Tester pushes jobs in Indian Country

Senator says tribes hold ‘great potential’ for small business opportunities, job creation

(U.S. SENATE) – Senator Jon Tester on Thursday focused on opportunities for job creation and stronger economies in Indian Country.

At a Senate Banking Committee hearing dedicated to sharing ideas for progress in Indian Country, Tester made it clear that Indian Country’s economic challenges can be overcome by smart policies and investment in education and economic growth.

“Tribes hold great potential for traditional and renewable energy development, agriculture, tourism, government contracting and other small business opportunities,” Tester said.  “And it’s my job – and that of the committee – to make it as easy as possible for tribal members to seize those possibilities.”

With unemployment on some Indian reservations in Montana above 70 percent, Tester invited Martin Olsson, President of Eagle Bank on the Flathead Indian Reservation, and Susan Woodrow, an advisor for the Federal Reserve from Helena, to speak about their work and experiences at the hearing.

In her testimony, Woodrow stressed that tribes encourage small business development by standardizing rules that give outside groups the confidence they need to invest in Indian Country. 

“While tribal governments may be able to negotiate loan terms for large-dollar initiatives, small businesses located within tribal jurisdictions do not have such negotiating power,” Woodrow said.  “This creates a high-risk environment for lenders and other creditors.”

Tester also asked Olsson and the panel how to make improvements to technical assistance initiatives designed to support and connect small businesses.

“Technical assistance folks must have the business experience that can relate with the level of business that they’re working with – whether it’s startups or whether it’s expansions,” Tester said.  “If there are ways we can help with that, that would be good.”

Tester, a member of both the Senate Banking and Indian Affairs Committees, actively supports job creation and economic develop in Indian Country.