FAIRBANKS - The federal government is considering dropping contract privileges that benefit Native corporations.
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U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens and Rep. Don Young, both Alaska Republicans, brought up the issue last week while addressing the Alaska Federation of Natives convention in Fairbanks. Both promised to fight efforts to do away with a Small Business Administration program allowing Native corporations and their subsidiaries to compete against much larger companies for federal contracts and receive certain no-bid contracts with government agencies.
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Critics describe the federal rules as special benefits for Alaska Natives.
Young said the benefits are appropriate. He said contracting by Native corporations was a multibillion-dollar industry that brought more money into the state's economy than even the oil and gas industry. He said he has fought and will continue to fight against those trying to take the privileges away.
Stevens said he also was working to keep the contracting opportunities available. Efforts in Congress to eliminate them are "the most serious problem" Alaska Natives will face in the year ahead, he said.