Economic Development Summit Held at White Earth II
Thirty Young People Attend First “Youth Track” Sessions
Minnesota’s three largest tribal nations, Red Lake, White Earth and Leech Lake co-sponsored the Fourth Economic Development Summit at Shooting Star Casino, Hotel and Event Center at Mahnomen, on Wednesday and Thursday September 14-15, 2011. “Building Business Through Partnerships” was the focus of the 2011 summit.
Billed as the 2011 Northern Minnesota Tribal Economic Development Summit and Trade Show, “the goal of the summit”, said Red Lake Economic Development Director Sam Strong. “was to enhance business opportunities and encourage business development in promoting healthy, self-sufficient and sustainable communities throughout the region. By creating partnerships and working together we can build a better quality of life for our families.”
On Wednesday the Summit ran until 4:15 PM. Breakfast and registration began at 8 AM. After an invocation by Terrance Tibbitts, a drum ceremony by Eagle Spirit, and Flag Ceremony by an honor guard from all three tribes, a welcoming was presented by the Tribal Chairs.
First to speak was Erma Vizenor of the host nation, White Earth. Vizenor was followed by Floyd Jourdain, Jr. of Red Lake Nation. Arthur “Archie” LaRose of the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe was predisposed and was unable to participate. A video played welcome messages from 7th District Congressman Collin Peterson, and U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken.
Wednesday’s events were followed by a trade show reception, dinner and entertainment by comedians Williams and Ree often billed as “The Indian and the White Guy.” Thursday’s events began at 8:30 AM with a closing ceremony at 1:00 PM. This was followed by a “closed” tribal leader work session to recap the summit events.
The trade show was held throughout the two-day gathering. Many organizations and businesses provided information to Summit attendees about arts and crafts, job opportunities, census data interpretation, schools, food service, and much information on tribal, state and federal programs.
Keynote Speeches and Breakout Sessions
The 2011 summit was emceed by David Glass, President of the American Indian Economic Development Fund. Wednesday morning saw a keynote address by Gabriel S. Galanda, attorney of Galanda Broadman PLLC. Galanda’s practice focuses on complex multi-party litigation and crisis management. He is skilled in representing tribes and Indian owned enterprises from legal attacks by local, state and federal governments.
A second keynote address followed at noon lunch by Lance Morgan, President and Chief Executive Officer of Ho-Chunk Inc. Ho-Chunk Inc. is the award winning economic development corporation owned by the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska. Today Ho-Chunk employs 1,400 people in ten states and four foreign countries. The company operates 24 subsidiaries and has revenues in excess of $193 million.
After lunch, breakout sessions were conducted on “Economic Development Resources”, and “Doing Business with Government." A second session followed on “Marketing the Census,” and a panel presentation on “Financial Strength Building."
A concurrent Tribal Leader closed session was held with tribal leaders on the first day at 2 p.m. Council attendance was highly encouraged so that decisions to move forward on proposed business opportunities could be made.
Thursday’s keynote speeches focused directly on economic development from federal and state representatives. The 9:00 AM session was conducted by Jack R. Stevens, US Department of the Interior, Office of the Secretary of Indian Affairs, Chief Division of Economic Development. The luncheon keynote address was conducted by Mark Phillips, Commissioner of Minnesota’s Department of Energy and Economic Development. (DEED)
Youth Track: “Building the Next Generation of Leaders."
An interesting first time addition to the Economic Summit were workshops for youth on Wednesday. Thirty 11th and 12th grade American Indian Students participated in two sessions.
Margueritte Secola, Red Lake Economic Development and Planning, said that students who participated are academically inclined and interested in higher education. “We want to develop a youth division,” said Secola, “and expose students to professionals, and give them ‘hands on’ experience.” Because of school, kids were there just part of the day from 9 to 2:30.
Secola played a major role in organizing and conducting the workshops along with instructor Sharon James of the Minnesota American Indian Chamber of Commerce, and Linda Sapp, of the American Indian Economic Development fund.
The first workshop in the morning was entitled “The Buzz about Biz.” This was an introduction to Business where students learned what it means to be a business owner and how to go about starting one. Questions answered included; “what is an entrepreneur and what does a successful one look like?” “Why is small business important to the economy?” “Why does one business succeed and another fail?”
“Steps to decide what business to start and where, business plan development, how to obtain financing, and points in setting up a business were discussed,” said Secola. “The five functions of Management was also covered, i.e. planning organizing, staffing, directing and controlling. It was pointed out that each of these functions involves creative problem solving.”
The second session for youth in the afternoon was entitled “The Art of Marketing.” Youth learned about the “4 P’s” of marketing, Product, Place (marketability e.g. easy access), Price (what to take into consideration when pricing a product or service), and Promotion. Strategies on how to accomplish each were discussed.
Students then did a “hands-on” exercise learning about marketing by critiquing vendors and developing their own marketing ideas. This included three exercises, “Visual Observation”...list and observe one vendor, pay attention to marketing strategies they use, and consider suggestions you would give them. “Customer Service Interaction,” interact with one vendor.
Students asked themselves questions; What is done well? What is weak? And what you you suggest for improvement? Then students were directed to find a vendor without a logo. They were to talk and gather info about what a business might want to communicate to the customer with their name and logo, and think about what that logo might entail.
Federal elected official representatives joined tribal elected officials, and economic development staff from all three reservations, for a “closed” tribal leader work session at the end of the summit. The session moderated by Glass, concentrated on “action” items for opportunity.
The first item discussed could make a profit of $300,000 the first year for the Commission. After a recent presentation by Money Centers of America, the Tribal Economic Development (TED) Commission agreed to proceed with investigation of cash access companies serving the gaming industry including ATM, check cashing and cash advance services to determine the cost-effective and revenue creating alternatives.
Vendors were very cooperative and helped the students a lot
“The second opportunity is with Tribal Investment Group of America,” said Red Lake Gaming Chief Operating Officer Ray Brenny. “This is a purchasing cooperative that can potentially save us millions and has the potential for revenues if we decide to purchase shares in this company. These shares could either be purchased from the commission or from our tribe. Potential savings could include partnering when purchasing insurance, machines, etc.”
The TED Commission intends to: Increase the number of jobs on and off the Reservations for American Indians that are sustainable and consistent with community values; Create more young skilled workers and entrepreneurs; Improve community vitality; and create prosperity through successful investments on and off reservation.