By Joe Morey News Editor
The Sawyer County / Lac Courte Oreilles Economic Development Corporation (EDC) Director Ann Kozak met with the LCO Tribal Governing Board (TGB) on Monday, April 15, to discuss ways the EDC could help the tribe in promoting and expanding their economic development interests. She asked the TGB what are the tribe’s priorities?
Tweed Shuman, TGB member, said it’s important for both the Sawyer County area and the tribe to work together when it comes to economic development which benefits all the county.
“We’d like the EDC to help us in promoting our businesses the Landing, the Hideout, and being in the economic zone, Big Fish Golf and our convenience stores. We want help in long-term stability for our businesses and in return, we want to promote the area as well,” Shuman said. “The Hayward area knows we own the golf course and we want them to know we are going to be open for business soon, for everyone.”
Shuman told Kozak that the EDC does a nice job for Sawyer County and the Tribe. He said the tribe supports the Sawyer County /LCO Economic Development Corporation $15,000 annually. Also, gaming compact dollars come back to the tribe which is shared equally with the county. The tribe gives $50,000 to the county for economic development, Shuman noted.
Kozak indicated that they are going to be conducting a workshop on entrepreneur training and asked if any tribal members would be interested in attending. She noted the EDC brings in experts in certain areas.
“We can’t have promotion of our community without including Ojibwe culture because it’s a part of our identity as a county,” Kozak said. She also stated Bruce Paulsen, the treasurer for the EDC, is working on bringing high speed internet to LCO.
Paulsen said Bevcomm currently serves a portion of southern Sawyer County. He has held discussions with them but he told TGB they needed to decide on how they want to proceed. The tribe needs to decide whether they want to build the utility and own it, or build it and lease it to another company to operate it.
“Or you could have a company like Bevcomm come in and do it all,” Paulsen said. He said there is no guarantee with Centurylink because they just bought another corporation and are financially struggling.
LCO Secretary-Treasurer Jason Weaver said high speed internet is important. “We don’t have it at the Landing or the Hideout and that’s a problem.”
LCO Vice Chairman Jason Schlender said the Bad River Tribe worked with Bevcomm and they own their high speed internet. He believes LCO may do it the same way.
Shuman said the tribe is working on creating a business board, or separate business arm from the TGB and that in the future, it is important for the EDC to work directly with this board.
According to the EDC website, the Sawyer County /LCO Economic Development Corporation centers on encouraging new business ventures in the county, supports current businesses to grow for long-term stability and bolsters the local workforce through skills, knowledge and infrastructure.
“We are here to recruit new businesses to the Sawyer County / Lac Courte Oreilles communities. We also want to help our existing businesses thrive. Through partnerships between our area governments, municipalities, agencies and talented individuals willing to roll up their sleeves, we are moving forward in the areas of job creation, job retention, workforce training and community development for improved living,” the EDC website states.