Tribal Leaders Say Investing Off-Rez in Tribe's Future as EDC Aims to Strengthen Ties
By Joe Morey
Mike Gardner of the Sawyer County/LCO Economic Development Corporation (EDC) came before the LCO Tribal Governing Board (TGB) on Tuesday, Jan. 26 to talk about current EDC activities and some areas of concern for the TGB.
Gardner talked about the importance of the EDC to strengthen local ties between governments and organizations.
“You guys (TGB) are a major partner and we need to be in tune with your needs,” said Gardner.
As part of that relationship building, Gardner said he’s had good discussions recently with the LCO Housing Director and Grants Director, “To learn your needs.”
Gary “Little Guy” Clause, LCO TGB member, told Gardner that he believes Hayward has been a benefactor of increased tribal revenues and job growth.
“Our money is spent in Hayward, but at the same time, we recognize their residents also patronize our casino and buy our cigarettes, but we need to make more inroads into Hayward,” Clause said. He then referred to the Tribe possibly expanding into the hospitality industry in Hayward, referring to Mexicans who now own three restaurants in town and are doing well.
LCO Chairman Louis Taylor said the Tribe wants to be a friend to all of our neighbors, including the small southern Sawyer County communities like Couderay, Radisson, Winter and Exeland.
“We want to see them do well and we’re willing to work with them and invest in them,” Taylor said. “We’ve already been talking about opening a new C-Store in that direction.”
Taylor went on to say that most residents in that part of the county must travel to Ladysmith and Hayward, “Which is a long way to go, but if they would work with us maybe we could do something together.”
Little Guy added, “We need to start investing off the Rez in our surrounding communities.”
Gardner also told the TGB that the EDC continues to help small businesses in the county with getting access to Covid relief funds through the district office of the Small Business Administration.
Gardner said things take time to roll out and the most recent stimulus package was passed on Dec. 27.
“We’re fortunate in our area that a lot of our businesses took advantage of the previous stimulus and our local banks really stepped it up to help businesses apply for Payroll Protection Plan funds. It was really confusing to do on your own and they the knowledge,” Gardner explained.
Gardner said there’s more assistance coming for businesses in the most recent package, especially for businesses that were completely shuttered.
“We anticipate later this year there will be more opportunity for investment and start up for entrepreneurs,” Gardner added.