Tribal company builds reputation for excellence

From the Coquille Tribal Newsletter K’wen ‘inish-ha, April 2021

Photo Caption: The Tribal One Professional Services team, socially distanced from left to right: Joseph Gonzales, Rosy Gulseth, Jodi Schwenk, Makayla Walker and Debbie Nye. Not pictured: team leader Maeora Mosieur.

By Anne Niblett, Newsletter Editor

A Coquille Tribal company helped hundreds of struggling artists – and built its own reputation for efficiency – when it managed a recent Oregon Arts Commission grant program.

“There were so many things about this particular contract that made it so nice,” said Stephen Mohorko, executive director of Tribal One Professional Services.

“First of all, we have a great relationship with the State of Oregon and the OAC now. They are thrilled with our work. They were just blown away by the speed and professionalism we used in getting the money out to these artists.”

TOPS is one of several Tribal One companies that make up the Coquille Tribe’s Mith-ih-kwuh Economic Development Corp. Mohorko expects his team’s good work on the grant program to pay off in future opportunities for the expanding venture.

“This has really increased the visibility of T1 Services in the state of Oregon,” he said. “As a business developer, I take all these experiences, these performance examples and leverage them across the country … This will be a growth area for us: our expertise in grant management.”

In the long run, success for any Tribal One company means revenue for programs that benefit tribal members.

The opportunity to work with the Oregon Arts Commission arose shortly after TOPS finished overseeing the tribe’s own COVID-19 relief grants for employees.

“Artists were falling below the radar for COVID relief,” Mohorko said. “The OAC didn’t have the capacity to man-age this program beyond the selection process, so they put out a proposal for a fiscal agent.”

TOPS put in a proposal and was selected to oversee grant distribution.

“Essentially, the goal here was to get out these funds as quickly as possible,” Mohorko said. “There was a real sense of urgency. Many of the artists who received the awards were up against a wall, so it was imperative that we get it out fast.”

The OAC sent TOPS a spreadsheet with information on the artists, and the team got to work.

“The first thing we did was find out where information was inaccurate. For instance, there were ZIP codes missing, there were addresses missing. So we cleaned the data before we started sending checks out, so that there wouldn’t be any delays once the checks were gone.”

The TOPS team set up a separate email account for the program. It received more than 3,000 emails in the first month.

One of the biggest challenges was the lack of a uniform way to approach the payments. Some grantees were individuals. Some were businesses. Not everyone had direct deposit.

“One artist lost everything in the fires last summer,” Mohorko said. Everything had to be mailed to her.

Working long days and weekends, TOPS was able to distribute the checks a month early.

More than 1,000 individuals and small businesses applied for the grants. OAC and TOPS delivered 648 grants ranging from $1,000 to $5,000 each.

Grantees were especially thankful for the tribal connection.

“We watched the documentary about the Coquille Tribe,” one artist said, “and now many documentaries about the native people in our region, and we are just totally impressed by the strength, endurance, creativity and history of the Coquille Tribe, as well as the Confederated Tribes of the Grande Ronde. I am especially honored that my OAC grant will be handled by T1 Services.”

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