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Entrepreneurial Tribes Cashing in on Ideas


Many Northern Arizona Indian tribes have found innovative ways to generate increased tour- ism and revenues. Despite the economy, the tribes continue to move forward with new projects.

One of the newest projects is the Moenkopi Legacy Inn & Suites, which opened in the last sixty days. The first hotel to be built on Hopi tribal land in 50 years, it was the inspiration of the Elders of the Upper Village of Moenkopi.

“The Hopi Elders’ vision for develop- ment was to provide a place for gathering for visitors,” said Amy Butler, the hotel’s marketing manager. “You’ll see the Hopi word ‘Tsotsvalki’ painted on the walls here. It means assembly hall or meeting house.”

The hotel and conference center offers 3,096 square feet of meeting space, a seating capacity of 210 people, and three breakout meeting rooms.

Since opening on April 27, 2010, the tribe has hosted gatherings of Navajo and Hopi tribal offices, emergency medical teams, Tuba City Unified School District and Hopi Day School. “We’re doing a lot with graduations right now,” added Butler.

But the Moenkopi Development Corporation Board of Directors is not letting success slow them down. “The board is developing a Denny’s restaurant and they are in the process of negotiating for a housing complex and trailer park on Hopi lands,” Butler said.

The Upper Village of Moenkopi is located at the western gateway to Hopi, adjacent to the Navajo community of Tuba City. The Moenkopi Legacy Inn & Suites can arrange tours of Moenkopi and Walpi – original homes that have been continuously occupied for centuries – and Dawa Park, a site with thousands of petroglyphs.

Fifty miles south of Tuba City and Moenkopi, Dale Sinquah, chairman of the Land Team, oversees the Hopi Tribe Economic Development Corporation. This corporation owns three commercial properties in Flag-staff (Continental Plaza, Kachina Square and Heritage Square) and the Kokopelli Inn in Sedona.

“The corporation is in a transition phase,” explained Sinquah. “No dividends were being given back to the tribe. So we went back and took control as a council. We made management changes, made the loans to the tribe current and increased capital investments. Now a small amount of dividends have been paid to the tribe. I feel comfortable that we are moving forward.

“The whole purpose [of the economic development commission] is to secure a homeland for the Hopi people so they can live the way they chose to live.” Other key enterprises of the economic development corporation are Hopi Three Canyon Ranches off I-40, Hopi Travel Plaza in Holbrook and Walpi Housing Management on the reservation.

While Hopis look outside their relatively small reservation for land and businesses to purchase, the Navajo Nation provides incentives to attract businesses to their 27,000-square-mile area.

Tuba City is home to one of seven Regional Business Development Offices located throughout the Navajo Nation. They provide business incentives, including faster depreciation schedules that reduce cost of capital by allowing businesses to receive tax savings sooner, credit against income tax liability for wages and benefits paid to Indian workers, and employment and training programs.

Dolly Lane of Tuba City has been work- ing at the Western Regional Business Development Offices for 18 years. “The majority of work concentrates on businesses renewing their leases [with the Navajo Nation]. Site leases average 25 years and a lot are expiring now. I am working with Sonic Drive-In, a new auto transmission and repair shop, Church’s Chicken fran- chise, a small restaurant on Main Street in Tuba, and Burger King in Cameron.”

Lane also assists Navajo Chapters such as Shonto and Kaibeto to draw up leases on local chapter land. “We work to get community approval, environmental impact studies and archeological surveys. If the Chapter gets the land ready for commercial development, it is easier to attract business. The chapter house can use sales tax monies [to recoup development costs].”

Hualapai (WALL-uh-pie) tribal head- quarters are located in Peach Springs on Highway 66. The tribe operates a hotel complex, river rafting company and guide service in Peach Springs, and helicopter tours and the Grand Canyon Skywalk at Grand Canyon West on the far western end of the Grand Canyon.

Grand Canyon West attracts half a million visitors every year. “Before the Skywalk, 80 percent of visitors came from Las Vegas on organized tours. Now there is a 50-50 split between those coming on tours and FITs (free and independent travelers). That’s better for the area because FITs spend more time in Northern Arizona and are not bound by the schedule of a tour bus,” said Waylon Honga, COO of the Hualapai’s Grand Canyon Resort Corporation.

Hualapai River Runners, the only Indian-owned and operated river rafting company on the river and a tribal enterprise is “looking to rebound in 2010. We’re budgeting for 8,000 rafters,” Honga said.

While many Northern Arizonans know that the Yavapai-Apache Nation runs the Cliff Castle Casino Lodge and Confer- ence Center, they may not realize that they also own Yavapai-Apache Sand and Rock, Yavapai-Apache Construction and Distant Drums RV Park.

“The Nation owns all four corners at I-17 at exit 289,” explained Fran Chavez of the Office of Public Relations. “We just finished boring under I-17 to place new telecommunications, wastewater and gas lines. We’ve put the infrastruc- ture in place, and now we’re hoping to move forward.” FBN

More information on some of the businesses mentioned in this article is available online. Moenkopi Legacy Inn & Suites www.experiencehopi.com Navajo Nation Western Regional Busi- ness Development Offices http://navajo- business.com/sbdd/rbdo.html Grand Canyon West and the Skywalk www.grandcanyonwest.com

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    […] Entrepreneurial Tribes Cashing in on Ideas | Flagstaff Business … Jul 2, 2010 … It means assembly hall or meeting house.” … “The board is developing a Denny's restaurant and they are in … This corporation owns three commercial properties in … new telecommunications, wastewater and gas lines. … […]

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