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Native 8(a) Business Development
Native Brief: LANSING - Some of the nation's leading experts on the Native 8(a) program testified before Michigan's Senate Economic Development Committee on December 14 about the importance of Native 8(a) as part of the state's "Reinventing Michigan" initiative.
Sen. Mike Kowall, R-White Lake, Chairman of the Senate Economic Development Committee, spearheaded the hearing, indicating that it may be the first in a series of hearings on economic growth with Michigan Tribes.
"Native enterprises offer a great, untapped resource to help diversify and grow Michigan's economy," said Kowall, in a press statement dated December 13, "Hundreds of billions of dollars in federal contracts are awarded every year, and Michigan's native enterprises are perfectly positioned to be competitive in landing these contracts." Kowall concluded, "I look forward to working with tribal leaders to develop strategies to engage their nations in the reinventing of Michigan."
The Small Business Administration's (SBA) 8(a) Business Development Program was a result of the Civil Rights Era of the 1960s. Recognizing socially and economically disadvantaged small businesses did not have equal access to the federal marketplace, Congress created the 8(a) program, designed to provide them special access to government contracts. Similarly, Tribes, Alaska Native Corporations and Native Hawaiian Organizations are afforded special opportunities through the Native 8(a) program. This non-appropriated federal business development program provides economic growth and business diversification opportunities through federal contracting in communities that otherwise would have little chance for success.
"I believe that Michigan's economy is strengthened by flourishing tribal economic development The Michigan Economic Development Corporation should continue working with tribes on a strategic and tactical level to provide additional investment and jobs throughout the state of Michigan,"
testified Matthew Wesaw, chairman of the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi.
Jon DeVore, Attorney at Birch Horton Bittner & Cherot, utilized Alaska Native Corporations as an example of the potential economic impact local Tribes can make in Michigan if empowered to use the Native 8(a) program,
"In 2008, 35,430 jobs from entry to executive level around the world were attributed to the business activities of the 12 Alaska Native Regional Corporations with a worldwide payroll of $1.68 billion "
Mr. DeVore also noted that ANCs employ almost 14,000 Alaskans, with an annual payroll of $774 million, establishing them as a significant part of the private sector employment within the State.
Michigan's Tribes are fertile ground for economic development and have the tools and resources necessary to prosper and generate jobs and revenue in the state, utilizing programs like Native 8(a).
Ron Perry, President of the National 8(a) Association, explained that, "there are resources available for all levels of support needed by startup 8(a)s. The SBA offers entry level classes; there are regional classes, SCORE counselors and Procurement Technical Assistance Centers (PTACs) located throughout the nation."
However, there is currently a hole in the technical assistance offered. The State of Michigan could greatly help local Tribes increase their likelihood of success in the Native 8(a) program by helping them assess what lines of businesses to invest in, completing the initial daunting 8(a) application process, and develop an initial corporate structure.
Sarah Lukin, Interim Executive Director of the Native American Contractors Association, stated, "Tribes, ANCs, and Native Hawaiian Organization 8(a)s create jobs in all 50 states, hiring locally and stimulating local economies in a time of high unemployment through innovation and quality past performance. Despite this, there have been numerous attempts to modify or all together do away with the Native 8(a) program. 2011 has been a particularly challenging year for us in Washington DC."
Lukin urged the Michigan State Legislature to support the Native 8(a) program and consider how the state could work jointly with the local Tribes to spur economic development.
posted December 22, 2011 6:00 am est
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