Tribal-WA State Economic Development Summit

On May 20th, 2014 Governor Jay Inslee held a Tribal-State Economic Development Summit in response to a request made by ATNI Chairwoman, Fawn Sharp, for the State of Washington to collaborate with Tribes to grow their economies.  More than 110 people participated including 11 tribal chairs, five state agency directors, and Governor Inslee with his senior staff.  The purpose of the meeting was to obtain feedback from Tribal leadership, identify action items, and assign them to the appropriate governmental agency.  

Both Washington State and Indian Country benefit when Tribes do well because over half of the thousands of employment opportunities created by Tribally-owned enterprises are held by non-Indians –it takes the effort of everyone to have success. 

Honorable leaders like Brian Cladoosby (Chairman, Swinomish), Leonard Forsman (Chairman, Suquamish) and Michael Finley (Chairman, Colville) shared their perspective and overview of Tribal economic development.  Chad Wright (CEO, Puyallup’s Marine View Ventures) and Kelly Croman (CEO, Squaxin Island’s Island Enterprises) addressed tax-equity issues and were supported in strength by the room. 

WA State Senator John McCoy, who represents the Everett, Marysville, and Tulalip communities of Snohomish County, spoke of the importance of broadband as a fundamental component of infrastructure that is part of the foundation for commerce in Indian Country.  It was my pleasure to observe Senator McCoy speak as he addressed Gov. Jay Inslee directly and with respect. 

Gov. Jay Inslee thanked the attendees for their time and attention as the feedback garnered during the day would be the basis for progress as WA State and Tribes collaborate to improve life for all.  Gov. Inslee was certain to acknowledge the passing of Billy Frank Jr. and listened intensely to the voice of Tribes.  Brian Bonlender, Director of the Department of Commerce and a Yakima native, helped facilitate discussions –later issuing 20 action items and the respective State agency assigned to help advance economic opportunities.   State agencies assigned to initiatives are currently working on next steps for partnering with Tribes. 

Four of the twenty action-items and their respective assigned governmental agencies are as follows:

(1)    Address broad spectrum of tax equity issues, Department of Revenue

(2)    Increase Tribal representation on each of the 12 local workforce boards and/or the State workforce investment board, Employment Security Department, Governor’s Office of Indian Affairs

(3)    Facilitate a broadband networking and implementation meeting to share ideas and models of success, Department of Commerce

(4)    Conduct outreach to Tribes to increase awareness of access to capital through community development financial institutions (CDFIs), Department of Commerce.