Remarks at Reservation Economic Summit (RES) 2012

MBDA National Director David A. Hinson
As Delivered

On behalf of President Barack Obama and Secretary John Bryson, I am delighted to be here at this the 26th Annual Reservation Economic Summit. I want to thank your leaders, Margo Gray-Proctor and President Davis, the Board of Directors and Tribal leaders for inviting me to speak to you today. NCAIED enjoys a strong relationship with the U.S. Department of Commerce and my Agency, the Minority Business Development Agency, and we look forward to continuing to grow this relationship as we work together to expand the export capability of Indian Country and create new jobs.

Before I start, I would like to introduce some members of the Department of Commerce.  You’ll be hearing from them on panels and I hope you’ll have a chance to speak with them during the conference.  With us are: Dee Ann Alexander, Senior Advisor to the Secretary of Commerce for Native American Affairs; Holden Hoofnagle, Chief for Business Development at MBDA; Salvador Enriquez, who is chief of our West Coast Region; George Mui, Global business consultant; JoAnn Hill our head of MED Week; and Otis Turner, Senior Business Development Specialist out of our San Francisco office.

I think it’s fair to say that we’ve all been through some tough times together over the past five years. But the latest numbers on the economy, on manufacturing and unemployment tell us that we are moving in the right direction. And, the Obama administration is fully committed to Indian Country and ensuring your tribal members and communities benefit from the momentum that is driving our economic recovery. Last month, President Obama laid out a blueprint for an economy that’s built to last – an economy built on a sound and principled position that is: Every American has a fair chance…does their fair share…and plays by the same rules.

This is the type of America I believe all of us want…the type of America that so many of our ancestors – grandparents and great-grandparents – hoped for.

But in ushering this vision, President Obama also ushered in a brave new world.

A world where we can no longer rely on continued government spending as a source of opportunity.

A world where we have to think globally…and compete globally.

A world where we have to maximize every intellectual, physical, social and spiritual asset we have, if we are going to reach our full potential.

And our potential in Indian Country is not finite, but infinite and only limited by our imagination, energy and willingness to invest!

Collectively, minority-owned businesses generate $1 trillion in economic output and possess almost $2.5 trillion in buying power.

The Native American business community, which includes Alaska Native-owned firms, alone generates more than $35 billion in economic output.

Allow me to put this in perspective: If the Native American and Alaska Native business community were one nation – it would be the 85th richest nation in the world.  Bigger than the economies of Ghana, Bahrain, Estonia and Jordan. According to the last census data, Native American and Alaska Native-owned firms outpaced the growth of non-minority firms in gross receipts and number of firms and have total buying power exceeding $64 billion – greater than the buying power of Croatia.

Native American and Alaska Native businesses have tremendous potential to grow and create jobs and the Department of Commerce and MBDA are here today to help you realize this growth. Let me tell you what we have been doing lately to support the growth of Native American and Alaska Native companies. Just last week, Margo, President Davis, Dee Alexander and I cut the ribbon on a new MBDA Business Center in Anchorage, Alaska. The Business Center will be managed through a partnership with the National Center in conjunction with the University of Alaska – Anchorage. Among other things, this new center will assist Native American and Alaska Native Corporations in identifying teaming arrangements not just in Alaska… or the Lower 48…but around the world.

We have restructured our operations to make them more responsive to your needs. Last year, we launched a redesign of the Agency’s grant programs by consolidating the old “MBEC” and “MBOC” programs into a single program. We extended the grant period from 3 years to 5 years. We rebranded the program. And we eliminated geographic boundaries to encourage each Center to provide business services to firms locally, regionally and nationally. Most important, these centers will now do business with Indian Country.

So if you are in Oklahoma or North Dakota or Washington State, and a client of MBDA…you don’t just have access to the MBDA Business Center in your area, you now have access to the entire network of MBDA Business Centers across the United States. In other words, your business could be located in Seattle, but we will now help you find business opportunities in New York. We have added new MBDA Business Centers in new locations – Boston, Cleveland, Denver and Minneapolis – to give your companies more reach.

And we have expanded the service capability of our MBDA Business Centers.  These centers now have the skills or relationships to assist you in considering merger, acquisition, joint venture and strategic partnerships as growth strategies. They will help you find new forms of capital from subordinated debt to equity. And most important, through our strategic partnerships with sister Agency, the International Trade Administration…with OPIC…and EXIM Bank, among others…our MBDA Business Centers are here to help you to sell your products and services abroad.

Ninety-five percent of the world’s consumers live outside of the United States and sovereign nations.  If we are going to strengthen our economies and create new jobs, we have to think globally – we have to think export!


