Bill Largent was brought on board this year to lead Meskwaki Inc. and wants to guide the tribe into opportunities for business development.
Largent, who lives in Michigan, became the president and CEO of the organization in February. He flies in each week to lead this entity and said the tribe can't rely on casino income alone.
"The focus on gaming puts us in a vulnerable position," Largent said.
T-R PHOTO BY ANDREW POTTER
Bill Largent stands outside Pinnacle Bank in Marshalltown Wednesday. Largent is president of Meskwaki Inc., which is the entity of the tribe which operates the bank, casino and Trading Post. He is looking to spur more economic development for the tribe.
In 2009, Meskwaki made headway in a more diversified direction when it bought Pinnacle Bank in Marshalltown.
"In their foresight, they decided they needed to diversify," Largent said.
Largent has also been in talks with the Iowa Premium Beef venture in Tama for possible investment and local job creation. They are also evaluating a possible expansion of the tribal plaza, across Highway 30 from where their current Trading Post is located.
He also wants to see the Sac & Fox Tribe land federal government contracts to not only help the tribe financially but also spur job growth in the area.
"We are getting out into the community and showing them what other tribes have done," Largent said. "This has been successful with other tribes."
Largent should know because he previously worked for Tribal Resource Group, which helped several tribes build sustainable, diversified economies. He also worked for three years as national director of the Office of Native American Affairs at the Small Business Administration in Washington D.C.
He said tribes are typically underperforming economic engines, but there are several things that make them attractive to business, one of which has to do with taxes.
"We do not pay federal income tax, so that gives us a pricing advantage or profit advantage," Largent said.
Largent, 58, is on a three-year contract and hopes to transfer Meskwaki Inc. leadership to a Meskwaki tribal member after his contract is complete and then retire.
Largent is a member of the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community (Ojibwa) in Michigan and has more than 30 years of experience leading and managing small business.