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By Nick Wakeman

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Nick Wakeman

Alaska Native Corporations get no love

In the wake of a congressional hearing and other recent coverage of the special treatment received by Alaska Native Corporations and tribally owned companies, commenters have let loose plenty of vitriol against these companies.

Because of special contracting advantages they received – eternal 8(a) membership, no limits on noncompeted contracts and other benefits – many of these companies have grown into huge operations.

Some of the harshest comments came from our story on a Senate hearing and report that was critical of the amount of money flowing back to the villages and tribes, as well as the number of tribal and ANC shareholders who actually work for these companies.

“Like many programs that the U.S. government has developed for the Alaskan Native people, this one has been hijacked by non-native people who could care less about helping the Native shareholders they supposedly represent,” one commenter wrote.

“This program obviously aids certain folks but clearly not the Alaskan Natives. … Those Native Americans acting as a front for this activity should find themselves sharing cell space with the Wall Street crowd. This is no more than a handout to corporate America and large government contractors,” wrote another.

In a blog I wrote leading up to the hearing, one commenter defended the ANCs:

“ANCs do in fact deliver economic, social and cultural benefits to their shareholders due in part to the 8a program. They have increased their capabilities over the years just as Congress intended. Besides, Native enterprise contracting represents a fraction of the total federal contracting pie — only 1 percent!”

But criticism ruled the day:

“The abuses in the set-aside programs go back a LONG way and I find them both amusing and disgusting. Amusing because the way many of the laws are written invite the abuse — and disgusting because the bottom feeders all slither through the legal loop-holes to take business away from those who should get it.”

Other than that one commenter, the defenders of these companies have been silent. Can no one show them a little love?

Posted by Nick Wakeman on Jul 22, 2009 at 9:54 AM

Reader Comments

Wed, Sep 8, 2010

Mr. Wakeman, I am just curious.....how much time have you spent in Alaska with shareholders of Native Corporations? I am assuming-NONE. As a shareholder of one of these corporations that you express seething envy of. Let me inform you that they have helped me financially through Stage IV diagnosis' of cancer where the government would not. I have always been a taxpayer, but was not eligible for any "government" help because I "own" my home, albeit is close to foreclosure. I went from earning 60k per year to less than 25k. I am a single minority mother. No, not black or hispanic. If these corporations you speak of having no love for-were hispanic or black you would have been viewed as rascist. So, for your information these "corporations" that you have no love for kept me from starving as a cancer ridden, single, minority mother!

Fri, Aug 28, 2009 Frank Tucson AZ

I am a small business owner and can tell you from personal experience that ANCs have been given an unfair advantage for years. The ANCs lobby groups and spokesman want people to believe that they are small businesses struggling to make it. Nothing could be farther from the truth. By the way, I did go to the link that the writer from Anchorage, AK referred to and found nothing more that rehearsed anecdotal comments. The facts about how ANCs are run and operated are clear and factual and well documented by numerous government agencies. Now our elected officials need to stop talking and take the legislative action necessary to correct the on-going probelm. You are right ANCs will not be getting any love from me anytime soon.

Thu, Jul 23, 2009

I work for a small business that has found it more and more difficult to compete on a level playing field when pursuing Federal contracting opportunities. My company has had outstanding past performance on all of our contracts and we are shut out of bidding on the majority of solicitations that we are qualified to bid on. We won one contract a few years ago against Full and Open competition - including large businesses like Microsoft and other large Information Technology companies. When the contract came up for rebid, it was sole sourced to an ANC and our company couldn't even bid on it. The ANC ended up hiring our employees and the government had to pay more money for the same services.

Thu, Jul 23, 2009 Frustrated

"many of the laws are written invite the abuse" I work for a large company in a niche market. On one of our contracts, the government did a pre-solicitation sources sought and found no qualified small businesses. Yet, they turned around and levied a more that 50% small business requirement in the RFP. Leaving us as the sucessful bidder to find make work for just the sorts of companies your discussing in order not to be penalized. Note to the government please concentrate on making it easier for all us us to compete, meet your dates, pay your bills and drop some of your ridiculous requirements. Maybe then real small businesses with something to contribute might actually want to do business with the Government.

Thu, Jul 23, 2009 M Washington

I doubt you will find any defenders of ANCs besides the ANCs themselves and their paid lobbyists. Some systems integrators have learned how to play the game with them--that is, become partners and get huge portions of the no-bid contracts. This is a great bargain for the integrators, because they don't have to expend resources preparing bids. So the integrators that have reliable ANC partners probably hope the program remains, but I doubt they will say so publicly.

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