Some like to call the things we’ve done – CONTINUED IMPROVEMENT. However, we call the things we have done – CONTINUED COMMITMENT. And MBDA has been committed to Indian Country for decades. Since the Agency was established 41 years ago, MBDA has worked with approximately 80% of the tribes and assisted over 25,000 Native American businesses, while training over 10,000 tribal members in various aspects of business development. It is our goal to provide even greater assistance.

To do this we have embarked upon a redesign of our Native American Business Center program to make it more efficient, effective and responsive to your needs as businesses. As part of the redesign process, we are engaging in tribal consultations which are being spearheaded by Dee Alexander, Senior Advisor to the Secretary of Commerce for Native American Affairs. (Dee, would you stand again, please.) We need to hear from you as to how we can make this program more responsive to your needs. Not just your needs of the past…but your needs of the future!

We need your big thoughts, original ideas and creative energy if we are going to make this program as successful as we need it to be. The central goal of all that we are doing is to help you gain access to the contracts and capital you need to grow your business and create jobs. And I must say we have been very successful during the Obama Administration. Over the last three years, we have had the three best performing years in the 41-year history of the Agency!

  • More than 16,300 new jobs have been created by minority business enterprises as a result of working with MBDA.

  • And MBDA Business Centers have helped clients secure contracts and capital totaling $10.8 billion.

Last year alone, MBDA assisted Native American, Alaska Native and other minority-owned firms in securing nearly $4 billion in financing opportunities and contracts while creating more than 5800 new jobs. This year, we also launched an MBDA Business Center in Washington, DC that is focused exclusively on federal contracting.  

This center is part of the Obama Administration’s commitment to ensuring that all U.S. businesses share in the jobs and opportunities created by federal government activities. The federal government is the world’s largest purchaser of goods and services and we want more Native American and Alaska Native companies to compete for and win more federal government contracts.

So. MBDA, in partnership with the federal procurement officers, is going to make it easier for you to navigate the procurement process. Through the federal procurement center, MBDA will offer specialized assistance in both identifying and accessing federal procurement opportunities, as well as guidance on how to excel in federal contracts, including prime and sub contracts. The President also stressed the importance of exports and trade in our economic recovery. I believe this is one of the most important opportunities for Indian Country.

America is quickly moving toward a majority-minority population and your companies will play a critical role in maximizing the economic benefits of your powerful status as Native Americans. Export opportunity is not based solely on the product or service offered or the price – these things are important – but what is also important is connection or connectivity.

Connectivity can come in the form of shared language, the ability to understand the same jokes or share the same childhood stories.

Connectivity can come in the form of understanding the nuances of local business practices.

Or connectivity can come in the form of a shared historic experience – even if that experience occurred in a totally different place or at a totally different time.

I suspect the Aborigines of Australia – known as the first Australians – can relate to the oppression of first Americans in generations passed. There is a shared historic experience. And while Afro-Brazilians and African Americans share neither language nor culture – there is a keen sense that perhaps there is some force of the past that ties them together, allowing for greater economic opportunity if the business fundamentals are in place.

I believe that it is this inter-connectivity around the world that allows minority-owned businesses to have the most favorable export statistics of any group in America. Minority-owned businesses are twice as likely to export as non-minority-owned businesses. To further support your export capability, MBDA is developing a Global Business Unit within our Agency to match global business opportunities with export-ready Native American, Alaska Native and other minority-owned businesses.

Let me briefly mention two other resources that are aimed at making it easier for Native American entrepreneurs to get the resources you need.

Write this down!  

BusinessUSA and SelectUSA

BusinessUSA is a newly launched online platform that will help small businesses and exporters of all sizes find information about available federal programs. BusinessUSA combines information and services from 10 different government agencies and coordinates support through a single 800 phone number. And SelectUSA is the Department of Commerce’s first-ever federal initiative to help attract, retain and expand business investment in the United States.

Tribal leaders may be especially interested in working with SelectUSA to encourage and facilitate direct investment on tribal lands in support of economic development and job creation. Before I close, let me say that I look forward to seeing you all again in Washington, DC for the Minority Enterprise Development Week Conference, September 24th through the 27th. JoAnn Hill, our National MED Week Coordinator, is here to make you aware of the benefits of attending the conference. Once again, we are collaborating with SBA and other public-private sector partners to dramatically expand the conference offerings.

Margo and President Davis, I want you to know that NCAIED has a seat at the table once again and we welcome your support and contributions to the MED Week. If you’ve been before, then you know that this is the best place to connect with public and private sector buyers, explore avenues for business expansion, and develop the kind of partnerships that will help your businesses grow.

I want to close by saying: Thank you for allowing me to join you. I look forward to working with all of you in building a solid economic future for both American and the sovereign nation with whom we share this land.

Thank you.