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Solar project brightens Paiute Tribe’s future

The national Reservation Economic Summit came to Las Vegas recently. Tribal leaders from across the U.S. explored a host of ideas from potential involvement with the marijuana industry to solar and wind energy and of course gaming.

Benny Tso, chairman of the Las Vegas Paiute Tribe, spoke to the group and showed a video documentary about the tribe. The three-course Paiute Golf Resort also played host to the convention’s golf outing.

Chairman Tso talks with 5Q about where the tribe fits in the economic development landscape of Southern Nevada.

Q. Let’s start with the basics. Beyond the golf resort, what other projects are the Las Vegas Paiute Tribe involved in?

A. Well, besides the golf resort, the tribe also has a well-known smoke shop located on Main Street between Owens and Washington avenues.

Out at Snow Mountain, we have a smaller convenience store/gas station that we will be switching to Chevron gas very soon.

I would also like to say that we are also working on a 100MW solar development with First Solar on the SW corner of the Snow Mountain Reservation. We should be on line to start producing the power in the very near future.

Q. What assets do you bring to the economic development conversation and where do you need to find strong partners?

A. Our first endeavor with economic self-sufficiency for the tribe was our smoke shops, which have been around for as long as I can remember. It laid the foundation for the tribe to grow to what we are now.

Secondly, the resort has been the staple of the LVPT since 1994 and, has recently become a significant provider to our revenue stream. We have a full food and beverage department and can accommodate golf tournaments as well as weddings and special events. Just recently, we were the host to the National Long Drive contest and we host other golf tournaments as well. The resort provides jobs for our tribal members as well as employment to the surrounding area. We also have a summer youth program that benefits the younger members of our community, to teach our youth the importance and structure of the workforce.

Last, I would have to say is our solar facility that is under negotiations with First Solar. This is going to be a huge economic development opportunity for the tribe and will be beneficial to the local municipalities that surround the Snow Mountain Reservation. This will also provide construction jobs for our tribal members and local Natives in our area.

We look forward to the opportunities that will come from the partnership with First Solar and the renewable energy that will be provided to the Las Vegas valley.

Q. This annual summit is a major event in Indian Country. It was also the platform for introducing NCAIED’s Native Edge-an online, 24/7, interactive business development portal designed to open up new business opportunities for Indian Country. How will the Las Vegas Paiute Tribe benefit?

A. I haven’t really had a chance to check out the Native Edge portal as of yet but, if it is anything like the RES conferences, then I would expect only great things from it. the tribe could benefit from using this site in all areas.

There are a lot of potential partnerships that could emerge from using this site, whether they relate to our smoke shop or the golf resort. I have used the guidance of the NCAIED in the solar project that we are close to finalizing. If this site had been available then, it would have probably expedited our project from the start. This will give each tribal leader/member who uses this tool to help reach out to information that is readily available literally just a couple clicks away.

Q. One of the topics on the agenda was the marijuana industry. Do you see the tribe playing a role here?

A. It’s a possibility… I think anything is probable in Las Vegas. Reality is that it still is a schedule 1 and it is illegal in Nevada. I think there is a potential for economic opportunities for tribal participation as long as it is regulated and the education is there. I for one am really interested in the medical and scientific side of the industry. It’s amazing how far the medical industry has come and the different ways that it can be prescribed to patients. So in the future I’m not going to rule out the tribe having a role in the MMJ industry. I’ll say that!

Q. Did you come away with any new ideas for your tribe?

A. Well, I guess that I can say that I learn new things and how to incorporate some of the ideas and advice that I get out of the panels that I attend. There is a lot of experience and knowledge that is gathered at these RES events. There are tons of opportunities that can be created whether you are in a panel discussion or at the general assembly or, even just walking through the halls to get to wherever you are going. I would like to say that I have a really great time catching up on old friendships and creating new friendships.

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