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Managing Federal Contracts

The federal government offers many economic opportunities for a Native American business to gain access to, expand and thrive in the competitive American marketplace. Federal programs and assistance include government contracting, business development, business counseling and mentoring, job training, and management and technical support. The U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs provides federally recognized tribes services such as education, job training and employment opportunities.

The U.S. Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Office of Native American Affairs can help Native American business owners and entrepreneurs grow and manage their enterprises through a number of programs, including the 8(a) Business Development Program.

Winning federal contracts can benefit tribal communities

The nine-year 8(a) business assistance program was created by the U.S. Congress during the 1960s Civil Rights Movement to help small socially and economically disadvantaged companies compete in the U.S. economy and have access to federal contracts. Not only can minorities, individuals and families own these business, but so can federally recognized Native American tribes, Alaskan Native Corporations and Native Hawaiian Organizations.

Companies owned by Native Americans receive a variety of advantages under the 8(a) contracting program, which can have a tremendous impact on Native American communities. Benefits include returning profits, the creation of new jobs, healthcare and housing opportunities, improvements to infrastructure and cultural preservation, among others. The federal contracting process can bring success, as well as competition, to tribal communities, but winning federal contracts is becoming increasingly difficult for many Native American business owners due to budget cuts, Congressional reform legislation and allegations of contracting abuse from opponents. According to a December 2015 Associated Press article, Native American business owners are receiving a decreasing amount of their revenue from the SBA’s 8(a) program. In 2010, federal contracts made up 43 percent of Native-owned corporations’ total revenue. In 2014, that figure was 28.5 percent.

These changes in federal contract regulations require that Native American business leaders stay informed and knowledgeable to adapt to evolving federal and state requirements, regulations, policies and criticism in order for their communities to grow. Native business leaders and business law attorneys need to understand the complex history of the federal contracting process, as well as other issues, including how to negotiate and draft contracts, tax issues involved with contracts, employment and labor laws, and environmental laws. “As a practical matter, many Native American Tribes lack the knowledge and advice from Native American contracting lawyers and federal small business consultants that understand the federal procurement process,” notes law firm Watson & Associates LLC in a blog.

An MBA with an Emphasis on Native American Leadership Can Help

Graduate students enrolled in an MBA degree program with an emphasis on Native American Leadership receive the opportunity to not only pursue advanced careers in business but also to implement lasting change for their tribal communities. An MBA with an emphasis on Native American Leadership can help students build upon a foundation of knowledge in finance, economics, accounting, marketing, financial management, contracts and contract negotiation with specialized courses that can impact their tribal communities. Course topics may include contemporary business issues involving tribal healthcare, education, employment, social services, tribal law and governance, and culture and language. A study of the history of federal Indian laws and policies along with court case examples can provide a deeper understanding of the complexity of managing federal contracts. Graduates with an MBA in Native American Leadership can apply the skills and knowledge they learn in the program to improve tribal and community life for generations to come.

Learn more about the Southeastern Oklahoma State University online MBA in Native American Leadership program.


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