Tribal Business and the Native SBA 8(a) Program

Tribally Owned and Native-Owned Indian businesses are eligible for the Small Business Administration’s 8(a) program, also known as Native SBA 8(a) or Tribal SBA 8(a). This program supports small businesses owned by tribes and tribal members to help them grow and compete in the government contracting marketplace.

How mctlaw Can Help with Tribal SBA 8(a)

The experienced Indian Law team at mctlaw works together with our government contract group to get Tribal clients certified in the SBA 8(a) program. Members of our team include attorneys who have worked as tribal in-house counsel and attorneys who have worked in-house for some of the country’s largest military and aerospace defense contractors. We understand the ins and outs of large scale government contracting and how tribes can benefit from these opportunities. 

We can help your tribal or native owned business with:

  • Organizing the company under tribal or state law.
  • Navigating the complex application process for Native 8(a) certification.
  • Finding lucrative contracting opportunities.
  • Negotiating joint ventures, teaming relationships, and mentor-protege programs with other federal contractors, such as major defense contractors.

Contact us for a complimentary consultation about the SBA 8(a) program and how your tribal enterprise can grow its government contract work.

What is the Native SBA 8(a) Program?

The Small Business Administration’s 8(a) program supports small businesses owned by tribal members or tribal enterprises, and other disadvantaged groups. These groups include Alaska Native corporations, Community Development Corporations, Indian tribes, and Native Hawaiian organizations.

Native-Owned Business Qualifications for SBA 8a Certification  

The SBA 8(a) program can be particularly helpful to Native-American owned businesses. The program provides benefits and resources to help these businesses compete in the market. Specific eligibility guidelines for the program include: 

  • Must be a small business
  • Be at least 51% owned and controlled by U.S. citizens who are socially and economically disadvantaged
  • Have a personal net worth of $850 thousand or less, adjusted gross income of $400 thousand or less, and assets totaling $6.5 million or less
  • Demonstrate good character
  • Demonstrate the potential for success such as having been in business for two years
  • Submit a social disadvantage narrative to establish eligibility.

Differences Between Native-Owned and Tribal-Owned Businesses for SBA 8(a)

There is one nuanced difference between a Tribal Government and Native individuals owning a company in the SBA 8(a) program. 

  • Individually owned 8(a) certifications expire after a maximum of nine years, and the owner cannot participate in the program again. It is a once in a lifetime opportunity.
  • Tribes can own multiple 8(a) companies. The certification for each company expires after nine years, but Tribes can use the 8(a) program for different tribally owned businesses.
  • Tribes are also presumed to be socially disadvantaged, so they do not have to submit a socially disadvantaged narrative to qualify.

Benefits of the SBA 8(a) Program for Indian Tribes and Native Owned Businesses

This program has several benefits to Tribes and native owned businesses including: 

  • Sole Source Contracts
    • Federal agencies can award contracts directly to 8(a) certified tribal enterprises without a competitive bidding process
  • Set Aside Contracts
    • A portion of federal contracts are set aside specifically for 8(a) program participants. This means that these contracts are only available to businesses certified under the program.
  • Mentor-Protege Program
    • The SBA 8(a) program also offers a mentor-protégé program, where experienced businesses (mentors) can provide assistance, guidance, and resources to tribal enterprises (protégés) to enhance their capabilities.
  • Business Development Assistance
    • This includes training workshops, counseling, technical assistance, and management and marketing guidance. These resources are designed to help businesses strengthen their capacity, improve their performance, and navigate the complexities of government contracting.
  • Technical Assistance
    • The program provides various forms of technical assistance to tribal businesses participating in the 8(a) program. This includes business counseling, training workshops, and management and technical guidance to help tribal enterprises grow and succeed.
  • Access to Capital
    • Participants in the 8(a) program have access to specialized lending programs and can receive assistance in obtaining surety bonds, which are often required for federal contracts. 
  • Federal Contracting Opportunities
    • Through the SBA 8(a) program, Indian tribes and Native American-owned businesses gain increased access to federal contracting opportunities.

Our team of experienced Indian Law attorneys can help with matters like: 

Content Reviewed by Jeffrey Nelson – Indian Law

Attorney Jeffrey Nelson Headshot

Jeffrey Nelson leads the Firm’s  Indian Law Group, He’s spent  over 20 years of experience working in Washington, DC on Indian law and litigation matters, including as a Senior Attorney at the National Indian Gaming Commission and as an Assistant Solicitor at the Department of Interior. Jeff now represents tribes across the country on Indian gaming and tribal governance matters. He also serves as the Assistant Attorney General for the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians in Oklahoma. Jeff earned his law degree at the University of Michigan Law School in 1997 and an LL.M. in Advocacy from Georgetown University Law Center in 1999.

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