Choctaw Aim Higher

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The Choctaw this week hosted its 2nd Annual Technology Conference, designed to establish new business relationships and job opportunities for the tribe.

A featured speaker, Jim Barksdale, president of Barksdale Management Corporation, said what the tribe has done in economic development is unbelieveable.

"Within our lifetime, one generation, the Choctaw tribe has gone from 60% unemployment to now there are two jobs for every member of the tribe," said barksdale. "Now that's something."

There are indeed jobs for everyone who wants one. But the future may be even better. Tribal Chief Phillip Martin said the conference is another step in an effort to go from low tech to high tech manufacturing.

"This is a way to establish partnerships. We tell them what we have going and the things that we would like to do and this is the way you find partnerships and develop your economy," Martin said.

That economy has already developed to about 9,000 jobs in various businesses around the nation, including the 5,000 at two casinos in Neshoba County. The Choctaw operate businesses on the Gulf Coast, plus El Paso, Texas, and Chicago.

Martin said the tribe's success sends a message to tribal members.

"It's up to you how far you want to go," said Martin."Because we're building a resort, we want people around here to have a good income so that they can carve out a good living for themselves and be a lot more independent on themselves than what it has been in the past."