History of CIEDA (Part 3)
This is the third installment in a series about the history of Creek Indian Enterprises Development Authority (CIEDA).
Slow, steady progress
For the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, economic development isn't a new thing. The Tribe has had a hand in it for decades.
Tribal members have gotten an education and built businesses that improve their quality of life. That, by definition, is the epitome of economic development.
But it's not an easy climb and it doesn't, on average, produce immediate results.
Elder and current Tribal Council Treasurer Eddie Tullis said taking advantage of every sound opportunity is the key of progression.
"You have got to look at the big picture when dealing with economic development," Tullis said. "Not everything will happen right away. But if you are wise about it and do your homework, you will reap the benefits at some point."
One way CIEDA learned that was by going through Harvard University's Honoring Nations program. Harvard created the program in 1998 to showcase what was happening in Indian country. The program sparked a leadership for tribes that were at the point of going beyond gaming. They learned how to move forward.
"Harvard taught us to shift our focus," Tullis said. He points to the various businesses under the CIEDA umbrella already. Every business is now self-sufficient, but each one took time and effort to get there.
Entertainment and hospitality
Creek Travel Plaza (CTP) opened in 2012 and despite not being a nationally known truck stop brand, CTP has done incredibly well for itself. The truck stop sees a regular influx of drivers and travelers who utilize the many amenities on site. Tribal members also take advantage of the eat-in diner at CTP.
Creek Convenience Store Atmore also caters to the Tribal community. But CIEDA's growth doesn't stop there.
What started out as an outside investment in an entertainment district in Foley, Ala., the project formerly known as Blue Collar Country is now 100 percent owned and managed by CIEDA. Plans have been tweaked and construction has started on Phase 1, with Phase 2 already advertising for retail space.
Tullis compared the Foley project to places like Disney World or Six Flags. Those entertainment districts were not hits right off the bat. They started as local venues for the local people to have something to do. They exploded into world-wide sensations because the people involved had the knowledge and foresight to see the potential of a bigger market.
"We are in a unique position; we have an opportunity right now in (the) entertainment (industry). There are many people in this country with disposable income, who live outside our area (the Southeast), who are going to spend that income on entertainment vacations. CIEDA's investment in the Foley project, in my opinion, is going to be phenomenal.
"The way for our people to have more disposable income is to provide a way for those who already have extra funds to give it to us," he said.
Hospitality is another income money maker. CIEDA purchased the Best Western motel, currently Muskogee Inn, as its first investment in economic development in 1986. Many Tribal members were already working at the motel, which had a steady stream of income. The extra capital provided an opportunity to create more jobs for Tribal members, thus giving Tribal members more opportunities to have their own disposable income.
"Gaming and the casinos we have are just a portion of why Poarch Creek people are thriving," Tullis said. "We are thriving because of our many enterprises that are managed by CIEDA. These enterprises, and our future ones, are what our future will depend on, not gaming."
By Jen Peake
CIEDA Marketing Specialist