http://www.cherokeephoenix.orgA map of the United States showing Section 184 home loan approvals in each state as of March 31, 2016, the most recent map the Housing and Urban Development has. In Oklahoma, nearly 15,000 home loans were fully approved. HOUSING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT
A map of the United States showing Section 184 home loan approvals in each state as of March 31, 2016, the most recent map the Housing and Urban Development has. In Oklahoma, nearly 15,000 home loans were fully approved. HOUSING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT

HUD loan program enables Native homeownership

BY BRITTNEY BENNETT
Reporter – @cp_bbennett
10/30/2017 08:00 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Many Native Americans may qualify for home loans via a U.S. Housing and Urban Development program that’s existed for more than two decades. The Section 184 Indian Home Loan Guarantee Program has flexible underwriting, isn’t credit-score based and is Native-specific.

Congress established it in 1992 to facilitate homeownership in Indian Country, and some of its benefits include low down payments and no private mortgage insurance.

“I just think it’s a great program, and I bought my own house doing this,” Angi Hayes, a loan originator for 1st Tribal Lending in Tahlequah, said. “I just think it’s so wonderful, (a) program that more people should be aware of and definitely the tribes should be aware of.”

She said her office is one branch of a nationwide company specializing in 184 loans.

“Where I work, we’re probably the most experienced nationwide, meaning that we do more (184 loans) than probably any other lender,” Hayes said. “There’s a lot of reasons that it’s probably better than FHA (Federal Housing Administration), USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture) or conventional loan. A lot of times it’s cheaper up front. For instance, FHA is going to charge you 3.5 percent down. We charge 2.25 percent.”

Hayes said in Oklahoma the maximum loan she can currently offer is $271,050. “The borrower is bringing in that other 2.25 percent, so the $271,050 is not the largest purchase price you can have, it’s just the largest loan amount I can do.”

Hayes said there is also no income limit to the loan.

“That’s probably the biggest misconception with the 184 loan, that usually being involved with your tribe or with status as Native American, they usually tend to be a low or moderate-income situation,” she said. “The beautiful thing about the 184 is that it is not low-income and it is not just for first-time homebuyers.”

Hayes said while HUD doesn’t require a particular credit score to qualify, she needs a credit report to determine an applicant’s debt-to-income ratio. She also needs pay stubs, tax and bank statements and at least two forms of credit with 12 months worth of following.

“I will tell folks I’m not a credit counselor, but because of the way we do our approvals, when I pull credit I’m looking at the meat of the report,” she said. “Basically, you add your income and the debt on your credit report and you add it to the proposed house payment. Those two things together cannot be more than 41 percent of your total gross income. That’s how I determine how much you’re approved for.”

Hayes said for those with past financial or credit issues, the 184 loan could be the best option.

“I’m looking for no late payments in the last 12 months,” she said. “Judgments, you have to be two years out from the time it was filed and paid. We want no collections with balances unless you have proof that you have paid at least 12 months on it. If you want to look at it common sense, what I tell folks is that we don’t want to hold your bad history against you.”

The 184 loan also has a low down payment requirement of 2.25 percent for loans more than $50,000 and 1.25 percent for loans less than $50,000 and charges .25 percent annually for private mortgage insurance. Once the loan value reaches 78 percent, the insurance can be dropped. The buyer also pays a single, 1.5 percent loan fee, which can be paid in cash but is usually added into the loan amount.

Hayes said she’s happy to help build financial plans with applicants depending on their needs.

“If I have somebody walk in, I first want to find out what their goals are,” she said. “If the borrowers want to apply themselves, I’m going to give them the tools that they need to know when they’re ready to purchase. If they just want to do a straight purchase, I highly advise people to get pre-approved before they start looking at property, simply because they may be looking at something that is way over or way under their budget.”

The loan can also be used to refinance an existing home mortgage, Shay Smith, director of the tribe's Small Business Assistance Center, said.

Another attraction is that it can be combined into the tribe’s Mortgage Assistance Program for home purchases. The MAP helps citizens prepare for homeownership with individualized credit coaching and classroom training and provides down payment assistance ranging from $10,000 to $20,000 for first time homebuyers. However, MAP applicants must meet income guidelines, be first-time homebuyers, complete the necessary paperwork and applications and complete the homebuyer’s training classes.

How Section 184 Works

The Office of Loan Guarantee within HUD’s Office of Native American Programs guarantees the Section 184 home mortgage loans made to Native borrowers. The loan guarantee assures the lender that its investment will be repaid in full in the event of foreclosure.

