Oneida Nation Representative Ray Halbritter named the 2007 winner of the prestigious Crystal Ball Award.
Halbritter, who also serves as CEO of the Nation’s multiple enterprises, including Turning Stone Resort and Casino in Verona, was selected for the honor because of his vision and commitment to the economic health of the Oneida Nation and Central New York.
The Oneidas now employ nearly 5,000 people with an annual payroll of about $110 million, and are the third-largest employer in the 16 counties of Central New York. Since 1990, through its spending on payroll, outside vendors, construction and capital improvements, the Oneida Nation has invested some $2 billion in the regional economy.
The success of their enterprises has made possible a number of programs and benefits for Oneida members, including a health center and national health insurance, tuition assistance and other education incentives, social programs for elders, day care for children, language and culture programs for all ages, and an innovative home ownership program.
In addition, the Oneidas have a 20-year history of contributing in significant ways to neighboring communities and of charitable giving on a regional and national scale.
For the past two decades, since they first began to have the resources to do so, the Nation has shared its success in a variety of ways with its Central New York neighbors, in Indian Country, and nationally, as is dictated by their cultural heritage.
Halbritter has been a leader of the Oneida Nation since 1975 and has been in charge of its business development since 1990. Under his leadership, the Nation started a high-stakes bingo hall on its 32-acre reservation in the mid-1980s, then, after passage of the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, negotiated a gaming compact with New York State that allowed the Nation to open Turning Stone.
Turning Stone opened in 1993 as a modest casino with a few dozen table games, a coffee shop and a buffet restaurant. It was always envisioned as the economic vehicle that would help the Oneidas transform their own economy, while contributing to that of Central New York, as well. In fact, as the area continued a loss of manufacturing jobs, Turning Stone became a much more significant factor in the region’s employment base and in the tourism and marketing efforts for Central New York.
Over the past 13 years, Halbritter has guided the growth of Turning Stone into a world-class destination resort that includes more than a dozen restaurants, retail shops, two entertainment venues that attract national and international headliners, state-of-the-art meeting facilities, and more than 700 hotel rooms, including a luxury all-suites hotel, The Lodge at Turning Stone, which is AAA Four Diamond rated.
The Resort has three championship-quality golf courses by three of the top golf course designers in the world. Atunyote Golf Club, the Tom Fazio-designed course, served as the emergency host for the B.C. Open in July and will kick off the PGA TOUR’s Fall Series with the Turning Stone Resort Championship in September 2007.
While Turning Stone has been the cornerstone of the Nation’s economic development initiatives, drawing more than 4.5 million visitors a year, Halbritter also has guided a diversification plan to solidify and strengthen the Nation’s economic base. The Nation’s various enterprises include the SavOn chain of gas stations and convenience stores; a fishing lodge; Four Directions Media Inc., which comprises Indian Country Today, a high-definition audio-video studio, a recording company, an American Indian talent database, an HD video and animation production company; a historical production company; marinas; and an agriculture program that includes the second-largest Black Angus herd in the Northeast.