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Clarence O'Berry: Buying America back -- one business at a time

Filed Under: Business | Opinion
More on: clarence o'berry, economic development, mha nation

A view of Mandaree, North Dakota. Photo: Andrew Filer

Clarence O’Berry, the President/CEO of Mandaree Enterprises, the business arm of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation, explains the tribe's vision for expanding its economy:
When Mandaree Enterprises, LLC, an instrumentality of the Three Affiliated Tribes, opened for business in 1990, our primary objective was simply to generate some much-needed employment on the Fort Berthold Reservation. We started with little: no working capital, five employees, one product, and a single customer to go along with it in the form of our corporate mentor. A recipe for disaster, yet we were able to grow, tremendously in fact. Today, Mandaree Enterprises encompasses a family of companies with operations in 27 states and abroad, dozens of federal and commercial clients, and hundreds of employees. Like many minority-owned enterprises, we built our business in the federal marketplace, pursuing contracts that advantage “disadvantaged” companies. The federal government is still a great customer, but our growth over the past quarter-century has enabled us to diversify and to pursue commercial opportunities as well. In recent years, our focus has moved sharply in the direction of partnerships and acquisitions. You see, we want to do more than just grow our business and increase our revenue. We want to effect a dramatic increase in the presence, visibility, and influence of Native Americans and Native American entrepreneurship in this country. That’s why we’re committed to “Buying Back America” – one business at a time.

Mandaree Enterprises’ commercial acquisitions in the past few years have not only stretched our geographic footprint and added to our list of products and competencies, they have brought businesses under tribal ownership. That matters. Ownership generates power and influence; two things of which indigenous America is in desperately short supply. American companies play a significant role not only in the direction of the U.S. economy, but of public policy, and even public opinion. Ownership is a platform from which to be seen and heard; and, of course, the more one owns, the larger the platform. Increased tribal corporate ownership has the potential to create a fundamental shift in tribes’ relationships with federal and state authorities, lawmakers, and the larger American public; to raise the profile of Native Americans nationally and internationally; and to further inspire indigenous entrepreneurship.

Read More on the Story:
Clarence O’Berry: Mandaree Enterprises Is Buying Back America – and Inviting Yours to Do the Same (Indian Country Media Network 3/14)

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