Minority entrepreneurs connect at Anchorage 8(a) contracting conference

For several hundred people meeting in Anchorage this week, when opportunity knocks, it comes in the form of a government contract. They came from all over the United States, to learn how to utilize a Small Business Administration program aimed at creating jobs and opportunity.

Another big draw: the involvement of Alaska Native Corporations.  ANC’s are big players in what’s known as 8(a) contracting, an SBA program that helps minority entrepreneurs get their start, as well as disabled veterans, women and other groups that the SBA considers economically disadvantaged.

The National 8(a) Association Conference at the Anchorage downtown Marriott offered many presentations about how to navigate the federal contracting system, but the conference-goers seemed most interested in each other. 

U.S. Army Many are here to form partnerships with Alaska Native Corporations. Some like Ray Sylvain already have. At last year’s National 8(a) conference, he connected with Trudy Sobocienski, head of Deloycheet, the corporation for the Yukon River village of Holy Cross.

Since then, they’ve formed a partnership.  Sylvain is a Haitian-American, owner of Sylvain Consulting, an information technology company, based in Reston,Virginia.  The US Air Force, the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Army Corps of Engineers are among his clients.

“The best thing to do is to be partners with ANC’s,” says Sylvain.  “Because together there is more of an opportunity for my company to grow.”

As ANC’s have taken an increasing share of the 8(a) pie, other minority groups in the program have worried that they may be squeezed out of business. But Sylvain sees an opportunity.

“To me, I don’t see any problems with it at all. It’s a win-win for all parties,” says Sylvain.

Under the SBA program, Sylvain and other 8(a) certified companies, have a 4 million dollar ceiling on the contract awards. Native Corporations have no restrictions, except with defense contracts.  Any award over 20 million dollars must be authorized by the head of that agency, with a letter explaining the benefits of the contract to the federal government.

Sylvain is hoping to expand his business as a sub-contractor for Deloycheet, which isn’t subjected to the 4 million dollar limit.

“For us, teaming with another small business has worked really well,” says Trudy Sobocienski.  “We have a lot of synergy between the two groups.”

The Deloycheet CEO says Sylvain has agreed to provide office space in Northern Virginia, which will give her corporation a base of operations near Washington D.C. to expand its 8(a) business. 

Currently, Deloycheet has only one 8(a) subsidiary, Holy Cross Oil, an oil services support industry company that provides engineering and construction services. 

Sobocienski says Deloycheet is now looking to move into a new arena, providing IT services for the federal government. 

“One of the things we’re excited about is Ray’s willingness to bring on some of our shareholders to provide training. You can do IT service work anywhere geographically,”  said Sobcienski, who envisions new jobs created in Holy Cross, where workers provide technical assistance right from the computers in their village. 

Although Ray Sylvain’s company is located right next to the nation’s Capital, he believes that Alaska Native Corporations have more access to power.  And he’s hoping to use Sobocienski’s connections, which are numerous. And Sobocienski is happy to help.

“One of the things we are blessed with is that we have a small population in Alaska,” said Sobocienski, “so we get a lot more access to our congressional delegation than maybe some other folks in other states do with their delegations.”

And within the Alaska Native Corporation realm, Sobocienski has helped introduce Sylvain to other CEOs in the Nome region, where she is a shareholder of the Sitnasuak Corporation.

Currently Sylvain and Sobocienski are marketing a software program Sylvain’s company has developed that would help Native corporations comply with a coming change in SBA rules, which would require Native corporations to report, in detail, the benefits they provide to shareholders, beyond dividends. 

Sylvain says it would automate the entire process, saving the SBA and Native corporations both time and money.


For more information and to see the video visit the KTUU Channel 2 site.