In the world of Native economic development, there’s a new sheriff in town. Its name is Native Edge — an online business development portal recently launched June 15 by the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development (NCAIED). According to Gary Davis, president and CEO of the National Center, Native Edge is truly a game-changer.
If you are a Native entrepreneur trying to promote your business, have struggled to find a job, are looking to buy or sell Native, eager to tap into millions of dollars in procurement funds or need an efficient way to train employees, Davis said Native Edge covers all these bases—and much more.
“This portal is LinkedIn, Monster.com, Facebook, Twitter, Lynda.com, YouTube and a business directory all rolled into one. If we had the Indian version of even one of those sites, it would be amazing, right? But we have all of them rolled into one on Native Edge,” said Davis. “There is nothing like it anywhere on the Internet.”
Sean McCabe, a certified public accountant, was one of the first to register on the portal. McCabe, a Navajo, owns Anuskewicz & McCabe CPAs PC, an accounting firm in Albuquerque. He said he likes the networking benefits. “I’ve always wanted to be a big firm, and this portal gives me an opportunity to do that, to reach a bigger audience. It is a huge tool for an entrepreneur like me.”
Native Edge took two years to develop. “We didn’t launch until we knew it was 100 percent. We over-delivered,” said Davis, an entrepreneur and enrolled member of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma. He talked to ICTMN about why he thinks Native Edge is going to create an economic transformation within Indian country.
What is Native Edge?
It is an innovative, online business development and training portal, or “ecosystem,” designed to grow opportunities for American Indian/Alaska Native entrepreneurs and tribes, tribal enterprises and Alaska Native Corporations; and to develop the workforce in Indian country through four different components: training, hiring, procurement and community. The business tool that everyone was waiting for is now here. There are no excuses now why we can’t hire our own people, source opportunities or train people. We have spent two years rebuilding it and retooling it, and now it is up to Indian country to move it forward because you have to use it for it to mean something. The Edge is all about bringing people and opportunities together.
How did this idea come about?
Originally, it was a program that came out of the White House in 2002. It was assigned to HUD … and 18 federal agencies were involved in its execution. But it didn’t quite take hold, and in 2006 it was given to the National Center. When I came on board as president and CEO in 2012, it had run its course in its original form. We knew we could do more … and that we needed to build an economy for Indian country. But you cannot have an economy unless you have entrepreneurship. If you don’t have American Indian-owned businesses in the community, every dollar that is generated is going to leave the community. That is what we have across Indian country right now.
Do you have to be Native American to access Native Edge?
No. As much as our main focus is to grow the conversation Native-to-Native, and tribe to tribe … it’s also important that we expand the conversation to other diverse communities. There is so much opportunity that can be manifested by building relationships between Indian country and other communities, as well as the global marketplace.
Can someone who is not a business owner or entrepreneur go on your site and find a job?
Anybody who is a member of the portal can seek out a job opportunity or create one through the hiring component, “Hire Edge.” We want to help those good folks who have all the qualifications for a job, but can’t get an audience with a company. But just because they can’t find a job doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. We want to bring qualified Natives together with corporate America to make those hires happen. The same is true for “Procurement Edge.”
If you’re a Native-owned business looking for Buy Indian Act-specific RFP's, you can find them here. Similarly, corporations can find Native suppliers here — often in fields where they couldn’t previously be found. You can also create RFP's to source business opportunities to other Native-owned businesses.
How much does it cost to sign up for Native Edge?
The premium membership is $24.99 a month, which is incredibly under the market for a solution as robust as the Edge. If you sign up for one year, we will give you two months free. However, we have made Native Edge free for teachers and students with a “.edu” e-mail address, and we will also work with schools and other educators whom do not have a .edu domain extension to get them access for free, if need be.
How do you think Native Edge will change economic development in Indian country?
It’s the rebirth of empowerment. We can now come together, aggregate our economic power and create a different day for future generations. There shouldn’t be one person sitting on a reservation saying, “You know, because I have this last name or because I voted wrong in the last election, I can’t get a job.” Or, “Because I don’t know how to become an entrepreneur, I can’t get started.” We’ve evened the playing field. This is a liberator, a freeing of the bonds that have tied Indian country down. There are no middle men now. If you want to advance your life and provide for your family … get on here, get going and make sure people can find you so you can get to work.
Lynn Armitage is a contributing business writer and an enrolled member of the Oneida Tribe of Indians of Wisconsin.