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Rep. Bennie Thompson’s positions regarding Alaska Native Corporations reflect a core misunderstanding regarding the role and mission of these vitally important native enterprises (“ANCs Should Be Held to Same 8(a) Standard,” March 21).
In his call for ANCs to abide by the same award standards as other 8(a) companies, the Mississippi Democrat claims ANCs receive 25 percent of all federal contracts while representing only 2 percent of all 8(a) firms. But ANC 8(a) companies collectively serve 130,000 people, compared with roughly 9,000 owners of other 8(a) firms. Is Thompson suggesting that 75 percent of 8(a) contract awards should benefit 6 percent of 8(a) company owners? We hope not.
Thompson advances the false perception that ANCs are “squeezing out” other companies from winning 8(a) contracts. This isn’t true; 8(a) companies are generally small and lack the resources or capabilities to compete for larger awards. His claim that ANCs are somehow denying other 8(a) companies contracts they have little chance of winning anyway misleads readers and mischaracterizes the issue.
The fact is, the vast majority of 8(a) companies are owned by one or two individuals. ANCs, however, represent hundreds, in some cases thousands, of community owners. As such, ANCs must have access to larger contracts that, in turn, can provide meaningful benefits to the large groups of people that they collectively represent.
The Congressman’s claim that new Small Business Administration regulations are too weak to govern ANC contracting is completely unfounded. These regulations will impose new restrictions on ANC executive compensation and will help ensure ANC profits reach their intended communities. ANC parent corporations are required to report how profits are reaching native communities and their native shareholders. We trust the Congressman understands that ANC subsidiaries return all profits to their parent corporations for centralized shareholder distribution, rather than on a company-by-company basis.
Thousands upon thousands of Alaska Native people were displaced from their homeland when trillions of dollars worth of oil was discovered beneath their feet nearly 40 years ago. In exchange, the federal government promised Alaska Native people opportunities to achieve economic self-reliance. ANC 8(a) participation honors this commitment. No other 8(a) minority business group is required to document how its benefits are improving its community. We hope Thompson would express outrage if any minority group were singled out in similar fashion. ANCs are delivering value for the federal government and the communities that they serve. Such selective and disproportionate scrutiny of ANCs is undeserved.
Sarah Lukin is executive director at the Native American Contractors Association.