- Associated Press - Sunday, October 15, 2017

TAMA, Iowa (AP) - The Meskwaki Nation in Iowa is expanding its business interests from its casino and bingo hall into tobacco products and e-cigarettes.

Tribal leaders are looking to diversity their revenue so the tribe is less reliant on casino profits, the Des Moines Register reports .

Meskwaki Inc. will soon open a 30,000-square-foot factory and warehouse just off Highway 30, within walking distance of both the Meskwaki Bingo Casino Hotel and the Meskwaki Travel Plaza.

The facility will service Meskwaki’s growing family of companies, which includes 12 subsidiaries that operate businesses in retail, distribution, manufacturing and construction. On the retail side, Meskwaki sells Native American goods, including bright woven blankets as well as its own brand of hot sauce and coffee.

Officials say the jobs created by the new businesses will provide more opportunities beyond tribal government positions and jobs at the casino.

“We hope to provide a much broader array of choices for the next generation coming up,” said Meskwaki Inc. CEO Mark Hubble. “I think we’ll start to see a broad diversity of occupations rather than the limited opportunities in some form of government or gaming.”

The tribe has been in the tobacco business for years, selling both Native-made and commercial brands of cigarettes at its Tama travel plaza. It rolled out its own Renards brand of cigarettes and cigars in 2015.

The tribe owns a proprietary blend, but Hubble said its tobacco comes from the same North Carolina and Virginia tobacco fields as some of the nation’s largest cigarette makers.

Its tobacco products are manufactured out of state, but if demand grows enough, the tribe will look at bringing production to Iowa. To make that happen, the tribe will have to overcome a decline in the number of smokers.

That’s why Meskwaki is investing heavily in its line of vapor products. Most e-cigarettes contain nicotine, but not the carcinogenic tar and other chemicals found in traditional cigarettes.

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Information from: The Des Moines Register, https://www.desmoinesregister.com


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