The borrower applies for the Section 184 loan with a participating lender, and works with the tribe and Bureau of Indian Affairs if leasing tribal land. The lender then evaluates the necessary loan documentation and submits the loan for approval to HUD’s Office of Loan Guarantee.

The loan is limited to single-family housing (1-4 units), and fixed-rate loans for 30 years of less. Neither adjustable rate mortgages (ARMs) nor commercial buildings are eligible for Section 184 loans. Maximum loan limits vary by county.

Eligible Borrowers

• American Indians or Alaska Natives who are citizens of a federally recognized tribe

• Federally recognized Indian tribes

• Tribally designated housing entities

• Indian Housing Authorities

Loans must be made in an eligible area. The program has grown to include eligible areas beyond tribal trust land.

Mortgage Assistance Program income guidelines:

Family Size: Maximum Income

1 – $38,080

2 – $43,520

3 – $48,960

4 – $54,400

5 – $58,752

6 – $63,104

7 – $67,456

8 – $71,808
About the Author
Brittney Bennett is from Colcord, Oklahoma, and a citizen of the United Keetoowah Band.  She is a 2011 Gates Millennium Scholarship recipient and graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and summa cum laude honors.
 
While in college, Brittney became involved with the Native American Journalists Association and was an inaugural NAJA student fellow in 2014. Continued mentorship from NAJA members and the willingness to give Natives a voice led her to accept a multimedia internship with the Cherokee Phoenix after college.  
 
She left the Cherokee Phoenix in early 2016 before being selected as a Knight-CUNYJ Fellow in New York City later that same year. During the fellowship, she received training from industry professionals with The New York Times and instructors at the City University of New York. As part of the program, she completed a social media internship with USA Today’s editorial department.
 
Now that Brittney has made her way back to the Cherokee Phoenix, she hopes to use the experience gained from her travels to benefit Indian Country and the Cherokee people.
brittney-bennett@cherokee.org • 918-453-5560
Brittney Bennett is from Colcord, Oklahoma, and a citizen of the United Keetoowah Band. She is a 2011 Gates Millennium Scholarship recipient and graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and summa cum laude honors. While in college, Brittney became involved with the Native American Journalists Association and was an inaugural NAJA student fellow in 2014. Continued mentorship from NAJA members and the willingness to give Natives a voice led her to accept a multimedia internship with the Cherokee Phoenix after college. She left the Cherokee Phoenix in early 2016 before being selected as a Knight-CUNYJ Fellow in New York City later that same year. During the fellowship, she received training from industry professionals with The New York Times and instructors at the City University of New York. As part of the program, she completed a social media internship with USA Today’s editorial department. Now that Brittney has made her way back to the Cherokee Phoenix, she hopes to use the experience gained from her travels to benefit Indian Country and the Cherokee people.

