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Spanning 575,000 acres, the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe’s (UMUT) lands are situated in southwest Colorado, southeast Utah, and northern New Mexico. The majority of UMUT’s 2,000 + tribal members live in Towaoc, the Tribe’s administrative and population center. Located two miles west of U.S. highway 491 and U.S. highway 160 in Montezuma County, Towaoc is comprised of single-family homes, housing complexes, tribal government structures, a recreation center, post office, and a handful of other amenities. In the last few decades, the Tribe has developed the land at the highway’s access points, building the Ute Mountain Casino, a campground, and the Travel Center, which serves truckers, tourists, and the community with basic necessities.
Between 2016 and 2018, the Planning Department facilitated a grant-funded project called the Rural Communities Development initiative through the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The project engaged youth and elders in the community to determine what they would like for the future of the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe. One of those wishes was to have a market in Towaoc to provide fresh produce as well as healthy frozen meals that are currently not readily available.
Bernadette Cuthair, Director of Planning & Development, is also currently serving as Interim Economic Development Specialist for the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe. Her personal responsibility includes overseeing multi-million dollar grants and contracts for as many as twenty (20) community development projects.
The Ute Mountain Ute Tribe’s goal of bringing a market to Towaoc is divided into three phases:
Pre-Development focus on site locations analysis, business plan refinement, fundraising, and store design and layout.
Construction serving as the owner’s representative through-out the construction process, including selection of general contractor, managing budgets and timeline, and guiding the construction process.
Operations assisting in the business development, branding, marketing and advertising, hiring and training of employees, and overall operational guidance.