Adolfo Vasquez, who is a procurement specialist with the National Center’s American Indian Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC) in Albuquerque, NM provides us with a first-hand account of the National Center’s first Native Edge Institute, which was held in July. See below for Adolfo’s recap.

They came… they heard… they learned

On July 24th, the National Center held its inaugural educational and training venture for Indian Country called the Native Edge Institute (NEI).With the assistance of a grant from the KeyBank Foundation and support from the New Mexico American Indian Chamber of Commerce, NEI’s goal, according to National Center President and CEO Chris James, was to “…combine the National Center’s time honored programming with outside expertise that will give attendees the leg up they need to be a successful contractor.”

This debut event was hosted at the New Mexico Indian Pueblo Cultural Center in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Who presented…

More than 100 attendees came to the New Mexico NEI, including resource partners and federal agency representatives. Successful small businesses, start-up entrepreneurs, large ANC 8as, New Mexico tribal 8as, Native American-owned businesses, and many others were also there. The Department of Energy’s Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization Director, Charles Smith, provided a spirited luncheon presentation on how his office advocates for enhancing the use of small businesses to meet DoE’s range of missions. John Shoraka and Elijah Williams, co-founders of GovContractPros, delivered a targeted and informational presentation on small business certifications, the impact of current legislation that could help small businesses seeking teaming, joint venture, and mentor-protégé opportunities.

Shoraka and Williams – who both have extensive and high-level experience in government contracting – also provided insight into how a small business can posture its marketing and strategic solicitations to agencies. “This professional and experienced insight was in itself worth the long trip,” was expressed by more than one attendee.

In addition, John Garcia, District Director for the New Mexico Small Business Administration Office, and his staff presented a comprehensive overview of how the SBA is improving and increasing its assistance in partnership with its New Mexico SBA Resource Partners Veterans Business Opportunity Centers (VBOC) Small Business Development Centers (SBDC), Staff Core of Retired Executives (SCORE) and Women Business Centers (WESST in NM). Together, they are collaborating and coordinating support services with other non-SBA resource partners such as the American Indian Chamber of Commerce, the NM Secretary of Indian Affairs, the Southwest Native American Veterans Association and others. This enhances the SBA mission in Indian Country through contracting, capital support, and small business counseling services.

What they heard…

The presentations were packed with information on trends, policy impact, strategic ideas, and down-to-earth common-sense approaches for small businesses that are engaged in federal procurement, as well as those that want to be. Overviews of changes to Small Business Contracting and Set Aside Programs provided additional and current details not known to many people. Updates and new rules to regulations and programs also proved to be a stimulator of dialogue between attendees and the presenters. This open forum for questions during the presentation was one of the most appreciated efforts according to survey results tallied.

A panel discussion with Chris Fresquez, Small Business Director for Los Alamos Labs; Marie Myszkier, Native American Small Business Liaison for Sandia National Labs; Ann Marie Bird, DOE Office of Environmental Management; Monica Jojola, President of Montech, Inc.; and David Weigan, President of Sparrow Group, Inc. delved into how small businesses can get in the supply chain of the large primes.

Perhaps even more important, the networking opportunities at NEI were tremendous. The exchange of business cards and “elevator pitches” has always been the cornerstone of attending National Center events, and that was no different at our first NEI.

What they liked…

We received some great feedback on the event from some of the people who attended.

Patrick Higgins, a retired Major General in the U.S. Army and now VP for Business Development of GoldBelt, a multi-million-dollar 8a company: “I got everything and more than what I expected.”

Mark Brunette, President of HGS Government Solutions, a Hawaii-based remediation, security and hazardous material handling 8a business: “This was great! Lots of networking and lots of timely information. Glad I came!”

Allen Ely, President of Battery Technology, Inc. in North Carolina: “I am just trying to get into the supply chain business with my NiCad Batteries and this was just what I needed. I have a lot of homework, but now I know what to do and not waste time!”

These were just a few of the comments, but they encapsulate how successful our first Native Edge Institute was. We hope to see you at our next NEI, which will take place at Microsoft’s headquarters near Seattle on August 23rd. You can learn more and register for that event by clicking here.

To request an NEI conference or training in your area, please contact us at 480-545-4208 or email Ruesh Yazzie at ruesh@ncaied.org.