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Cypress Explores Enterprise Zone Opportunities

By Michael James

BIG CYPRESS - Tribal President Mitchell Cypress recently provided the opportunity for two governments to get to know each other a little better when he invited Janet Taylor, Chairman of the Hendry County Commissioners on a whirlwind tour of some of the major attractions at Big Cypress Reservation.

Cypress said that to his knowledge, the Commissioners have never taken more than a casual interest in what Big Cypress is all about despite the fact that Tribe has a $500,000 impact each month to the Hendry County economy.

"That's in paychecks alone," said Cypress. The overall impact of the Seminole Tribe is much higher when the value of goods purchased on behalf of the Corporation, Board, Council and private citizens is added.

To Cypress and others it is a mystery why an economic relationship hasn't been cultivated with Hendry County until now. Cypress's interest in the community at large is well known.

Cypress, who has an abiding respect for all people who overcome seemingly impossible odds, first took notice of Taylor around 1978. That's when Taylor, a black single parent, participated in the CETA program.

The program, funded by the federal government, provided money to employers so that they could hire economically challenged people. Taylor got her chance with the Clewiston Police Department.

She worked her way through the ranks and in 1994 became a Hendry County Commissioner. She has held the top job as Chairman for two years. Throughout the years, Taylor managed to raise her own four children plus five others.

Cypress began noticing Taylor when stories about her began to circulate in the local papers. One particular story that inspired recollection from Cypress was when Taylor apprehended a pair of bank robbers in 1981. Over and over Cypress kept running into stories about Taylor, but they didn't meet until the Swamp Cabbage Festival in LaBelle earlier this year.

"That's when we finally got to talk," said Cypress. Cypress invited her to the reservation to explore economic opportunities for the community.

The meeting focused around the subject of an already established economic enterprise zone. The zone includes the communities of Clewiston, Immokalee, and Big Cypress. The idea of economic enterprise zones was established to provide government money for enterprise in areas whose economies are limited either because of lack of industry, seasonal variations, or depressed conditions.

Taylor's journey to Big Cypress was a quest for ideas as well as one of knowledge about the Seminole people.

"The money is there, we want input from the Tribe for inclusion in proposals for community improvement," Taylor, who has already spearheaded a project to enhance the civic center in Clewiston, said. "We want to sit down with the Seminole Tribe and see how we can compliment each other."

Taylor was amazed to learn about the Seminole culture from Cypress. She was given the grand tour, which included a swamp buggy ride, an airboat ride, and a tour of the museum.

"I am amazed at what is in this County," said Taylor. She looks forward to a strong relationship with the Seminole Tribe of Florida, as partner in needs development within the enterprise zone.

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