Business Incubator discussed at Planning Board

by Sep 21, 2020Front Page, NEWS ka-no-he-da





The Tribal Planning Board of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI) held a meeting on Monday, Sept. 21 in the Tribal Council Chambers. The Planning Board Chairman is Boyd Owle, Birdtown Tribal Council Representative.

At this meeting, Sabrina Arch, director of EBCI Enterprise Development, introduced former Principal Chief Michell Hicks and Jason Lambert from Chief Strategy, who have been doing a study on the feasibility of a Cherokee Cultural and Technology Incubator. This study was completed at the end of 2019, but due to the network breach and then COVID-19, this session was the first opportunity that the group had to present to the Board since then.

Chief Hicks addressed the Planning Board, “How do we move the arts forward from perpetuating who we are as the Cherokee people but also find opportunities to create more entrepreneurship and expand from a business perspective.”

Lambert then provided information from a slideshow presentation. The study looked at three scenarios: building a new facility to house a business incubator, renovating an existing structure to house the incubator, and creating a “Incubator without Walls” focusing on programming rather than space. Cost ranged from $50,000 for the Incubator without Walls up to as high as $22 million plus for a large-scale building housing an incubator.

Lambert communicated to the Board that the recommendation would be to start with an Incubator without Walls as a “pilot” program for the next two to three years. Arch addressed the Board for direction moving forward because there is “EDA grant money out there” available depending on the way the Tribe wants to proceed. Principal Chief Richard Sneed recommended that the Board create a timeline for response to Director Arch as to how to proceed. Painttown Rep. Tommye Saunooke suggested a decision from the Board within 60 days.

Next item on the agenda was a TERO (Tribal Employment Rights Organization) Board appointment. Executive Director Terri Henry spoke on the Planning Board’s appointment to the TERO Board. There was discussion about filling the seat, currently held by Trista Welch. Her name was put into nomination. Curtis Wildcatt was put into nomination by Tribal Council Chairman Adam Wachacha (Cherokee County/Snowbird). Then, Principal Chief Sneed advised that the Board was not made aware that nominations would be taken at this meeting and he had several resumes of people who requested to serve on Boards that should be considered. Chairman Wachacha motioned to have all resumes to be collected and then distributed to the Board members for consideration, then have a vote in the October Planning Board meeting.

Next on the agenda was Chris Green, manager of EBCI Project Management who reported on the progress of several items. The Cherokee High School Project (wrestling building was mentioned specifically) is 10 percent complete and the contractor is Vannoy Construction. The Cherokee Youth Center is 5 percent completed and the contractor is Beverly Grant/Barnhill Joint Venture. The project includes moving the Youth Center operations into a modular unit and demolition of the old building. The Snowbird Complex is 5 percent complete and the contractor is Vannoy Construction. Modular is going to house a temporary clinic and the existing building will be demolished and replaced. Big Cove Gym is 20 percent complete and the contractor is Owle Construction. The Trout Hatchery Remodel is 10 percent complete and the contractor is Owle Construction. Tribal Foods Remodel is currently in design phase. It will be remodeled to a larger facility. Frank Dunn, who is in charge of Tribal Foods, has spoken to the Tribal Cannery about the possibility of being included in the remodel expansion. US 441 Streetlights are 98 percent complete and the contractor is Williams Construction and Cabinetry. A meter needs to be put in at the last section of lighting on Casino Trail. Fire Mountain Upgrades are 100 percent complete and contractor was Trail Dynamics. They added several jumps, a new wooden curve, and some other features.

There was some discussion about the Oconaluftee Island Park. Facilities and Project Management are in discussions on improvements that may be brought back to the Planning Board.

Travis Sneed, director of EBCI Support Services, noted that a Business Incubator or an “incubator for the arts” was part of the Cultural Corridor Masterplan. In the plan it was called “the makers’ space” and it was adjacent to the Fairgrounds. He said he would be interested in working with the Chief Strategy Group and Enterprise Development as they move forward on the Incubator.

There was a representative from “Integrative Strategy Group” in attendance but was held until the end of the agenda, then Vice Chief Alan B. Ensley moved to go into closed session. No closed session agenda or outcome was televised.