The Native American Entrepreneurial Opportunity Act approved by House Small Business Committee
WASHINGTON, DC – Today, the House Small Business Committee approved H.R. 7102, the Native American Entrepreneurial Opportunity Act. The bill passed unanimously. Long a priority for The National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development, the bill formally authorizes the Office of Native American Affairs (ONAA) of the Small Business Administration (SBA) to elevate its importance and expand its reach. Similar, statutorily established offices already exist at the Departments of Interior, Commerce, Justice, Energy, Agriculture, Transportation and Housing and Urban Development. This bipartisan legislation is sponsored by Representatives Sharice Davids (D-KS) and Eli Crane (R-AZ). Similar legislation sponsored by Senators John Hickenlooper (D-CO) and Cynthia Lummis (R-WY) passed the Senate Small Business Committee last year.
“The National Center applauds the leadership of Reps. Davids and Crane in introducing the House version of the Native American Entrepreneurial Opportunity Act,” said Chris James, President and CEO of The National Center. “As a former Associate Administrator at SBA, I understand the need for Indian Country to have an advocate within the agency who has a direct line to the Administrator. The unique economic and entrepreneurial needs of our community – and government-to-government consultation – must always be a priority at SBA. I look forward to working with Rep. Davids, House co-sponsors, and Senate champions to ensure this vital bipartisan legislation becomes law in 2024 so that, in years to come, Indian Country will have a seat at the head table in an agency that plays a critical role in boosting tribal economies.”
Despite the critical need for SBA entrepreneurial development, contracting, and capital access for Indian Country, SBA’s current ONAA’s lack of authority has stymied its ability to address those demands. Established only administratively, the ONAA often struggles to assert its voice and access SBA resources. From a low of $1 million to never more than $5 million annually, support for SBA’s “Native American Outreach” budget for ONAA activities conducted by one or two staff has always been too limited to provide even minimal assistance, hindering SBA’s federal trust responsibility to tribes and its assistance to Native-owned small businesses.
As the Native American Entrepreneurial Opportunity Act proposes, a codified ONAA would be led by an assistant administrator appointed by and reporting directly to the SBA Administrator to lead SBA’s “Native American Outreach” activities. The assistant administrator would also coordinate with other offices within SBA and key Cabinet-level Departments to direct federal resources in more targeted ways to Indian Country. The ONAA Assistant Administrator’s responsibilities would include:
• Working with Indian tribes, Alaska Native corporations, Native Hawaiian Organizations, and small businesses owned by individuals who are members of those entities on entrepreneurial development, contracting and capital access programs to establish or expand their small business concerns and promote economic development in Indian Country.
• Formulating and promoting policies, and enhancing existing programs, so they better address the entrepreneurial, capital access, business development and contracting needs of tribes and Native businesses, including by collaborating with high- level officials of SBA and other federal agencies.
• Providing financial and other assistance directly to: 1) deploy training, counseling and other educational outreach, workshops, supplier events; 2) access the SBA’s entrepreneur and contracting programs to facilitate Native contractors’ participation in SBA’s various small business contracting programs; and 3) facilitate and improve access to SBA’s various loan programs, loan guarantees, disaster assistance, and other capital access programs.
• Ensuring tribal consultations are conducted to solicit input and facilitate discussion of potential modifications to SBA programs and procedures.