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Key Indian Country Economic Development Legislation Passes Senate Committee

Legislation creates a permanent Office of Native American Affairs at SBA

July 21, 2023

WASHINGTON, DC – Earlier this week, the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship approved the Native American Entrepreneurial Opportunity Act (S. 1156). The legislation, sponsored by Senator John Hickenlooper (D-CO) and Cynthia Lummis (R-WY), would create a permanent Associate Administrator at the Office of Native American Affairs (ONAA) within the Small Business Administration (SBA). Currently, the ONAA is established only administratively, which means it is often subject to inconsistent and insufficient funding levels, shifting missions and priorities, and does not always have a direct report to the SBA Administrator. S. 1156 would establish the ONAA by law and require that it be led by an Associate Administrator with a direct report to the SBA Administrator.

The Native American Entrepreneurial Opportunity Act was one of 11 bills that was packaged and approved by an 18-1 vote at the Committee on Wednesday, July 19. Other bills in the package included the Community Advantage Loan Program and Small Business Lending Company provisions. Additional co-sponsors of S. 1156 are Senators Mazie Hirono (D-HI) and Markwayne Mullin (R-OK).

“The National Center applauds the tireless work of Senators Hickenlooper and Lummis to pass the Native American Entrepreneurial Opportunity Act,” said Chris James, President and CEO of The National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development. “As a former Associate Administrator at SBA, I understand the importance of having an advocate for Indian Country with a direct line to the Administrator. Making this position permanent will mean the unique economic and entrepreneurial needs of our community – and government-to-government consultation – will always be a priority at SBA. I look forward to this vital legislation becoming law to ensure that we always have at seat at the table in an agency that plays a critical role in boosting our economy.”

Establishing a permanent ONAA at SBA led by an Associate Administrator has long been a priority of the National Center, including supporting a similar bill filed by Rep. Sharice Davids (D-KS) in the previous Congress. The National Center has also advocated for creating a similar office at the Department of Commerce. Legislation that elevated and boosted funding for the Office of Native American Business Development within Commerce became law in 2020.


About The National Center: The National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. With over 50 years of assisting American Indian Tribes and their enterprises with business and economic development – The National Center has evolved into the largest national Indian specific business organization in the nation serving over 500 clients and providing over $4 billion in contracts to its clients. The National Center has nine offices throughout the nation with its home office located in Mesa, Arizona. The National Center is actively engaged in helping Tribal Nations and Native business people realize their business goals and are dedicated to putting the whole of Indian Country to work to better the lives of American Indian people – both now…and for generations to come.