Examining tribal enterprises to understand Native economic development

Tribally owned businesses create economic opportunity for Native Americans and non-Natives alike. With the challenges tribal nations face in generating revenues , tribes create these enterprises as a key revenue stream to support tribal governments and therefore provide essential public goods to tribal communities. Despite their importance for Indian Country and state economies, little is known about tribal enterprises in aggregate, particularly outside of Indian gaming. 1 But the scope of tribal enterprises goes far beyond casinos: tribes own businesses located in both tribal and non-tribal areas and in industries like construction, manufacturing, and financial products. To gain a better understanding of tribal enterprises, Center for Indian Country Development (CICD) built and examined a dataset of nearly 1,200 tribally owned small businesses drawn from a U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) registration system. (For more on our dataset and how we define tribal enterprises , see the Appendix section below.) Our findings indicate that tribal enterprises have proliferated into a geographically dispersed business sector. The number of tribal enterprises has grown

Over the last 25 years, the number of tribal enterprises outside of gaming has grown significantly. The increase was steady from the mid-1990s to the mid-2000s, sluggish after the Great Recession, and robust over the past five years (see Figure 1). Significantly, federal legislative changes in 1986 and 1988 made all tribal enterprises eligible to participate in the SBA’s 8(a) Business Development program, which provides preferential access to federal government contracting. (For more on the 8[a] Program, see the […]

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