May 22, 2005

Black Hawk's Revenge

A Sac-Fox chief recently appeared in Springfield and outlined extensive and interesting plans for business ventures in northwest Illinois on lands taken from the tribe's ancestors.
Kay Rhoads, chief of the Sac & Fox Nation, said her group of Oklahoma-based Indians hopes to take advantage of the special legal status given Indian tribes as it pursues a host of business endeavors.

In fact, she went so far as to say she is "98 percent sure" the tribe's ambitious development endeavor will come to fruition. Ms. Rhoads and others met with state officials Tuesday in hopes of paving the way for future cooperation.

Among early ventures her tribe is considering are building a 150-room hotel on a bluff in Savanna and a gasoline-blending facility at the former Savanna Army Depot site. The tribe also is considering a vineyard on the depot site.

As part of the tribe's longer-term vision for the area, a grain terminal is being considered for the Case-IH plant site in East Moline.

A $200 million ethanol/biodiesel plant also is under consideration, Ms. Rhoads said. She initially said the plant was under consideration for the Savanna site, but Friday Todd England, a member of an economic-development firm appointed by the tribe, said the Quad-Cities also could be under consideration for the plant.

Such a plant would employ 45 to 60 people, Mr. England said. It would take several years to build the facility and that would generate construction jobs as well, he said.

Business endeavors by Indian tribes can be afforded certain legal advantages unavailable to other businesses, such as exemptions from state corporate income taxes, some federal labor laws and local property taxes, said Richard Collins, a professor at the University of Colorado Law School.

Mr. Collins, an expert in American Indian law, said Indian tribes have been able to block workers from organizing unions in many of their businesses on reservations by contending tribes are exempt from federal laws regarding collective bargaining.

But obtaining the special legal status afforded to an Indian reservation is contingent on whether the U.S. Department of Interior agrees to hold the land in "trust" for the tribe, Mr. Collins said.

Generally, if a state in which the land is located objects, the Interior Department is reticent to give the land the special status, he said.

Mr. England said the tribe soon would petition the Interior Department to have about 82 acres in the Savanna area designated as tribal lands. It would encompass land to be used for the vineyard, lodge and ethanol-blending facility, he said.

The Sac and Fox were forced out of Illinois in the 1800s and now are headquartered in Stroud, Okla.

But Ms. Rhoads, the great-great-great granddaughter of the leader Black Hawk, said there is a desire now to invest in the tribe's ancestral homeland.

Building the lodge and a gasoline-blending facility in Savanna are the tribal nation's top priorities. But neither is among the group's most ambitious.

The facility for blending gasoline and ethanol could be brought on line relatively quickly, said Louis Jullien III, an economic-development consultant appointed by the tribe. In turn, this smaller venture could lead to further development that includes a $200 million ethanol generation facility.

Financing likely would come from a combination equity/bond offering on Wall Street, Mr. Jullien said.

Ms. Rhoads said she's working with the federal government to have the some of the land at the Savanna Army Depot converted into tribal lands, noting that Indian tribes are given preference when surplus federal lands become available.

Because the Savanna facility is owned by the federal government and not currently on the property-tax roles, it should be able to convert the land into recognized tribal land relatively quickly, she said.

But it likely would take at least a year to make the privately held Case-IH site Indian land, she said, adding that tribal members have taken only a cursory drive by the property, which state Sen. Mike Jacobs is promoting for development.
Well, it's nice to have an interested party for the Case/IH site, but the article states the facility would only employ roughly 15 people, and if the "experts" are correct, there would be no union, no state corporate tax revenue, and no local property tax. Sen. Jacobs might have a hard sell on his hands if he decides to back this effort.


At 5/23/2005 5:04 PM, Blogger whispers said...

What's Rep. Boland think of this potential development? What about John Thodos and the council?


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home