A competitive grant process landed the Albuquerque-based American Indian Chamber of Commerce of New Mexico (AICCNM) $1,275,000 to operate a new Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) Business Center in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The center, which is expected to be housed in the offices of the state’s Indian Affairs Department, will maintain a satellite presence in the AICCNM’s Albuquerque office. “We’ll have two staff in Santa Fe and two in Albuquerque to operate the new center,” says Theodore Pedro (Laguna Pueblo), the AICCNM’s executive director. “We’ll be using existing staff and hiring an additional person.” According to a press release from the MBDA, a part of the U.S. Department of Commerce, the competitive grant program is designed to spur job creation and economic development in states with large American Indian and Alaska Native populations. New MBDA business centers will be opened in Anchorage, Alaska; Fresno, California; Bismarck, North Dakota; and Tulsa, Oklahoma; in addition to Santa Fe. A total of $6.6 million was awarded, with most receiving $1,250,000 over five years. California’s Asian, Inc. will receive $1,500,000 over five years. Management and technical assistance for the new center falls into general business, marketing and financial consulting categories, including identifying funding sources, providing assistance in accounting and taxes, personnel and identifying contract and procurement opportunities with state and federal agencies, local governments, tribal and other organizations. “The staff will be doing business consulting, holding workshops and covering the northern area of New Mexico, in addition to helping other businesses throughout the country who are interested in doing business in New Mexico,” says Pedro. “There are a lot of companies who would like to do business here with the national labs and the airport.” (There are two national labs in New Mexico: Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque and Los Alamos National Laboratories in Los Alamos.) “We’re familiar with the operator in New Mexico and thrilled about expanding our footprint with them,” says Bridget Gonzales, director of public affairs for the MBDA. “We wanted to expand into the Northern part of the state because of the pueblos within northern New Mexico, and because of the expertise that already exists there.” One major change in the MBDA program effective with this grant, according to Gonzales, is that three individual programs have been consolidated into one for clarity and branding. The consolidated program is now called the MBDA Business Center. Another change is that in previous funding cycles, operators were eligible for three years of funding. That has been expanded to five years. The third primary change is that the centers are no longer confined to a geographic boundary, whether a city or state. “Now MBDA Centers can work with minority businesses from anywhere in the United States. The idea is to build upon the expertise each center has already, based on its history, partners and staff. So if a Colorado or Michigan firm were interested in relocating to New Mexico or doing business there, they could contact the center in Santa Fe and work with them. Also, if a center has particular expertise, they could contact that center because of its expertise,” Gonzales says. The new Santa Fe Center will continue the work of the AICCNM-operated, existing New Mexico Native American Business Enterprise Center in assisting individuals, sole-proprietors, corporations and tribal entities with their business needs on and off the reservation. It will now also serve other minority-owned firms anywhere in the country. The new center, according to Pedro, will be called the MBDA Business Center – American Indian and Alaska Native Program to reflect its expanded scope. “The focus has changed a little bit in the kinds of businesses we’ll be assisting, too,” says Pedro. “Now, it’ll be mainly for companies with $1 million or more in revenue. The broadening of scope is a big deal for us. We haven’t tapped Alaska Native-owned companies yet. There are about six different Alaska Native-owned corporations in New Mexico.” Pedro says that the MBDA is also providing software and training to help identify new contract opportunities with federal, state and local governments. This training will take place within 60 days of the grant award. In addition, when the MBDA’s Santa Fe location has been confirmed within the offices of the state’s Indian Affairs Department, a grand opening ceremony and ribbon cutting featuring welcoming address by the state’s Secretary of Indian Affairs Arthur Allison is planned. The MBDA currently funds 40 business centers nationwide, managed by entities like the AICCNM who provide minority entrepreneurs and business owners with consulting services, contract and financing opportunities, bonding and certification services, and hold workshops and networking opportunities. A complete listing of all MBDA business centers can be found at www.mbda.gov.