Bill would aid American Indian businesses

"Major Management Challenges at the Small Business Administration"

The American Indian and Alaska native community is one of the fastest growing business groups in the country. But nearly 25 percent of that population lives in poverty, according to the Small Business Administration.

Sens. Tim Johnson (D-S.D.), a member of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, and John Kerry (D-Mass.), ranking member of the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee, said they hope to expand small-business opportunities for American Indians with new legislation they introduced in the Senate.

Johnson is sponsor of a bipartisan Native American Small Business Development Act with Kerry and Sen. Gordon Smith (R-Ore.). The bill would create an Office of Native American Affairs within SBA and establish three assistance programs, including two pilot programs.

In addition to creating the Native American Affairs office, the legislation would:

  • Authorize an assistant administrator to communicate and cooperate with tribal colleges, tribal governments, Alaska native corporations and native Hawaiian organizations to provide culturally tailored small-business development assistance to American Indians.

  • Create a $5 million a year grant program for five years for tribal governments and colleges to provide business training to the American Indian community through Native American Business Centers.

  • Establish a $1 million a year pilot grant program for four years to provide culturally tailored business development training to American Indians through small-business development centers or nonprofit organizations.

  • Provide a $1 million a year pilot program to award grants for small businesses located on or near tribal lands.

Johnson and Kerry are seeking the support of Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), chairman of the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee, in upcoming SBA reauthorization legislation.

Additional co-sponsors of the bill include Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.), Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), and Patty Murray (D-Wash.).

About the Author

David Hubler is the former print managing editor for GCN and senior editor for Washington Technology. He is freelance writer living in Annandale, Va.

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