Here is a round up of business news from around Indian Country.
• The Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians has started construction on Soboba Crossroads, a retail center in San Jacinto, Calif., after a nearly year-long delay because of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a report in The Press Enterprise. The site will include a convenience store, gas station and car wash, and features space for approximately nine other businesses, including a pair of drive-thru restaurants. In a statement to The Press Enterprise, the tribe said: “The COVID-19 pandemic stopped us in our tracks. When Soboba Casino Resort was temporarily closed, we had to put all our plans on hold, not knowing where the pandemic would lead and what it would mean to us financially. During that seven-month gap, all our economic development was at a standstill.” The tribe restarted construction after studying the financials for the project and determining it was still feasible.
• The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians allocated $35 million to Kituwah LLC, its non-gaming economic development firm, to invest in its 200-acre mixed-use development project outside of Knoxville, Tenn., according to a report in the Smoky Mountain News. Kituwah said it needed the funding to help secure a major tenant for the project who also was considering an alternative site. Kituwah bought the land in 2019 for $13.5 million and partnered with Knoxville-based OE Experiences to plan out the best uses for the site and to find other development partners for the project, which it envisions as a tourist, shopping, travel and entertainment destination, as Tribal Business News previously reported. The tribal council previously allocated $25 million toward development costs at the Sevier County location, Smoky Mountain News reported.
• The Biden administration named Kyle Whyte (Citizen Potawatomi Nation) to the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council. The council provides advice and recommendations to the administration about how to address current and historic environmental injustices, according to a statement. Whyte currently serves as the George Willis Pack Professor of Environment and Sustainability at the University of Michigan, where he specializes in environmental justice. His academic research has focused on the interplay of climate issues and science with Indigenous peoples.
• The Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish Band of Pottawatomi Indians’ Gun Lake Casino donated $5,000 to Exodus Place, which assists men facing homelessness in Grand Rapids, Mich. The nonprofit plans to use the funding to purchase a year’s supply of hygiene kits for people the organization serves. Exodus Place provides a free hygiene kit to each new member, numbering in the hundreds annually, according to a statement. “Gun Lake Casino recognizes that vital organizations, like Exodus Place, have experienced a loss of funding for critical care donations due to the Coronavirus pandemic. We are proud to support Exodus Place and their mission of empowering men and providing the tools needed to overcome homelessness. We sincerely hope that our donation contributes to the success of many,” Gun Lake Casino President and COO Sal Semola said in a statement.
• Mohegan Gaming & Entertainment, the gaming enterprise of the Mohegan Tribe based in Uncasville, Conn., opened the first Native American-owned casino in Las Vegas with the official opening of the 60,000-square-foot Mohegan Sun Casino at Virgin Hotels Las Vegas. The facility welcomed its first guests on March 25. The casino features more than 650 slot machines and 50 table games.
• The Ute Mountain Ute Tribe has started construction on a $3.1 million expansion of its Indian Health Services clinic in Towaoc, Colo. that will provide dental and medical services to members, according to a report in the Durango Herald. The tribe funded the 5,000-square-foot facility as part of the Indian Health Service’s COVID-19 emergency response. Tribally-owned Weminuche Construction Authority is serving as the general contractor on the project, which was designed with air filtration and negative pressure to reduce risk to patients and staff members. The tribe targets a September opening, according to the report.
Since you’re here.
Doing business anywhere is a challenge, but it’s even more challenging in Indian Country. Tribes and their citizens face unique obstacles as they try to build Native-owned enterprises: the patchwork of federal laws, bureaucratic red tape, limited access to capital and the fact that most people are unfamiliar with what’s involved in operating a business in Indian Country.
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