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THE NATIONS' CAPITAL; Three common traits shared by successful moneymakers

Three common traits shared by successful moneymakers

VISTA, Calif. -- Now that Thanksgiving Day has come and gone, Americans are
stepping up their Christmas shopping. Chances are, most tribal members
would like to have more disposible income so they have more to spend on

What are three common traits shared by successful moneymakers?

* A strong desire to turn a profit. All profitable business operators want
to make money. Their workers especially want the same so they can get
higher pay and more benefits.

This was once anathema in traditional American Indian economies. In the
past, tribal people bartered with each other to exchange items of similar
value. Few Native societies systematically accumulated materialistic goods
for one person or one family. Back then, societies were truly communal in
that each person shared in the joint productivity of all members.

* Competitive advantage. All profitable business operators have an edge on
their competition. Sometimes it is location and size. Other times it is tax
exemption on particular business profits, which can add 15 -- 35 percent
more to the bottom line. And there are buying preferences from entities
such as the federal government.

Proximity to a customer base is critical to walk-in business. The Mohegan
Tribe and Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation of Connecticut both enjoy the
advantage of being located close to the New York -- Connecticut
metropolitan area. They enhanced their edge on Atlantic City by building
large casino-hotel-restaurant-entertainment complexes. When a customer goes
to Foxwoods or Mohegan Sun for a weekend stay, there are enough food,
shopping and gaming venues to keep them spending during their entire visit.

Income derived from land, such as mineral rights, rents, farming and
livestock is generally tax-exempt for tribes. Take the Coquille Indian
Tribe of Oregon as an example. Coquille Cranberries is one of the world's
largest suppliers of organically grown cranberries and jams. This business
successfully produces one of the tribe's traditional foods, generates
premium prices from the market because of consumer preference for organic
foods and enjoys federal tax advantages because of its use of land.

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Tribally owned enterprises enjoy preferential buying status in doing
business with the federal government. This is how it works: Suppose two
companies compete for a federal contract. The tribally owned company
qualifies for buying preference while the other does not. Both bid $1
million for the job. All things being equal, the tribally owned company
would be treated as if its bid were at $950,000. It would win the contract
because of the lower price, but it would be paid $1 million for the

S&K Electronics, owned by the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, has
consistently won federal contracts from the U.S. Department of Defense.
Last year, the company won a NASA contract to build 50 medical monitors
which store and track pulse, body position and blood pressure. In addition,
the company has received recognition for excellence by the U.S. Army, Small
Business Administration and NASA.

* Savings and active reinvestment. Profitable businesses always keep part
of their profits for active reinvestment.

It takes money to make money. Wal-Mart and Sam's Club stores are now common
throughout the country. After Sam Walton opened the first store in 1962, he
did not stop. He used profits from one store to open more stores. Now, 43
years later, Wal-Mart is the largest retailer in the world.

When a venture is profitable, repeat what was done right. Fix what was done
wrong. Take active ownership and be involved in making decisions related to
investments instead of passively leaving decisions to professional

Reinvestment includes improvements in the physical, cultural and spiritual
infrastructure of the tribal homeland. A reservation that has extensive
roadways and access to power, sewer and water is well-positioned to develop
more housing and economic opportunities for its members. A tribe that is
proud of its history, culture and heritage can provide a sense of roots for
its young people. A tribal culture that embraces spirituality can help
members seek purpose and steer away from the lure of alcohol and drugs.

In Native beliefs, all things are interrelated; profits and reinvestment
promote balance and harmony in the world. This practice is best illustrated
by the act of charity this past Thanksgiving, when the Morongo Band in
California donated 6,000 turkeys to soup kitchens. Both the giver and
recipient are essential to the process. Without one another, good will
cannot be created.

A tribe's destiny depends on the desires of the members, the determination
of its leaders and its preparation to work the opportunity. The
possibilities are limitless. Focus on just one goal and follow through, and
wealth will follow.