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National Center celebrates American Indian business successes

TULSA, Okla. – When the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development says, “We mean business for American Indians,” it really does.

The premier Indian business organization is the oldest nonprofit organization in the country dedicated to developing American Indian economic self-sufficiency through business ownership. NCAIED will celebrate Indian country’s business successes at its 34th Annual Indian Progress in Business, INPRO, event held Sept. 16 – 18 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel Tulsa.

INPRO is a gathering of Fortune 500 businesses, tribal leaders, American Indian business owners and the decision makers of Indian business. The three-day event includes a classic golf tournament, speakers, conference workshops, an artisans’ marketplace, a business fair and networking market, and a banquet to recognize a lifelong outstanding tribal leader. A first this year is the Native American 40 Under 40 Business Reception to showcase 40 existing and emerging American Indian leaders under 40 years old, who have demonstrated exceptional achievements in their business, communities or personal areas that further progress throughout Indian country.

All winners were nominated for the award and range from practicing attorneys to business entrepreneurs to medical doctors.

The “40” theme plays on NCAIED’s celebration of its 40th anniversary. The organization was started by a grassroots movement in 1969 when seven American Indian community leaders in California visualized alleviating the many problems in Indian country by improving economic conditions. The leaders first concentrated on helping urban populations and named their organization UIDA, Urban Indian Development Association.

By the late 1980s, with numerous success stories and expansions after working with government agencies and corporations, the organization formed the National Resource Council, and changed its name to National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development to reflect its expanded scope of work and extension beyond urban areas into reservation-based business development. At that time, the organization moved from California to Arizona and now owns a 10,000-square-foot building in Mesa, which serves as the corporate headquarters.

NCAIED supplies technical assistance and consulting services in all areas of business development to American Indian-owned small businesses and tribal enterprise operations. It works with federal government agencies, corporations and foundations to facilitate a business relationship between American Indian enterprises and private industry.

Since its beginning, NCAIED has worked with more than 25,000 Indian businesses, trained more than 10,000 tribal members, and helped obtain more than $4.5 billion in contracts and financing for its clients.

The center hosts three signature events: RES, the Reservation Economic Summit & American Indian Business Trade Fair, the largest and longest running Native business conference in the country, which takes place in the spring; the Native American Procurement Conference, which brings together small business communities to encourage partnership/teaming relationships and increase competitiveness and opportunities in contracting; and INPRO.

This year’s INPRO will present the Jay Silverheels Achievement Award to Bill Anoatubby, the 30th governor of the Chickasaw Nation. Anoatubby has served as governor since 1987 and has been an active member of tribal government since 1975.

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Anoatubby has an immense resume. In July 1975, he began working for the Chickasaw Nation as director of tribal health services in which he planned, organized and managed tribal health programs, personnel and government contract funds, according to the biography posted on the tribe’s Web site,

A year later, he was transferred to the tribal finance department to plan, organize and direct the accounting department where he performed accounting functions for financial transactions relating to federal and non-federal programs and tribal businesses. He developed and improved accounting systems for the tribal programs and businesses and performed a myriad of other functions, including preparing financial statements and reports, doing budget analysis and revisions, and filing all financial reports and tax returns.

In October 1978, he was promoted to special assistant to the governor and controller, where he supervised department directors and was in charge of program management and reporting, including personnel.

In late 1979, Anoatubby was elected the first lieutenant governor of the Chickasaw Nation by popular vote. Prior to the completion of his first term in office, he was re-elected to another four-year term, taking office in October 1983.

The governor manages almost 3,500 employees, more than 50 government programs, 13 tribal businesses and a budget of some $200 million. Under Anoatubby’s financial leadership, the Chickasaw Nation became one of the first tribal governments in the U.S. to be certified as an A-102 tribe, with superior ratings for management and fiscal controls.

“Governor Anoatubby’s dedication to advancing the lives of the Chickasaw people truly exemplifies the spirit of the Jay Silverheels Achievement Award,” said NCAIED Chairwoman Margo Gray-Proctor. “Anoatubby’s leadership has empowered the Chickasaw Nation to economic self-sufficiency and making a difference not only to the lives of the Chickasaw people but for Indian country as a whole.”

Another highlight of the awards banquet is the presentation of scholarships to American Indian students majoring in business who have demonstrated a commitment to giving back to the American Indian community.

Several notable speakers will be featured at INPRO including former Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs Dave Anderson, who is more famous as the founder of Famous Dave barbeque restaurants, will facilitate a session called, “What Recession?” which will focus on the state of the economy and its affects on Indian businesses.

Clara Pratte, national director of the Office of Native American Affairs Small Business Administration, will present a workshop on “Rebuilding and Restructuring 8(a).”

Representatives from the Interior Department will be on hand to talk about “Accessing Capital in this Economy.” NCAIED anticipates more than 350 attendees.