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Native American Business Leaders Share Their Ideas on Economic Growth with Senior Administration Officials

The Domestic Policy Council and National Economic Council met with Native American economic development experts for a White House Native American Business Leaders Roundtable to discuss ways to improve economic conditions and create jobs in tribal communities.

Recently, I wrote about the Obama Administration’s commitment to collaborate with tribal leaders and experts in Native American economic development to help the White House Rural Council to develop policy recommendations on issues impacting Indian Country.

Last week, the Domestic Policy Council and National Economic Council convened a meeting with Native American economic development experts for a White House Native American Business Leaders Roundtable. As part of the White House Rural Council’s ongoing engagement with leaders from across Rural America, this roundtable gave Administration officials an opportunity to hear from Native American business leaders and policy experts about ways we can work together to improve economic conditions and create jobs in tribal communities.

At the listening session, participants discussed challenges tribal businesses face, including access to capital, job skills and training shortfalls, and limited broadband deployment and adoption in tribal communities.  Meeting participants included David Gipp, the president of the United Tribes Technical College for the past three decades; Valerie Fast Horse, who has led efforts to bring wireless Internet service to the Coeur d’Alene Indian Reservation and is now working on a $12.2 million project to provide faster Internet service through fiber optic connections; and Jackie Johnson Pata, executive director of the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI), who worked on Indian Country economic development as Deputy Assistant Secretary for HUD’s Office of Native American Programs during the Clinton Administration and now coordinates NCAI’s federal policy advocacy on behalf of tribal governments.  Participants were asked to provide suggestions and insight on potential near-term administrative actions to foster economic growth and community development in Indian Country.

Several of the business leaders in attendance highlighted the need for interagency collaboration and increased outreach to tribes about how to access and leverage federal resources. Creating long-term sustainable workforce development and opportunities for youth to stay on the reservations also emerged as key concerns. The overarching theme, however, was the importance of respecting and honoring the government-to-government relationship between tribes and the federal government.

On hand to hear these comments were White House staff from the Domestic Policy Council, the National Economic Council, the Council on Economic Advisors, the Office of Management and Budget, and the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs, as well as agency officials from Agriculture, Commerce, Health and Human Services, Interior, Labor, the Federal Communications Commission and the Small Business Administration.

The feedback and insight gained by my colleagues will be incorporated into our ongoing efforts to develop policy recommendations on economic growth in Indian Country, and I look forward to all we can achieve with our partners in the Federal government and in Indian Country to create more opportunity in Native American communities.

Kimberly Teehee is Senior Policy Advisor for Native American Affairs of the White House Domestic Policy Council