There are new answers on what the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes can do to promote economic development, including redeveloping the former FMC site.
The answers come in the form of a research study by Idaho State Business professor Neil Tocher, who looked at more than 30 years of tribal studies.
Redeveloping the FMC site was the jumping-off point for the study, which is more of a broad overview of tribal economic development. With construction happening at the new Shoshone-Bannock Hotel and Events Center, it would seem that the tribes are doing pretty well, but Tocher said they can do better.
"Native American tribes are a fertile, fertile ground for economic development, because of a couple of reasons. (No. 1), because of their legal status, they can do things like, for example, create a casino in a place like Idaho where we don't have other casinos," Tocher said.
No. 2, Tocher said, the collective power of tribal resources are extremely strong.
Tocher found three critical steps tribes can take, and the first key he found in economically successful tribes across the country is creating a governance system that separates politics and business. The Sho-Ban tribes would create a semi-autonomous business development company run by managers who report to a board, but aren't subject to tribal council oversight. He said that oversight can push businesses away.
"The tribal government can step into the casino out there and tell them who to hire, how to operate the business on a day to day basis, and so what happens is, businesses that might be interested on tribal lands get a little bit scared, because businesses like certainty," Tocher said.
Tocher looked at reservations like Gila River in Arizona, which is home to one of the most successful industrial parks in Indian-Country, just one of the opportunities he thinks could happen here.
"I think they're endless," Tocher said.
The second step is to create a court system that is insulated from political interference of the Tribal Council in disputes between tribal and non-tribal entities. The third is to create competent and reliable bureaucracies to provide basic services, such as fire protection, police protection, tax collection and fish and game management.
Valorie Watkins, the Director the Power County Development Authority, commissioned Tocher to do this research after a study he did earlier this year was criticized by the tribes. Watkins said she is going to show the report to all levels of government in the state, and hopes it can foster growth.
"As we go forward working with the Department of Commerce in responding with interest from companies that want to locate here or have an interest in our site, then we can share that with them, and perhaps develop a good working relationship," Watkins said.
Sho-Ban Executive Director Angelo Gonzalez could not provide a comment because he could not get Tribal Council approval on Friday. He has, however, read the report.
Tocher said the reason all the tribes he looked at started developing was because they all decided as a group that they needed to bring in business.