal Corporation and moved its profitable businesses to that entity, including its casinos, stores and construction businesses, Pakootas said.

This year, he said, the Federal Corporation brought in about $86 million in gross revenues. “We’ve almost doubled it in three years,” he said.

And while the Federal Corporation still owns a recently-reopened mill in Omak, it opted to lease the facility because it didn’t have the $5 or $6 million needed to remodel the plant and bring in inventory, Pakootas said.

He said the Federal Corporation’s next big venture will be to build a new casino and resort in Omak. In general, he said, “The main thing we’re looking at is diversifying. We were basically timber and gaming. Now, we’re looking at opportunities for different businesses, so if any one of those markets goes away, we won’t be in the same jeopardy.”

The UW Minority Business of the Year Awards started in 1999. The Bradford Award, which was given to Colville Tribal Federal Corporation, is named after Bill Bradford, the first person of color who served as Dean of the UW Foster School of Business and recognizes a company that has demonstrated success in areas of revenue, size, superior management practices and commitment to the community.

Reach K.C. Mehaffey at 509-997-2512 or . Read her blog An Apple a Day or follow her on Twitter at @KCMehaffeyWW.