American Indian Business

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The American Indian Chamber Networking Luncheon will be held August 21st in Scottsdale. American Indian businesses make up about two percent of businesses in Arizona. Loren Tapahe, president and CEO of the American Indian Chamber of Commerce of Arizona, will tell us more about the state of American Indian businesses.

TED SIMONS: American Indian enterprises make up about 2% of businesses in Arizona. In a move to improve those numbers, the American Indian chamber of commerce of Arizona will hold a networking luncheon in Scottsdale. Here with more is Loren Tapahe, president and CEO of the American Indian chamber. Good to have you here. Welcome to Arizona.

LOREN TAPAHE: Thank you.

TED SIMONS: What is the state of American Indian businesses in Arizona?

LOREN TAPAHE: Well, it's flourishing in some regards but we have a long way to go. A lot of other issues on Indian land, like health issues, education, sometimes take prominence rather than business development. The tribal leaders are realizing that they need to develop more jobs on the reservations, so they look to the youth that are coming out of school, however, there's other infrastructure not there like housing for these kids to come back and serve their communities and start businesses on reservation lands.

TED SIMONS: We talk about American Indian businesses in Arizona are we only talking about on reservation land or American Indian businesses in Scottsdale or Tempe?

LOREN TAPAHE: Tour chamber deals with both. We have members from both reservation based businesses, tribal enterprises, then we have businesses that are out into urban areas. We deal with both. We try to foster growth with both those segments.

TED SIMONS: You mentioned housing and other concerns on the reservation. Is that the biggest challenge? It seems like there are opportunities there but the opportunities are hitting roadblocks that's got to be tough.

LOREN TAPAHE: That's kinds of what we heard a couple of years ago from some of the meetings that I went to, that jobs become available but when they apply and get selected there isn't housing to bring that graduate or that person back to the reservation.

TED SIMONS: As far as what kind of businesses that are owned and managed by American Indians, construction mostly?

LOREN TAPAHE: There's a lot in the construction industry like design and engineering, roofing, dry-walling, flooring, all those type of construction jobs. It's getting to be more and more of the internet based type of jobs like web design, social media, all those type of areas are really coming up fast.

TED SIMONS: When folks say, budding entrepreneur, comes to the chamber says I'm thinking about X, Y, Z, what questions do you hear most?

LOREN TAPAHE: A lot of them are starting at the very basic step one. They have not developed a business plan yet. They have this idea of opening either a restaurant, clothing store, T-shirt shop. So we have to foster them from the very beginning. We are trying to engage the other chambers, engage the state programs, County programs to that we're not reinventing the wheel trying to develop something specifically for one segment. We do a lot of collaborating with the other chambers in the valley.

TED SIMONS: Do you find the tribal governments do a lot of collaborating with each other? Could that be with a problem at times dealing with the state of Arizona and local municipalities? How does that dynamic work?

LOREN TAPAHE: I think the tribes, they do come together, this group called the enter tribal council of Arizona. They bring to the table any ideas that can be shared with the group. Maybe not necessarily a joint money type of investment but they get together and find out what each other is doing and how they can help and support each other through either Congress or the state programs or state legislature.

TED SIMONS: As far as tourism, I imagine it's pretty big.

LOREN TAPAHE: Yes. There's a group called American Indian tourism association of Arizona. They got established some years ago. They are having a big conference coming up. That is one segment where other type of infrastructure doesn't have to be developed like housing. So you have these tourists that come in and spends their dollars and then they go back to their countries. That's a big area that I think the tribes are trying to capitalize on.

TED SIMONS: is there a generational difference when it comes to business interests on the reservation?

LOREN TAPAHE: I'm not quite sure what you mean by that, but -- older people?

TED SIMONS: Yes.

LOREN TAPHAHE: A lot of the older people, like my mom, she's 105, by the way, worked mainly with the sheep industry. So she grew the sheep, took them to market, sheered the sheep, sold the wool type of thing. She had another job with the BIA, but that is slowly kind of dying out and we have more of a contemporary type of people that are looking at jobs again like in mass media, in marketing, in social media and the internet, those areas. It's changing.

TED SIMONS: sounds like it. Last question. For nonindigenous business owners and managers when they're dealing with American Indian business folks, again on or off the reservation, is it a different way of going about things or is business business?

LOREN TAPAHE: In some regards it is, but I think there's more -- you have to pay attention to the customs and how you greet people when you go to a tribal meeting or something. It's just a lot of handshaking and hello, tell who you are, where you're from rather than making a presentation. Tribal leaders see that as a way of looking at your honesty, looking at where you're from so they build that rapport with those people that come in. We have many different types of members with the chamber, Indian and nonIndian. We try to talk with them and they ask me questions about that many times.

TED SIMONS: very good. This is a conference August 21st?

LOREN TAPAHE: that's our monthly chamber luncheon. Then we have luncheons every month. We have a conference coming up November 12 along with our mixer, an awards luncheon, golf tournament. All kinds of things.

TED SIMONS: Good luck. Let's get that 2% number a little higher.

LOREN TAPAHE: very much so.

TED SIMONS: Good to see you.

LOREN TAPAHE: thanks, Ted.

Loren Tapahe : President and CEO of the American Indian Chamber of Commerce of Arizona

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