“We’ve gone from $300,000 to $6 million invested in entrepreneurs in the Band in the past five years,” Mitch Corbine, executive vice president for corporate operations for the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe told me. “In the last 15 years we’ve gone from no employees to 3,200 today. We have 2 casinos, 5 hotels, 11 restaurants, a resort marina, a grocery store, several convenience stores, a bakery and even a bank. There are 3,500 members in the Band with about ½ of them living on the reservation.”
“We are stressing entrepreneurship for our members because we believe that governmental businesses aren’t as successful as entrepreneurial ones. We have helped to start 30 some businesses in retail, construction, marketing, vending and several other service businesses. After some initial missteps, we have added an educational component to our program of entrepreneurial support. It is a requirement for them to do the course, if we are going to advance funds.”
Robert Musgrove President of Pine Technical College commended the Mille Lacs for “leading the regional economic development efforts and getting us started in looking at economic development on a more regional basis.” I was there giving the keynote for their Third Annual Business Development Summit for East Central Minnesota.
I’ve seen some very innovative programs coming from Indian Tribes that I hope to research in more depth. I believe that they have the potential to transform lives for the better with some of these programs. If you have examples, please send them to me.