American Indian company grows in the public sector

Suh'dutsing Technologies, a small American Indian-owned information technology firm, has successfully inked some significant federal contracts in the two years that it's been in business. And its success may signal a trend toward tribal technology companies doing business in the public sector.

In mid-May, the Interior Department awarded Suh'dutsing its largest deal to date: a five-year indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contract for technical services worth up to $200 million. The company has also done work for Interior's National Business Center and Bureau of Land Management, the Census Bureau and several Defense Department agencies, said Carey Wold, senior vice president of business development for the Cedar City, Utah-based company.

"As well as hardware and software services, we've included over 300 different IT labor categories" under the Interior contract, Wold said. "And the reason we've done that is because we're very comfortable with our partnerships that we can provide those positions, and so we wanted to include a lot of variety there, from the high end to the low end."

One of the company's partners is Northrop Grumman, which has a teaming agreement on the latest Interior contract that could be worth up to $120 million.

Northrop Grumman will provide local- and wide-area network design, support and installation; data storage and management; surveillance security; IT mobility and interoperability; and data servers and server consolidation for Suh'dutsing.

Steven Parker, director of business development for Northrop Grumman's Computing Systems business unit, said the teaming agreement is not an exclusive arrangement.

"We didn't want to be exclusive with them because that doesn't help them," he said. "That doesn't help build up the Native American business. They need to be able to get resources where they can, and they need to be able to grow in their business by working with other partners that may have some strengths in areas that we don't have."

The Cedar Band of Paiutes founded Suh'dutsing in January 2003. The company's name means "cedar tree," Wold said, adding that "there are lot of cedar forests where the tribe is located."

The company has two goals, he said. One is to create jobs on the tribe's Utah reservation by outsourcing contracts for technical support, data processing and help-desk support. The second goal is to develop higher technology capabilities -- such as software development, enterprise resource planning, enterprise architecture integration, IT security and program management -- at the company's Chantilly, Va., office to generate revenues that can be used to create more jobs on the reservation.

Suh'dutsing is certified as a small, disadvantaged company and meets the requirements for Historically Underutilized Business Zone firms. "The bottom line is you have to get out and market," Wold said, which includes building relationships with much larger companies, such as Northrop Grumman.

Parker said he believed federal business with American Indian firms is increasing, adding that companies are also establishing mentor/protégé programs and partnerships with American Indian firms.

"We've got multiple Native American firms that we're communicating with and building relationships with, not only in a mentor/protégé program with them, but gathering core competencies and using them in our programs," he said.

Wold, who previously worked for Utah's Department of Community and Economic Development, said Suh'dutsing is one of three tribal-based technology companies formed in the state in the past two years, which is more than any other Western state.

"But it's growing because with technology you automatically lay a format for access to information, access to all types of data, whether it be grant writing or trying to find out how to bid on a contract via the Internet," he said. "By using the basics for technology, it opens up many, many doors, and tribes are beginning to realize that in the West. Suh'dutsing is, in effect, doing a lot of that."

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