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

Federal 8(a) contracting

• Tulsa, Okla.-based Cherokee Nation Environmental Solutions, a tribally owned, 8(a)- and HUBZone-certified construction firm, has formed a mentor-protégé joint venture with Conti Federal Services, an Orlando, Fla.-based construction and engineering firm specializing in federal government work. Cherokee Nation Environmental Solutions is a part of the tribe’s Cherokee Federal portfolio that specializes in environmental and construction projects for the federal government, civilian and defense agencies, according to a statement. In the joint venture, which is known as CF2 Construction LLC, Conti Federal will leverage its experience in the federal construction to assist Cherokee Nation Environmental Solutions with project estimating, schedule development and cost controls, business development, and expansion into new markets such as classified and intelligence community construction. “We are excited to partner with Conti Federal on this joint venture and continue to expand our project portfolio and break into new markets in the federal construction landscape,” Roy Fazio, president of the construction sector at Cherokee Federal, said in a statement. “With more than 1,000 federal construction projects completed and $750M in project value to date, we will be able to think and execute big while retaining the agility, efficiency and responsiveness of a small firm.”

• Herndon Va.-based Sunik, a subsidiary of Alaska Native-owned Akima LLC, was awarded a five-year, up to $44 million contract to offer a range of maintenance, supply, and transportation support to Army Field Support Battalion – Stewart at Fort Stewart, Georgia, according to a statement. Under the contract award, which was made under the Enhanced Army Global Logistics Enterprise program, Sunik will provide services for the 3rd Infantry Division, and multiple separate combat units. The company plans to hire about 100 people as a result of the new contract. “The Akima portfolio of companies has long provided world-class logistics capabilities to the United States Army,” Akima Facilities Solutions Group President Scott Rauer said in a statement. “We plan to immediately provide value on this contract through our agility and our experience, and we are proud to support the logistics requirements of such a critical facility.” An SBA-certified 8(a) contractor, Sunik is a wholly owned subsidiary of Akima, an enterprise of NANA Regional Corporation created for the benefit of more than 14,000 Iñupiat shareholders.

Gaming

• San Manuel Gaming and Hospitality Authority, an enterprise of the the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, has set April 27 as the opening date for the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas, Nev., and is accepting reservations for stays starting April 28. As Tribal Business News previously reported, the tribe purchased the property for $650 million from Station Casinos LLC, a division of Las Vegas-based Red Rock Resorts Inc. The former owners invested about $690 million renovating Palms Casino Resort in a project that wrapped up in 2019. “It’s an honor and a privilege for us to welcome everyone back to Palms Casino Resort Las Vegas,” San Manuel Gaming and Hospitality Authority Chairwoman Latisha Casas. “We look forward to introducing our guests to our rich history, culture and signature hospitality. We can’t wait to make history together.” When it opens, Palms Casino Resort will be the first Las Vegas resort fully owned and operated by a Native American tribe, according to a statement. The property features a 766-room hotel, a range of food and beverage amenities, live entertainment venues and a 95,000-square-foot casino.

• The Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation is expanding its relationship with DraftKings (Nasdaq: DKNG) to include the tribe’s Foxwoods El San Juan Casino in Puerto Rico, according to a statement. Under the deal, DraftKings will open a retail sportsbook inside the casino, pending licensure and regulatory approvals. The space will feature a video wall, bar and dining services, two counter ticket windows and six betting kiosks. “We have made tremendous strides in the sports betting space in our relationship with DraftKings, who has continued to be a valuable partner, through our online and retail experiences in the state of Connecticut,” Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation Chairman Rodney Butler said in a statement. “As we expand our partnership with DraftKings to the beautiful island of Puerto Rico at the Foxwoods El San Juan Casino, we are confident that we will continue to create unforgettable memories for customers and sports fans alike.”

• Both the Middletown Rancheria of Pomo Indians of California and the Santa Rosa Rancheria Tachi Yokut Tribe have signed tribal-state gaming compacts with the state of California that would allow the tribes to expand their existing gaming operations. According to a statement from Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office, the compacts serve as a reflection of “the Governor’s and the Tribes’ mutual commitment to a respectful government-to-government relationship” and come at the culmination of a lengthy negotiation process.

Entrepreneurism

• The eighth annual Pow Wow Pitch competition has opened for submissions from Indigenous entrepreneurs in Canada and the United States. The Ottawa, Ontario-based Pow Wow Pitch seeks Indigenous vendors, artists and entrepreneurs to submit a 1-minute video business pitch via its website by June 21, by signing up to pitch live on Instagram or at various powwows. Participants will compete for the chance to join the Pow Wow Pitch Accelerator program and win more than $200,000 in cash prizes. The pitch competition is presented in partnership with RBC, Shopify, Meta and Mastercard.

Philanthropy

• As part of writer and philanthropist MacKenzie Scott’s $281 million donation to Boys & Girls Clubs nationwide, the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina Boys & Girls Clubs will receive $1.25 million over a three-year period, according to a statement. The tribe operates seven boys and girls clubs. Dr. Rose Lowry-Townsend, director of youth services for the Lumbee Tribe, said in a statement that the funding will enhance programs and fund activities that the Native American Housing Assistance and Self Determination Act of 1996 does not cover. “The funds will be utilized for enrichment field trips for our students. It will also allow us to purchase a new bus and a new van, which will enable us to transport our children,” Lowry-Townsend said in a statement. Additionally, the organization will use the funds to purchase new computers.

Finance

• As part of a national conference in Seattle, Wash., NAFOA last week announced the recipients of its 2022 Leadership Awards, which honor the accomplishments of a tribal leader, tribal executive and financial deals advancing tribal economies. The winners were:

    • Tribal Leader of the Year Award: Tunica-Biloxi Tribe of Louisiana Chairman Marshall Pierite, who was recognized for 30 years of service and tribal leadership
    • Executive of the Year Award: Guy Barker, secretary-treasury of the Quapaw Nation, for his leadership in tribal financial management.
    • Large Deal of the Year Award: San Manuel Gaming and Hospitality Authority’s $650 million acquisition of the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas, Nev.
    • Small Deal of the Year Award: Tule River Tribe and the Tule River Gaming Authority, which closed a $175 million syndicated bank financing for the construction of the new Eagle Mountain Casino in Porterville, Calif.
    • Honorary Leadership Award: Casey Winn Lozar, an enrolled member of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, who serves as vice president and director of the Center for Indian Country Development (CICD) at the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.

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