By ROBERT JUMPER
ONE FEATHER EDITOR
Planning Board Chairman B. Ensley called the August session to order on Monday, Aug. 15 and Kim Deas called the roll. In attendance were Commerce Secretary Mickey Duvall, Finance Secretary Eric Sneed, Rep. Ensley, Tribal Council Chairman Bill Taylor, Tribal Council Vice Chairman Brandon Jones, Painttown Rep. Tommye Saunooke, Big Cove Rep. Richard French, Birdtown Rep. Travis Smith, Vice Chief Richard G. Sneed, and Principal Chief Patrick Lambert.
Hope Huskey, from the Sequoyah Fund, updated the board on a project with Cherokee artists called Authentically Cherokee. The Sequoyah Fund is attempting to identify true Cherokee artists to the public because there have been people making and selling arts and crafts claiming to be Cherokee who are not. Huskey said that the Sequoyah Fund is assisting artists with a common brand and also with marketing and distribution.
As part of the plan, 5 percent of the gross sales will go to the Sequoyah Fund and the rest to the artists. A website has also been developed for the effort. The Commerce Division’s Enterprise Development Program and Harrah’s Cherokee Casino and Resort are assisting with this project.
Gloria Griffin, Manager of Enterprise Development, stated that Cherokee Bottled Water had $28,000 in gross sales. She reported on a program called “Accelerator Without Walls” that provides business services to tribal entrepreneurs. This project is in conjunction with the Sequoyah Fund. Chairman Taylor commented that he had talked with the Pequot tribe concerning using Cherokee Bottled Water in their casino using a private label.
Tonya Carroll, Destination Marketing Manager, distributed the program’s August report on tourism’s economic impact. She reported concerning her efforts to gain community input on the overhaul of the Cherokee Indian Fairgrounds. Carroll also talked about preliminary planning for a solar eclipse event happening in August 2017.
Chairman Taylor asked about bringing the Festival of Native Peoples event back. Carroll explained that it had not been looked at since the previous administration removed it from the Fairgrounds events plan and that is was an expensive event to execute. She said it would be up to the current administration to decide. Chairman Taylor also inquired about an “agricultural center” and moved that one be studied and developed.
Rep. Ensley asked about Pow Wow and Children’s Trout Derby numbers. Carroll said that 1,790 children attended the Trout Derby, but she related that no other numbers were available at that time. Chairman Taylor asked about doing additional advertising for the Trout Derby.
Doug Cole, Planning Department manager, said the study continues on the adventure park and downtown revitalization. A grant application for the creation of the strategic economic development document has been submitted to the Cherokee Preservation Foundation. Ground breaking for the bowling alley was deemed a success. The old elementary school site archeological study report states that the project is approximately 33 percent complete. Cole estimates that the “field” work is closer to 66 percent complete. EDA planning assistance grant application preparation is in progress.
Chairman Taylor asked about a study concerning Tribal Gaming Enterprise commission projects and when it would be complete. Cole said that they were about four weeks into a 12-week study. The study includes a hotel and convention center, adventure park, downtown area and retail. The study is to provide insight into the way the individual projects will integrate and be most profitable. It is to provide insight into how to best invest monies into the projects.
Chairman Taylor was concerned that the adventure park and a data center were not moving forward more quickly. Cole and Secretary Duvall stated that the data center was a project that the Commerce Department was not originally tasked with and planning had taken place that the department wasn’t brought in on initially. Duvall stated that Commerce was getting up to speed on the data center and was ready and willing to work with it as the leadership directs.
Secretary Duvall reported on the status of retail development efforts. He made three proposals to get interest from Tanger Outlets, and their ownership has expressed that they are not interested. Chairman Taylor stated that he had a different contact with Tanger and feels that there is still opportunity with them.
One of the comments from Duvall on a reason for Tanger’s lack of interest is the proximity of their east Tennessee outlet and potential revenue erosion.
Chairman Taylor then said, “You made a statement that I don’t agree with…I would like to hear it from them.” He stated he plans a visit to Tanger’s headquarters.
Both Tractor Supply and Earth Fare have also stated that they are not interested in locating in Cherokee.
Duvall stated that the developers of the Biltmore Outlets and “The Island” in Tennessee are interested in meeting and discussing opportunities with the Tribe. He mentioned that “a big-time, world class developer” is still interested developing retail in Cherokee. Efforts continue to bring additional grocery stores to Cherokee.
Rep. Ensley questioned spending additional money on studying the adventure park because the Tribal Council has already decided to move forward. Chief Lambert responded that there is a need to see how the adventure park will integrate with the other plans. Chairman Taylor felt that he could not support other projects until movement is made on the adventure park and data center.
Rep. Ensley reiterated that he feels that the adventure park should move forward. Rep. Smith expressed support for the adventure park and said that it is needed to open Cherokee up to a new clientele.
There was a lengthy discussion about what direction the Tribe should go with regard to retail development. The Executive Office discussed a multiple project, strategic approach to development. The Tribal Council representatives discussed some specific, tactical initiatives, such as the adventure park and data center. The Planning Board Chairman entertained a motion to revise a proposed resolution (currently tabled) that had five economic development initiatives down to the two that Tribal Council has approved for implementation. A motion and second was recorded, but a vote was not taken.