Dealer takes all

Those now inking deals with the Cowlitz Tribe will profit should the casino development succeed

So, the jury is hung. Will the proposed Cowlitz Casino be a benefit or detriment to local businesses? Depends on who you ask, though some are not talking – at least not on the record.

Seems the general consensus is this: I’m open for business, but I won’t say with whom.

The plan for the proposed $400 million casino project outlines 210,000 square feet of restaurant and retail space, 150,000 square feet of convention and entertainment space and a 250-room hotel. Does this pose a threat to the Vancouver Hilton, the Clark County Fair Exhibition Center, dozens of restaurants and local retailers already struggling to make ends meet? In two words: Sure, theoretically. Does it put dollar signs in the eyes of entrepreneurial planners who envision the Cowlitz Tribe as the client that rockets them into the next tax bracket? In three words: It certainly should.

Standing in the way of some small and emerging Clark County businesses and their next big client is a bunch of politically correct rhetoric. Companies that want deals with the proposed casino should follow the lead of such entities as Clark College and the Southwest Washington Convention & Visitors Bureau: Look for a profitable niche you can fill, then make aggressive plans to fill that niche and bank the proceeds.

Instead of keeping the deal under wraps for fear of alienating your clients and associates, tell them how you did it, get them on board – make alliances in order to present stronger proposals. You are in business to get business – don’t apologize. Get it before all this precious metro area retail square footage goes to national mall outlet stores. If that happens, the money will flow into Clark County and flow back out before you can say Gap Jeans.

There is a lot under the surface of this deal that will determine the casino’s success. The Cowlitz have entered into a seven year management and investment agreement with Connecticut’s famed Mohegan Tribe. The Cowlitz courted the Mohegan Tribe because it was a tribe without land that in ten short years put up an immodestly successful gaming and entertainment complex and exceeded the social, educational and economic benchmarks of the tribe’s community. The Cowlitz have hopes and aspirations tied to this proposed development – they have already completed a needs assessment for the tribe’s people and are preparing to start meeting those goals. Feeding and educating their families is the fire in their belly. We can all relate to that.

In the end, despite the social implications for its members or the residents of Clark County, the proposed Cowlitz casino is a real estate development and a business deal. Local law firm Miller Nash is representing the tribe, Vancouver planning firm JD White is handling public involvement, Clark College is preparing to train and educate up to 3,000 employees. Shouldn’t you be booking client conferences there, or handling management’s benefits and investment packages, or providing gaming opportunities for the 3,000 employees who can’t do it on site? Shouldn’t the possibility of a casino be in your business plan? In a word: Yes.

Has your business discussed the proposed Cowlitz casino? Does it fit into your long term plan? Yes or no, write with your comments.

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