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New Mexico Native American Economic Summit Draws Hundreds

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ALBUQUERQUE, New Mexico—The sixth annual New Mexico Native American Economic Summit drew upwards of 600 participants on May 22-24, 2012 to the Pueblo of Isleta near Albuquerque. The summit is presented by the American Indian Chamber of Commerce of New Mexico (AICCNM), the New Mexico Indian Affairs Department, the Pueblo of Isleta, the United States Department of the Interior and the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino.

Theodore M. Pedro, executive director of the AICCNM, said this year’s theme, “Native Leadership, Strengthening the Economy…Building for the Future,” appeals to tribal representatives, small businesses and government agencies. Last year’s summit had 550 participants from 67 cities and 17 states.

“The objective of the summit is to focus on education and awareness among Native and non-Native businesses, tribal governments, state and federal governmental agencies and entrepreneurs, about program information and resources available in New Mexico to foster economic development,” said Pedro (Laguna Pueblo).

The summit agenda included educational sessions and breakout sessions with speakers on topics as diverse as the kinds of economic development and financial programs available at the state and local level, to renewable energy programs, how to contract with the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Indian Health Service and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, doing business with New Mexico’s two national laboratories and Kirtland Air Force Base, and economic development through the arts and tourism.

On the first full day of summit activities, keynote speaker Chandler Sanchez, Acoma and chairman of the All Indian Pueblo Council, which represents all 19 Pueblos in New Mexico, gave a state of the state of tribal entities in New Mexico. Other notable speakers included Governor Frank E. Lujan (Isleta Pueblo), who opened the summit with a welcome and prayer, and Arthur P. Allison (Navajo), Cabinet Secretary for the New Mexico Indian Affairs Department. New Mexico is the only state with a cabinet level department of Indian Affairs.

Another New Mexico cabinet secretary, Jon Barela of the Economic Development Department showcased department programs and areas of assistance and education for participants. Ron Solimon (Laguna), executive director of Albuquerque’s Indian Pueblo Cultural Center, a not-for-profit organization operated by the 19 pueblos of New Mexico, will act as emcee and master of ceremonies.

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Later that day, Raymond Cervantes, acting regional director of the Minority Business Development Agency, a division of the U.S. Department of Commerce, spoke about opportunities with his department. Afterwards, a special presentation by Chuck Johnson, president of The Johnson Strategy Group, educated participants on the intricacies of on tribal politics and business.

On the second day, Richard Luarkie, governor of the Pueblo of Laguna, offered a welcome and prayer. Then Karen J. Atkinson, director of the Office of Indian Energy and Economic Development at the Department of the Interior in Washington, DC, spoke briefly about public/private partnerships, how to create tribal business partnerships and financing options and tax incentives for projects in Indian Country.

In addition to the general and breakout sessions, a trade fair of 80 booths displayed information from and about Native companies, state and federal programs and partners, lending institutions, the national laboratories and others.

“With all the resources available, we’re hoping construction companies and engineers get contracts, and that businesses sell more products and services to those in attendance. That’s the ideal outcome of the summit,” said Pedro.

The summit closed with a celebration the success of, and recognition of those who provide assistance to, Native-owned businesses. Richard and Theresa Trujillo of RTD Hardware and Loren Miller with LAM Construction and Engineering was recognized as Outstanding Companies of the Year. Dennis Roybal and Moe Zamora, both of Los Alamos National Laboratories (LANL), was honored for their contributions to Native-owned businesses who work with LANL.

According to its website, theAICCNMwas founded in 2000 to continually uphold and strengthen government, state, and local agencies’ relationships and to encourage and promote collaboration with New Mexico's Native, minority and women-owned companies. AICCNM’s mission is "to help Native and Minority people achieve successful economic development initiatives while incorporating, strengthening and building upon Tribal/Business Values."