WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-N.M.), vice chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, along with U.S. Senators Martin Heinrich (D-N.M), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), and Tina Smith (D-Minn.) introduced the Native American Business Incubators Program Act to expand entrepreneurship in Indian Country by promoting small businesses development in tribal communities.
Entrepreneurs in Indian Country often face unique start-up challenges like difficulty accessing business loans, federal restrictions on leasing and other activities on Tribal trust lands, and proximity to cities since many Tribes are located in highly rural areas.
The Native American Business Incubators Program Act would create a competitive grant program in the Department of the Interior’s Office of Indian Energy and Economic Development to establish and maintain business incubators that specialize in assisting Native-owned small businesses to navigate those unique challenges.
"When Native small businesses succeed, they create more jobs, strengthen their communities, and expand opportunity across Indian Country," said Udall. “As vice chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, I know that Native entrepreneurs can face unique regulatory and financing barriers. My bill will provide essential tools to help Native American start-ups develop an effective business plan, cut through red tape, and gain access to the capital they need to grow small businesses and local economies."
“I’m proud to support this legislation to give Native entrepreneurs the resources and capital they need to grow and compete on an even playing field,” said Heinrich. “By replicating the successful model of business incubators in tribal communities, we can create more prosperous economic opportunities in Indian Country.”
“The federal government owes Indian Country a fighting chance to build a brighter economic future,” said Warren. “I’m glad to partner with my colleagues on a bill that sends much-needed federal resources to help entrepreneurs in Indian Country succeed.”
“Starting a business can be a difficult process for anyone, but Native American entrepreneurs face additional obstacles like regulatory uncertainty, lack of access to capital and remoteness of location. I’m proud to join Senator Udall in introducing the Native American Business Incubators Program Act, which would make strong investments that support our Native American entrepreneurs by providing them the tools they need to get started and establish strong partnerships with other companies,” said Cortez Masto.
“We need to expand economic opportunity in Minnesota and across the country—and that includes promoting economic development on tribal lands. This legislation will promote business development in Native communities by creating grants to help innovators and entrepreneurs access workspaces, education, and mentorship opportunities—this is a step in the right direction to help create jobs and strengthen the economy,” said Smith.
The bill is supported by the National Congress of American Indians, the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development, and a number of other organizations representing the interests of American Indian and Alaska Native tribal governments and business enterprises.
“Creating business incubators with support services and resources focused on meeting the unique needs of American Indian and Alaska Native entrepreneurs will help grow tribal economies and create jobs in Indian Country,” said Jefferson Keel, President of the National Congress of American Indians. “We appreciate Vice-Chairman Udall’s continued efforts to promote economic development in tribal communities through the reintroduction of his Native American Business Incubators Program Act.”
“The National Center thanks Vice Chairman Udall for his continued commitment to American Indian and Alaska Native businesses and entrepreneurs. Establishing business incubators tailored to maximize the unique characteristics and capabilities of tribally and other Native-owned businesses will catalyze economic development in Indian Country by unlocking the already strong entrepreneurial spirit in American Indians and Alaska Natives. We look forward to working with Vice Chairman Udall and members of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs to ensure this legislation becomes law,” said Chris James, President and CEO of the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development.
The full text of the bill is available HERE.