Arctic Slope Regional Corporation is partnering with the nation’s largest business lobby. ASRC is launching the Native American Enterprise Initiative with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
The Native American Enterprise Initiative will grow beyond its founding members. ASRC is the only Alaska Native Corporation affiliated thus far.
Tara Sweeney is excited about the possibilities. She’s a vice president of ASRC and says the goal of the partnership is to lobby on energy and regulatory policies … and taxes in Indian Country.
Alaska Native Corporations qualify for special minority-owned status … known by the Small Business Administration code 8(a).
“It is an important economic driver within Native American communities,” Sweeney said. “We’ll always have to protect our interests in that area and continue to educate members of Congress.”
“Taxation is certainly something that affects our communities and how we do business, and that is certainly going to be on the agenda as well.”
Companies that qualify for 8(a) status can win lucrative government contracts without competition. Missouri Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill introduced a bill in 2010 stripping some 8(a) benefits from Alaska Native Corporations.
She says the issue still abuses still persist, and is open to moving the bill in the coming Congress.
“We should not allow these Alaska Native Corporations to be abused the way they’ve been abused, in that they’ve gotten crumbs off the table, while most of the money has stayed in Northern Virginia,” McCaskill said.
Northern Virginia is home to countless government contractors.
Jason Matthews is the executive director for the new Native American Enterprise Initiative.
“The Chamber represents a lot of small businesses and a lot of 8(a) business already,” Matthews said. “So the initiative gives that a new impetus, of course, because one area where Alaska Native Corporations have been successful is in the government contracting field.”
With talk of corralling federal spending and reforming the tax code, it’s possible 8(a) contracting will come under additional scrutiny. Senator McCaskill would not say whether she would use tax reform as the method to revise the program.
Both Senator Mark Begich and Senator Lisa Murkowski say that Congress should not single out the Alaska Native Corporations if it revises the 8(a) program.