Infrastructure is a topic Indian Country is well aware of, yet it rarely receives the attention it deserves. March 2019 marks our first infrastructure-focused issue of Native Business Magazine, and our fourth issue to date. The issue demonstrates how infrastructure is the backbone of all economy and business, creating the foundation for long-term sustainability and growth.
Among the greatest examples of strategic infrastructure planning and investment in action is Ho-Chunk, Inc., the economic development arm of the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska.
Our cover subject — Ho-Chunk, Inc. CEO Lance Morgan — shares with Native Business readers the forethought required to scale economic development on a remote reservation.
Gary Davis (Cherokee Nation), Publisher of Native Business Magazine, noted: “By making long-term, asset-oriented investments off-reservation, Ho-Chunk, Inc. funneled revenue into socioeconomic efforts on reservation, and effectively turned a rural community in Nebraska into a thriving hub for business, jobs and overall economic growth.”
Morgan underscores the value of master planning and breaks down how Ho-Chunk Village intentionally integrates housing with business, cultural and recreational elements — all necessary to sustain a community.
Our March issue tackles various components of infrastructure: roads, buildings, legal and sovereign frameworks, dual taxation, broadband, data, utilities, telemedicine and insurance — to name a few.
Inside the March 2019 Infrastructure issue:
A feature aptly titled “The Road to Nowhere” underscores the need to provide and maintain the most fundamental infrastructure asset across Indian Country: roads.
“Unpaved roads can stifle opportunity for economic development and outside investment, and dangerous road conditions threaten public safety,” said Carmen Davis (Makah Tribe), Publisher and Executive Editor of Native Business Magazine.
The feature also delves into the financial burden of road restoration, raising awareness of the Mandan Hidatsa and Arikara (MHA) Nation’s challenging situation. It costs the Tribe some $3 million to $3.5 million to pave only one mile of road on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation, where tractor-trailers hauling thousands of gallons of Bakken crude are decimating reservation roads not built to withstand that kind of heavy traffic.
In a separate story within our March issue, MHA Nation Chairman Mark Fox addresses a pivotal issue impeding business and stifling economic development across Indian Country: dual taxation.
Transitioning to technological infrastructure, the March 2019 issue weighs the high capital costs of building data centers with the return on investment. We look to Data Holdings, the Forest County Potawatomi Tribe’s $36 million data center in Milwaukee, as well as the Passamaquoddy Tribe of Indian Township, which plans to build a $25 million data center powered by hydrogen, for their inside perspective.
But before data centers must come broadband. Our infrastructure issue considers the inspiring vision of Andrew Metcalfe, the founder, CEO and president of Native Network. He aspires to connect as many of the 573 federally recognized Tribes with a fiber optic network as possible, creating a national footprint of online Tribal Nations.
Entrepreneurs are also pivotal to reservation infrastructure, as Native Business Magazine’s interview with JC Seneca showcases. The founder of Six Nations Manufacturing, Native Pride Travel Plaza and BUFFALO Cigarettes shares his entrepreneurial journey from the 90s — selling cigarettes curbside — to today, employing 100-plus people through his three businesses on Seneca Nation territory.
Sometimes Tribal enterprises are best served by not limiting their opportunities by reservation borders. Our Infrastructure issue spotlights Mohegan Renewable Energy, formed in late 2017, which operates five wood pellet-manufacturing facilities across the U.S. from Alabama to Tennessee, Indiana, Ohio to Mississippi.
And Indian Pueblos Marketing, Inc. (IPMI), jointly owned by the 19 Pueblos of New Mexico, reveals how the Tribes petitioned the U.S. government to convey federal lands in Albuquerque (primarily former Indian boarding school property) for cultural and economic development.
We turn to Yakama Power, a Tribal utility that delivers electricity, high-speed Internet and phone service to the sprawling, 1.4 million-acre reservation. In addition to recirculating money to on-reservation vendors, businesses and contractors, the utility empowers Yakama’s vibrant economy by providing high-salary jobs (the base salary for a lineman is $90,000) — many of them to Tribal citizens.
The Infrastructure issue also delves into healthcare infrastructure, looking to Alaska, a leader in telemedicine.
Our March issue doesn’t overlook the fact that sovereignty is the foundation upon which Tribal infrastructure is developed. Pilar Thomas (Pascua Yaqui), a lawyer in Lewis Roca Rothgerber Christie LLP’s Indian Tribal Nations Practice, and Maranda Compton (Delaware Tribe of Indians), a partner at Van Ness Feldman LLP, clarify how Tribes as Sovereign Nations can, in the pursuit of commercial activities to support their Nations, extend their sovereign immunity to economic arms of the Tribe.
We also recognize that employees are one of the most vital assets to companies — like any other piece of business infrastructure. Native Business interviews attorney Geoff Hash about how Tribal and Native-owned businesses can cultivate a trustworthy team of employees — while also shielding themselves from potential lawsuits.
“Building physical, digital and legal structures is the first step toward growth and attracting outside investment. Our March issue identifies the ultra important role that strategic master planning and infrastructure development plays in achieving long-term economic success in our communities,” the Davises state. “Now, more than ever, Indian Country must be intentional in developing its infrastructure so that it bears the weight for our generations to come.”
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