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Economic development in Indian Country has taken new turns in the years since the pandemic, with tribes across the country diversifying their economies beyond casinos and seeking out growth in new business sectors. 

Next week, Tribal Business News will convene tribal leaders and Native executives from tribes in Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota to discuss their economic progress at the second Great Lakes Tribal Economic Summit on Sept.19-20. The media outlet, which covers the $130 billion tribal economy, will host the summit at Four Winds Casino, owned by the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi, in New Buffalo, Mich. 

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“There’s a lot going on in non-gaming economic development among the region’s 36 federally recognized tribes, but the Great Lakes gets overlooked sometimes — it’s almost like we’re flyover states,” said Levi Rickert, publisher of Tribal Business News. “But when you look at the innovation and work our region’s tribes are doing in federal contracting, real estate development and emerging markets like cannabis or clean energy, there’s a lot to talk about.” 

Federal contracting and real estate/land development serve as central pillars of this year’s economic summit, with tribes from throughout the region discussing their initiatives in those growing sectors. The summit will also feature a discussion on emerging opportunities for tribes in the Great Lakes region. 

The morning session will be focused on contracting, including panel discussions and interviews with tribal executives from the region about federal, state and corporate contracting opportunities for tribes and tribal enterprises. Executives from the Center for Indian Country Development at the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis will present up-to-date data and analysis on federal contracting by tribes and tribal entities in the Great Lakes region.   

Prior Tribal Business News reporting indicates that federal contracting represents more than 75 percent of all non-gaming tribal enterprises

The afternoon session will highlight tribal activity in real estate and land development throughout the region. Executives behind the largest land-back acquisition in history will talk about how the deal came together for the Bois Forte Band in northern Minnesota, as well as the tribe’s innovative strategy for the 28,000 acres purchased last year. The session will also feature a discussion with tribal executives who are leading multi-faceted, multi-million dollar real estate development initiatives in Michigan and Wisconsin.  

Attendees from last year’s event came from as far away as Washington D.C., Oregon, Oklahoma, and New York. Indian Land Capital Company CEO Rjay Brunkow said last year’s event convinced him to support the 2023 summit.

“I traveled to Michigan from Minnesota, but it was well worth the trip,” Brunkow said. “I was so impressed with the summit last year that I decided to become a sponsor for 2023.”

For Little River Holdings General Manager Eugene Magnuson, convening with other Native professionals and thinkers was an inspiration. 

“I attend a lot of tribal economic events every year, and this was one of the best,” Magnuson said. “Hearing the success of other tribal economic development corporations in the region made me want to work even harder.” 

More information on speakers and events can be found here.

About The Author
Chez Oxendine
Staff Writer
Chez Oxendine (Lumbee-Cheraw) is a staff writer for Tribal Business News. Based in Oklahoma, he focuses on broadband, Indigenous entrepreneurs, and federal policy. His journalism has been featured in Native News Online, Fort Gibson Times, Muskogee Phoenix, Baconian Magazine, and Oklahoma Magazine, among others.
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