TGB and Blue Stone Discuss Economic Development Planning for Lac Courte Oreilles
By Joe Morey
A team of executives and tribal leaders representing Blue Stone Strategy Group met with the new tribal council to update them on the current strategic planning underway.
“I applaud you on your efforts to have someone like Blue Stone come in and help plan for your future,” stated Shannon Holsey, President of the Stockbridge-Munsee Tribe. “You’re a very progressive people and this is about meeting the needs of your people.”
John Moors, President of Blue Stone Strategy Group told the LCO Tribal Governing Board (TGB) the group makes sure the tribe's voice is being clearly heard.
TGB member Tweed Shuman said Lac Courte Oreilles is sure Blue Stone will move the tribe in a direction of progress and provide a better life for our children and grandchildren.
Chief Executive Officer and Founder of Blue Stone, Jamie Fullmer, who is a former chairman of the Yavapai Apache Nation, introduced himself and the others to the new members of the council. He said of Blue Stone it is a group with 12 years of experience in strategic planning, marketing, feasibility studies and financial assessments, and they work strictly with Tribes.
“Blue Stone has successfully completed over 300 assessments, strategy and action plans for more than 90 tribes covering a wide range of business and government disciplines,” Moors added.
Fullmer then asked three of the four new council members what they wanted to see for the future of the tribe. LCO Vice Chairwoman Lorraine Gouge was attending another meeting and couldn’t make it. New members present were LCO Secretary-Treasurer Michelle Beaudin, Glenda Barber and Gary “Little Guy” Clause.
Beaudin said she has worked in finance most of her life at LCO and from those years of experience she believes the accounting staff is unmotivated and overwhelmed.
“We need to build them up. Blue Stone will help,” Beaudin said. “We don’t know where grants are at or reporting is at and our directors don’t know either. We have a lot of tribal members who have needs not being met. Bringing us forward is my ambition and we need to look at more ways to provide better economic opportunities.”
Barber said she became an advocate for tribal members first in hiring and that our tribal employees are not working in hostile environments.
“The only way I was going to affect change is if I became a part of it,” Barber said explaining why she ran for tribal council. Barber also wants to see better wages and more housing options.
Little Guy said he feels he can talk with anyone and that is a benefit to being on the tribal council.
“I can be a voice for our people,” Little Guy said. “We need to streamline our businesses to make more money so we can do more for our people. And I see a wage disparity from those at the top to those front line workers and we need to fix that.”
TGB member Don Carley said his goal with Blue Stone is to make tribal businesses more profitable.
“We need to look at development of a new casino,” Carley noted. “We need to develop e-commerce and online gaming. We also need to look at facilities for our elder’s needs.”
Moors explained some more about what Blue Stone does. He said they do assessments on tribal businesses and provide an unbiased review of them so that tribal leaders will have accurate data and information to accurately evaluate the business. Moors said they have performance measures that monitor the business on a regular basis, such as monthly or weekly, and catch red flags when a specific business drops in performance over the period. They immediately contact tribal leadership and alert them to the red flag.
Blue Stone also helps with investment strategies and action plans. Moors explained that investing off the reservation makes good business sense.
The separation of business and tribal government was also discussed and part of their services could include help and guidance in the planning of a separate business arm. The new tribal council expressed their continued pursuit of a separation of business and government but they feel any new business arm needs to report to the tribal council.
In discussing economic development planning and studies of the current retail operations (a previous story), Fullmer said every dollar on our reservation should be spent 3.5 times before it leaves the reservation.
“Businesses need to be working together for this to happen,” Fullmer said. Working together will result in better customer service, cross-promotion and buying power he further stated.
Fullmer also talked about another tribe Blue Stone works with that has a policy if they spend a million dollars a year purchasing, then they buy their own business in that industry and own it. For example, if the tribe spends over a million a year in stationary, then the tribe will own its own stationary company.
During the presentation, Fullmer shared many of the current priorities of the TGB. The list of priorities follows;
Address our current accounting processes/structure to remove our current “high risk” audit status;
Evaluate our existing businesses to reorganize and develop a separate business arm ensuring profitability within all our businesses;
Enterprise and Business separation from Government with a board established as soon as possible, which needs to have directors protected against Tribal Council changes due to elections;
A feasibility study done for the intersection of Hwy B & K to include a convenience store/ gas station / Deli. Remove the current two buildings and build one manageable unit possibly run by our casino or at least branded with our casino and increased hotel rooms at our Casino location. And a future site of Assisted Living and Health/Wellness Facility in that vicinity within 2 years;
A new grocery store/commercial center across from the Casino. We are losing a large portion of the market share to off-reservation businesses. (Feasibility study complete) 3 years;
Do a feasibility study on Tribal office expansion to include ICW /Child Support/Courts/ IT within 1 year;
Expand the Tribal Office HQ. Plans and financing are being worked on;
Do a feasibility study on the best use of office/building space at CDC & FS building within 1 year;
The landing and The Hideout properties evaluated for sustainable business ventures within 2-3 years;
150 new Hotel rooms, a new golf clubhouse/hotel/waterpark built within 4 years;
Locate and promote land for lease within the reservation for Tribal Members to build homes;
Signor Water system, Expand public works for residential, commercial and economic growth;
8(a) business development. Zhiishiigish in operation within 1 year Ron Wagner/MEDCOR;
New Health Center with urgent care and Assisted living facility within 2 years.