2021 Reservation Economic Summit recognizes Native businesses, enrepreneurs
JT Willie selected as summit's 40 under 40 recipient
LAS VEGAS, NV. — The National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development hosted the 35th Annual Reservation Economic Summit July 19-21 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
The summit is the largest and longest-running national American Indian business event in the nation. Many tribal governments, organizations, and entrepreneurs attended the summit for the high-caliber networking, winning teaming opportunities, business development sessions and one-on-one consulting.
Presentations from several tribal leaders took place July 21 including Navajo Nation Vice President Myron Lizer, the Confederated and Kootenia Tribes Councilwoman Shelly Fyant and Yurok Tribal Chairman Joseph James.
“This past year, Native businesses and entrepreneurs have faced difficulties and uncertain circumstances during the global public health pandemic. However, we joined together today to recognize our resiliency and reinvention throughout Indian Country,” he said. “We are overcoming, and we discovered innovative and adaptable ways to stay in business. As we continue to face the pandemic, I am confident that Native businesses and entrepreneurs will continue to grow, develop, thrive, and create many pathways to address economic development.”
During the event, Lizer also congratulated Navajo Nation Division of Economic Development Executive Director JT Willie, who attended virtually, for being selected as one of this year’s recipients of the “40 under 40” award for his outstanding work and dedication to the Navajo Nation.
JT Willie thanked his family for instilling hard work and public service values to receive the prestigious award. His parents are Thomasina and Jimmy Willie, and his grandparents are Tom Begay and the late Sallie Ann Begay. He is from Twin Lakes, New Mexico, and is Tábááhá and born for Táchííníí.
Willie said careers and jobs in economic development can be challenging because of the rural atmosphere and lack of essential infrastructure. He said learning about global economies is nothing in comparison to the Navajo Nation economy.
“Working endlessly to meet the economic needs and addressing the obstacles of Navajo small businesses and entrepreneurs throughout the pandemic has been my team’s priority,” Willie said. “Together, we relied on our Navajo values and discipline of adapting to change and resiliency to move forward. Also, as a small business owner, I understand the hardships of building and sustaining our businesses. Being in this field has taught me a lot, and I appreciate my mentors getting me to this point. In conclusion, thank you to my hardworking team at the Division of Economic Development.”
Information provided by the Navajo Nation