Janice Jimmie, assistant to Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians Chairwoman Phyliss Anderson, wants to help her tribe. Her people enjoy a fairly strong economy, but it needs a shot in the arm.

“We have focused so much on casinos that we want to diversify,” she said, adding that’s the main reason why she traveled to the 27th annual National Reservation Economic Summit – her first.

As such, Jimmie is in the same boat with many other attendees at the Summit whose tribes rely heavily on casino revenue. And for that segment of the Native population, along with other tribal nations that are perhaps barely breaking into industry, the NCAIED offered the Tribal Business Leaders’ Forum, a new opportunity that made its debut today at RES 2013.

During the three-hour panel discussion, representatives from highly successful Native businesses joined high-ranking officials from Washington to reveal key paths available to tribes seeking economic development and economic diversity.

Annette Hamilton, for example, is Vice President and COO of Ho-Chunk Inc., the economic development corporation for the rural Winnebago Tribe in Nebraska. She said her organization found a way to resolve a dire problem – a 65 percent unemployment rate in 1993, before Ho-Chunk started.

“Today if you’re unemployed on the Nation, you’re part of an unemployable sector,” she said. A signature success of her corporation is the Ho-Chunk Village in Winnebago, which boasts livable residential infrastructure and retail space.