While many US native Indians have diversified into tourism and gambling others have moved successfully into cement. Arizona’s tribes produce an estimated $1 billion a year in gambling revenue, fourth-highest among states with Indian casinos, according to one study. Nationally, Indian gaming revenue last year was an estimated $16.7 billion. The money is helping tribes lay an economic foundation that they hope leads to self-reliance.
The Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community ventured off-reservation even before it had gambling, buying a Clarkdale cement plant in 1987 and pouring millions into modernizing the facility. It’s merging what has been Phoenix Cement Co. with the reservation’s Salt River Sand & Rock to create Salt River Materials Group, a merger that will be complete early next year. The plant, one of just two cement plants in the state, is a strong contributor to the tribal community, said Roger Smith Jr., president and chief executive officer of Salt River Materials Group. "We can never match what the casino makes, but certainly we do our best to maximize the community’s resources," Smith said.