Money

BY STAFF REPORTS
01/18/2018 04:00 PM
TULSA – Cherokee Nation Technology Solutions is one of six companies awarded a $249 million indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contract supporting research activities at four Army medical agencies during the next 10 years. “We are proud to support the Army and to serve an integral role in maintaining and promoting the health and well-being of our service members and their families,” John Hansen, CNTS operations general manager, said. “This award builds on our existing relationship with the Department of Defense and our growing reputation as a premier provider in the field of medical research.” Officials said CNTS will work to preserve and advance the health and well-being of soldiers and military retirees, their families and Army civilian employees. The four participating agencies — the U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research, the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Chemical Defense, the U.S. Army Public Health Center and the Extremity Trauma and Amputation Center of Excellence — can award task orders through the contract. CNTS will have an opportunity to provide biomedical research and surveillance, information management, and business operations and information technology activities in support of burn, trauma and combat casualty care and rehabilitation, chemical warfare mitigation and public health services. For more information on CNTS’ medical research support, email <a href="mailto: dawn.munoz@cn-bus.com">dawn.munoz@cn-bus.com</a>. CNTS, formed in 2008, provides technical support services and project support personnel to its defense and civilian agency partners. The company provides a tailored management approach for complex government programs and disciplines, including information technology, science, engineering, construction, research and development, facilities management, program management, and mission support. CNTS is headquartered in Tulsa and is part of the Cherokee Nation Businesses family of companies. For more information, visit <a href="http://www.cherokee-cnts.com" target="_blank">www.cherokee-cnts.com</a>.
BY KENLEA HENSON
Reporter
01/12/2018 08:15 AM
STILWELL – January 2018 marked one year in business for two brothers with a dream to start a clothing brand that expresses their love for the outdoors and represents their roots. Cody Killer, 26, and Dakota St. Pierre, 19, named their brand Baron Fork Outfitters. The Cherokee Nation citizens and brothers grew up in Stilwell and appreciate being outdoors and engaging in outdoor activities. But it was spending time on Baron Fork Creek that inspired the brand’s name. “It brings back memories of summers from our childhood we spent with family fishing and swimming in the Baron Fork Creek. It was a big part of our childhood to go and spend family time at there,” Killer said. “And when Dakota presented the name to me I thought this was a pretty sweet name, a name that people from around here would recognize. And for the people that don’t, it sounds like a pretty cool name.” The idea of starting a T-shirt brand developed more than a year before they launched the company in 2017. Killer said getting the name really got the “ball rolling.” The goal was to create a brand that captures northeast Oklahoma’s beauty as well as the area’s significance to which locals could identify. “A lot of this is about local recognition. Obviously starting out we aren’t expecting to go big, so we weren’t worrying about other people buying it out of (Adair) county. We really wanted to build it up for the locals,” St. Pierre said. They designed their first T-shirt after the place that inspired the brand, with a hint of “humor.” “We wanted our first design to be our signature design, which has the Baron Fork Creek with the old railroad bridge above it. But we also added mountains in the background. A lot of people kind of pointed it out, but we did it as a joke because almost everyone around this area either lives on or near a mountain like Rocky Mountain, Spade Mountain, Killer Mountain, Jackson Mountain. So the mountains represent that,” Killer said. With name and design in place, printing the shirts was next. But buying equipment and materials to print their shirts wasn’t feasible for the young entrepreneurs, so after saving money they used a relative’s printing business in Tulsa. However, the brand didn’t take off until its public debut at Stilwell’s annual Strawberry Festival in May. The brothers offered one design in four colors as a test run and sold about 140 shirts. In a short time, Baron Fork Outfitters went from offering one design to offering 10. The most popular is the “yona” design, which means bear in Cherokee. St. Pierre said adding Cherokee elements to designs is another way they represent their background. “We wanted to be able to express our Cherokee heritage through the business because that’s a big part of who we are and the area we grew up in.” In addition to offering T-shirt designs, Baron Fork Outfitters offers beanies, hats, tank tops, long- and short-sleeve shirts and items such as campfire mugs and cups. “Realistically everything we make from this we turn right around and put it back into new stuff because it hasn’t been about making a profit but more about expanding and making the best products possibly and more affordable for everyone,” Killer said. Along with receiving positive feedback from locals, Baron Fork Outfitters is grabbing attention beyond the area. “I go to school at OU (University of Oklahoma) and people are like ‘whoa what’s that shirt? I want to buy it.’ And even through our Etsy page we have received orders from other states. So with the popularity we are gaining we can expand into other markets and offer more outdoor designs as a whole, but still be under the same name that started it all,” St. Pierre said. Killer said they are going to introduce more clothing items and designs this year, some featuring collaborations with local artists Hilary Hume and Daylon Diver. “A big part of what we are trying to do is support other locals, too. So coming up with a design and asking artists to draw the artwork for our shirts is a way to promote them and get their name out there too,” he said. “Hilary has been working on two designs. She completed one and is going to represent an area of Oklahoma (where) a lot of people will know what it means. So we are really excited.” Although Baron Fork Outfitters doesn’t have an official store the brothers sell their products from a Stilwell tax office, but want to offer products to local stores. Eventually they hope to own a Baron Fork Outfitters store equipped with their clothing and supplies. “It was everything we hoped for and more. As with any business, we, of course, are looking to expand, but we could not be happier with where we are today,” Killer said.
BY STAFF REPORTS
01/04/2018 08:15 AM
PRYOR, Okla. – Cherokee Nation Red Wing recently earned Nadcap accreditation and Supplier Merit Status by demonstrating an ongoing commitment to aerospace quality, as well as satisfying customer requirements and industry specifications. “This marks Cherokee Nation Red Wing’s third consecutive year earning the Nadcap Electronics accreditation, and this year we achieved the added recognition of Supplier Merit status,” Adam Due, Cherokee Nation Businesses’ engineering and manufacturing division director of quality assurance, said. “The CNRW team is committed to exceeding customer expectations, and these well-earned accomplishments are proof of that continued commitment and hard work.” Nadcap is an industry-managed assessment approach that brings together technical experts from both industry and government to establish requirements for accreditation, to accredit suppliers and to define operational program requirements. “Achieving Nadcap accreditation is not easy; it is one of the ways in which the aerospace industry identifies those who excel at manufacturing quality product through superior special processes. Companies such as Cherokee Nation Red Wing work hard to obtain this status, and they should be justifiably proud of it,” Joe Pinto, Performance Review Institute executive vice president and chief operating officer, said. “PRI is proud to support continual improvement in the aerospace industry by helping companies such as Cherokee Nation Red Wing be successful, and we look forward to continuing to assist the industry moving forward.” More than 5,000 Nadcap audits are conducted annually around the world. Industry experts, whose role is also to evaluate each audit for compliance, determine the audit. Red Wing was formed in 2009 to provide quality employment opportunities for CN citizens within an organization that supports today’s warfighter through innovative and quality solutions with a focus on aviation and weapon systems life cycle support management, critical sustainment, reset and repair services. For more information, visit <a href="http://www.cherokeenationredwing.com" target="_blank">http://www.cherokeenationredwing.com</a>.
BY LINDSEY BARK
Reporter
12/19/2017 08:30 AM
TULSA, Okla. – Cherokee Nation citizen Chuck Dixon found a way to turn his passion for vertical flight into a helicopter tour business called Tulsa County Helicopters. Born in Wichita, Kansas, Dixon was introduced to flying when his father worked as an accountant for the Cessna Aircraft Company. “From a young age I’ve always had a fascination with aviation. It started out with airplanes. I thought I wanted to be an airplane pilot. What little boy doesn’t think about being an airplane pilot?” Dixon said. When he got older, Dixon took flying lessons in a Cessna 150 airplane, but it didn’t give him the satisfaction of flying he wanted. By happenstance, he saw a helicopter land and take off from a convenience store parking lot, and it caught his interest. He began taking lessons in vertical aviation in 2006 at Silver State Helicopters, which operated at the Tulsa International Airport. “So I went and signed up there and decided to go to school. I basically took out a $70,000 student loan to go from zero hours in a helicopter all the way to a certified flight instructor,” he said. From there, he and a pilot friend looked for ways to increase their flight times and potentially create a business. “We actually started out as two friends that were just renting helicopters and trying to find a way to make some money with it so that we could further our flight career. We were young pilots and we didn’t have a whole lot of flight time. Flight time is very expensive in helicopters, so the best option for us was just try to find a way that paid for it rather than us taking money out our pocket to buy our own flight time,” Dixon said. They began by renting a helicopter, setting up at different events and offering rides for $35 a person. From there, they sought more and more avenues for business. Operating Robinson R44 helicopters, they began offering utilitarian tours such as birthday/anniversary/marriage proposal flights, Tulsa metro tours, sweetheart tours for Valentine’s Day, Christmas Light tours. They also work events such as Easter egg drops, balloon festivals, Fourth of July events and the Tulsa State Fair. Dixon said they also added Federal Aviation Administration 135 flights, known as air charter flights or taking people from airport to airport or other locations. “Now we can take people out to the Hard Rock Casino and drop them off there, or out to Molly’s Landing in Catoosa and let them eat dinner. We can take them to Kansas City or Dallas or wherever