Makah Indian Tribe Rebuilds Critical Dock, Keeps Fishing Jobs

Oct 22, 2014 2:00 PM ET

Makah Indian Tribe rebuilds critical dock, keeps fishing jobs

In 2013, the Makah Indian Tribe in Neah Bay, Washington, experienced a devastating loss when its only commercial fishing dock in the area, where the Makah people have fished for more than 3,800 years, partially collapsed.

As the only dock within a 70 mile radius, fishermen did not have a place to offload their catch. Commerce and recreational activity accounts for about 50% of the tribe’s economy and the loss affected more than 400 people representing roughly 90 small businesses. Rebuilding this dock was critical to their economic well-being as commercial and sport fishing, marine vessel rescue, disaster response operations and repairs were distressed. With very few options, tribal leaders turned to long-time Wells Fargo banker Cora Gaane of Wells Fargo’s Native American Banking group for help.

Wells Fargo’s relationship with the tribe began in 2010 with accounts for the Cape Flattery Fishermen’s Co-op, formed by Tribal members to help market the fish they caught. The relationship continued to grow over the years and with financial education from Cora, tribal leaders learned the benefits of New Markets Tax Credits and how they could be used to finance a new dock. Cora introduced leaders to Scott Pinover from Wells Fargo Community Lending & Investment (CLI) to begin discussions about this financing option.

CLI is a group that offers several tax credit programs, including Low-income Housing Tax Credits, Historic Tax Credits, and Equity Equivalent Investments, to contribute debt and equity capital for economic development, job creation, and affordable housing that benefit local communities.

With Scott’s help, the tribe secured funding to demolish and rebuild the dock. Wells Fargo became the sole investor for the purchase of $3.06 million in federal New Markets Tax Credits for the project.

Taking down the partially collapsed dock was cumbersome and required careful planning in order to protect wildlife in the waters. During demolition a floating barrier was erected around the construction site to keep any debris and oil from escaping and enabled cleanup of byproduct. In rebuilding the dock, they replaced the creosote treated wood pilings with steel pilings filled with cement to better serve the environment for the long term.

The new dock includes 5,600 square feet of warehouse space and three large cranes for unloading boats. The rebuild created 59 new construction jobs.

Wells Fargo also assisted Tribal members with home ownership via the Section 184 mortgage guarantee program through the Department of Housing and Urban Development. With the help of the CLI group, the tribe received a sponsorship for a $500,000 Federal Home Loan Bank Affordable Housing Subsidy Grant. The grant was used as an additional funding source for a low-income rental supportive housing project that provided 21 affordable apartments plus optional wellness services for formerly homeless tribal members.

Wells Fargo is a big supporter of the New Markets Tax Credits program, established in 2000 as part of the Community Renewal Tax Relief Act of 2000. The goal of the program is to spur revitalization efforts of low-income and impoverished communities across the United States and Territories.

The Makah Indian Tribe supportive housing and dock projects are just some examples of how teams across Wells Fargo work together to help customers achieve their financial goals. Watch a video to learn more about the project.