The Southern Ute Growth Fund hosted an in-person and virtual General Meeting for the tribal membership on Thursday, Sept. 15 at the Sky Ute Casino Resort Event Center to give an update on the Tribe’s state of finance and other business ventures in the 2021 fiscal year. The meeting also allowed for the tribal membership to ask questions about the Growth Fund operations and financials following the presentations to get a better sense of what was accomplished from the start of the COVID-19 Pandemic in 2020 to what is projected for the 2023 fiscal year.
The Southern Ute Tribal Council gave remarks to attendees and congratulated the Growth Fund on their continued success over the fiscal year.
“We’ve done very well,” Chairman Melvin J. Baker said. “There have been many challenges and a lot of credit goes to the Growth Fund, of course, for all the endeavors that they do. We always have to report back to our membership just to let them know exactly how things are going.”
The meeting was recorded in full and is expected to be posted online to the Tribal Member Experience portal in the coming weeks.
Growth Fund Overview
Growth Fund Executive Director, Shane Seibel gave an overview presentation on the state of affairs of the entity at a macro level while introducing members of the Growth Fund Management Committee.
The fiscal year of 2022 is one of the best years on record for the entity. Most of the Growth Fund departments and divisions are performing around the expected budget with a significant growth increase in revenue. Even with the fluctuating prices of oil, the Growth Fund continues to exceed fiscal projections as the entity prepares for transitioning to clean energy resources and greener business practices. Along with the success in business, the Growth Fund also reported success in the safety and training of employees. No incidents and injuries have been reported for over 800 days.
The Growth Fund is also projected to have a successful 2023 fiscal year as well with business ventures expected to continue in an upward trend. The Growth Fund hopes to continue to protect financial stability, continue to fund commitments, and examine new opportunities, while also protecting the health and safety of staff and community in the ongoing COVID-19 Pandemic.
The Growth Fund Mission
The Growth Fund overview also gave the membership a general idea as to how the Growth Fund operates in conjunction with the Permanent Fund and Executive Offices. According to their mission, the Growth Fund exists as the business arm of the Southern Ute Tribe and operates to grow the economic prosperity of the Tribe by managing the Tribe’s natural and business resources as needed.
“Without the business side of the Growth Fund, we wouldn’t be where we are today,” Tribal Member At-Large Growth Fund Management Committee member, Wendell Vigil said. “And we keep moving forward at a good steady pace. We aren’t ahead of the curve, but we are right there.”
The Growth Fund and its Management Committee take direction from the Southern Ute Tribal Council when making important decisions and ensuring the entity is moving in a prosperous direction. The role of the Executive Director plays a significant role as it aims to maximize tribal member equity by expanding and diversifying all the investments that the Growth Fund makes.
“We have to grow in other avenues that we see the potential,” Seibel explained. “We have to take a disciplined approach.”
One such avenue is a transition from the traditional oil and gas revenue to other clean energy resources. The Growth Fund wants to be leaders in energy transition to carbon neutrality through the introduction of the Coyote Clean Power Project. The project is designed to help methane and CO2 capture at an existing plant on the Southern Ute Reservation. The project is in its initial planning stages and was first introduced to the membership at the 2022 General Meeting in April.
The Southern Ute Financial Plan
Beginning earlier this year, the Southern Ute Indian Tribe began the process of revising the Southern Ute Financial Plan that was approved in 1999 by the Southern Ute Tribal Council and later revised in 2008. The Financial Plan has played a vital role in establishing and directing the Growth Fund and Permanent Fund, while also ensuring the Tribe holds themselves to a successful business model going forward.
According to Seibel, the Financial Plan helped create the Growth Funds purpose and structure which in turn helped define the Growth Funds lines of authority. It also helped establish the management team and their responsibilities as well as helping identify broad investment objectives and return expectations by helping provide guidelines for the entity.
“[Oil and gas production] was predicted to peak in the early 2000’s and expected to decline,” Growth Fund Finance Director, Darrell Owen explained. “We needed to have a plan to say, ‘these revenue streams are going to decline’ — the Growth Fund [and Red Willow] was just getting started. They were all tied to the same decline curve.” Owen further elaborated by saying that the success of the Financial Plan helped secure the Growth Fund and the Southern Ute Tribe to maintain stability in revenue after the 2000 decline and into the COVID-19 Pandemic 20 years later.
The Financial Plan is currently undergoing a revision process and will be updated with help from the consulting firm Riveron, tasked with aiding the Tribe in finalizing the updated plan later this year. The new Financial Plan model is expected to be proposed for approval by Tribal Council as early as October.