10.27.20 | By Michelle Simon
The Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation hosted the 1st Annual Combined Leadership Economic Development Summit bringing together the Prairie Band government entities and Prairie Band business leadership to envision and develop a unified roadmap to economic development for the tribe over the next five years.
The continued need for economic development and diversity escalated in 2020 in the face of the Coronavirus pandemic, when the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation temporarily closed the Prairie Band Casino and Resort, the primary revenue generator of the Nation, for approximately three months. While the Nation has managed to navigate its financial responsibilities, the pandemic has highlighted the tribe’s on-going reliance on gaming revenue for self-sustainment.
The summit sought to engage and develop a team mentality between the PBPN Tribal Council, Prairie Band Gaming Commission, Prairie Band Casino and Resort, and the Prairie Band, LLC leadership teams in order for the diverse group to create a cohesive mission for sustainable growth and economic diversity for the Nation.
“There’s a lot of intelligent and talented people in our governing bodies and boards, with a lot of great ideas,” said Frank Tecumseh, Prairie Band Potawatomi Entertainment Corporation Board of Directors Chairman.
Over the course of two days the leadership group, led by facilitator Rick Tucci of Leap Technologies, utilized the Rapid Action process to share and hone a variety of concepts designed to increase revenue, maximize job creation and diversification while also remaining feasible. Overall, 30 opportunities were discussed, categorized, and prioritized, with entering the cannabis market in Illinois and the 150/75 Interchange listed as two of the top contenders based on capability and capacity.
“Some of these opportunities are quick-hitting,” said Jacob Wamego, Prairie Band, LLC, President, and CEO, “being able to access capital is critical,” underscoring the significant role of the PBPN general council, which is charged with approving capital exceeding $500,000 for the Nation. The PBPN has many avenues it can take to fund future ventures including taking advantage of grants, partnering with outside investors, taking out a loan, accessing the Nation’s investment funds, starting a holding company or self-funding projects directly.
“Debt is not a bad thing, if we are making more revenue than the debt we incurred, then that is not a bad thing. We have to be willing to make some sacrifices in order to be stronger in the future,” noted Tecumseh.
“Before we move forward with any business venture,” stated Joseph Rupnick, PBPN Tribal Chairman, “communication with the general membership is key.” Rupnick stressed the importance of transparency in communicating the overall plan with the PBPN general membership to ensure they are able to comment on, or question the viability of the plan and ultimately make informed decisions. The information gathered during the summit will be encapsulated into a presentation and shared with the general membership at a future general council meeting.
The last time the Nation diversified was in 2010, with the creation of the Prairie Band, LLC. Since its inception the PB, LLC has added to the Nation’s long-term economic stability, and in 2019, provided a 22% return on the $10MM vested to the company.
The Economic Development Summit was held on October 19 and 20, 2020, and hosted at the Prairie Band Casino & Resort.