For the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI), economic diversification holds great potential to increase resilience and contribute to achieving and sustaining long-term economic growth and development. While economic diversification is a focus for many tribes across the country, the EBCI is taking notable strides in developing and implementing structures and strategies to support the tribe’s key aims of non-gaming revenue generation and job creation.
The purpose of the Qualla 2020 Initiative is to diversify the Cherokee economy and reduce its risks so that it can better ensure the wellbeing of the Cherokee population into the future. To do this, the Qualla 2020 Initiative will seek to mitigate the dependence of the economy on gaming revenues, and to develop and expand businesses in ways that uphold the core values of the Cherokee people.
Diversification does not occur in a vacuum. There needs to be an enabling environment to make diversification possible, with community input and diverse perspectives being a part of the process. In order to build an economy that is thriving and not dependent on gaming revenues, the Qualla Boundary will require an entrepreneurial culture.
Qualla 2020 is a six-month initiative that consists of monthly committee meetings and several follow-up subcommittee meetings on the topics of 8(a) contracting, Small Business Entrepreneurship, Tourism, Real Estate Maximization, and Knowledge Industries.
Ben Sherman, President of Medicine Root, Inc., and John Weiser, Partner, BWB Solutions, co-lead the consultation process. Over the past eight years, Sherman and Weiser have successfully led a number of planning processes on the Qualla Boundary. These planning processes led to the creation of action plans that received millions of dollars in funding and led to visible improvements for the EBCI.
Citizens and business leaders are actively participating in the formulation of the Qualla 2020 actions plan. Through this interaction and feedback, strategies will focus on maintaining the quality of life that the tribe desires while attracting new businesses in order to diversify further economic development. The committee will choose action plans to recommend to the EBCI administration, EBCI Tribal Council and the Cherokee Preservation Foundation (CPF).
Now more than ever, a concerted effort and diligent approach is needed to diversify the tribe’s businesses with the ultimate goal of creating tribal and community-centered economies. This is necessary in order to ensure long term security and success and develop concrete action plans to diversify the economy of the Qualla Boundary beyond its current dependence on gaming revenue.
“The tribe must continue to engage in a concerted economic development effort to expand its economy. The Qualla Boundary already offers programs to support small businesses and entrepreneurship, including market demand, capital, talent and community support desired by target businesses. If these attributes are successfully built upon, the tribe will experience sustainable economic growth and prosperity at a higher wage level for its residents and workers, “said CPF Executive Director Annette Clapsaddle.
It will take time to diversify the economy, but the work ethic, ingenuity, and the persistence of the Cherokee people have shown in the past that any endeavor they seek to accomplish can be done when all segments are working together.
Anyone from the community is welcome to join in on the process or learn more by contacting Jenea Taylor jtaylor@cherokeepreservation.