Working out of a quiet office in Chandler, Arizona, a suburb of Phoenix, Venessa Gleich brings 20 years of federal procurement experience to help Indian-owned companies sell to the government. As program manager for the Arizona Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC), she also fields inquiries from more than 100 other interested companies each year.
Gleich (rhymes with “bleach”) has been on the job since 2009, coming to the post from a job as a proposal manager at a private company, and before that, another PTAC. She is an enrolled member of the Ohkay Owingeh (formerly San Juan Pueblo) tribe.
There are 92 PTACs in all—six, like the one Gleich runs, specializing in American Indian companies. Funded by a cooperative agreement between the nonprofit American Indian Chamber of Commerce Education Fund (AICEF) in California and the Defense Logistics Agency, the California-based PTAC covers California, Nevada, Utah, and Arizona. In all, 122 tribes, excluding the Navajo Nation, are within its service area.
Tracy Stanhoff, director of the California AICEF, stresses that the education fund is non-political and open to companies from all tribes. To qualify to be served, a company must be 51 percent enrolled Native American-owned and capital-controlling. “We take this very seriously,” she says. Stanhoff has the utmost confidence in Gleich to assist Arizona’s tribes. “She is the best,” she remarks.
In August of 2011, American Indian companies closed more than $50 million in business, including the largest IDIQ electrical contract in Luke Air Force Base history (IDIQ stands for Indefinite Delivery, Indefinite Quantity). The winning company was Fort Mojave Construction, Inc., in Mohave Valley, Arizona. The 11-year-old company’s general manager, Janice Lewis, had worked with Gleich before and welcomed her help with this large bid. “She is very hands-on,” says Lewis, “she gives 110 percent.” Among the services Gleich provided Fort Mojave were networking with likely officials, setting up capability briefings, and proposal review when the project got to that point. She also went the extra mile, delivering papers in the Phoenix area, saving Lewis a trip.
If an Indian-owned company is interested in federal contracts or subcontracts, it must first obtain a Dunn & Bradstreet number. The next step is to obtain a CCR registration—which can be done online at www.bpn.gov, a multifaceted site of applications and regulations. One stop-shopping, as it were. There is also a registration called ORCA, nothing to do with whales. The Small Business Administration, which works closely with the PTACs, is also accessible from the site.
Once signed up with the passcodes and minutiae, an American Indian-owned company may qualify for preferences called set-asides. The best known is to be an 8(a) small business—a category which was recently tightened in the case of American Indian companies. Another advantage may be location of the main office of the company in a HUB Zone, so long as 35 percent of the company’s employees are in one of the HUB Zones, not necessarily the one where the office is located. “Buy Indian Set-Asides” are also available, with some restrictions, for companies selling to the Indian Health Services or Bureau of Indian Affairs.
Many American Indian business owners also come out of the military and some qualify for the Service-Disabled Vet-Owned preferences. Gleich helps business owners sort this out. Another set-aside that may benefit American Indian entrepreneurs is the Women-Owned Business preference.
Many of the companies Gleich assists are in one aspect or another of construction—building actual buildings or waste treatment facilities and the like. Clinics on Indian land are another project her companies bid on. Yet another is green energy. “The tribes are getting into this,” Gleich says, “voltaic cells, energy audits.” Besides architecture, engineering, and construction, Indian-owned firms are bidding on marketing and graphic design projects and such services as meeting planning and accounting.
Gleich’s office also schedules workshops and seminars monthly or sooner. In October, her PTAC teamed with the Office of Indian Energy and Economic Developmentu and the SBA to host a 3-day conference by experts from Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business. Tribal leaders and American Indian business owners were invited to attend and will receive a certificate from Tuck.
As always, when Dartmouth leaves, Gleich will remain to follow up, explain, and maybe deliver the occasional document. She can be reached at (480) 699-9529. For more information, go to: www.aicccal.org.