Overcoming Challenges to Business and Economic Development in Indian Country. BD/ED Planning


In all the tribes participating in this study, responsibility for BD/ED is spread across different tribal offices and programs, and BD/ED planning activities are often poorly coordinated. This diffusion and associated lack of coordination reflects in part the fragmentation in federal funding sources for tribal BD/ED. However, two federal initiatives (PL 102-477 and the Empowerment Zone/Enterprise Community [EZ/EC] program) may help or encourage tribes to coordinate and manage federal BD/ED funding better.

Some tribes, especially larger ones, may have several offices, divisions, or departments responsible for BD/ED planning and other activities. For example, most of the tribes in the study have separate offices or programs for economic development, small business development, workforce development, and/or TANF. In addition, responsibility for BD/ED is shared by the legislative branch (for example, a Tribal Council) and the executive branch (for example, a tribal chairman). This organizational structure is influenced by the sources of federal assistance. The tribal department of economic development tends to receive funds from the Economic Development Administration in the Commerce Department, the BIA, and USDA rural development programs. The tribal small business development program tends to receive funds from the SBA and from the Minority Business Development Administration in the Commerce Department. The tribal workforce development program tends to receive funds from DOL and DHHS (Administration for Native Americans and Administration for Children and Families). Tribal officials said that receiving funds from different federal departments and from different programs within departments, each with its own rules, regulations, and requirements, makes it difficult to plan and coordinate BD/ED activities.

Responding to the problems associated with multiple funding sources, the federal government has developed initiatives to support tribal efforts to better coordinate and manage federal funding in accordance with tribal goals and objectives. One of these federal initiatives is the Indian Employment, Training, and Related Services Demonstration Act of 1992 (PL 102-477), which authorizes tribes to integrate employment, training, and related services funded by the departments of Education, Interior, and Health and Human Services. Tribes participating in the program ("477 tribes") submit a single set of reports to the BIA, and within statutory limits, they can reprogram federal grant funds in accordance with the goals and objectives of their 477 program.(1) Title XI of the "Indian Employment, Training, and Related Services Demonstration Act Amendments of 2000" permits DHHS to waive statutory provisions of TANF and to approve tribal 477 plans to use up to 25 percent of 477 project funds for creating employment opportunities and related training (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services 2002).(2) Three tribes in the study (Citizen Potawatomi, Colville, and Three Affiliated Tribes) participate in the 477 program. Officials at these tribes were enthusiastic about the flexibility of the program, saying that the 477 program was especially valuable to their BD/ED plans and activities.

For each of the tribes in the study, BD/ED planning has undergone significant changes in recent years in response to tribal priorities and to federal initiatives that support Indian self-determination and self-governance. Prior to the passage of the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act of 1975 (ISDEAA), much of the planning was managed or performed by BIA staff. Legislation supporting tribal self-determination and self-governance has enabled the tribes in the study gradually to take over responsibility for and control of BD/ED activities as well as many other programs and initiatives. Most of the tribes in the study (and both Native corporations) ranked BD/ED among their highest priorities and devote staff and financial resources to setting and achieving BD/ED goals.

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