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History of CIEDA (Part 1)

CIEDA History Part 1 Looking back on the history of the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, many will appreciate what a long, hard road the Tribe has traveled to become who they are today.

Elders soon began to plan for future generations and paved a path for today's young people to advance and not rely on others to provide a way of living.

Thus, in the mid-1980s, Creek Indian Enterprises Development Authority (CIEDA) was born. CIEDA secures the Tribe's future beyond gaming by optimizing returns on funds and natural resources entrusted to them by the Tribal Council. CIEDA empowers talented leaders to focus their energy and build profitable organizations by adding value with our capital and management expertise to high-potential business ventures. This creates opportunities for the Tribe and generates wealth, leaving a lasting legacy.

This is the first part of a series on the history of CIEDA and why the Tribe branched out into economic development.

The boom of economic development

Economies ebb and flow, and each generation has a responsibility to leave legacies for their offspring. The Poarch Band of Creek Indians have been doing this for centuries.

But it wasn't until the '80s that a few Tribal leaders began to consider new ways to live and become successful. There began the movement into diversification for our Tribe.

From 1984 to 1988, the Tribe studied economic development. When the Tribe regained federal recognition, it began to look at ways to further prosper as a people and give back to its neighbors in Alabama and the country as a whole.

Other Indian organizations also started concentrating on economic development.

Tribal Member Mal McGhee was on the board of directors for Tribal Council when investments began to take root. When CIEDA was formed, McGhee was on the board of directors there, too.

"Because I had a background in both government and economic development, I was put on both boards," McGhee said. "The businesses under the organization were the Best Western (now Muskogee Inn), Muskogee Metalworks (now Muskogee Technology), Creek Family Restaurant, Creek Bingo Palace and a couple others."

Going beyond gaming

Many Indian tribes across the country have long operated gaming facilities on tribal lands as a source of income. Through trial and error, some have succeeded, and others have not.

Poarch Creek gaming began with the Creek Bingo Palace on the reservation. Although this was highly profitable, government leaders looked at future sustainability and began to explore other business areas. But with that came a learning curve.

"Gaming blossomed around Indian country and those of us on the national scene realized not only the challenge to sustain that industry, but how to use that resource to try to create a continuity of income for the Tribe," current Tribal Council Treasurer Eddie Tullis said. "Certain people early on realized the value of keeping government and economic development separate but balanced."

McGhee, Tullis and other leaders were able to attend an economic conference at Harvard University, where they were taught to follow a structure to have the businesses be separated from government completely.

"Indian tribes are unique in that we are a sovereign government," Tullis said. "Here at Poarch Creek, we understood that as a Tribe, we couldn't successfully run a government and do economic development in tandem. So we created Creek Indian Enterprises Development Authority as our economic branch. We then appointed Tribal leaders who understood the economic industry to diversify our portfolio. By separating government from economic development, we got ahead of the curve and began to learn how to sustain and provide service to our people.

"Gaming gave us a financial entity that was totally outside the realm of economics," he said. With gaming, the Tribe really has no competition in the market. But with each enterprise, competitors are everywhere. Looking at all economic factors is important when considering certain industries. Price gaps, fluctuating profits and costs all decide how well an industry does at any given time.

"We knew we didn’t want to rely on the luxury of gaming forever, so we chose our ventures wisely and it's paid off."

Look for part two in this series next month.

By Jen Peake
CIEDA Marketing Specialist

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