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Creeks prove programs work

By By Paul Keane
Publisher
Spent the past few days learning about various grant and loan programs. Quite an eye-opening experience, but not as eye opening as what I observed Thursday.
For the record, I spent most of Wednesday afternoon learning about the various grant, direct loan and guaranteed loan programs offered by USDA Rural Development. In fact, I saw the Town of Riverview received $1.427 million in grant and loan funds to expand and improve its water system.
On Thursday, I attended my monthly session of Leadership Atmore, a great program that is seeing results in helping to improve and expand this area. Thursday's session was on economic development, and representatives from the Poarch Creek Indians were on hand to speak about what they are doing.
Of course, the main thing right now is the move of Muskogee Metals into the old Vanity Fair Building. But it goes deeper than that.
Because of some various programs that you'll be reading about in the near future, the Poarch Creek Indians are doing some phenomenal things in this area, many of them going unnoticed.
For starters, Muskogee Metals is pursuing – and will possibly receive – some contracts with suppliers to the Department of Defense. Things were in the works for a $47 million contract when the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks happened, pushing everything on the back burner.
Through vigorous efforts, though, the contract has now been modified slightly to include other areas of technology and production that will benefit the tribe and this area. And if you don't think what the tribe does affects everyone here, just consider this fact: roughly 55-60 percent of the people employed by the tribe are not on the tribal roles.
That means jobs are being created by whatever the tribe does in this area, and that means we all benefit from it. It also means the tribe is taking advantage of programs afforded them by the federal government.
I know a lot of people will call these entitlement programs, but there is a big difference. If you take advantage of some programs and make your little corner of the world better, then it's not entitlement. That is what the tribe is doing.
They are taking advantage of these programs to cut through red tape and other bureaucracies that bog down many businesses. They are taking advantage of the fact that they are a federally recognized tribe to make life better for people on the tribal roles.
A natural side effect to all of this is that everyone in Atmore benefits.
Yes, there is the gambling issue, but I can explain that one, too. While living in Louisville, Miss., I was only 25 miles away from Choctaw, or Philadelphia, Miss. That means I was only 25 miles away from the only inland casino in the State of Mississippi. It was a mixed blessing.
The Band of Choctaw Indians have done tremendous things with their casino money. Now, they are purchasing regular businesses and other enterprises to make their economy stronger.
What the Poarch Creek Indians have done in Atmore is a little different. They've built a strong enterprise base, and now some of those profits are being used to build the bingo halls and the gaming facilities north of here.
In turn, profits from those are being used to help fund enterprises and tribal needs back here in Atmore. It's something that should pay dividends for years to come.
That's why I say the tribe is taking advantage of these programs. We've often heard it say that programs should offer a hand up, not a hand out. The Poarch Creek Indians have proven that saying to be true, as they've taken advantage of what's been offered them and have run with it, making themselves economically viable for not only the tribe but Atmore as well.
By continuing to work with the tribe on future projects, we all will benefit and reap the rewards of solid economic development.
Paul Keane is Publisher of The Atmore Advance. He can be reached by phone at 368-2123 or by e-mail at paul.keane@atmoreadvance.com