Tribes discuss economic development
FORT HALL — Lee Juan Tyler explained the purpose of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes' economic symposium simply.
"We want to be part of something that helps our future," said Tyler, the vice chairman of the tribal business council, as he opened the symposium on Wednesday.
"We have to help each other," Tyler said. "We need to be a team."
His audience included business and community leaders from Bingham, Bannock and Power counties as well as a few tribal leaders.
"There's great opportunity around here," said Randy Thompson, the acting superintendent of the Bureau of Indian Affairs Fort Hall office. "Right now is a really good time."
John Regetz, the executive director of the Bannock Development Corporation, discussed efforts of his organization to bring businesses to Southeast Idaho. He also talked about ways to grow the economy by helping one another.
Six Southeast Idaho counties are working regionally on a program called Executive Pulse. It identifies companies within industries to target for recruitment to the region.
Tony Shay, the Tribes' economic development specialist, pointed out its members and businesses provide more than $300 million in financial benefit to Southeast Idaho.
"The reservation is not a black hole," noted Thompson. "It is full of really good people, a really good workforce."
Alonzo Coby, the former chairman of the tribal business council, is now working with FFKR Architects of Salt Lake City, Utah. Members of that group provided a vision of ways the Tribes can build upon their facilities at exit 80 on Interstate 15. Those facilities currently include the Shoshone-Bannock Hotel and Events Center and a casino.
"In Indian County, it is very important to start planning for the future," Coby said.
The Tribes approved a master plan in 2010. FFKR presented some ideas of a multi-phased development at exit 80.
Included in their ideas are moving the gas station closer to the freeway, building of a theater complex, a golf course and retail space.
"The key thing is working with the surrounding jurisdictions," Coby said. He pointed out that those communities could benefit from Fort Hall becoming a destination venue.
"Until we in our communities have a common goal, we're not going to be as successful," said Beverly Beach, a Blackfoot business owner.
"The more economic development we have on the reservation, the more economic development we'll have in Bannock County, in Bingham County."
"We have a lot of resources here," said Arnold Appeney, the Tribes' land use director. "It's a matter of putting together all the intricate details."
Tyler, speaking of the inter-dependency of communities, noted that Fort Hall residents bring back numerous things — including clothing and vehicles — from their neighboring communities.
American Falls Mayor Mark Beitia and members of his staff told the success story of their economic redevelopment of that city's downtown.
"It began with a vision in 2008 and became a reality in 2014," said Kristen Jensen of the Great Rift Development Corporation. Eventually it involved over $4 million, most of which was grant money.
She noted the tools American Falls officials used to bring their vision to fruition included a detailed plan, finding a funding source, political support and community support.
Mike Giles of FFKR pointed out that community support at all levels and continual communication with all stakeholders will be key to the successful completion of any development.