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Fostering Economic Development in Tribal Communities and Among Native-owned Enterprises

Today, the Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) and the Economic Development Administration teamed up to launch the Tribal Economic Development Webinar Series. Beginning on November 19, 2014, the Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA), the Economic Development Administration (EDA) and the Small Business Administration (SBA) will host five webinars over the course of one year. This series is designed to help tribal leaders, tribal administrators, Native American-owned enterprises, and tribal advocacy organizations understand federal resources available for tribal economic development. 

The Department of Commerce is focused on bolstering its working relationships with tribal communities. Through the work of its diverse set of bureaus, the Department is committed to fostering a more innovative economy – one that is better at addressing the needs of Indian Country by improving and creating the conditions for economic success, higher productivity and competitiveness.

“MBDA is committed to honoring the Native American legacy,” said Alejandra Y. Castillo, MBDA’s National Director. “Our mission is to help the growth and global competitiveness Native American-owned businesses through access to capital, contracts, and markets. The Tribal Economic Development Webinar Series affirms our commitment and helps strengthen our partnerships.”

In 2013, MBDA opened a new business center in Bridgeport, CT. This center is an addition to the 5 other centers around the country that have specific expertise in helping Native American owned business succeed. The opening of this new center brings the total of Native American focused centers up to 6, which include Fresno, CA, Tulsa, OK, Anchorage, AK, Bismark, ND, and Santa Fe, NM.

In August, Secretary Pritzker traveled to Alaska. During her visit she met with the 12 CEOs representing the Alaska Native Corporations (ANC’s) established under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act of 1971. During the roundtable they discussed opportunities for trade and tourism, the impact of climate change on Native communities, challenges with infrastructure favorable to more economic development, issues facing traditional fisheries, and issues surrounding critical utilities, infrastructure, and economic support throughout Alaska.

Additionally, Assistant Secretary for Economic Development, Jay Williams, visited Alaska in June and attended the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) conference. There he visited with tribal leaders from across the country to explore opportunities for the Economic Development Administration (EDA) and tribal communities to work together. A major theme was modernizing trust relationships to create more economic opportunities for tribal communities. They also discussed the management of Indian Trust lands and the recently enacted HEARTH Act. The Assistant Secretary’s trip yielded closer working relationships with tribal leaders and a better understanding of how EDA’s program and services can serve Native communities.

“During the past five years, EDA has awarded nearly $54 million in assistance to Indian tribes to create businesses, build roads and other infrastructure, and develop their own economic development strategies,” said Assistant Secretary Williams. “While EDA grants are removing economic barriers and attracting capital to Indian country, we know there is more work to be done and look forward to a strong continued partnership with our nation’s tribal communities to strengthen tribal economies.”

The Department looks forward to continuing its work with tribal communities, respecting tribal sovereignty and encouraging a more robust working relationship with in Indian Country.

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