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Feds Court American Indian Firms

By Winthrop Quigley
Journal Staff Writer
    The federal government has billions of dollars to spend with Native American businesses if only they would offer to sell something.
    In an effort to connect federal buyers with Indian sellers, the U.S. General Services Administration is sponsoring a conference called "2004 Native American Conference: Doing Business with the Government" on Tuesday and Wednesday at the Albuquerque Convention Center.
    Federal agencies, military procurement officials and prime contractors will meet with about 400 business people to discuss their product needs and the intricacies of selling to Uncle Sam. Workshops will explain federal purchasing programs and procurement processes.
    GSA also plans to unveil a new Native American Business Center for Albuquerque. It is designed to help Native American small business owners secure government contracts.
    American Indian Chamber of Commerce of New Mexico executive director John C. Lewis estimated about $15 billion in federal spending is available in set-aside programs for Native American businesses. Set-aside programs allow federal purchasers to direct business to women- and minority-owned businesses.
    The set-asides are "highly under-utilized," Lewis said. Lewis said some Indian business people simply aren't aware of the set-asides. The distances in the rural states where many Native American businesses are located can make it harder to take advantage of such programs, he said.
    To register for the conference, call (509) 838-8755 or go to Web site www.allianceforbiz.com.