Senate Indian Affairs Committee to moves forward on measures to boost economic development in Indian Country

September 7, 2016
WASHINGTON, DC – The National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development’s Board Chairman Derrick Watchman delivered testimony today before the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs on two key bills related to economic development in Indian Country. Specifically, Watchman discussed the Indian Community Economic Enhancement Act of 2016 (S. 3234), sponsored by Committee Chairman John Barrasso (R-WY), and the Native American Business Incubators Program Act (S. 3261), sponsored by Committee Ranking Member Senator Jon Tester (D-MT). The National Center has offered support for these bills and the underlying issues they address in the past, including at a Committee hearing last summer and at the most recent Reservation Economic Summit (RES) Oklahoma where Committee staff announced the introduction of S. 3234.

“The National Center applauds the hard work of Chairman Barrasso, Ranking Member Tester, and the members and staff on the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs on these important bills,” Watchman said. “Though we still have a long way to go before these bills become law, today’s hearing shows the committee has a clear commitment to listening to our and all of Indian Country’s recommendations for how federal agencies can better partner with tribes and tribal entities. We look forward to working with the Committee, its staff, and others to perfect the language and move toward enactment of S. 3234 to advance business and economic development in Indian Country.”

The Indian Community Economic Enhancement Act of 2016 amends several existing laws with the general focus of enhancing access to capital and improving economic opportunity in tribal communities. Specifically, S. 3234 improves the Native American Business Development, Trade Promotion, and Tourism Act of 2000; The Native American Programs Act of 1974; The Indian Trader Act; and the Buy Indian Act. Highlights include:

  • Better interagency coordination between the Departments of Commerce, Interior, and Treasury on Indian Country initiatives.
  • Elevating the Director for Indian programs in the Department of Commerce.
  • Establishing the Indian Economic Development Fund to augment Interior’s Indian loan guarantee and Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) Fund’s bond guarantee program for Indian communities.
  • Improvements to and support for Native CDFIs.
  • Authorization for the Secretary of the Interior to waive, upon a Tribe’s request, Indian trader licensing requirements where the Tribe has enacted law to govern the licensing, trade or commerce on its Indian lands.
  • Increasing Buy Indian Act procurements by the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Indian Health Service and improve accountability.

The Native American Business Incubators Program Act will create an annual $5 million competitive grant initiative within the Interior Department to establish or maintain business incubators that serve Native American communities. As Chairman Watchman noted in his testimony, reestablishing incubators focused specifically on the unique characteristics and capabilities of tribal business entities has been a priority for Indian Country since funding lapsed eight years ago for the Small Business Administration’s Tribal Business Centers and the Department of Commerce’s Native American Business Enterprise Centers.

About The National Center: The National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. With over 40 years of assisting American Indian Tribes and their enterprises with business and economic development – we have evolved into the largest national Indian specific business organization in the nation. Our motto is: “We Mean Business For Indian Country” as we are actively engaged in helping Tribal Nations and Native business people realize their business goals and are dedicated to putting the whole of Indian Country to work to better the lives of American Indian people- both now… and for generations to come.

CONTACT: Lewis Lowe, 202-333-2234