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(NV) Chamber raises awareness of American Indian firms

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  • Tim Hundsdorfer
    http://www.inbusinesslasvegas.com/2005/08/12/lawnlabor.html Law and Labor Chamber raises awareness of American Indian firms By Alana
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 12 1:06 PM

      Law and Labor

      Chamber raises awareness of American Indian firms

      By Alana <mailto:alana.roberts@...> Roberts / Staff Writer

      Debra Sillik, president of the American Indian Chamber of Commerce of
      Nevada, is shown in her office.

      Photo by R. Marsh Starks

      With all of the talk by Las Vegas Valley business leaders about the
      importance of supplier and workplace diversity, some members of the American
      Indian population are saying the business community should pay more
      attention to them.

      "Native Americans are one of the least served of all ethnic groups," Debra
      Sillik, president of the American Indian Chamber of Commerce of Nevada,
      said. "I believe because they're smaller, and I also believe they're very
      private people. They're not going to go out and ask for help. What I'm
      seeing is a lot of them are out of their element. They've come to this big
      city and they don't have the spiritual/cultural connection."

      Sillik works as a volunteer for the American Indian Chamber of Commerce of
      Nevada, and has been working for about seven months to put together a board
      of directors and to plan events for the group.

      The American Indian Chamber of Commerce of Nevada is a group that first
      began operating eight years ago, she said. The group, which came under her
      leadership about seven months ago, didn't meet consistently and had more of
      a social function. Sillik said the group will now focus on actively working
      to provide networking and other opportunities for American Indian business

      The group's first monthly luncheon under Sillik's leadership is set for
      September. She said membership is open to anyone who wants to help Native
      Americans in such areas as employment, self-employment and education.

      Sillik said the number of American Indian business openings in Nevada is
      growing along with the growth of that population here. According to 2003
      U.S. Census Bureau statistics there are 9,556 American Indian and Alaska
      Native people in Clark County. American Indian and Alaska Native-owned
      businesses in Nevada grew by 56 percent between 1997 and 2002 from 1,231 in
      1997 to 1,915 in 2002, according to the Census Bureau.

      She said the group will have more of a holistic approach to providing
      opportunities to American Indians such as employment opportunities and
      educational opportunities. In addition to the monthly meetings, Sillik said
      the group will offer educational workshops.The group, with the help of
      Citibank, will host workshops this fall and winter on first-time home buying
      in both Reno and Las Vegas.

      Sillik said she also hopes to target American Indian youth by providing them
      with employment and scholarship opportunities.

      "I know they have a high dropout rate," she said. "We're hoping to partner
      native youth with corporations so they'll get a taste of corporate life."

      Sillik said the Las Vegas Valley's business community has been receptive to
      the group's mission. She said the group now has about 50 members and a board
      made up of representatives from such companies as MGM Mirage, Boyd Gaming
      Corp., Citibank, the Nevada Minority Business Council, McCarran
      International Airport and Harrah's Entertainment.

      "The corporations have been very open to working with us, as have the
      casinos," Sillik said. "The response to the American Indian Chamber has been
      with open arms, which was surprising."

      She said local corporations have assisted in many ways, such as helping her
      to network in the business community, by inviting her to events and by
      sponsoring luncheons and a planned awards banquet set for November. She said
      the Golden Eagle Feather Award banquet will honor Nevadans who have worked
      to help American Indians.

      Sillik said many of the American Indian business leaders in her group are
      artisans, but many work in a variety of industries.

      One member, Alonso Magallanes, is an owner of Hang on Time Signs, a local
      company that designs logos for T-shirts, banners and posters. He said he has
      worked in the valley on his own as a logo and sign designer for about 12
      years. About two months ago he merged with Hang on Time Signs. Magallanes
      said he is optimistic that the group will help him acquire more business

      "I think it'll put me out there where these other businesses are, where I'll
      have some exposure," Magallanes said. "That's what I'm looking for, trying
      to get into the big bucks. I believe the chamber will help me do that."

      Dianne Fontes, president of the Nevada Minority Business Council, said she
      thinks the group is off to a good start. The group is renting space through
      the council's incubator program, which helps small businesses get started.

      "I feel it's going to go somewhere because she (Sillik) put together the
      right ingredients," Fontes said. "She put together a good board of directors
      and she's putting together some programs like a business. That's the
      difference to me, that's why it's going to work this time."

      Irene Bustamante, director of national diversity relations for MGM Mirage,
      said the company has an employee who serves on the American Indian Chamber
      of Commerce's board of directors and it also has been active in helping
      Sillik to network in the business community.

      "Our commitment to them is to help them create business opportunities for
      the Native American population," Bustamante said. "We see it as our
      corporate responsibility to assist chambers. Most of them are
      volunteer-based and so we do our part to outreach to them as well. That will
      be part of our serving on the board. It's (not just) to give a monetary
      contribution, but to be a responsible corporate citizen."

      Alana Roberts covers courts and labor relations for In Business Las Vegas
      and its sister publication, the Las Vegas Sun. She can be reached by e-mail
      at alanar@... or at (702) 259-4059.

      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
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