Scottsdale, ARIZ – The American Indian Chamber of Commerce of Arizona hosted the 5th annual Connect Business Conference and Trade Show, November 12. The chamber has been dedicated to Native American businesses and entrepreneurs of Arizona since its inception in 1995. The theme of the conference was Connecting communities through business partnerships.
Chamber President Loren Tapahe said, “The conference is just a lot of coming together and collaborating. We want communities to come together to help each other, to learn from each other, to do business with each other, and I think it’s a win-win when we think of it that way.”
The all-day event began at 9 a.m. with the opening session. Welcome addresses come from the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community Councilman, David Antone, City of Scottsdale Mayor, Jim Lane, and Salt River Materials Group CEO, Roger Smith. Arizona Senator, Carlyle Begay was the keynote speaker for the opening session.
Senator Begay expressed his appreciation toward the chamber and to American Indian businesses and entrepreneurs for their economic contribution to the State of Arizona. His keynote focused on the importance of education to the success of the youth and future of Indian nations.
“Why do many of our youth feel lack of hope, relevancy, and purpose today?” Senator Begay asked the conference. “When it comes to education, there are two main factors that drive quality education. The first being high expectations teacher hold for themselves and their students. The second, and I think is more important, community and parental involvement in a child’s education.”
Northern Arizona University professor Manly Begay Jr. and University of Arizona Director of Native Nations Institute Joan Timeche led the General Session following the Opening Session. Their presentations on economic development in Indian Country, was focused on the importance of self-determination and self-governance and how tribal nations can successfully pursue their political, economic and community development goals.
Following the general session, a panel consisting of Phoenix Indian Center CEO, Patti Hibbler, Native American Connections CEO, Diana Devine, Native Health CEO, Walter Murillo, UNITY Project Manager, Wendy Weston, U.S. Department of Labor, Theresa Lujan, University of Arizona Assistant Vice President for Tribal Relations, Karen Francis, and the Inter Tribal Council of Arizona Executive Director, Maria Dadgar, discussed future planning for Phoenix urban Indian communities.
The luncheon was sponsored by Navajo Nation Gaming Enterprise. The enterprise CEO, Derrick Watchman spoke on benefits Indian gaming has brought to the Navajo Nation and the State of Arizona. Watchman introduced the keynote speaker Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye.
President Begaye gave praise to Native American businesses but also stressed the importance of partnerships with corporations who recognize Navajo Employment Act and raising a Navajo workforce to fill the needed technical positions.
“These big power companies need to open the door for Navajo small businesses,” said President Begaye. “If we don’t have the expertise they want, let’s raise them up, let’s train them, help us find entrepreneurs who are willing to pay the price to start up those companies.”
After lunch, the afternoon consisted of breakout sessions that covered topics such as procurement, marketing, retirement and how to do business with the Federal Government. The sessions allowed for in-depth discussions with experienced professionals on the various topics.
The chamber is celebrating their 20th anniversary as a non-profit corporation in the State of Arizona. Tapahe said that he is happy with the developments and evolution of the chamber over the years and looks forward to the future.
“We have a lot of good things coming up for 2016,” said Tapahe. “We are trying to get everyone’s ideas together and to get more people involved so that we can help each other and help a lot of the native entrepreneurs who want to get into business.”
The conference presenting sponsor was Salt River Materials Group. Eagle Sponsors included Twin Arrows Casino Resort and Dessert Diamond Casinos and Entertainment. For more information on the American Indian Chamber of Commerce of Arizona, visit aiccaz.com.