By Kristin Butler
When Gary Davis describes the vast opportunities and monumental impact of the annual Reservation Economic Summit (RES), he consistently calls it “powerful.”
“Our work — and it’s a ton of work — is to make sure that we’re providing that cutting-edge knowledge, conversation and training at our events. I think, quite honestly, that the value of our networking is tremendous,” Davis, National Center President and CEO, told Indian Country Today Media Network. “The business that comes out of people sitting down over coffee or at a tradeshow booth or after a session, the relationships that the National Center creates through its Reservation Economic Summit is powerful. It’s where business happens.”
From its informal start in 1986 to its mega-presence in Las Vegas today, the National Reservation Economic Summit (RES), hosted by the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development (National Center), is empowering Native entrepreneurs and tribal enterprises through unrivaled access to top CEOs, federal agency representatives, members of congress, state and local elected officials, and respected tribal leaders — from across the country and globe.
RES conference sessions will address some of the biggest current economic development topics in Indian country; to name a few: energy, e-commerce, tribal cannabis, start-ups, corporate supplier diversity, natural resources and federal contracting.
More than 4,000 attendees are registered for RES 2016 and the sold-out tradeshow, March 21-24 at the Mirage Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas. The summit’s magnitude is evident in its list of corporate sponsors alone. Among the dozens seeking branding and partnership opportunities within the profitable Native business community throughout the U.S. and global markets are Coca-Cola, AT&T, IBM, MGM Resorts International, the U.S. Department of Energy and KeyBank. The presenting sponsor is Diné Development Corporation and its subsidiaries: NOVA Corporation, DDC Construction Services and DDC IT Services.
“In 30 years, National RES has grown into a must-attend event for anyone who is doing, or wants to do, business in Indian country,” Davis has said.
“It’s going to take all of us to move Indian country forward. It’s going to take all of us to get us to where we need to be,” Davis told ICTMN. “…It’s been an honor to be a part of it.”
Attendees will benefit from high-caliber networking, teaming opportunities, business development sessions, RES Business Tradeshow and Expo, American Indian Artisan Market, RES Procurement, RES Business Matchmaking, Tribal Business Leaders Forum and more.
“Our Tradeshow is a really powerful component. And we’ve got over 50 sessions across an array of sectors and interests,” Davis said.
“The Senate Indian Affairs Committee will be on hand to give legislative updates and to engage Indian country business, while taking their feedback to D.C.,” Davis continued. “The [U.S.] Department of Energy has a tremendous presence. I think it’s just a powerful array of content and an ever-growing list of new sectors that we’re bringing attention to — one of those being marijuana and tribes’ ongoing exploration into that sector.”
Grand Opening Welcome Reception
Each year the opening reception inspires attendees and creates synergy. For Davis, culture and business go hand in hand. Davis said he always taken a “360 approach” to everything the National Center leads. “Experience and meaningfulness are a huge piece of that,” he said.
“In 2013 for first time I realized we could do more in terms of infusing our culture into our presentation, reminding folks that business is something that our ancestors and relatives have done throughout North America, Central America and South America,” Davis said. “We latched onto the idea around Cahokia, which is an economic epicenter right outside of present-day Saint Louis, Missouri.”
Since 2013, RES opening receptions have been inspired by Cahokia, one of the most advanced civilizations in ancient America. Natives inhabited Cahokia from about A.D. 700 to 1400. The Cahokia Mounds were more densely populated than London in AD 1250. “We really did some research into how that community was set up and understood that people got up and went to work every single day,” Davis said. “And it created self-sufficiency and sustainability. All of the things that we’re looking to foster in Indian country today — our ancestors did that. So that really served as a catalyst [for the Opening Ceremony theme]. I believe our National Reservation Economic Summit is a modern day version of Cahokia.”