Friday, October 26, 2007

Entrepreneurs Impact

Philadelphia and Neshoba County have been blessed with the growth of a number of significant entrepreneurial companies that were started and grew up in rural MS. Another major economic force in the county has been the explosive growth of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians (MBCI).

The Tribe is the only federally recognized Indian Tribe in the state of MS, having been recognized by the federal government in 1945. The tribe was impoverished with unemployment exceeding 80%, but started the long climb upward when they started their own small construction company to build houses. That project was followed by several industrial projects with wiring harnesses, greeting cards, automotive speakers and printing. Employment grew to over 2,000, quite an accomplishment for a tribe of only 9,600.

MBCI’s big break came when they opened the Silver Star Resort and Casino in 1994, at the time considered a huge bet for a largely rural area. That original casino has been expanded five times and a second was opened across the highway. A 36-hole championship golf course, a water park and other amenities have been added to the resort.

Miko Denson, Chief of MBCI, told me, “We are continuing to grow our employment base. Today, we are hiring twice as many people as we have working in the tribe.”

MBCI is one that I’ve been following for sometime. They are young (45% are under the age of 25) and are placing an increasingly important role upon education. They run the largest tribal school in the USA and offer a 100% scholarship for higher education to every member. At present over 400 students are enrolled in colleges and universities around the country.

Chuck Donald, Director of Operations for Taylor Machine Works, who sat across from me at lunch told of the 80 year history of Taylor, “We got started as a small machine shop, almost went under several times but survived and are still run by the third generation. We’ve got over 1,100 employees here and in Louisville, MS, our hometown.” Louisville (population 7,006) is 27 miles north of Philadelphia. They make the Big Red machines which are used in lifting intermodal containers and for other heavy uses.

Other entrepreneurial businesses located in Philadelphia are W. G. Yates Construction, one of the 200 largest privately owned firms in the USA, and Hardy Manufacturing, the second largest wood burning stove company in the country and the only one headquartered in the south.


Jim said...

It appears from your regular posts that the areas of the country prospering are those willing to promote a variety of entrepreneurial opportunities.

This post about the Choctaw Tribe is pertinent to my home state of Maine. The Passamaquoddy Tribe, located in economically-depressed eastern Maine, wants to build a casino in Calais (on the Canadian border). While most of the residents of Washington County, one of Maine's poorest counties, want the casino, the governor has voiced opposition to it, as well as vetoing a bill for a racino. We also have a powerful anti-gambling group (located in the well-heeled southern portion of our state) working to defeat our fall referendum on this proposal.

While I'm not in favor of putting all of my eggs in any development basket, in my opinion, you work with what you have. Your post on the Choctaw in Mississippi illustrates a model of successful economic development by Native Americans.

BoomtownUSA said...

Thanks for sharing your experiences from Maine. I'm finding incredible examples of tribes that are making a real push in the areas of entrepreneurism and economic development. The positive impact of their efforts is going to shape whole regions for generations into the future.