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House passes Indian small business bill

The following is a press release from Rep. Tom Udall (D-N.M.).

U.S. Representative Tom Udall, D-N.M., Monday confirmed that the House has passed legislation he introduced to stimulate economic development on Native American lands by assisting in the creation and expansion of small businesses owned by American Indian tribe members.

The House passed H.R. 1166 on a roll call vote of 378-14. The Udall bill would amend the Small Business Act to expand and improve the assistance provided by the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) network to Indian tribe members, Native Alaskans, and Native Hawaiians.

"It is hard to ignore that the economy is currently in a downswing as unemployment rates are on the rise and industrial growth is stagnant. Yet, it is during these difficult times that small businesses can make a difference," Udall said. "This legislation will permit existing Small Business Development Centers to apply for federal grants to establish services that are specifically targeted to the populations located on tribal reservation lands."

Udall noted that approximately 60% of American tribe members live on or adjacent to areas that have an average unemployment rate of 45%. At the same time, growth in the small business sector owned by Native Americans is growing and currently generates more than $34 billion in revenues.

Created in 1980, the Small Business Development Center program, which provides counseling and assistance to eligible small businesses, is intended to be a cost effective way of fostering and stimulating small businesses and local economies. In 2000, clients receiving long-term counseling under the program generated additional tax revenues of $182 million - roughly twice the cost of the program to the federal government. There are currently over 1,100 centers nationwide and 18 in New Mexico.

SBDCs offer one-stop assistance to individuals and small businesses by providing a wide variety of information and guidance in central and easily accessible branch locations. The program is a cooperative effort of the private sector, the educational community and federal, state and local governments. It enhances economic development by providing small businesses with management and technical assistance.

The SBDC Program is designed to deliver up-to-date counseling, training and technical assistance in all aspects of small business management. SBDC services include, but are not limited to, assisting small businesses with financial, marketing, production, organization, engineering and technical problems and feasibility studies. Special SBDC programs and economic development activities include international trade assistance, technical assistance, procurement assistance, venture capital formation and rural development.

If Udall's legislation is ultimately passed by the Senate and signed into law, states would be eligible to apply for grants up to $300,000 in a fiscal year. States receiving grants also would be required to seek the advice of local tribal councils on how to best provide assistance to American Indian tribe members, and where to locate satellite centers to provide such assistance.

Udall's measure overwhelmingly passed the House in 2001, but languished in the Senate. Under an agreement with House Small Business Chairman Don Manzullo, R-Ill., the latest version of the bill was not considered in committee and was sent directly to the House floor for consideration.

"My legislation has attracted the support of Democrats and Republicans. They all recognize that small businesses create 75 percent of all new employment opportunities, make up 99 percent of all employers, provide almost half of all sales in this country, and that small business growth in the minority community can greatly improve the nation's economy. The communities served by my initiative represent some of the most traditionally isolated, disadvantaged, and underserved populations in our country," Udall concluded.

A member of the House Committee on Small Business since 1999, Udall is the ranking member of the subcommittee on Workforce, Empowerment, and Government Programs.

Get the Bill:
To amend the Small Business Act to expand and improve the assistance provided by Small Business Development Centers to Indian tribe members, Native Alaskans, and Native Hawaiians (H.R.1166)

Relevant Links:
Small Business Development Center - http://www.sba.gov/sbdc
Rep. Tom Udall - http://www.house.gov/tomudall

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