Testers Tribal Business Incubator Bill Receives Senate Hearing

Legislation Will Help Launch Business Start Ups and Create Jobs in Indian Country

(U.S. Senate)-Senator Jon Tester’s bill that will help launch business startups and create jobs in Indian Country received a hearing today in the Senate Indian Affairs Committee.

Tester’s bill, the Native American Business Incubators Program Act, will create a competitive grant initiative to establish and fund business incubators in Indian Country to help start-up and cultivate Native American-owned small businesses.

“It is time to bring down the barriers that are keeping folks from investing in Indian Country,” Tester said. “My bill will create business incubators so Native American entrepreneurs have a one-stop shop where they can launch their business and create jobs in their communities.”

Tribal business incubators will create a space for Native American entrepreneurs to get assistance developing a business plan, navigating federal, tribal, and state regulations, and attracting outside investment. The incubators will also provide entrepreneurs a connected workspace and professional networking opportunities.

Tester’s bill would authorize $5 million annually to fund this economic development initiative.

To be considered for a grant, the applicant must serve one or more tribal communities, submit a three-year plan, provide a physical workspace, offer business skills training and education, and meet other specific requirements. Tribes, Tribal Colleges and Universities, and non-profit organizations are eligible to operate a business incubator. The Native American Business Incubators Program Act will also provide oversight to business incubators and ensure they are delivering on their commitment to Native American entrepreneurs.

According to the National Congress of American Indians, 39 percent of Native Americans living on reservations are in poverty and the unemployment rate is 19 percent — more than three times the national average. The poverty rate of Native Americans living in Montana is among the highest in the nation.

The Native American Business Incubators Program Act is cosponsored by Senators Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) and Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and is available HERE.