You are here
Home > Editorial > Beyond reservation opportunities

Beyond reservation opportunities

Tony Sanchez“Tony, how is the current administration different?”

“Hey Tony, what are the goals of the Board?”

“President Sanchez, what impact will the Board have on the Tribe’s future?”

These are just a sample of the questions that the Board and I are frequently asked. Whether it’s at one of our community meetings or at dinner among our Tribal family, I’m asked these questions quite often. The last two years in office have allowed me to reflect on my time and focus on the changes that Tribal members wish to see from the Board.

One of the challenges this administration has faced is going where few Tribes have gone: fully exploring opportunities we can take advantage of by leveraging our sovereignty and tax-exempt status. This administration made a decision: The Seminole Tribe is not going to limit itself to reservation boundaries. We are not going to limit ourselves to state boundaries. And we are not going to limit ourselves to the boundaries of the United States.

The world is wide open.

So, by asking ourselves, how can we best utilize our advantages as a sovereign nation and how do we best pass this advantage on to an investor, we have made a declaration: The world is our backyard. It is not just the reservation. In doing so, we have challenged ourselves to seek out and implement things that probably haven’t been considered. New ideas and different ways of doing business. And, in my opinion, we best overcome that challenge by constant communication through community meetings, shareholders’ meetings and personally helping people connect the dots.

Is this the best approach? I think it is. But I’m not sure. Feedback is important. I can assure you we are attempting to keep everyone informed. We don’t want anyone to come back and say, “Their M.O. hasn’t changed. They are still having secret meetings. The door is still closed.” Nothing could be further from the truth.

In fact, to eliminate any negative perceptions, this administration actively held community meetings. We have been in office for two years, and we have had two shareholders’ meetings, just as we are required to do.

We have to remember it’s a different world. Part of the challenge of the Seminole Tribe thriving in this new world is not only keeping our constituents informed, but it is also letting the general public know and understand us as both good neighbors and solid business partners. A potential investor should know what we are exploring and know the advantages of dealing with the Seminole Tribe. There is a method to the madness. It’s not just that I want to stand up there and pound my chest. That’s not it at all.

We want the world to know that we are much more than a two-trick pony (i.e. casinos and cigarettes). We want the world to know that we are a good partner in every sense. And that, bottom line, we are looking to enhance the financial condition of the Tribe and the living standards for all Tribal members. Along the way, if we create jobs for Tribal and non-Tribal members, we are enhancing the whole community; we are a good neighbor who cares. It gives the non-Indian world a level of comfort necessary for us to work together. The better job we do telling the story, the more opportunities we have to be contacted, to be seriously considered by the major players in all industry segments.

Our challenge to properly communicate to Tribal members will always be there. We can’t just say we had that meeting last week. Our position has and will continue to be a long-term education process.

The reason we are looking for and exploring financial opportunities should be obvious. Nobody has a crystal ball that can look into the future and predict what is truly going to happen with gaming – which is the lifeline. We just want to be in a position that whenever the landscape changes, we don’t have to play catch up. We want to be protected by other sources of revenue. That’s why this administration is exploring and will continue to seek opportunities to best leverage our sovereignty and tax-exempt status. Those are the two things that set us apart from the average American company and should be used to our competitive advantage.

Except for other Indian Tribes, not many groups in the U.S. have this advantage. One option that we have actively pursued is partnering with other Tribes. We are proactively talking to them and asking key questions: “Here are the resources we bring to the table; what do you bring?” By engaging in these conversations, we are exploring the entire concept of Tribe-to-Tribe business and its dynamics. Most of them operate non-gaming businesses, just like us. They have the same sovereign nation advantages that we do. When you speak with a Tribe located in another part of the country, if they have the financial wherewithal and their own political, local, state and federal relationships, it makes exploring opportunities a lot easier and more interesting. That’s why it can make good business sense to reach out to a federally recognized Tribe in other geographic areas. We are definitely open to that option.

Because of the financial success of the Seminole Tribe and of our favorable credit rating by the rating agencies, interests of non-Tribal and Tribal entities are definitely piqued. Our ratings show dramatic improvement over the past two years.

Regardless of the actual rating, just the fact that we CAN be rated is important. Some Tribes cannot even make it to the front door. As we continue to improve our ratings, major players are going to take a look and ask themselves, “How do we align ourselves with the Seminole Tribe and use their sovereignty and tax-exempt status as a benefit to both parties?”

I had a visitor the other day ask about what we are doing outside the reservation boundaries. So we talked about how we are establishing distributorships with various companies to get our products out into the general market, whether it’s our water, juice or beef. We talked about a lot of things, including exploring alternative power. The question was raised because dividends are always on the forefront of Tribal thought processes. Everyone reads the newspaper and people are concerned with what is going to happen to the landscape environment.

Telling that individual the philosophy of this administration – that we are not limiting ourselves to the reservation, state and U.S. boundaries, that we are very actively looking to do business in international waters – made him surprised and thankful that we are not handcuffing ourselves by just looking at reservation opportunities.

Count your blessings every day. We’ve been blessed. This administration will continue to explore opportunities, no matter where in the world that takes us. And as we explore, bottom line, we will not sacrifice the Tribe’s livelihood and sovereignty.

God bless the Seminole Tribe of Florida.


Tony Sanchez Jr. is President of the Seminole Tribe of Florida, Inc.