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Seminole Tribe, Hard Rock move forward

James E. BillieChristmas is past. We are moving through a new year. As usual, I like to hang onto my Christmas tree until about February. So the first week of February I finally took my Christmas tree down. I like to enjoy the Christmas tree. This was one of those trees that comes from the North, some kind of cedar tree; when it starts drying up, the leaves of the cedar tree have a nice aroma that I enjoy smelling.

But even though it still smelled good, the leaves started to clutter the house and my wife made me get rid of it. So, I’ll have to wait until next year and I’ll have another Christmas tree – the longest I’ve ever had a Christmas tree standing up is through May. And that was a smaller tree. The one I had this year was about 15 feet tall and it was nice.

On the business scene of the Tribe, our Hard Rock International opened up another hotel franchise in Cancun, Mexico. It is an all-inclusive hotel, approximately 600 rooms, in a beautiful location with a nice blue turquoise ocean around it. We brought in our different managers from around the world to visit and let them enjoy themselves and relax in the sun. My wife and I went there and stayed for two days. It was very nice. Hard Rock International is out creating more business for the Seminole Tribe, and it was nice to witness another successful opening in our Hard Rock business.

If you notice within the last couple years, I really don’t talk about business so much. It is because the Seminole Tribe’s Hard Rock is one of the most successful businesses in the world. It is hard to compare other businesses with what we’ve got. It is so huge that we have several thousand people employed and the jobs are not duplicated. Everyone from janitors and lawn maintenance persons to the top executives are all involved in the running of a casino, a hotel, food services, building and maintenance – almost anything you can think of, we have it. And we have the best managers around the world operating these facilities. So I don’t go over there and try to interfere. But I do enjoy a new franchise opening and enjoy helping open the new hotel or casino.

If we successfully maintain this business in Florida and we have no complications from outside casinos threatening to come in, we will probably be doing well for many, many years to come.

As far as our Tribal operation goes, for the past two years, I’ve tried to maintain status quo. But I did feel that we were over-populated with employees and my job was to possibly thin this situation down.

But that is a very difficult thing to do. I know, especially in the time of this recession that we are supposed to be in, it is very hard to let people go unless we really have to. So whoever is working with us in the Tribe – and you still have a job – I would consider myself very lucky to still be working.

If we are able to create other businesses here in Florida, even if it is another gaming facility that could possibly create another 20,000 jobs or so, it will mean that we are successful. This way, people who have been laid off may easily find themselves working again in one of our facilities.

I am excited about the 75th anniversary of Brighton Field Days. Andrew Bowers, with the assistance of Lucy Bowers, has put on a fine program for this year’s Field Day event. Seventy-five years used to seem like a long time and as I have said before, I am 68, so it doesn’t seem so long anymore and it doesn’t seem so old either.

For a long time, I was looking forward to seeing some of our older people attending the 75th anniversary, but many had passed on just last year. But there are still a few old-timers left and it is always great to see them out and about.

Sho-naa-bish.

James E. Billie is Chairman of the Seminole Tribe of Florida.

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