Zalneraitis steps in as Tribe’s new economic development manager

Photo Credit: Jeremy Wade Shockley | The Southern Ute Drum

Roger Zalneraitis is the new economic development manager for the Southern Ute Indian Tribe’s Permanent Fund.

The position was approved by the Southern Ute Tribal Council in 2018, and is under the Tribe’s Director of Strategic Planning, Eric Thayer. The position is intended to create and develop new economic development opportunities for the Southern Ute Indian Tribe under the Tribe’s Permanent Fund.

“Our overall goal is to provide quality job opportunities for tribal members,” Zalneraitis emphasized.

David Eppich, the Tribe’s former economic development manager was responsible for creating the Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) document, now Zalneraitis will focus on implementing it.

“[The Tribe] is still looking for quality employment opportunities and diversification beyond natural gas,” Zalneraitis stated.

“Both my role, and Loretta Valasquez’s roles come out of the CEDS,” Zalneraitis said. “Loretta is small business development; our roles are complimentary.” She has the entrepreneurial perspective, Zalneraitis explained, while my role is more focused on diversifying the local economy, which is tied directly to regional economies.

“I can help tribal members to expand beyond the small business role. Create contracting opportunities with government agencies.” For instance,

“Can we bring more solar opportunities to the reservation? Could a tribal member start a business that provided solar services?”

“We are part of this larger region and need to work together,” Zalneraitis said. “How do we make it more attractive to do business here?”

Three different federal incentives exist within the reservation: Enterprise Zones, which offer tax credits at the state level. Hub Zones, which help businesses contract with government agencies; these cover the entire Southern Ute Indian Reservation. Lastly, Opportunity Zones, which provide investment focused incentives for building real estate infrastructure or direct business investment.

These incentives should make regional partnerships and investments more attractive, while also creating economic opportunities within the Southern Ute Reservation.

Zalneraitis served eight years as the director for the La Plata County Economic Development Alliance; previous to that, he worked in Lawrence, Kan. as the city’s economic development planner. Additionally, Zalneraitis holds a bachelor’s degree in economics, with a master’s in urban planning.


Contact Roger Zalneraitis at the Finance Office in the LCB Bldg. with inquiries. Email: Phone: 970.563.2463


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