Chris James is the President and CEO of the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development, the largest business development and technical assistance training organization in the country for American Indian and Alaska Native-owned businesses. A former Associate Administrator at the U.S. Small Business Administration and U.S. Treasury official, Mr. James has doubled the National Center’s revenue during his tenure, expanding procurement and training programs throughout the country while boosting attendance to the annual Reservation Economic Summit by nearly 30% in the last five years.
Mr. James manages a team of nearly 30 staff and contractors based in seven offices across the country, all focused on enhancing the resilience of small and medium enterprises, promoting holistic community planning, and supporting tribal governments and small business owners in developing a strategic approach to economic development.
Fostering strong relationships with supplier diversity offices at Fortune 500 companies such as Lockheed Martin, Nike, Google, Square Inc; Northup Grumman, Alaska Airlines, Microsoft and IBM, the National Center has grown the number of businesses it supports from 200 per year, to more than 1,000.
Mr. James also leads the National Center’s advocacy work, coordinating with allies and tribal governments to hold local, state, and federal government officials accountable and constructively promoting policy changes that support access to capital and resources for small business incubation and growth. Under his leadership, the National Center has launched a Native Edge Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI), and the National Center now boasts over $4 billion in procurement it has helped National Center clients secure.
From 2011 – 2016, Mr. James was appointed by President Barack Obama to serve as Associate Administrator at the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), where he led the Office of Field Operations, and the Office of Native American Affairs, and where he established the SBA’s Office of Intergovernmental Affairs. Managing a workforce of over 800 people with an annual operating budget of more than $200 million, Mr. James oversaw programs and services that affected all 50 states and every U.S. territory, and served as a liaison to domestic and international corporate partners and stakeholders. Mr. James was also the officer on record for Tribal Consultation.
Among his accomplishments at SBA was the creation of Startup in a Day, which worked with cities and Native American communities to create streamlined platforms to allow entrepreneurs to apply for all relevant business permits in an expedited manner. Mr. James was also the agency lead on the SupplierPay program, which worked with nearly 50 Fortune 500 companies to speed up payments to suppliers.
Prior to SBA, Mr. James was an Associate Program Manager at the U.S. Department of the Treasury from 2009-2011, serving as a liaison between the Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) Fund, Native American tribal governments, and other federal government agencies. During his tenure at Treasury, he approved over $120 million dollars in funding to deserving applicants, and helped grow the number of certified Native CDFIs by 30%.