Rocky Boy online company seen as economic development tool
Tim Leeds Havre Daily News [email protected]
The Chippewa Cree Tribe of Rocky Boy's Indian Reservation has started a new business in an effort to stimulate economic development. Dan Belcourt, attorney for the tribe, said during a conference call with the Havre Daily News Oct. 22 that last spring it entered the world of Internet loans with PDL Ventures, an online payday loan company. In the online loan process, people can fill out an application via the Internet, which includes supplying their bank account informat ion. I f approved, often in 24 hours or less, the loan is deposited in the bank account and the repayment usually with a hefty fee is withdrawn by the loan company on the applicant's next pay day. What the Tribe says it didn't know was that other online companies already were operating with the abbreviat i o n o f pay day loan in t h e i r n a m e . S eve r a l P D L Ventures are offering online loans and some of them don't have the best record in customer service. Numerous complaints have been filed that have led to 119 complaints eventually being attributed to the Rocky Boy business by the Bet ter Business Bureau. Neil Rosette, the tribe's executive administrative officer, said during a conference call Oct. 23 that he believes most of the complaints were filed against businesses other than the Tribe's especially since their business has only been in operation for about six months, and some of the complaints were filed more than a year ago. Rosette said the Tribe will work to resolve any problems in customer service and is assigning a full-time position the responsibility of answering those complaints. The Bet ter Bus ines s Bureau reported Thursday that of new complaints forwarded since October some were answered but others remained unanswered. Rosette added that the fledgling business is still going through startup and growing pains. “We found some glitches, and we are fixing them as we speak,” he said. Part of that was a systems failure Rosette said the computer server used by the company had crashed, and it took three weeks to get things running again. That crash also interrupted telephone service, he added. “We just got it running again,” Rosette said. None of the complaints received by the Bet ter Business Bureau were related to that server crash. He said the work processIng loan applications and providing customer service all is done at Rocky Boy. Other than leaving a voice mail Nov. 5 offering to submit a press release, Rosette has not returned calls asking for additional information made since the Oct. 23 conference call. During the Oct. 22 call, Belcourt and Rosette said specific information about the business was proprietary and could not be released to the press. Also during that call, Rosette said that focusing on the complaints seems to him to be taking the wrong approach. “It sounds like a negative thing when we, as a tribe, see it as a positive economic story,” he said. Rosette said that the business has done a large volume of loans and is putting the profits to good use on the reservation. Some of the money was used to give jobs to out-of-work youths on the reservation, and $90,000 is being invested in remodeling the upstairs of Northern Winz Casino on the reservation to be used as a call center, he said. He said the call center could be much more than just a place for PDL Ventures to operate. He said it could be a call center for a variety of businesses, such as for satellite television service. “Loans may not be what we settle on in the call center,” Belcourt said. Belcourt said that once that center is up and running, it could employ up to 100 people in the region, on and off Rocky Boy's Indian Reservation.