For Native Americans, Gaming Is Not the Only Business

By Daniel Grebler 1996, Reuters News Service | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), December 16, 1996 | Go to article overview

For Native Americans, Gaming Is Not the Only Business


Daniel Grebler 1996, Reuters News Service, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


The growth of casino gambling on Indian reservations has buoyed the economies of many Indian communities, but Indian business advocates say what's really needed is more entrepreneurship.

They target ventures linking non-Indian businesses with new Indian entrepreneurs, as well as more investment by successful Indian-owned businesses in new enterprises.

Links between non-Indian businesses and Indian entrepreneurs offer business opportunities to both sides, says Veronica Tiller, an Indian historian and consultant who has produced a reference guide to doing business with what she calls Indian Country. "While there is a growing desire and a trend toward developing the private sector both on and off the reservation, there is a real need for joint ventures with people who have business experience," she said. "Indian people have always had an economy, but it was not the type we have today." Tiller says there are numerous opportunities for small businesses on or near reservations such as coin-operated laundries, gas stations and retailers, as well as manufacturing and service companies. "The things that exist all over America - those opportunities exist on Indian Country," she said. The federal government, attempting to bolster business ties with I ndians, offers several tax incentives that make doing business with Indian partners advantageous. For example, tribes and tribal-owned corporations are not subject to federal income tax for on-reservation joint businesses. Thus, a joint venture structured as a limited partnership or limited corporation could allocate the tribe's share of tax deductions and credits to the venture, according to Joseph Pluchinota, an Albuquerque, N.M., consultant whose company provides training for tribal organizations. In addition, federal excise taxes may be sheltered for the venture, and tribes can utilize tax-exempt financing and other tax-exempt obligations, he wrote in the autumn issue of the periodical, "Winds of Change." Businesses on Indian land also benefit from accelerated depreciation for facilities and incremental wage credits against income tax for certain wage earners. A tribal venture may be exempt from state and local gross-receipt taxes. Pluchinota said training and human resource development funding may be available to enhance workers' skills. But he cautioned that "the cross-cultural challenges between workers, policy-makers and others are many." Aside from the tax benefits, Tiller said there are pure business opportunities in forming alliances with Indian tribes or individual entrepreneurs. She notes that 36 states have Indian tribes and the majority of those states also have some form of gaming.

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