TGB Approves Another Year Partnership with Sawyer County Economic Development
By Joe Morey
Sawyer County/LCO Economic Development Corporation (EDC) Secretary-Treasurer Bruce Paulson gave a report to the LCO Tribal Governing Board (TGB) on how membership in the organization has benefitted the Tribe and to discuss a few potential future projects. He met with the TGB at their weekly meeting on Dec. 9.
“If we can improve one person’s economic status, we improve everyone in the community,” Paulson said in defining what he believes is an important role of the EDC. “We are all together here in Sawyer County. If we can help anyone from the Tribe, it helps all.”
The LCO Tribe commits $15,000 annually to the organization. The TGB unanimously approved the same amount for the next year ahead.
In a recap of several activities the EDC has done that benefits the Tribe, Paulson said they acquired a $20,000 grant to fund a training program at the Sawyer County Jail for inmates interested in working the building trade. This program begins in January 2020. He added that the EDC is working with the Uniform Justice Coordinating Committee to offer a financial literacy course at the jail.
Other activities included the arrangement of a financial class at the LCO Ojibwe College; hosted an 8-week Entrepreneur Training Program in which one session was devoted to Native American entrepreneurship; and conducted a survey of high school juniors and seniors from Hayward, LCO, Birchwood and Winter to determine what could be done to keep graduates in Sawyer County or return after graduating from college.
Paulson and Jason Weaver, LCO Grants and Planning Department, also met with Bevcomm to work on a state grant for broadband to the New Post and the Hideout area.
“We ran into a road block with the federal government to give them right-of-way,” Paulson said.
LCO Chairman Taylor said the tribe wouldn’t have been in agreement at this time because the Bevcomm plan didn’t include the village of New Post or 6-Mile. Taylor said he was able to see the map for the broadband plan and it went right around these two communities.
“We won’t support it if it doesn’t include those communities,” Taylor said.
LCO TGB member Tweed Shuman said the EDC could work with Bevcomm to get those communities included.
Paulson said Bevcomm is the only provider that has worked with the EDC and the Tribe, and he added, we need a provider to be a partner with to make this happen.
Paulson listed several potential projects for the future. One of them included a Placemaking exercise for locations on the reservation to make them more friendly so residents and visitors will come and spend more time. This was done in Hayward and it was described as a citizen-driven process to make public spaces more inviting. Young professionals are more likely to relocate to Sawyer County if the area is more engaging and Placemaking also promotes community involvement.
Other future projects include business consulting for start-up and existing businesses; entrepreneur training for Native American entrepreneurs; and training of an LCO Credit Union employee as a financial literacy adviser.
Paulson said another upcoming project includes computer literacy classes for jail inmates through WITC. He said a recent study shows that almost all inmates are computer illiterate. The plan is for these classes to kick off in March or April of 2020, according to Paulson.