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Here’s a round up of business news from around Indian Country. 


Economic development

• The Kootenai Tribe of Idaho wants to build a 8,700-square-foot travel center along Highway 96 as part of the first phase of an economic development project on its reservation, according to a report in the Bonners Ferry Herald. The travel center will take shape on 32 acres of land in northern Idaho and also includes a Sonic restaurant. The tribe expects to begin construction on the facility next spring. Additional phases of the project could include additional restaurants, retail and potentially light manufacturing uses, according to the report. “The Tribe is excited about this new economic development project that will benefit both the Tribe, Boundary County and surrounding communities,” Vice-Chairman Gary Aitken Jr. said in the report.



• Grand Rapids, Mich.-based Open Systems Technologies, a subsidiary of Alaska Native-owned Koniag Inc., was named the DEI Champion Organization of the Year by the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce. Digital I.T. consulting firm OST created its diversity, equity and inclusion committee in 2019 and has hosted conversations, workshops and guest speakers and provided employees with learning and growth opportunities. The company also tracked and shared its DEI results with its team. “We are honored to be recognized by the Chamber of Commerce for our efforts in the DEI space, and realize that in many ways, we’ve only just begun,” OST CEO Meredith Bronk said in  a statement. “Creating an equitable and inclusive workplace – where we walk the talk – is foundational. Helping create meaningful change in our industry is a long game that we are committed to.” Koniag, which acquired OST in May 2012, is an Alaska Native Regional Corporation formed on behalf of approximately 4,300 Alutiiq shareholders who originated from the Kodiak Archipelago.



• Tribal enterprise Seminole Tribe of Florida Inc., is selling its interest in Fairmount, Ga.-based Salacoa Valley Farms, a purebred Brangus cattle operation, to individual investors from Alabama and Louisiana, according to a statement. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. The tribe purchased the Salacoa Valley Farms brand and 1,000-head herd in 2013, in a deal that also included embryos, bull semen and equipment for the cattle operation. Salacoa Valley Farms is a producer of purebred bulls and heifers that cattle operators use to improve their herds. In fact, improving herd genetic was a main driver of the Seminole Tribe’s initial purchase. “Tribal herds have improved from Salacoa genetics,” Aaron Stam, natural resources director for the Seminole Tribe, said in a statement. The sale will allow the tribe to focus on its Florida herds.



• Washington, D.C.-based LERIS Media, a Black- and women-owned, public relations and digital marketing firm, won the PRNEWS 2021 CSR & Diversity Award for Best Campaign by a Black-Owned firm for its work on the Epilepsy Foundation’s November campaigns recognizing Native American Heritage Month during National Epilepsy Awareness Month. The firm created the campaigns in English and tribal languages, featured Native American images, and leveraged Native American media outlets to spread awareness. LERIS estimates it achieved nearly 1.7 million total views of the campaign, which the awards panel described as inspiring, innovative and deserving of industry-wide recognition. “These awards affirm that LERIS Media’s communication strategies for multicultural communities are impactful,” CEO Leris Bernard said in a statement.



• The Pascua Yaqui Tribe’s Casino Del Sol in Tucson, Ariz. officially opened the SolSports retail sportsbook on Nov. 18 for guests to wager on a variety of professional and collegiate sporting events. The sportsbook is located in a 4,000-square-foot, 100-person venue within the casino that features dozens of TVs, six live ticket windows and eight self-service betting kiosks. SolSports is powered by Scientific Games’ OpenSports betting technology. “Our ability to offer sports wagering to our guests has been many years in the making, and we are elated to see our vision come to fruition with SolSports,” Pascua Yaqui Tribe Chairman Peter Yucupicio said in a statement. “This new gaming option will have a positive economic impact on our tribe and the state of Arizona.”

• Willard Light, director of security at the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe’s Ute Mountain Casino Hotel in Towaoc, Colo., received the Mountain of Thanks award as part of the Cortez Chamber of Commerce’s annual Gratitude Gala for his department’s safety efforts during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The program is raining funds for an initiative to provide assistance to Montezuma County first responders who died in the line of duty. The Ute Mountain Casino Hotel served as the title sponsor of the awards this year. “We were delighted to serve as the title sponsor of this event which helps the deserving families of First Responders,” Rick Scheer, general manager of Ute Mountain Casino Hotel, said in a statement. “These people put their lives on the line everyday for their communities and we are so grateful for their dedication.



• The Biden administration appointed Patrice Kunesh as a member of the Community Development Advisory Board. Kunesh, of Standing Rock Lakota descent, serves as director of Peȟíŋ Haha Consulting, a social enterprise she founded to expand economic opportunities and expand self determination for Native nations. Previously, she established and led the Center for Indian Country Development at the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. Kunesh started her career at Native American Rights Fund and has served in various roles within the federal government, including as the Deputy Under Secretary for Rural Development at the U.S. Department of Agriculture and as the Deputy Solicitor for Indian Affairs at the U.S. Department of the Interior.

Want more news about the $130 billion tribal economy? 

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