The Department of the Interior will co-facilitate roundtable discussions at RES 2012, in addition to hosting a business training session and competition for 15 tribal businesses. “The purpose in sponsoring RES is to train tribal businessmen and -women to improve their business performance,” said Karen Atkinson, a member of the Three Affiliated Tribes in North Dakota and director of Interior’s Office of Indian Energy and Economic Development. “We’re combining training with policy discussions and matchmaking with corporate America.”
The first roundtable focuses on access to capital. Representatives from six federal agencies will join invited participants to discuss ways to improve federal-lending and loan-guarantee programs for Indians, Atkinson said. These agencies have been meeting as part of the president’s Administrative Flexibility Initiative.
The second roundtable covers surety bonds, which encompass both performance bonds and bid bonds in construction situations. Surety bonds “are required to win most contracts of any size,” Atkinson said. “If you’re a tribal business, you’re already faced with access to capital issues, along with sovereign immunity issues and similar problems which need to be addressed when seeking any sort of financing. These same issues present themselves when attempting to secure a surety bond. Especially on construction projects, the costs and challenges can make it difficult to obtain the bonds.”
The discussion will afford opportunities for constructive criticism, Atkinson said: “The roundtable will also include people who have experience seeking surety bonds and will include both success stories and advice to others about the difficulties and obstacles in obtaining surety bonds.”
In a separate event, representatives from Interior will lead a tribal business presentation contest and matchmaking session with 15 tribal businesses nominated by the Native American Procurement Technical Assistance Center. On February 29 at the RES, the tribal businesses will compete in a juried business presentation contest called “Making the Pitch,” Atkinson said. Representatives from each business will give two- and six-minute business pitches before judges who “are procurement representatives from major corporations.”