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Veteran Seneca Businessman Ross John To Lead New Development Commission

By Tony Farina

Ross John has a new outlook on reaching out to Senecas' neighbors.

"Sovereignty, our birthright, is not our defense; it is WHAT we defend! I don't fight for money or cigarettes or casinos. I fight for our right to live our lives and provide for our families and communities."~ John Kane

For some time now, most of the talk on the economic side of the ongoing gaming dispute between the state and the Seneca Nation has been about the loss of revenue by the three host cities (Niagara Falls, Buffalo, Salamanca) as a result of the Senecas withholding revenue payments under the 2002 compact.

But while the dispute is still unresolved, it looks like the Seneca Nation of Indians, under new President Barry Snyder, has decided to try and forge a new economic partnership with its neighbors, even as the arbitration process continues between the state and the Senecas to try and resolve the exclusivity issue.

Longtime Seneca businessman and community leader Ross John, has been appointed by President Snyder and accepted by the Tribal Council as the chairman of the Seneca Nation’s first-ever Economic Development Commission, seen by many as an important step in building a better economic relationship with regional stakeholders above and beyond the current dispute with Albany over gaming.

“We want people to understand we’re Western New York’s best chance for economic development,” John told the Reporter in an exclusive interview. “Seneca sovereignty is an asset for the entire region, and our job is to be out there and be active and available for a conversation with anybody and everybody.”

John is a respected community figure and previously served as co-chairman of the League of First Nations. He seems perfectly suited to the economic development role he is taking on at the request of President Snyder, and his business experience will certainly be of great value as he looks to help build economic bridges with stakeholders in the community, both public and private.

“This [the commission] is going to be an outreach to the region for all the Seneca Nation’s economic development,” said John Kane, host of “Let’s Talk Native” on KB 1520. Kane, a Mohawk, has been a strong voice on behalf of the Seneca Nation in the local media and firmly believes the new commission headed by John can play an important role in improving relationships across the region.

State Sen. George Maziarz’s Standing Committee on State-Native American Relation held a hearing on Monday (April 15), and Bryan Gonzales, representing the Seneca Nation, talked about the new commission that has been established by the nation.

Gonzales called the new commission “an economic generator for the region,” and said “we want to come to the table and work together,” echoing the sentiments of John and Kane in discussing the new venture.

The gaming dispute notwithstanding, the Senecas are among the region’s largest employers (4,400) would certainly seem to have much to offer in the development arena if people are willing to work together for the benefit of the entire region.

As Kane stated on his radio show Sunday night, the Senecas and the community will do best when working together as partners, and this region is badly in need of partnerships to end the years of political dysfunction that often is an impediment to economic growth.

For example, Niagara Falls has been going downhill for years, long before the gaming dispute issues, and maybe this new initiative by the Senecas is an opportunity to forge new development opportunities without Albany’s hand in the mix. That thinking would seem to apply to the entire region which is badly in need of new ideas, not necessarily designed by politicians in Albany or government authorities with patronage-rich payrolls that dole out their gifts with Albany strings attached.

We wish the Senecas good luck in their new outreach effort, and can only hope it is successful for all concerned, and can help the region develop new opportunities for jobs and business growth.




Niagara Falls Reporter - Publisher Frank Parlato Jr. www.niagarafallsreporter.com

Apr16, 2013