Skip to main content

Understanding the Influence of Native American Business on U.S. Success

There’s no shortage of success stories regarding Native American entrepreneurs bringing economic opportunity to their communities. Their actual impact is often clouded by the lack of government data collected on unemployment, jobs and the economic impact of tribal nations.

In Oklahoma, however, the economic influence of Native Americans is evident. Tribal nations provided over 1.1 million jobs before the COVID-19 pandemic and generate more than $7 billion in economic activity each year. Through Southeastern Oklahoma State University’s online Master of Business Administration (MBA) with a Concentration in Native American Leadership program, graduates deepen their knowledge of the landscape facing Native American businesses and learn strategies to effectively lead organizations owned, managed or supported by tribal nations.

Southeastern’s curriculum addresses these complex issues in courses like Personal and Organizational Leadership for Native Organizations and Developing the Native American Leader.

Economic Impact of Native American Businesses

From restaurant franchisees creating jobs near three reservations in Minnesota to organizers supporting new business owners in Arizona, indigenous leaders are leaving their mark on the business world. Economic impact studies consistently find that tribal nations and the businesses they produce, ranging from the hospitality industry to agriculture and energy resources, are key drivers of regional economies.

One report in Oklahoma found that tribal nations and their enterprises added $15.6 billion in direct contributions in 2019 to the state’s economy, along with 113,442 jobs and $5.4 billion in wages and benefits to workers. Quantifying the impact of tribal enterprises and governments nationwide is much more difficult. The federal government does not keep national data on the economic impact of tribal communities, and, as the Brookings Institution points out, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not provide detailed monthly unemployment and job numbers for American Indians and Alaska Natives.

In a 2021 speech to Oklahoma tribal leaders, then-Federal Reserve board member Lael Brainard said the limitations of available data are primarily due to issues stemming from small sample sizes and significant margin errors.

The Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis’ Center for Indian Country Development has turned its attention to resolving the data problem, starting with a tool that estimates labor force participation, employment-to-population ratios and unemployment rates for Native American populations. Even with those efforts, Brainard called the lack of data “pervasive” and inhibiting to solving the real challenges facing Native American communities and their business ventures.

The Future of Native American Entrepreneurs

Brainard pointed to a key factor in determining the future of Native American economic success: access to financial services such as banking, mortgage financing, small business credit and educational resources. Native American counties are home to fewer bank branches than the average county in the U.S.
The federal government counts about 341,000 Native American-owned small businesses in the U.S., generating over $46 billion in revenue annually. Few of those businesses were started with the support of bank financing and loans when compared with all American business owners, threatening the stability of those enterprises in the long term.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, when companies were less likely to receive Paycheck Protection Program assistance and gained less funding than businesses in non-tribal areas. While several federal programs focus on expanding financial literacy and incentivizing banks to provide financing, many Native American business owners also create incubators and other support structures to help the next generation succeed.

Foster Native American Business Growth With Southeastern Oklahoma State University

There is a high demand for leaders who can help tribal nations and community members increase economic output in a rapidly changing landscape. Students in Southeastern Oklahoma State University’s online MBA with a Concentration in Native American Leadership program complete courses such as Personal and Organizational Leadership for Native Organizations and Developing the Native American Leader.

By studying different leadership styles and understanding how managers can successfully operate within organizational tribal structures, students prepare to step into senior roles and create an environment where even more Native American businesses can thrive.

Learn more about Southeastern Oklahoma State University’s online Master of Business Administration with a Concentration in Native American Leadership program.

Related Articles

Request More Information

Submit this form, and an Enrollment Specialist will contact you to answer your questions.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Or call 844-515-9100

Ready To Begin?

Start your application today!

Or Call 844-515-9100 844-515-9100
for help with any questions you may have.