Opinion: Native businesses can make a big impact
"As nearly everyone is aware, there are sobering economic statistics facing our country at the present time. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the current unemployment rate in the United States is 9.6 percent (August 2009), and the unemployment rate for Native Americans is generally believed to be at least two times the national rate (according to the Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development). Some sources estimate the figure of Native American unemployment to be as high as eighty or ninety percent in some states.

Hand-in-hand with those alarming statistics is the startlingly low number of businesses that are Native American or Alaska Native-owned. Out of the nearly 2.5 million American Indians and Alaska Natives in the United States, only 206,125 were reported as owning a business in 2002 (Source: Native Americans in Business, Economics and Commerce).

Thus, in the current treacherous state of the American national economy, it is our opportunity as Native Americans to embrace these statistics as an impetus for change. In light of the fact that a lack of capital is often cited as an obstacle in the formation of Native American businesses, the creation of small businesses can be an effective answer.

Stephen Cornell and Joseph P. Kalt, authors of "What Can Tribes Do? Strategies and Institutions in American Indian Economic Development," recognize "Private (Micro) enterprise with tribal member ownership" as "an economic system based on the individual, family, or small group entrepreneurship of tribal members. In the face of scarcity of capital in Indian hands, it envisions a reservation economy consisting primarily of small businesses (‘microenterprises') that are started, owned, and operated as private businesses ... it recognizes that raising large amounts of capital is inconsistent with the generally low level of savings in Indian Country...""

Get the Story:
Samantha Johnson : Small businesses can have big impact (Alaska Dispatch 11/3)