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


Economic development

 • Little River Holdings LLC, the economic development arm of the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians, has partnered with Michigan-based Leelanau Fruit Co. and national burger chain Wahlburgers to launch Flex Blend burger patties, according to a report in Michigan Farm News. Building off Little River Holdings’ Magic Burger products, the meat-and-tart-cherry Flex Blend offers reduced fat and calories compared to all-meat patties. The product launch coincided with the National Cherry Festival in Traverse City, Mich., which ran from July 2-9. Wahlburgers sells the Flex Blend patties via SpartanNash-affiliated stores in Michigan. “They’re committed to using U.S. products, and they’ve already used a nice quantity of cherries in the first grocery store supply out,” Ben LaCross of Leelanau Fruit Co. told Michigan Farm News. “If they could expand to other regions of the country where all Wahlburgers products are served or sold, it could really increase the amount of tart cherries used. I think all Michigan cherry growers should be excited about the potential for the use of cherries inside meat products.” The new product also builds off a partnership Little River Holdings announced with Wahlburgers last year to develop franchises at tribally owned casinos and resorts or non-gaming locations, as Native News Online previously reported.

• Sault Tribe Inc., the non-gaming economic development enterprise of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians, has named veteran executive Rachel Heckel to the position of chief operating officer, according to a report in the Sault News. Heckel worked for about a decade at Cherokee Federal, most recently as president of operations. In the role, she was responsible for a more than $70 million portfolio of nine companies, according to the report. Among the project she worked on, Heckel oversaw the staffing of an emergency shelter in Los Angeles County for unaccompanied minors who crossed the border into the United States. At Sault Tribe Inc., Heckel will help develop new operating businesses and pursue federal contracts via its various existing operations, according to the report.



• Tachi Palace Casino Resort in Lemoore, Calif. held a grand opening last week for the new, 30,000-square-foot Yokut Hall. The gaming enterprise of the Santa Rosa Indian Community of the Santa Rosa Rancheria, California, also known as the Tachi Yokut Tribe, plans to host bingo in Yokut Hall every Tuesday through Saturday. The opening marks the first return of bingo to Tachi Palace Casino after closing in March 2020 at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the tribe, the casino had offered bingo at the facility since 1983. “As a casino resort with a long-standing bingo tradition, we are excited to bring back bingo in our brand new 30,000 square foot Yokut Hall, in addition to using the space for concerts and other special events,” Tachi Palace Casino Resort General Manager Michael Olujic said in a statement. “Yokut Hall is another phase of the strong growth and development happening at Tachi Palace, and we look forward to announcing more updates and renovations as the year continues.”



• Jackson Rancheria Casino Resort, the gaming enterprise of the Jackson Rancheria Band of Miwuk Indians, opened the doors to its newly remodeled rooms in its tower hotel last week. The rooms now feature memory foam beds, custom desks, 40-inch flat-screen TVs, and a host of other amenities. The remodeling project followed a complete renovation of the Jackson Rancheria Executive and Tower Junior Suites, according to a statement. “We are very excited to present our guests with these beautifully upgraded hotel rooms,” Crystal Jack, CEO, Jackson Rancheria Band of Miwuk Indians, said in a statement. “We thank them for their patience and support during this recent remodel and look forward to welcoming them back for an even more luxurious and enjoyable stay.” The Jackson, Calif.-based casino also announced that its ‘fan favorite” Margaret’s Cafe & Bakery is now open for dinner five nights a week.

• The Pines Modern Steakhouse at Yaamava’ Resort & Casino, a gaming venture of the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, was recognized by Wine Spectator in its 2022 Restaurant Awards that honor the best restaurants for wine. The Pines Modern Steakhouse was one of 1,290 winners of the magazine’s Best of Award of Excellence, its second time receiving the recognition. The award honors restaurants that “display excellent breadth across multiple winegrowing regions and/or significant vertical depth of top producers, along with superior presentation,” according to a statement. “It is such an honor to receive this prestigious recognition from Wine Spectator, a recognized expert in both wine and wine culture, for the second year in a row,” Yaamava’ Resort & Casino General Manager Peter Arceo stated. “Achieving level two, the ‘Best of Award of Excellence,’ is not only a reflection of our Beverage and Wine team’s determination to be a leader in the industry and create a one-of-a-kind experience for our guests, but also speaks to the Tribe’s continued support and our best-in-class approach in both service and products.” Yaamava’ Resort & Casino at San Manuel in Highland, Calif. features a 17-floor hotel tower with 432 guest rooms, pool, full-service spa and a salon. The casino offers more than 7,000 slots and five high-limit gaming rooms, plus dining options, multiple bars and lounges. 

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