Native corps defend federal contracts

PR campaign follows Sen. McCaskill's contracting probe

Posted: Wednesday, September 30, 2009

ANCHORAGE - Five Alaska Native corporations have launched a public relations campaign to fight congressional attacks on government contracting.

The Anchorage Daily News reported the corporations organized after Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri raised concerns about possible waste, fraud and abuse in the Small Business Administration's program for minority-owned, socially disadvantaged companies.

Without competitive bidding, Native companies landed nearly $24 billion in work over the past eight years. Contracts include catering services and security guards at military bases and database management for large federal agencies.

The Native corporations say their revenue growth is a sign that the program is working.

The PR campaign was started by Afognak Native Corp., Chenega Corp., Chugach Alaska Corp., Koniag Inc. and NANA Regional Corp. The coalition lists about 40 members, including many Native corporation or tribal-owned companies that specialize in government contracting.

The campaign is publishing video clips on the Internet and sending Alaska Native executives to public events around the state.

The coalition contends success in contracting has allowed companies to boost their shareholder dividends, create new scholarships and provide jobs for thousands of Alaskans.

The contracting privileges were inserted by former Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens, and they are also available to qualified Lower 48 tribes and Native Hawaiian companies, but not any other minority groups.

Fifteen Native corporations employ 12,000 Alaskans and another 40,000 people worldwide, said Clyde Gooden, a former NANA subsidiary executive, who spoke at Monday's Anchorage Chamber of Commerce luncheon.

The coalition has hired MSI Communications, an Anchorage public relations firm, to run the "Native 8(a) Works" campaign.

McCaskill is still working on the Native contracting issue.

"Reform in this area is going to happen. It's not a matter of if, but a matter of when," press secretary Maria Speiser said Monday.

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