The National Center Applauds Approval of Key Indian Country Economic Development Legislation


In 2016, National Center Board Chairman Derrick Watchman testified before the Senate Indian Affairs Committee in support of S. 3234

Published May 18, 2017

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

WASHINGTON – The National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development salutes the quick action by the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs to reintroduce and report out of committee S. 1116, the Indian Community Economic Enhancement Act of 2017, which focuses on improving economic opportunity and access to capital in Indian Country. The National Center’s Board Chairman, Derrick Watchman, testified at a Committee hearing last summer in support of similar legislation (S. 3234) as the culmination of years of seeking the important legislative changes incorporated in the bill. The National Center also called for quick passage of additional legislation to create incubators targeted specifically at Native businesses.

“We applaud the hard work of bill sponsor Chairman John Hoeven, Ranking Member Tom Udall, Senator John Barrasso, Senator Jon Tester, as well as committee staff for pressing for reintroduction and prompt approval of this important economic development legislation,” said Chris James, President and CEO of the National Center. “Though we still have a long way to enactment of this bill, today’s committee approval demonstrates a clear commitment to heeding 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 and others to advance business and economic development in Indian Country.”   

The Indian Community Economic Enhancement Act of 2017 amends several existing laws with the general focus of enhancing access to capital and improving economic opportunity in tribal communities. Specifically, S. 1116 updates and improves the Native American Business Development, Trade Promotion, and Tourism Act of 2000; the Buy Indian Act; and The Native American Programs Act of 1974.

Highlights of the legislation include:

  • Better interagency coordination between the Departments of Commerce, Interior, and Treasury on Indian Country initiatives.
  • Elevating the Director for Indian programs to report directly to the Secretary of Commerce.
  • Promoting consultation on Securities and Exchange Commission regulations to move toward treating Indian tribes as accredited investors.
  • Studying the application of, and ways to enhance, various federal loan guarantee and other economic development programs and incentives to improve delivery to and support for Indian communities.
  • Improvements to and support for Native CDFIs.
  • Increasing Buy Indian Act procurements by the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Indian Health Service and improve accountability.
  • Reauthorization the Native American Programs Act and enhance its socio economic development grant program.
The National Center also supports prompt enactment of the Native American Business Incubators Program Act (S. 607) to create an annual $5 million competitive grant initiative within the Interior Department to establish or maintain business incubators that serve Native American communities. S. 607 was introduced by Committee Ranking Member Tom Udall, and is similar to legislation considered but not enacted last Congress. Both Chairman Hoeven and Ranking Member Udall pledged to continue to work towards its passage this year.
“Re-establishing incubators focused specifically on the unique characteristics and capabilities of tribal business entities has been a priority for Indian Country since funding lapsed years ago for the Small Business Administration’s Tribal Business Centers and the Department of Commerce’s Native American Business Enterprise Centers,” James continued. “The National Center appreciates the committee’s leadership in reconsidering this vital legislation that will make a big difference in the lives of budding Native entrepreneurs.”

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