Chief Hoskin: Interstate partnership will boost innovation and economy

To grow the economy on the Cherokee Nation reservation, we must be forward-thinking, collaborative and willing to work across borders. As the largest tribe in the United States, we have unique opportunities to increase the prosperity of our citizens. We also need the support of our neighbors because we will all go up or down with the regional economy.

I am optimistic about our rise, in large part thanks to the innovative collaborations between our tribe and our neighbors. Cherokee Nation is a founding partner of the Heartland Advanced Medical Manufacturing Regional Cluster (HAMMRC), a campaign to attract and retain high-quality healthcare manufacturing jobs in northeast Oklahoma and northwest from Arkansas. HAMMRC’s goal is to develop a community-led, medical manufacturing cluster along the Highway 62 corridor.

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The coalition involves economic development entities in both states, eight cities, three counties and the Cherokee Nation. The willingness of these various entities to work together on a regional basis gives us a great competitive advantage.

The plan, originally developed by the Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce and the Tahlequah Regional Development Authority, focuses on manufacturing devices, components and equipment for the healthcare industry. We believe this will create careers for our citizens that will directly tie into other science, technology, engineering, arts and math (STEAM) endeavors where the Cherokee Nation is leading the way.

HAMMRC further positions the Cherokee Nation as an integral part of the region’s bright future. We can leverage the needs of India’s largest healthcare system, our workforce development programs, and a range of economic development efforts to create even greater prosperity for our people.

The long-term goal is to make the region one of the world’s leading healthcare production sites. This may seem very ambitious for rural Oklahoma and Arkansas. However, the Cherokee Nation brings a lot to the table. We already have a four-year medical school and a new outpatient center, as well as future plans for a new hospital and multiple personal protective equipment (PPE) manufacturing sites.

We saw at the start of the Covid-19 crisis that PPE was far too difficult to obtain. Difficulties in accessing PPE have harmed not only the Cherokee Nation, but also our friends and neighbors. We promised ourselves to do better for our people. This partnership increases our resources and reduces the potential delivery times of vital health equipment in the future, which will allow us to be even better prepared in the event of a new health crisis.

The benefits go far beyond better access to equipment. Healthcare manufacturing jobs pay around $25 to $30 per hour. This partnership will create those good jobs in the heart of the Cherokee Nation – places like Cherokee County and Adair County. As we continue to invest in STEAM careers, we know companies will be attracted to our well-trained workforce and unparalleled quality of life.

Our education and career services have shown exceptional leadership in preparing Cherokees for success in the workforce. But to develop a sustainable economy, you can’t just give people skills and then hope they find a job. We need to directly recruit the kind of tech-enabled jobs in healthcare manufacturing that can transform the region.

Whether it’s in healthcare, aerospace, gaming and hospitality, the motion picture industry, federal contracting, or any other business we are involved in as a tribe, Cherokee Nation excels at giving hard-working Cherokees and creatives the platform to realize their dreams. Now, through this collaboration, we are building another strong line of business in our diverse economic mix on the Cherokee Nation reservation. We look to the future to grow our economy for generations to come.

Chuck Hoskin, Jr. is the Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation.

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About the Author

Author: Chuck Hoskin Jr.E-mail: This email address is protected from spam. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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