Local officials hope the economy is turning around as the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe distributed nearly $2.3 million to Isabella County and local communities Thursday for its most recent 2 percent allocation.
Tribe Public Relations Director Frank Cloutier said the figure is more than $929,000 stronger than what the tribe paid out at this point last year.
“I think that’s a very clear sign something very good is going on in mid-Michigan,” Cloutier said.
In total, the tribe allocated $1,487,735.14 in revenue to local government and $801,088.15 to local school districts.
Cloutier said the tribe’s allocation model promotes equality in the region and allows it to grow economically.
“Ours is a model that works because it reaches everyone … and that means everyone wins,” Cloutier said.
He said the ultimate goal with allocations is to leave mid-Michigan in a better spot in the future through investments in education and local projects.
“We’re looking diligently to become that destination place,” Cloutier said. “Instead of the gateway to the north, we want to be the stop.”
The largest recipients were Isabella County, the City of Mount Pleasant and Mount Pleasant Public Schools.
Isabella County’s funds, totaling just over $708,000, will go toward programs and services run by the Commission on Aging and its Environmental Education Program, among other projects.
The majority of Mount Pleasant’s $483,260 will go toward funding the Bay Area Narcotics Enforcement Team and the city’s Partners Empowering All Kids after-school program.
Vice Mayor Kathleen Ling said the allocations are crucial to moving the community out of tough economic times.
“Maybe we’re finally turning a corner,” Ling said. “The tribe has played a big role. Marching shoulder to shoulder has taken us through a difficult time.”
Mount Pleasant Public Schools Superintendent Michael Pung, whose school district received over $534,000 from the tribe to fund everything from field trips to new resources for schools, said the district’s schools would be behind with technology if not for the funds.
“I can assure you (the allocation) will be used for educating our children and working on diversity,” Pung said.
Cloutier called education central to the future of the area and its long-term economic health.
“We need to support education if we want our future to be brighter than our reality today,” Cloutier said.
Union Township Manager Brian Smith said the $125,000 his township received will be used for a road upgrade project on Broadway Road.
“We’ve spent a lot of time and money on upgrading our roads for the benefit of the community, and that wouldn’t be possible without the tribe,” Smith said.