OPINION: Interstate partnership will boost innovation and economy | Opinion

To grow the economy on the Cherokee Nation reserve, 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 that we are on the rise, in large part thanks to the innovative collaborations between our tribe and our neighbors. CN 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 Arkansas. HAMMRC’s goal is to develop a community-led medical manufacturing cluster along the Highway 62 corridor.

The coalition involves economic development entities in two states, eight cities, three counties and CN. 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 are directly linked to other science, technology, engineering, arts and math (STEAM) endeavors where CN is leading the way.

HAMMRC further positions CN 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 more prosperity for our people.

The long-term goal is to make the region one of the world’s leading healthcare production sites. This may sound very ambitious for rural Oklahoma and Arkansas. However, CN brings a lot to the table. We already have the four-year medical school and a new outpatient center, as well as future plans for a new hospital and several personal protective equipment 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 hurt not only CN, but our friends and neighbors as well. We are committed to doing better for our people. This partnership increases our resources and reduces the potential delivery times of vital health equipment in the future, which will make us even better prepared in the event of another health crisis.

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

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

Whether in healthcare, aerospace, gaming and hospitality, the film industry, federal contracting, or any other business we are involved in as a tribe, CN excels in offering hardworking Cherokees and creatives the platform to make their dreams come true. Now, through this collaboration, we are expanding another strong line of business into our diverse economic mix on the CN reserve. We are looking to the future to grow our economy for generations to come.

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