they want to go,” he said. Aside from tours, Dixon’s business offers helicopter flight instruction and conducts power line and pipeline inspections for companies such as Oklahoma Gas and Electric. Tulsa County Helicopters operates out of the Christiansen Jet Center where Dixon leases hangar and office space. He said his business is unique in that there was no business model for him to follow. “I’ve owned some other businesses in the past (such as) a car auction and a landscape company, and nothing compares to this as far as the business model for it because a lot of it we’ve had to make up as we go as we saw what would work and what avenues wouldn’t work.” Dixon said he’s seen great reviews about his business on social media and other websites. He said his primary goal is safety and to give the customer “the best possible aviation experience they’ve ever had in their life.” “When they get off that helicopter we want to see them smiling,” he said. “Ninety percent of the people that go for a flight have never been on a helicopter before in their life. So you’re the person that gets to introduce them to vertical flight. That was what gave us good feeling about what we did. So that’s why we like to go out and do those things,” he said. Tulsa County Helicopters is located at 200 Lear Jet Lane. For more information, visit <a href="http://www.tulsaheli.com" target="_blank">www.tulsaheli.com</a>, Tulsa County Helicopters on Facebook or call 918-948-3579.
BY TRAVIS SNELL
Assistant Editor – @cp_tsnell
12/18/2017 09:00 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – It’s 2018, and the new year means tax season. And the Cherokee Nation will once again help individuals within its 14-county jurisdiction with tax preparation through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance service. Cora Lathrop, CN mortgage loan officer and VITA coordinator, said each year the tribe works with the Internal Revenue Service to train volunteers how to provide free, basic, income tax return preparation for low-to-moderate income taxpayers. She said the tribe generally offers aid to all people, not just its citizens, who annually make $60,000 or less and need assistance preparing tax returns. “This is an IRS program. Cherokee Nation partners with IRS to offer free assistance because we want to help community members save the exorbitant fees charged by businesses,” Lathrop said. “Many (businesses) charge between $50 and $400 for simple forms that VITA sites can prepare. This program is designed to help lower-income people save tax preparation fees.” The tribe’s VITA service is expected to run from Feb. 5 to April 12. No appointments will be made before Jan. 15. The VITA locations will be in Tahlequah, Stilwell, Claremore, Sallisaw, Salina, Westville, Catoosa, Jay, Muskogee, Vinita, Ochelata, Nowata and Pryor. “VITA sites are generally located at community and neighborhood centers, libraries and other convenient locations,” Lathrop said. All locations are by appointment only excluding the Tahlequah and Westville locations, which takes walk-in filers. When filing this year, Lathrop said the Affordable Care Act, known as ObamaCare, would play a part in people’s 2017 tax returns. “You will need to answer if everyone in your household had insurance during 2017. Each individual has to have insurance, adult and child or be eligible for an exemption,” Lathrop said. She said volunteers not only prepare and file tax returns but they also inform taxpayers about special tax credits for which they may qualify such as the Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit. According to IRS.gov, the 2017 EITC’s maximum adjusted gross income with three or more qualifying children is $48,340 ($53,930 if married filing joint) with the maximum credit at $6,318. Lathrop also said tax returns are filed electronically, which allows refunds to be deposited into taxpayers’ accounts within 10 days if using direct deposits. “The IRS has announced that any return claiming Earned Income Credit will not receive tax refunds before Feb. 15. The IRS is working hard to reduce tax fraud. Some refunds can take up to 21 days while the IRS is double-checking returns. Returns claiming Earned Income Credit and the additional Child Tax Credit will be affected,” she added. “You can use the Where’s My Refund? tool and the IRS2Go phone app to check the status of your refund.” Individuals can also prepare and file their own federal and state taxes for free online if their respective incomes are under $64,000 at <a href="http://www.freemytaxes.com" target="_blank">www.freemytaxes.com</a>. For more information, call 918-453-5536. To find a VITA site anywhere in the United States, call toll free 1-800-906-9887 or visit <a href="http://irs.treasury.gov/freetaxprep/" target="_blank">http://irs.treasury.gov/freetaxprep/</a>. <strong>What You Need To Bring</strong> Proof of Identification (photo ID) Social Security Cards for you, spouse and dependents Wage and earning statements (form W2, W-2G, 1099-R, 1099-Misc) from all employers Interest and dividend statements from banks (form 1099) All Forms 1095, Health Insurance Statements (forms 1095A, 1095B, 1095C) Copy of previous year tax return Proof of bank account routing and account numbers for direct deposit such as blank check If Married Filing Jointly, both spouses need to be present Total paid to Daycare Provider with Tax ID number If itemize on Schedule A, statements of expense from Charities, Mortgage Lenders, Property Tax, Medical expenses. <strong>VITA Locations and Information</strong> Tahlequah: O-Si-Yo Room, 17695 S. Muskogee Ave., 918-453-5536 Open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Monday and Tuesday by appointment and walk-in Pryor: Career Services, 2945 Hwy 69A, 918-453-5000, ext. 5972 Open