Yesterday, we heard about the impact of the recession on the Navajo nation in Northern Arizona. It is still waiting for million of dollars of stimulus money. The recession has made a poor community even poorer. Well, a far different story is unfolding on a small reservation in the Phoenix area. The Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community is booming. Daniel Kraker of Arizona Public Radio has the second of two reports.

(Soundbite of casino floor)

DANIEL KRAKER: This is the sound of economic development on most Indian reservations. Even during a recession, patrons are still pumping quarters into the slots at Casino Arizona on the Salt River reservation. But soon, visitors will also hear this.

(Soundbite of baseball game)

Unidentified Man: Hit in the air to deep left field, gone if it stays fair and that ball is flying…

KRAKER: Next month, the Salt River community will break ground on a $100 million spring training baseball stadium for the Colorado Rockies and Arizona Diamondbacks.

(Soundbite of baseball game)

Unidentified Man: One nothing, Arizona.

KRAKER: It'll be the first pro-sports facility ever built on tribal land. In a strange way, the recession has helped make this happen. The project is being financed in part with a $20 million tax-exempt bond authorized by the federal stimulus bill.

(Soundbite of steps)

KRAKER: Martin Harvier is the community's vice president. He's walking through an old golf course where the stadium will be built.

Mr. MARTIN HARVIER (Vice President, Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community): From where we're standing here, we're probably three-quarters of a mile from a major freeway, and we're 15 minutes away from Sky Harbor, one of the busiest airports in America here, you know. And just the area where we're at is a benefit to our community in economic development.

KRAKER: Indeed, the community's location, right next to ritzy Scottsdale, is its biggest selling point. Inside a big boardroom in the tribe's brand new government complex, economic development manager Quannah Dallas is pointing at a giant map of the reservation. It's an island of undeveloped land in a sea of Phoenix sprawl. Several yellow sticky notes dot the map - locations of future developments.

Ms. QUANNAH DALLAS (Economic Development Manager, Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community): No one can compete with the location that we have. So, I think developers who are in it for the long haul, who understand that we're asking them to make a commitment, there are benefits and rewards to them.

KRAKER: The Salt River community's casinos have helped make the boom possible.

(Soundbite of casino floor)

KRAKER: But the tribe has parlayed that gaming revenue into a diverse and dynamic economy. They operate everything from a cement plant, to a real estate development company, to a telecommunications provider that's wired the reservation with super-fast Internet service. All this offers rewards that more and more developers are starting to realize. Dozens of businesses are now located in the Salt River community, including four corporate headquarters, like Cold Stone Creamery and Fender Guitars.

Mr. JOSEPH KALT (Director, Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development): There are some places across Indian country now where it's real -clearly investors would really put their money on an Indian reservation and under the jurisdiction of a tribe.

KRAKER: Joseph Kalt directs Harvard's project on American Indian Economic Development. He singles out a handful of mainly urban tribes, from the Tulalip north of Seattle, to the Salt River Community here in Phoenix, that are booming.

Mr. KALT: Partly because tribes are relatively small, they're often quicker on their feet.

KRAKER: As a result, investors can often make a quicker return on tribal land than they could on land administered by city or county governments. And because there's been so little development on most Indian reservations, Indian law and economic development expert Greg Guedel says investors can get in on the ground floor.

Mr. GREG GUEDEL (Indian Law and Economic Development Expert): So if you build a project in a tribal setting, you're likely to get an upside in terms of low cost and future return that's better than you would find in most other jurisdictions.

KRAKER: The Salt River community is pumping the majority of its revenues back into tribally-owned businesses, as well as into new schools, health and community centers, trying to catch up from the pervasive poverty of only a few years ago. It's a mind-boggling transformation. Ramon Martinez is PR director for Salt River's two casinos.

Mr. RAMON MARTINEZ (Public Relations Director, Salt River Casino): I remember drinking water out of a wooden barrel under a tree at my grandmother's house, and to see it go from a very impoverished community and, year by year, beginning to develop.

KRAKER: And in less than two decades, transform itself into a major economic player in the region.

For NPR News, I'm Daniel Kraker.

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