The Northwoods Niijii Enterprise Community, Inc. based in Lac du Flambeau, was established in 1998 as part of the Empowerment Zones/Enterprise Communities program.
The program is a national partnership between federal, state and local governments and organizations. The Niijii Enterprise Community is comprised of the Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, the Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin and the Sokaogon Chippewa Community of Mole Lake. Together with local municipal governments and other organizations, the Enterprise Community was established to foster entrepreneurial ventures, job creation and educational opportunities. In addition, the organization also seeks to protect the northern Wisconsin environment, preserve Native American culture and traditions and meet the basic needs of those in poverty including clean water, housing and health care.
Since its inception, the Niijii Enterprise Community has served more than 20,000 individuals and 9,767 businesses in the Enterprise Community and surrounding area. The Community consists of approximately 335,000 square acres of mostly forest reservation land in Northern Wisconsin. The area has a population of 5,270 people. When the community was established, the average median family income ranged from $6,000 to $11,000 annually.
In the last nine years, the Enterprise Community has built nine new facilities and improved 11 others, as well as built or renovated 253 homes, and built or improved seven waste and wastewater systems, in addition to implementing 39 new programs in the areas of youth and business development.
Through the work of the organization, individual poverty rates have declined 34 percent, compared to an average increase of 8 percent across the state of Wisconsin. Family poverty levels inside the Enterprise Community have decreased by 28 percent and median family income has increased by 37 percent since the program’s inception.
According to the Community’s 2011 Annual Report the NiiJii Enterprise created 97 full-time jobs and 29 part-time jobs in 2011. The majority of those jobs came through the creation and expansion of small businesses.
In addition to job creation and retention, the Niijii Enterprise Community is also dedicated to addressing the social and economic needs of the community.
The Enterprise Community is currently coordinating mortgage programs to provide assistance with down payments and increase access to affordable housing for its community members. Additionally, the Enterprise Community is utilizing grant money to develop language and cultural preservation programs, launch environmental education and recycling programs, as well as youth leadership and school programs.