from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Thursday Westville: Westville Public Library, 116 N. Williams Open for walk-in only from 9 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Feb. 22 and March 8 and 29 Stilwell: Wilma Mankiller Clinic, Hwy 51 East, 918-453-5536 Open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Thursday Sallisaw: Housing Authority, 2260 W. Cherokee, 918-774-0770, ext. 221 and 222 Open from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Tuesday and Wednesday Catoosa: Housing Authority, 310 Chief Stand Watie, 918-342-2607 Open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Tuesday Claremore: Housing Authority, 23205 S. Highway 66, 918-342-6807 Open from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Monday and from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Thursday Jay: Housing Authority, 1300 W. Cherokee, 918-253-4078 Open from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Tuesday and Wednesday Salina: CN Food Distribution Site, 904 Owen Walters Blvd., 918-207-3939 Open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Thursday Muskogee: Three Rivers Health Clinic, 1001 S. 41 St. E., 918-453-5536 Open from 9:15 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Wednesday Vinita: Vinita Health Center, 27371 S. 4410 Road, 918-342-2607 Open from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Feb. 8, March 1, 15 and 29 Ochelata: Cooweescoowee Health Clinic, 39500 W. 2900 Road, 918-342-2607 Open from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Feb. 15, March 8 and April 5 Nowata: Will Rogers Health Clinic, 1020 Lenape Drive, 918-342-2607 Open from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Feb. 22, March 22 and April 12 <strong>Earned Income Tax Credit and Adjusted Gross Income Limits</strong> The tax year 2017 earned income and adjusted gross income must be less than: <strong>If filing… Qualifying Children Claimed 0, 1, 2, 3 or more</strong> Single, Head of $15,010, $39,617, $45,007, $48,340 Household or Widowed Married Filing Jointly $20,600, $45,207, $50,597, $53,930 Maximum Credits $510, $3,400, $5,616, $6,318 <strong>History of Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program</strong> More than 30 years ago, the Cherokee Nation’s Career Services Learning Center helped CN citizens by preparing simple tax returns. The program has been moved through several departments and is now administered by the Commerce Department’s Mortgage Assistance Program. The program was originally founded 1971 by Gary Iskowitz at California State University Northridge. The concept was to provide local taxpayers with free tax return preparation by accounting students, in effort to provide both a valuable community service and a powerful hands-on learning experience for the accounting students. The program grew from a small group of dedicated accounting students to what is now a nationwide program that serves thousands of taxpayers and provides a valuable learning experience for accounting students. Iskowitz (now a prominent CPA, and former IRS agent) recently was commended on the 40th anniversary of the program.
BY LINDSEY BARK
Reporter
11/29/2017 08:15 AM
SALLISAW, Okla. – Cherokee Nation citizen Tyler Choate grew up learning the construction business from his father. He eventually parlayed those lessons into a successful business called TTA Construction. Choate’s construction venture, however, didn’t have an easy start. After the recent economic recession took a toll on his father’s business, he started doing pipeline work. When that didn’t work out, Choate’s first business venture was selling portable buildings, which didn’t last. Being out of business and work, Choate built his way back into the construction world in 2012. He collected tools and equipment to start a business, and the CN’s Tribal Employment Rights Office certified him as a vendor. One of his first jobs was helping construct the South Ridge apartments in Tahlequah. “I literally drove down, walked into the job trailer and ask the guy ‘do you have anyone that’s hanging you all’s dry wall?’” Choate said. While working at the apartment complex, Choate discovered he won a CN contract to hang dry wall in 30 tribal homes. From there, Choate’s business grew. He spent days working jobs and driving to job sites handing out business cards. When he came home, he caught up on paperwork. In the first year, Choate’s business made approximately $50,000. However, it’s doubled in revenue each year since. “The first year I made $50,000 and I’d have to pay people out of that and buy tools. I barely just survived. But I managed to pay my credit card bills that I had taken out to buy tools,” Choate said. “Every year since then we’ve doubled our revenue. So hopefully we can keep doing that.” In 2016, TTA Construction was named the Construction Company of the Year at the tribe’s annual TERO awards banquet. “We’re 100 percent Native American-owned, and I’m pretty proud of being Native American-owned,” he said. “I feel like in this part of the country there’s actually more doors open to me because Cherokee Nation has such a great influence.” Choate said his company in 2016 built 50 CN homes and that it’s built more than 100 homes in the past few years. His business also constructs custom homes. As a construction management business, TTA Construction provides services such as general contracting, design build, pre-construction, sustainable and green construction, facility maintenance, emergency services and repairs and specialty projects. Choate said he wants to grow TTA into a multi-million dollar business and take on entire construction projects. For more information, call 918-773-7127 or visit <a href="http://www.ttaconstruction.com" target="_blank">www.ttaconstruction.com</a>.