Courtesy Key Bank
Mike Lettig

Key Thoughts From KeyBank: Economic Development Plans Must Diversify to Sustainably Meet Community Needs


Many nations throughout Indian Country benefit from single sources of revenue that help to mitigate pressing community challenges. To have lasting and significant change, Indian Country is striving to create communities that develop core infrastructure (stable government, health, education, and employment) and go beyond basic community services.

The problem is better community services require sustainable revenue. Revenue (other than grant and contracts) is limited by the kinds of businesses that can be developed and attracted to Indian Country.

A solution might be an economic growth plan that incorporates infrastructure development into each step of the ongoing services development. Proposed business ventures should include plans to improve community infrastructure.

For guidance, Indian Country leaders could take a look at how corporations build business models to recruit top talent by reinforcing the connection between the community quality of life and employment opportunities.

The following are examples of Indian Country integrated economic development:

—Southern Ute Indian Tribe, the largest employer in La Plata County CO, creates and operates new businesses off and on the reservation in a wide range of industries. The tribe's Southern Ute Permanent Fund has Triple A rating and assets spread out over 14 states and the Gulf of Mexico. The Southern Ute Community Action Program offers a range of community services such as child and family development, public transit and job training.

—The Pullayup Tribe of Indians in the Pacific Northwest has an economic development arm, Marine View Ventures, Inc., that boosts land assets and creates jobs. MVV manages assets including commercial real estate, industrial/port real estate, marinas, gas stations and billboards.

Given tribal differences, it is not appropriate to mandate specific steps in developing an integrated economic development plan. That said, there are at least two characteristics all tribes share. All tribes cope with challenges such as the responsibility for self-governance and protection of sovereignty. Just as importantly, all tribes have unique resources that cannot be duplicated, and as such have tremendous value.

Tribal leadership can create an integrated economic development strategy that is tailored to the priorities of their tribe and their people by empowering tribal members to become part of the solution and identifying immutable challenges and unique resources with economic potential.

The information and recommendations contained here have been compiled from sources believed to be reliable and represent the best current opinion on the subject. No warranty, express or implied by KeyBank, is made as to the absolute correctness or sufficiency of the information contained. This is meant as general information only, particular situations may require additional actions.

KeyBank is member FDIC.

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