By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
ONE FEATHER STAFF
The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians is the first American Indian tribe to receive a disaster declaration directly from the President under the newly amended Stafford Act. Now, local businesses are being encouraged to compete for federal contracts involving the disaster relief and beyond.
A training event was held at the Shawn Blanton Emergency Operations Center in Cherokee on Thursday, March 14. A total of 12 TERO-certified businesses were represented at the event.
“We are here to do outreach with the EBCI to educate vendors within the EBCI community on how to do business with the federal government,” said Annette Wright, FEMA contracting officer Region 4 in Atlanta, who facilitated Thursday’s training. “They can expand their business opportunities outside of the EBCI and be able to compete for procurement dollars on a national level, so we’ve partnered with TERO to train their employees how to register more Native American vendors and allowing those vendors to compete for procurement opportunities thereby increasing the economic base of the vendor management outreach.”
She related that FEMA officials will work with the TERO-certified businesses to walk them through the application process to get into the federal database so they can be eligible to bid for federal contracts.
“The federal government encourages local vendors to be involved with the disaster response and recovery process so we’re looking to help bring that type of information here and encourage that type of activity so that the economics can be spread around,” said Michael E. Bolch, CEM, FEMA coordinator officer. “FEMA comes in with certain capabilities, but a lot of time we need the local people and if we can reach out and contract with local people to use their services, that helps us out plus it puts money into the local economy. We encourage that type of activity and that’s what we’re doing here today.”
Bruce Martin, owner of Qualla Security, Inc., spoke to the crowd at Thursday’s event about his experiences dealing with federal contracts. He has worked with federal agencies such as Indian Health Service, Veterans Administration (VA), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and the Army Corps of Engineers.
“The federal government is the largest contractor in the world,” he noted. “If you get on this, be familiar with what you do, make plans and have enough capital.”
On dealing with the bids themselves, Martin advised the group, “Just be competitive. Don’t bid too high and not too low.”
Mara Nelson, EBCI TERO Manager, commented on Thursday’s event, “I’m really excited that we’re going to keep the money that is coming in locally with our TERO-certified businesses. I’m excited about this opportunity. This group is our pool to help keep the dollars locally and help in supporting enrolled member families.”