Dozens of local and state business leaders, entrepreneurs, small business owners converged and exchanged ideas at the second annual Lumbee Nation Economic Summit on Thursday.
Breakout sessions focused on construction, environment, health care, cybersecurity, and agribusiness sectors. There were also workshops detailing the importance of expanding broadband and digital capacity to allow startup businesses a chance to compete in the global market.
"The Summit opened to an excited group of attendees at the social on Wednesday night,” said Tribal Administrator Freda Porter.
“Folks were afforded the opportunity to visit the exhibits housed in the Southeast American Indian Museum, and they were able to hear an encouraging message from Chairman Harvey Godwin and Chancellor Robin Cummings.”
It also provided an opportunity for Gov. Roy Cooper, who dropped in, to announce he will help lead the fight for full federal recognition for the Lumbee tribe.
“Needless to say, the speech delivered by Gov. Roy Cooper at the opening session today was powerful, heartfelt, and truly set the tone for the rest of the day,” Porter said.
“We have received great reviews from people and feel we were able to deliver sessions that will positively impact economic development opportunities in our region.”
Traditional Indian food sampling, a trade show and an American-Indian Artisan Market were also part of the event.
The two-day event was held at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke and co-hosted by the Lumbee Tribe, the North Carolina Military Business Center, Sen. Richard Burr, and UNCP.
The theme of the summit was “Recovery to Prosperity” referencing the destruction to businesses from Hurricane Matthew. Organizers spoke about opportunities to restore and grow local businesses affected by the storm.
In his welcoming remarks, Governor Roy Cooper commended event organizers for providing networking, learning and economic development opportunities.
These types of events help develop a stronger, well-trained work force which Cooper says is always a focal point when he is recruiting industries.
“That is the first question they ask, do you have a well-trained workforce,” Cooper said.
U.S. Air Force Lieutenant Colonel (retired) René White is Lumbee and President of the Native American Church of Virginiathese Healthy Cooking and Eating demos
“This economic summit is a wonderful idea,” he said. “I want to commend you for pulling these resources together. We must play to our strengths in order to attract jobs.”
“I want a North Carolina population that is better educated, that is healthier, and they have more money in their pockets and the opportunity to live a more abundant and purposeful life.”
Federal recognition for the Lumbee Tribe, Cooper said, would also boost the local and regional economy. The governor announced his plans to support the tribe gain full recognition. Cooper said he has requested North Carolina’s 13-member congressional delegation to stand together in support of this effort.
Chancellor Robin Gary Cummings said he appreciates Gov. Cooper’s support and he is pleased the governor made the announcement on the campus of UNCP.
“The Governor’s announcement advances a vital bi-partisan effort which includes strong support from Senator Burr and Congressman Pittenger,” Cummings said.
“Recognition is long overdue and would have a transformative effect not only on the Lumbee People but our entire region.”
Tribal Chairman Harvey Godwin Jr. agreed, saying federal recognition is the crowning jewel that will take the Lumbee Tribe to prosperity.
“It will provide economic development, not just for the Lumbee people but the whole region and state of North Carolina,” Godwin said.
“Economic development, job creation, workforce training, and developing a strong work ethic … that’s what this summit is about.”
Other guest speakers included, Lynn Douthett, district director of the U.S. Small Business Administration’s North Carolina District Office; Ret. Lt. Col. Scott Dorney, executive director of the N.C. Military Business Center; Victor Gavin, deputy assistant secretary of the Navy for Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Information Operations and Space; Tim Michels, president of Energy Resources Group; Kyle Winder, president of N.C. Veterans Business Association; and Annette Stevenson, supplier diversity manager of the SAS Institute.
Rene Locklear White and her husband, Chris, led a “Food is Medicine” demonstration in between the breakout sessions. They oversee the Sanctuary on the Trail, Inc. Independent Native American Church of Virginia. The couple gave away fresh fruits and fish and spoke about the importance of a healthy diet.
“The food we are eating isn’t real food,” Chris White said. “They add fertilizer, pesticides and poisons to the foods we eat. We are here reminding folks of the items that are good to eat, like salmon.”
The Whites hope local entrepreneur will consider opening a restaurant that serves strictly natural foods.