Tribal PTAC Provides Businesses Priceless Help in Federal Contracting

Gale Courey Toensing
12/9/11

New Resource Center Holds First Conference on Business Success

A new non-profit organization that helps tribal governments and Native businesses get government contracts hit the ground running two months ago is hosting its first conference this month.

The FACC-PTAC -- the FACC stands for First American Capital Corps., and PTAC stands for Tribal Procurement Technical Assistance Center—is more easily called the Tribal P-TAC, Program Director Gwen Carr (Cayuga) said. Located on the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin reservation, the Tribal P-TAC was created in October and on December 13 will hold its first conference—“Growing Your Business with Federal Contracts.” The conference will be at the Radisson Hotel & conference Center in Green Bay, Wisconsin, and will provide a unique opportunity for individual and tribal businesses of all sizes to learn what it takes to successfully sell to the federal governments. The conference flier and registration are available here.

The center offers a wide variety of services and help. “What we do here at is we work with tribal businesses and tribally-owned companies to prepare them and enhance their capacity to be successful in federal, state and local government contracting. We provide a lot of technical assistance, we do one on one counseling, we provide networking opportunities, bid-matching – many, many opportunities for our tribal clients to be successful,” Carr said. “We believe that when preparation meets opportunity, success happens.”

Congress created the Procurement Technical Assistance Program (PTAP) to help businesses seeking to compete successfully in government contracting, according to the Association of Procurement Technical Assistance Centers website, The centers are funded through cooperative agreements between the Department of Defense and state and local entities. There are dozens of P-TAC’s around the country, but only eight exclusively serving Indian country. The Defense Department funds the Wisconsin Tribal P-TAC, which offers all its services free of charge. Its service area includes Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan, Iowa, New York, Massachusetts and Maine and next year Carr intends to visit every tribal nation in the area, she said. To become a client, a tribal or Native business can go to the P-TAC’s website and click on the tab that says “Become a Client.”

With her background in politics, government, and business, Carr is uniquely suited to head the new resource center. Earlier this year, she was the recipient of the 2011 Virginia Hart Award, becoming the first American Indian woman to receive the honor. The award is named after Virginia Hart, the first woman to serve in a Governors cabinet. The annual honor is given in Hart’s memory to women in government that portray excellence in public service and whose contributions to the public are substantial.

Carr worked for the White House in the Clinton Administration as the first political director of American Indian Affairs at the Democratic National Committee, in Washington, D.C. She later worked at the Wisconsin Department of Commerce creating American Indian business opportunities before becoming the first Wisconsin Department of Transportation Tribal Liaison. Carr is the founder and chair of the Wisconsin American Indian Democratic Caucus.

Behind Carr’s public life is her extraordinary personal story. Adopted at birth by a wealthy Greek family, her father was a successful and wealthy entrepreneur who owned hotels and restaurants all over the world. She lived in Mexico, France and England, attending embassy schools, traveled the world, and speaks French, Portuguese and Italian.

“My life is about transformation,” Carr said. “I found out I was an American Indian when I was in my late 20s. I met my birth mother; she was a Cayuga living in Ithaca, N.Y. It was a life-changing experience for me. I started going to Indian events and learning the history of the American Indians. I went to Canada to talk to the traditional chiefs. They said “You were sent away by the Creator to learn the ways of power and the ways of the White world, and bring that back to your people and use it to their benefit.”

Indians do not come from recent entrepreneurial backgrounds, Carr said. “You’ve got people who have literally, in the past 50 years, gone from living a subsistence Third World experience here in Wisconsin to having a casino and trying to figure out how to do economic development and business development.” Indians can’t often turn to family members for help in starting a business, Carr said. “But there’s a lot of raw talent out there and there is a lot of opportunity,” she said. “They just simply need to be prepared for it. And that’s what we help them do.”

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