Blue Stone Insights

Tribal Leadership Summit – Southwest
August 13, 2015

Tribal leaders from the Southwest weigh in on important economic development issues

Phoenix, Arizona – Blue Stone Strategy Group recently hosted its first “leadership summit,” in Phoenix AZ, a pilot event in a series of leadership summits.  The summit events are designed to provide a forum for tribal leaders to discuss specific challenges and opportunities facing Tribes as they move forward with building their tribal economies and to share best practices in today’s tribal economic development.

“I felt the Phoenix summit was a success and provided a forum for those in attendance to talk with their peers about important leadership topics and share economic development ideas, opportunities, and challenges.” said Jamie Fullmer, Chairman/CEO, Blue Stone Strategy Group.   Tribal Leaders from six different States participated in the Southwest summit, representing Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Idaho, California and Washington.

The summit agenda focused on three key areas: building a tribal economy; economic planning and prioritization; and measuring success.  The Topics were brought up in a presentation format with best practices discussed and critical success factors described for each topic.  Some important themes that dominated the discussion among the leaders present were:

  • The presentations of the Tribe’s image in a positive way and sharing the positive impacts tribes have in the regions where they live.
  • Protection of tribal sovereignty is always a priority for leaders and those present discussed the importance of creating plans to assure that there is healthy transition between leaders finishing office and those just coming into office.
  • An interesting planning topic was information sharing, and the need to share with tribal citizens as well as non-tribal stakeholders about current and future tribal priorities.

While discussing economic development tribal leaders identified an important component that is job creation and career development for tribal citizens and how tribal jobs support the community and keep the local tribal economy flourishing.  “The front line employee is the symbol of your Tribe and its culture,” quoted one leader.  “The first impression with a tribal contact reflects who your Tribe is” in the minds of your visitor or customer.  All of the leaders present stressed the importance of education and training of tribal citizens as key to the current and future success of tribal owned businesses and diversification efforts.  A relevant topic discussed was that many tribes rely on service oriented enterprises such as casinos, resorts, restaurants and gas stations as the mainstay of their economic development which heightens the need for consistent training of tribal employees.  It is imperative that service employees present the tribe in the best light possible.  It was noted, “Even if you have the best facilities in the world they will be judged by customers in part based on how friendly, helpful and accommodating the staff is.”

Creating an Economic Balance by diversifying investment and enterprise portfolios for maximum return was another important discussion during the summit.  With federal funds dwindling tribes are faced with balancing economic development initiatives with the needs and priorities of the community.  Revenue generation provides the means to develop necessary infrastructure to support both.  This dialogue confirmed how important it is for leadership to clearly understand the financial health of the Tribe, as well as its planning and organizational needs and the division of responsibility, reporting and resource management.   Another area of interest was having a balance of priorities, building business for today and making sure that tribes are also paying attention to provide strong governance and legal infrastructure by updating laws and codes for business oversight now and in the future.

The leadership summit was an insightful day of sharing key topics and the leaders that were present were able to share current insights and challenges as well as discuss possible solutions and positive actions for economic stability.  Since the leadership dialogue was coupled with economic development best practices from Blue Stone’s team members there was an overall environment of positive interaction and thought leadership focus throughout the day.  Blue Stone Strategy Group looks forward to continuing the Regional Leadership Summits.

Blue Stone Strategy Group assists Tribal Nations protecting their sovereignty by building strong economies.  We provide advisory services to tribal clients in the areas of Tribal Leadership, Tribal Governance, and Tribal Economic Development.  Following a proven research and program development process, Blue Stone delivers actionable strategies with financial accountability at the core.