Progress with Navajo Green Business Incubator
In 2011 the Grand Canyon Trust’s Native America Program , as a participating member of Diné Binaanish Yá’át’éehgo Nooséél (Navajo Green Jobs), formed a partnership with the Northern Arizona Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology (NACET) and began strategizing on how a green business incubator could be successfully implemented on the Navajo Nation. As part of this unique collaboration, NACET applied to the United States Department of Agriculture for a grant focused on developing a technology network to provide Native American entrepreneurs access to a vast mentor network comprised of business professionals who provide pro bono services.
NACET was successful in obtaining the NACET Native American Network Grant for $50,000 for the Navajo region and will begin implementation in October 2012.
To maximize the grant’s potential to connect Native entrepreneurs and businesses on the reservation to this network, the Trust brought together various partners to serve on a Steering Committee consisting of organizations from the public, private, and nonprofit sectors of the Navajo Nation. These partners include Shonto Local Governance CDC, ECHOES, Black Mesa Water Coalition, Tolani Lake Enterprises, Navajo Nation Regional Business Development Office, Cameron Community for Progressive Action, and Jessica Stago, independent consultant. The Committee was convened to serve two purposes: to guide the NACET Native American Network Grant so that it may be strategically implemented and delivered to achieve maximum results; and to begin thinking through and building a strategy and structure to foster the implementation of a Native green business incubator.
The Steering Committee also decided to utilize the NACET grant as an opportunity to conduct a Pilot Incubator Project . As part of the grant, the Committee will develop minimum qualifications for businesses to participate, set up a process to recruit potential businesses, and select 2-3 businesses on the Navajo Nation to incubate. A Request for Proposals will be advertised inviting businesses as well as qualified Community Development Corporations and nonprofit organizations to apply. The Steering Committee will rank and select the applicants. Clients identified as participants in the project will receive one-on-one business mentoring and will have access to NACET’s Mentor Network of business professionals. Business owners will operate from their home location, but will receive services to help foster and grow their businesses.
The Steering Committee will focus on recruiting businesses that help strengthen local economies on the Navajo Nation. The project will focus on the Western Agency of the Navajo Nation for the first year and additional projects will be expanded to other parts of the Nation as the project progresses. The Committee will also be identifying Native American professionals to potentially add to NACET’s Mentor Network, and will help coordinate and plan the “lunch and learn” seminars.
The vision of the Steering Committee is to create a business incubator that will have a Local Economy Division and a Green Division. Ultimately, the Committee wants to create a pilot project and organization structure that will be a catalyst for communities to be able to think through business and economic development issues.
NACET and the Steering Committee are also partnering with the Coconino County Sustainable Economic Development Initiative to take the lead in facilitating the Native American Entrepreneur Panel and workshop at the Innovation Summit in October 2012.