Department of Energy awards $200,000 to the Eight Northern Indian Pueblos Council
SANTA FE, N.M. - The Eight Northern Indian Pueblos Council's Community Reuse Organization (CRO) received a $200,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Energy for economic development and community transition planning.
Announced at a ceremony at the Pueblos-owned Santa Fe Hotel, May 13, this grant is a continuation of a start up grant of $388,000, awarded last year. The tribes are using the money to determine which economic development projects are most likely to succeed and should be proposed for federal funding.
Terry Aguilar, executive director for the CRO initiative, said the focus of the grant is strategic planning. "We look at each of the eight pueblos' assets and look at what they want."
"Right now we're looking at how the eight northern tribes can benefit from those areas of economic development that they've ventured into or have a desire to go into," explained San Ildefonso Pueblo Gov. John Gonzales, chairman of the council.
"This will enable us to do market studies and look at whether to do this collectively, or whether an individual tribe would be better off going into that particular sector of the economy. One area that we're looking at is the petroleum industry."
Gas stations combined with convenience stores, already in place on several pueblos, and a wholesale gasoline distribution outlet are examples of businesses whose success and further expansion, studies funded with this grant will assess. Tourism is another example.
The Eight Northern Indian Pueblos Council (ENIPC) has the only Native CRO initiative in the country, established three years ago. CROs are stakeholder organizations; bodies in which the most important interest groups are represented such as environmental, social and economic groups, or business and trade unions which represent the interests and economic concerns of communities surrounding DOE sites being closed or restructured.
The DOE owns Los Alamos National Laboratory in northern New Mexico, which employs about 7,600 people and although very few to no pueblo members are employed at the lab, changes to the lab could have devastating effects on the eight northern pueblos.
"If you eliminate 200 jobs, that's a great impact to the local economy," clarified Gonzales. "That's why that initiative occurred several years back. This (grant) is DOE's effort to try to lessen that potential impact."
Numerous parts of the planning phase the money supports, including organization and staffing, specific business plans, and selection of contractors for information collection and analysis have been completed.
The fiscal infrastructure of all of the eight northern pueblos, marketing opportunities and the available labor force have been researched with the goal of making or creating Native-owned businesses that are competitive with businesses outside the pueblos.
"The strategic plan is also looking at the cultural differences between the two worlds," added Aguilar.
Constructed from a Native American perspective, the plan uses four focal points: the governance of each community, market opportunities, tribal assets, priorities and concerns.
A fact sheet is due at the end of May.
"The next step is to look at where we are eligible for competitive grants," said Aguilar. Once this phase has been completed, ENIPC will be eligible to apply for operational and competitive grants available to other CROs.