Salish Kootenai College:

Community Catalyst for Economic Development

By Nancy Warneke, Director SKC TBIC

Through the Rural Community College Initiative, Salish Kootenai College became a catalyst for economic development for the community. We looked at what was needed on our reservation, and who would be the players and then brought groups of people together for what was often the first time that they had communicated with each other. We continually work on bringing people together and new projects.

 

•     Access to capital               Char-Koosta Loan Fund (merged with Sovereign Leasing)

                                                First National Bank of the Flathead Nations

Access to capital is always critical on our reservations. For too long, our members have not had access to conventional loans.

•     Telecommunications         CSKT Telecommunications Group

We are continually looking at this market to see which technology fits our reservation.

•     Ag Cooperative                  Flathead Nations Ag Cooperative

We have developed a line of jerky to help our Ag producers focus on value added agriculture.

•     Nor-Cor Project                  High Tech Companies

Working with U of M to create a technology center on our reservation.

•     Golf Course                        SKC Golf Course

To add assets to our college as well as provide a training facility for future golfers.

•     Community Development             Ktunaxa Community Development Corporation

Our pilot proect was the community of Elmo.  We helped develop a (KCDC) Ktunaxa Community Development Corporation.  We learned that CDC‘s were eligible for a lot of new money other than what came through our tribes. We took a struggling group with an idea that was important to them and transformed it into reality. The vision has been to create a place where the Kootenai people can come together, restoring their “sense of place”.  The vision continues as an attempt to accommodate, without assimilation, the needs of the people today while reclaiming the most vital cultural and historic values of the Kootenai people. We initiated a community-wide survey that has identified areas for KCDC’s future. We encouraged efforts resulting in the addition of the elderly housing complex and a health care clinic.  We fostered, supported and implemented a Mutual Self Help Housing program, which will provide 20 new homes in the area. We supported initiatives for economic development that will be able to provide the community with a stronger economic base and more jobs and job enrichment opportunities.

•     Tribal Business Information Center

We are helping entrepreneurs get into business. We have over 1200 clients here at the SKC TBIC. We help with business plans, providing workshops and technical assistance. We also help with Quick Books and web page design. Many times we have helped a company that was about to go under stay open and successful. Sometimes success can be measured by not going into business when they think they want to but getting more education first. We encourage many of our clients to get back into school.

•     American Indian Entrepreneurship Curriculum

Our college has also been instrumental in developing a American Indian Entrepreneur curriculum. Michele Lansdowne has written a book using indian Entrepreneurs as role models. For too long the Indian people did not have role models as many of our businesses are first generation businesses. This curriculum is also being distributed nationwide, from First Nations Institute in Alexandria, VA to the Lummi in Washington. Twenty tribal colleges are using the videos and books to encourage business students to become Indian Entrepreneurs.

•     Bachelor Degree in Entrepreneurship

A Bachelor of Arts Degree in Business/Entrepreneurship has been established by Salish Kootenai College. This past term 35 students entered into the third year of the B.A. program. This will help more Indian and non-indian people enter into a career in business and increase the economic development potential of our area.

•     Displaced Worker Training

Now, even more than before with the Jore Corporation going out of business and logging being reduced, we are a huge part of retraining displaced workers. We work with the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes and the community to train displaced workers in areas such as truck driving, computer skills, business classes, construction training, or wherever their interests lie.

•     Nursing graduates

In lieu of the nursing shortage our college has graduated 224 Nursing students. 120 are American Indian. Our school has a great reputation for good nurses and they are in demand when they reach the job market. 72 are presently in our nursing program and 42 in pre-nursing. Health care is one of Montana’s largest employers and we are proud to be part of it.

•     Youth in Business

We are involved with th youth through our American Indian Business Leaders. The focus of the program is to get Indian youth to think of careers in business where they would own and operate a small business or work in a business related field.  Joe sits on the national board of directors and Michele Lansdowne was instrumental in the development of the program. We are also host to the YESS program, which brings 35 5th graders to our campus each summer to learn about Entrepreneurship. Gear Up and Upward Bound are hosted at our college. Gear Up helps 540 high school students prepare for college. Upward Bound has 75.

•     Economic Impact on the Community.

The budget for the Salish Kootenai College is over $16 million. We employee over 200 full time staff. Our annual payroll exceeds $5.8 million all of which is spent in our local community. 

 

In conclusion we hope that this report will help you realize the impact of our tribal college as we do our part to move our reservation toward economic stability.