TWIN ARROWS – On May 10, President Russell Begaye opened the Second Annual Navajo Nation Economic Summit at Twin Arrows Casino and Resort in Flagstaff, Ariz.
“We look forward to continually working with you to build the economic future of the Navajo Nation. Creating small businesses on the Navajo Nation is a process, and you must be committed to developing your business on Navajo,” said President Begaye. “I see the Navajo Nation becoming the largest employer in the southwest.”
There were over 500 participants that attended the Second Annual Navajo Nation Economic Summit. There were five breakout sessions with over 15 sessions with an emphasis on Tourism, Tax Credits, E-commerce and Marketing.
To change the economic environment of the Navajo Nation, we must invest in our future, said President Begaye
During his keynote speech, President Begaye made mention to the CDFI legislation that was signed in March. This CDFI legislation which is worth 20 million dollars will provide loans to 26 businesses this year and additional businesses the following year.
The process to obtain a business site lease has been streamlined to assist businesses, rather than a two year review time, it now takes a couple of weeks to issue a business site lease.
Small businesses thrive when the infrastructure and market is available in that area. The Begaye-Nez administration has set aside millions of dollars to upgrade critical infrastructure to the benefit of economic development and job creation. President Begaye also developed a taskforce to designate economic zones across the Navajo Nation and provide them with up-to-date information about potential sites for development.
As small businesses are developed they can be added under the Naat’áanii Development Corporation. Businesses are excited about the Naat’áanii Development Corporation, which separates politics from business. When politics are involved, favoritism and mismanagement of funds is can occur in the business transactions.
“The purpose of this corporation is to minimize and assist in the transition to decrease politics in business,” said Robert Joe, Chief Operations Officer.
The Naat’áanii Development Corporation will be a platform to launch more businesses and create more jobs on the Navajo Nation. The Naat’áanii Development Corporation will have a seven-member board that will be incentivized to create jobs. Every two years, the board members will be up for board appointment to encourage profit, increase of jobs and small business development. If they are not producing results, new board members will be brought in.
President Begaye intends on signing an executive order, directing the executive branch to “Buy Navajo.” This executive order will be implied for contracts to ensure Navajo entrepreneurs and businesses are utilized to complete the work, resulting in a strengthened Navajo economy.
We are raising up our nation by employing our own people, said President Begaye.
There will be over 1,000 Navajo college students graduating with their degree in various fields, our students need to be involved in internships on the nation and incubators to encourage a strong workforce. The Navajo Nation has agreements with colleges in Arizona, New Mexico and Utah to increase the skill-set of our Navajo students and bring them home to work for the nation.
The Office of the President and Vice President would like to thank all those that made the summit possible. The summit ended with an awards banquet on May 10 to acknowledge the success of businesses on the Navajo Nation. Listed below are the award recipients:
Business of the Year Award
David Sloan Architects – Albuquerque, NM
Red Mesa Trading Company, Inc. – Farmington, NM
Small Business Sector
Navajo Sanitation – Window Rock, AZ
Sandia Oil Company – Albuquerque, NM
Professional Service Sector
ETD, Inc. – Flagstaff, AZ
Clawson Excavating, Inc. – Wales, Utah
Shiprock Historical Society – Shiprock, NM
Swire Coca-Cola –Glendale, AZ
Entrepreneurial Spirit Award
Zohnnie Construction Industries, Inc., Farmington, New Mexico