First I want to establish my credentials, I have been deeply involved in tribal social and economic development since 1970 when I left a career in the private sector to work with tribes. I worked for several large corporations as a Controller/Business Manager before I worked in tribal development and have studied business and finance in college as well. I have been Business Manager; Executive Director; Assistant to the Treasurer; Controller/ Business Manager and General Manager of Prairie Wind Casino; Director of the Economic Development Office; Headstart Director; Empowerment Zone Director; and have done extensive contract and consulting work for OST and numerous other tribes. My opinions expressed herein are mine and mine alone, and they are based on hands-on experience; not speculation.
I believe the very first Economic Development Director was Carl Janis (Buzzy) and I worked with him in the late 60’s and early 70’s to try to create businesses and jobs. He worked very hard to do a good job in trying to create business opportunities. His main goal back then was to establish a tribal lumber yard and hardware business which was and is a nobrainer. He was stymied at every turn by tribal politics. Tribal politics was and still is the greatest obstacle to economic development and it seems it will never get better.
The OST-Economic and Business Development Committee (EBDC) is the problem, not the solution, and they know it but refuse to give up their total control of our tribal economy. None of the 15 members of the EBDC have real hands on business experience yet they act like they are experts, and they rely on people like Gary Ruse to guide the tribal development projects. Ruse has been convicted of banking irregularities and he is personally responsible for many of the failures like Nebraska Sioux Lean Beef, the Sandhills Water Bottling Company (where did the equipment and the $285,000.00 you got from the EZ go?) and other fiascoes as well as putting the tribe in tremendous debt (I have heard our debt is over $150,000,000) and he just keeps loading on.
The OST has wasted so many opportunities that it is almost impossible to list them and the opportunity cost runs in the tens of millions of dollars. Why? Simply because they have the power and the resources under their control and it gives them a reason to travel and to get glad handed by opportunists like Ruse who take advantage of their ignorance and gullibility. My frustration is deep because there is no reason for our tribe not to have successful businesses and projects—–the EBDC screws them up and our reputation is so bad it is hard to find capital.
Politics are nasty, I have been blacklisted by several council reps and the others do not have the political courage to stand up to them. The Prairie Wind Casino is a disaster. Hospitality and customer service is terrible, their marketing efforts have always been amateurish at best and the most egregious fact is that we have had 23 (at my last count) General Managers since I resigned the job in 1997 due to political harassment.
It is just stupid, the EBDC is butchering the only cash cow the tribe has ever had. It is on its last legs, deeply in debt, and the infrastructure is in bad shape. We had a plan to make Prairie Wind a world class destination resort but that has never been followed up on—–why? Because the EBDC does not know how to do it and they keep hiring unqualified people and political hacks to do professional work which they are not equipped to do.
There are more than a few solutions to this mess—my preference is to establish a corporation to manage all tribal business activities i have been trying to do this since 1973 and it is still out of reach because the EBDC/Council will not accept anything but 100% control.
They do not understand that 100% of nothing is still nothing. Meanwhile our people need jobs that are not being developed, our economy needs revenue input which is not being provided, and our management capabilities are not being developed. We have good people but they are afraid to speak up and offer positive changes because the EBDC does not want change, they do not like people that make waves—–they prefer to maintain total control at all costs.
You want to know what corruption looks like? The OST – EBDC is what corruption looks like.
(Contact George Wilson at gw- 65gwtc.net)