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Here is a round up of business news briefs from around Indian Country. 


• Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer appointed Eric Hemenway (Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians) to the Michigan Historical Commission. Hemenway serves as the director of archives and records for the tribe. He also is a consulting scholar for the American Philosophical Society Center for Native American and Indigenous Research. The Michigan Historical Commission was established in 1913 and advises the director of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources on the museum, archival, and other programs of the Michigan Historical Center. Hemenway’s appointment for a term from May 22, 2021 to May 21, 2025 is subject to the advice and consent of the Michigan Senate. 


• The deadline has been extended to June 1 to submit ideas for the 2021 Native Youth Business Plan Competition, a collaboration of First Nations Development Institute, American Indigenous Business Leaders, and The National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development (NCAIED). Chosen semifinalist teams will receive business mentoring and a travel scholarship to participate in the joint AIBL and RES 2021 conference on July 19 in Las Vegas. The top three teams will also receive cash prizes of $2,500 for first place, $1,250 for second place and $750 for third place. 


• Months after announcing a deal to acquire the Caesars Southern Indiana Casino, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians is in discussions with an unspecified publicly traded gaming company for another commercial casino, according to a report in the Smoky Mountain News. Details about “Project Commonwealth” remain scant as the tribe and company are still in the planning stages to develop the new casino. The publication indicated that the project may be targeted for Virgina, The Commonwealth State. Meanwhile the tribe’s $250 million bid to acquire the Indiana casino is expected to be approved by fall, according to a report in Cherokee One Feather. On May 12, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians formed a new company, EBCI Holdings LLC, and established a management team and board of directors in anticipation of the deal. Adele Jacobs-Madden, a member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, was named chief financial officer of the venture. 

• The San Manuel Band of Mission Indians will reveal the first phase of a $550 million expansion to Highland, Calif.-based San Manuel Casino in July. The expansion’s first phase will add two new floors of gaming space, a new high limit room, a new 24-hour restaurant and three new stores. The expansion will grow the facility from 100,000 square feet to 270,000 square feet of floor space. In total, the tribe plans to add 1,300 new slot machines and 40 new table games. The high limit room will feature eight table games, 35 standalone slot machines and 11 bar-top slots. The second phase of the planned expansion also includes the casino’s first onsite hotel. The 17-story building will offer 400 rooms and suites, with a planned launch in late 2021. A third phase will launch a large event center. That project is currently targeted for opening in 2022. This month, the tribe also announced it had signed a definitive agreement to acquire the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas from Red Rock Resorts Inc. for $650 million, as Tribal Business News previously reported. 

Higher ed

• The American Indian Policy Institute at Arizona State University has launched a Thought Leaders Fellowship Program to blend academics, professionals, graduate students, community leaders, and university alumni to research Indigenous issues. The competitive program will select fellows to produce scholarly research that furthers the Institute’s mission to create “tribally-driven, community-informed policy.” Applications are open at this link.

Economic development

• The San Pasqual Economic Development Corp. opened a new $7 million fuel center and market in Valley Center, Calif. on May 20, according to a report in the Valley Roadrunner. The center also incorporates fast-charging stations for electric vehicles and features a Qboba drive-thru restaurant. A second drive-thru serves customers of the convenience store.

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Tribal Business News publishes thoroughly reported and well-crafted stories about Native businesses and entrepreneurs, growth and expansion strategies, best practices, economic data, government policy and other relevant business news. Tribal Business News is required reading for tribal council members and leaders of Native businesses, as well as state and federal legislators, policymakers, economic developers, entrepreneurs, bankers, lawyers and anyone interested in doing business in Indian Country.

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