By PRINCIPAL CHIEF
RICHARD G. SNEED
Every two and four years EBCI (Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians) tribal citizens hear some common phrases tossed about, “balanced budget”, “increased jobs”, “additional benefit programs”, and “higher per capita payments”.
The most common is often – “Economic Diversity”.
When I ran for Vice Chief, diversifying the EBCI economy was high on my list of things to accomplish as well. I promised to research opportunities for investment on the Qualla Boundary and in other markets. I promised to institute programs and policies that encourage and unburden the process to increased economic diversity. And, I promised to push the EBCI forward when these opportunities became available. I have delivered on those promises by forming the Kituwah LLC, which has been busy finding investment opportunities and has seen a great deal of success in the ventures they have delved into.
I, along with my fellow elected officials and leadership within the EBCI, have been researching various other investment opportunities and are increasingly drawn to commercial gaming opportunities. With increasing threats to the current EBCI gaming ventures in Cherokee and Cherokee County, Vice Chief Ensley, EBCI Tribal Council Representatives, and I have worked diligently to examine the best path forward. We have weighed profitability, sustainability, cross-marketing opportunities, and options for future development.
After months of deliberation with a few partnering agencies and experts in the field, the EBCI has entered negotiations to acquire a commercial gaming facility in the Midwest. While I cannot divulge specifics of the offer or the facility during the negotiation period, I do want to say that I am optimistic about this opportunity for the EBCI. I, and my fellow elected officials, will continue to pursue these opportunities as they become available if they are found to be the right fit for the EBCI. I hope to share additional details in the coming weeks as we progress in this effort.
While this commercial gaming opportunity has consumed a great deal of my time these past few weeks, there are a few other updates I would like to share with you.
Cherokee, NC., nestled in the heart of the Great Smoky Mountains, is home to beautiful landscapes, rushing and picturesque rivers, and exciting trails. All around us municipalities are marketing these same charms. It has come to my attention that the EBCI needs to refocus our efforts on eco-tourism to support our local economy. While we boast the best mountain biking trails, backroad ATV trails, and trout fishing in the region we still have work to do. I have tasked the EBCI Operations Division and Destination Marketing to focus their efforts on a few attractions- Mingo Falls, Soco Falls and the Island Park. Each of these natural wonders require a few repairs and upgrades to entice visitors. I look forward to seeing a comprehensive plan to address other opportunities to promote eco-tourism. If you have ideas, I welcome your feedback. Please call my office at (828) 359-7002 with any suggestions.
I would like to encourage all eligible EBCI voters to get out to vote in the upcoming election. Early voting began Oct. 15 and will continue through Oct. 31. It is critically important that all EBCI members get registered to vote in local, state and national elections to ensure our issues are heard. Please visit https://vt.ncsbe.gov/ossite/ to learn where and how to vote early.
Finally, I would like to remind everyone to Wear, Wash & Wait. The safety of our Cherokee elders is at stake with the recent rise in positive cases of COVID-19. I implore you to do your part to protect the health of us all!