July 24, 2018

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development’s (the National Center) President and CEO Chris James testified before the House Natural Resources Committee’s Subcomitte on Indian, Insular, and Alaksa Native Affairs in support of two important Indian Country economic development bills that have already passed in the Senate. The Indian Community Economic Enhancement Act (S.1116) focuses on improving economic opportunity and access to capital in Indian Country through enhancing and improving exisiting or authorized programs, and the Native American Business Incubators Programs Act (S.607) would create an incubator program greared specfically towards Native American and tribal communities. Both bills passed the Senate in March; today’s hearing is an important step in the process of those bills becoming law.

“The reforms and improvements in both S.1116 and S.607 represent major steps in the right direction for how the federal government can strengthen its relationship with tribes and ultimately work to improve economic conditions throughout Indian Country,” said James. “As a former Associate Administrator at the U.S. Small Business Administration, I understand the importance of having the right programs in place and the best tools available for those working on behalf of our communities. These bills strengthen existing programs and provide those additional tools for which we have long advocated.”

The Indian Community Economic Enhancement Act amends several exisisting laws with the general focus of enchancing access to capital and improving economic opportunity in tribal communities. Specifically, S.1116 updates and improves the Native American Business Development, Trade Promotion, and Tourism Act of 2000; the Buy Indian Act; and the Native American Programs Act of 1974.

Highlights of the Indian Community Economic Enhancment Act Include:

  • Better interagency coordination between the Departments of Commerce, Interior, and Treasury on Indian Country initiatives.
  • Elevating the Director for Indian programs to report directly to the Secretary of Commerce.
  • Promoting consultation on Securities and Exchange Commission regulations to move toward treating Indian tribes as accredited investors.
  • Studying the application of, and ways to enhance, various federal loan guarantee and other economic development programs and incentives to improve delivery to and support for Indian communities.
  • Improvements to and support for Native CDFIs.
  • Expand the use of Buy Indian Act authority by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, other Interior agencies, the Indian Health Service, and beyond.
  • Reauthorize the Native Americans Program Act and enhance its socio-economic development grant program.

The Native American Business Incubators Act would create an annual $5 million competitive grant initiative within the Interior Department to establish or maintain business incubators that serve Native American communities. Current federal entrepreneurship programs are specifically tailored to Native American communities, thus limiting their effectiveness. This proposed program, however, is designed specifically for Native American Business Incubators, providing physical workspace, facilities, and hands-on guidance to native startups and established native businesses.

“Today’s hearing is another important step for this important legislation to become law, and I urge swift Committee passage,” said National Center Board Chairman Derrick Watchman. “We look forward to continuing to work with the Committee, supporters in the House and Senate, leading Native American and Alaska Native organizations, and others to advance business and economic development in Indian Country.”

You can view Chris James’s submitted testimony, as well as archived footage of the hearing, by clicking here.