Tribe hires Strategic Planning Group
By Joe Morey News Editor
The Lac Courte Oreilles Tribal Governing Board (TGB) took a giant step in strategic planning on Monday, April 29, when it unanimously approved retaining Blue Stone Strategy Group, a company that comes highly recommended in Indian Country.
Blue Stone executives Jamie Fullmer, Chairman, and John Moors, President, gave a presentation to the TGB on Wednesday, April 17, outlining their services and how they can be of support to the tribe’s priorities.
Blue Stone, founded by Fullmer who is a former chairman of the Yavapai Apache Nation, 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 explained.
Blue Stone was invited by the TGB because of all the new projects underway or planned and, as Vice Chairman Jason Schlender said, “We want to make sure we do the right thing with our increased tribal revenues.”
Secretary-Treasurer Jason Weaver said the tribe needs strategic planning. Part of the services offered by Blue Stone is to do a complete analysis of all current tribal businesses and give some hard recommendations on what to do with them.
“We’re bleeding everywhere,” Weaver said regarding current enterprises. “It’s time we analyze our businesses that are failing, then decide whether they can be turned around or not and make some tough decisions.”
Another part of their services includes feasibility studies, and members of the TGB expressed their desire to have the company complete those studies on a number of the upcoming projects, for example, the new health and wellness center, hemp production, store relocation, or a new hotel and waterpark.
“The group provides an unbiased, third party perspective in assisting the tribe to gain a progressive and sustainable approach to economic and community development,” Schlender said. “They can also help us with strengthening internal controls.”
During the discussion Moors said they also 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.
Moors said it would be best for the TGB to narrow down the list of priorities for immediate action to a list of three to five goals.
With so many projects on the table, Weaver said Blue Stone will help us with strategic planning because we all have various levels of priority on projects.
“This planning session will help us figure out which plans are realistic, feasible and financially sound to move forward with,” Weaver said. “Everyone has great ideas but we need to know if they are accurate and if they are going to be successful by creating jobs and being financially sustainable. We don’t have to make a big profit on everything but we need to provide jobs and services to our community.”
Rose Gokee, TGB member, said with all the jobs being created there’s a shortage of housing in the area.
“We are having a low turnout for applying for the jobs we have out there,” Gokee said. “There’s no housing for people who want to move back for work. Something we need to look into is housing that isn’t HUD or low income.”
Blue Stone also pointed out the need for internal marketing among the tribal businesses. Moors said the businesses should be promoting each other.
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.
“Many progressive tribes have made the separation and have found it effective and beneficial,” Weaver said. “Once this happens the Tribal Council can focus on government issues that have been unaddressed like the need for more transparency and public involvement, citizenship and blood quantum, the drug epidemic, the housing shortage and the constitutional reform we need.”
All the TGB members have expressed their support of separating the businesses from tribal governance. They have also agreed on the need for a new health and wellness center.
“I believe the new clinic with an assisted living and urgent care is a project we can get done and be a positive improvement. This project will create more local jobs, provide better service to the Tribe, increase revenue and bring our elders home,” Weaver noted.
The first steps with Blue Stone includes a Strategic Planning Work Session between a team of experts from Blue Stone and all members of the TGB, scheduled to take place on May 29 and 30. During that time, over the course of the next 60 days, Blue Stone will be doing an assessment on tribal businesses. The third component is feasibility studies on several of the projects once narrowed down.
Tweed Shuman, TGB member, said he wants the tribal membership to be involved in this third part deciding which are priority projects. He said the membership needs to provide input through comments on the Facebook page, which the tribal Public Relations department will soon be polling.
Shuman and Weaver provided a list of their priorities to Blue Stone and from those lists and discussion with the TGB at the presentation, Moors sent an overall list back to the TGB and asked them to make a final shortlist for Blue Stone to focus on over the next 90 to 120 days.
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.
Chairman of Blue Stone, Jamie Fullmer, said he created the company after leaving as chairman of the Yavapai Apache tribe 12 years ago. He said his tribe had term limits, but during his years as chairman, he saw the need for a company such as Blue Stone.
“Blue Stone is committed to Indian Country. We have walked a similar path and we know the journey can be challenging. How do you meet the immediate needs of your community, yet also create the path for future generations? Blue Stone Strategy Group was founded to provide the clarity and strategies you need to make confident, informed economic and community development decisions that will deliver the best results. Because we are Native American owned and managed, we provide a straightforward, unbiased and culturally adept assessment of your situation, as well as action oriented strategies to move you forward.”
TGB with executives of Blue Stone Strategy Group from L-R) LCO Chief Financial Officer Diane Peterson, TGB members Rose Gokee and Jason Schlender, Blue Stone President John Moors, TGB member Tweed Shuman, Blue Stone Tribal Advisor Ponca Tribal Chairman Larry Wright, LCO Chairman Louis Taylor and Blue Stone Chairman Jamie Fullmer.