WASHINGTON - The Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship convened today with the Indian Affairs Committee to examine the federal government's role in providing business opportunities in Native American communities. The hearing, Small Business Development in Native American Communities: Is the federal government meeting its obligations, examined S. 2335, the Native American Small Business Development Act - legislation sponsored by Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee Chairman Senator John F. Kerry (D-MA) and Senator Tim Johnson (D-SD) to increase the government's role in creating profitable business opportunities for Native American small business owners and entrepreneurs.

"The Native American community is rich in culture and tradition that would be a tremendous asset to the business world. With the right access to business resources and training, new small businesses will flourish, contributing to the local economy and community development. I applaud Senator Tim Johnson's continued leadership on this program and am proud to join him in legislation that will help level the playing field and give this community the tools they need to succeed."

The Native American Small Business Development Act would create the Office of Native American Affairs in the SBA and establish three assistance programs, including two pilot programs, to provide aid to Native Americans. The ONAA would help Native Americans and Native American communities develop small businesses, including assistance cultivating management and technical skills, seeking Federal procurement opportunities, increasing employment, and improving access to capital markets.

The legislation creates three assistance programs. First, the Native American Small Business Development Program that would provide financial assistance in the way of grants to Tribal Governments and Tribal Colleges, as well as provide technical resources to Native American Tribal Centers.

Second, The Native American Development Grant Pilot Program, a pilot program open to small business development centers and certain private non-profits to provide culturally tailored business development training and other services to Native American owned small businesses.

Finally, the American Indian Tribal Assistance Center Grant Program, a pilot program that would provide grants to establish joint projects to provide culturally tailored business development assistance to prospective and current owners of small business concerns located on or near Tribal Lands.

The ONAA will be headed by an Assistant Administrator who will oversea the grant programs, recommend budget levels, establish funding levels and maintain lines of communication between Native American business centers, as well as consult with Tribal Colleges and Tribal Governments, Alaska Native Corporations (ANC), and Native Hawaiian Organizations (NHO).