At the June 9th MWT General Body Meeting the Mashpee Wampanoag Community Development Corporation (CDC) presented a comprehensive presentation that highlighted plans to initiate a Tribal Utility Project. Megan Amsler, of the Cape Cod and Islands Self Reliance Corporation, presented a site assessment of solar and wind power energy opportunities. The CDC is also working with Baker Tilly Consultants who are experts in corporate structure management. The CDC has recently been awarded our third grant, in the sum of $94,000 from the Federal Bureau of Indian Affairs, Division of Energy and Mineral Management that will fund the initial infrastructure of this project.
The feedback from some community members, as well as some board members, were concerns about the location of wind farm sites. Therefore, with that in consideration, the board and evaluating panel discussed the final estimates and concluded that solar panels are ultimately a more economically feasible and culturally sensitive alternative.
Another question that was brought up by a tribal citizen was what was the reason that a community corporation was created and how the board was made up.
The CDC is "Organized to engage in activities that will promote the social welfare, economic security and community development of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe and its enrolled citizens that will enable the Tribe to be self-sufficient and to provide economic support for its tribal citizens."
The CDC is a Board consists of at least nine Directors that are appointed by the Tribal Council/Shareholder Representatives. Two (2) positions on the Board may be filled by members of the Tribal Council. Which only one is currently filled by Shareholder Winnie Johnson-Graham. All directors are to be enrolled citizens of the Tribe. The Board is now made up with, Shareholder/Tribal Councilor Winnie Johnson-Graham, President Mark Harding, Vice President Tara Collier, Treasurer Nancy Rose, Secretary Steven Peters, BoD members Talia Landry and Angela Shwom. With 2 seats still available open to Tribal members, as well as one for a council person.
The CDC would also like to acknowledge Nelson Andews, our MWT Emergency Management Director, for administering the energy grants as we grow and develop the utility company infrastructure.
Tribally Owned Businesses are top performers in securing millions of dollars in government contracts. According to the Harvard Business School, "Tribally owned enterprises that are insulated from political interference are about four times as likely to be profitable as those that are not." Insulating tribal business entities from political interference is accomplished by establishing a managing board of directors and a corporate charter that is beyond the direct control of tribal council members.
It is important to know the CDC sustains 4 core values: Equity, sustainability, traditional knowledge and a diverse economy. Within those values the board strives to consider key factors when determining the best structure for a particular activity and to segregate politics from business in order to free the tribal council from daily management of tribal businesses. We need to consider the Organizational structure on how the entity is formed, under what law is the entity formed, and who manages the entity. Sovereign Immunity is important to us as Tribes are governmental entities, which are not subject to suit. But this does constrict on trust in regards to the ability of lenders, investors, and business partners to enforce agreements and to protect their investment. Tax considerations with different federal income tax rules applying to different business types. Also, state tax liability frequently depends on whether the business activity is conducted on or off an Indian reservation therefore giving us more decisions on what is economically and respectfully more beneficial to have on or off reservation land. Financing is huge and money for a business comes in two forms, debt and equity. Lenders generally do not dictate choice of business entity, but equity investors may specify what business structure you can choose.
Tribes are increasingly asserting control over their land, resources, and governance of their communities. Different tribes around the country are involved in a wide range of economic activities from tourism, gaming, energy, agriculture, forestry, manufacturing, federal contracting, and telecommunications. In many parts of the country, tribes are becoming regional economic and political power houses and becoming some of the largest regional employers. Tribal governments and tribal businesses engage in a wide range of business and financial transactions as sovereign nations have powers and capabilities not available to individuals.
The federal government provides strong incentives for Tribes to development these companies to empower Tribal economic self-sufficiency. Please reference some of these tribal corporations websites to see how they perform across Indian Country.