A Congressional investigation into Alaska Native Corporations' use of federal contracting preferences could wind up harming Juneau's Goldbelt, Inc., said CEO Gary Droubay.
Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Missouri, is chairman of a Senate subcommittee looking into native corporations' contracting preferences. She has requested information from Goldbelt, Sealaska Inc., and 18 other native corporations.
Goldbelt will be providing the information requested, Droubay said, and is gearing up with fellow corporations to persuade lawmakers the contracting preferences are needed.
"We're carrying a message about who we are, how it works and who benefits," he said.
Sealaska spokesman Todd Antioqua was unavailable for comment Tuesday.
What's at stake is what's known as an 8(a) preference that allows native corporations of any size to be considered small businesses. That qualifies them for minority preference government contracts that are issued without competitive bidding, known as "sole source."
Those contracts are crucial to Goldbelt, which had revenues of more than $105 million last year. Of that, $95 million came from government contracting, though some was from competitive bidding, he said.
Goldbelt's prominent Juneau tourism businesses, including the Mt. Robert Tramway and the Goldbelt Hotel, are only a small part of the company, Droubay said.
It had a number of years of losses before getting into contracting.
"The 8(a) profits enable us to pay dividends and run the Goldbelt Heritage Institute," he said. "Those profits come back here and help people."
Droubay said there is some resentment among other minorities that large native corporations get small business preferences.
"The average African-American or Asian doesn't have a tribe or corporation of thousands of members to support, that's why we're given the ability to go after larger contracts," he said.