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Local American Indian Businesswoman Partners with Western Pa. Small Business Administration to Secure Contracts, Jobs
Local American Indian businesswoman partners with Western Pa. Small Business Administration to secure contracts, jobs
SHELOCTA, PA – Early in her construction career, Darcia North Wind found herself tied off on a bridge, jackhammer in hand, she confessed to being envious of the project manager. Fast-forward two decades, and North Wind now not only hires project managers, but owns her own contracting firm.
Yet the 54-year-old president and owner of Northwind Engineering, LLC., still can be found, shovel in hand, working side-by-side with the construction crew she now employs.
She founded Northwind Engineering, LLC., in 2001, combining years of field experience as a firefighter and traffic control supervisor with corporate familiarity honing her skills at four large businesses. “Firefighting and laboring was hard,” she explained. Perhaps even harder was for North Wind to break the glass ceiling as both a female business owner and Native American. North Wind is an Enrolled Tribal Member of the Chippewa Cree Indian Tribe with roots in Montana.
“Growing up as an American Indian presented its disadvantages,” she maintained. “Early in my career, I worked out of the union hall as a laborer. Sometimes I was the only woman on the crew, which at times, was not always with a welcome reception.” Yet, her experience coupled with help from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) enabled North Wind to grow her company from a two-person startup to a firm that employs 52 persons with satellite offices in Missouri and Wyoming.
“When I started my company, I didn’t have a whole lot of resources,” she explained. “I was able to get financing because the SBA underwrote my loan to purchase equipment for our livelihood. North Wind also utilized the SBA’s Surety Bond Guarantee program to provide her with the bonding necessary to compete for jobs. A few years later, North Wind again turned to the SBA – this time for their federal contracting programs.
“My father held many plaques from the SBA’s SCORE (America’s Counselors to Small Business) program in Montana where he served as a volunteer mentor who helped other small businesses,” North Wind stated. “I went to the SBA website to try to better my company.” It was on the website that North Wind said she learned about the SBA’s 8 (a) program. The purpose of the program is to promote equal access for socially and economically disadvantaged individuals to participate in the business sector of the nation’s economy. Individuals must make a nine-year commitment, during which time they receive business development assistance, access to government opportunities and technical support.
North Wind turned to the Western Penna. (Pittsburgh) District office for assistance. She attended their 8(a) information sessions and began the paperwork process with assistance from Barbara Fisher, deputy district director. In 2006, North Wind formally entered the SBA’s 8(a) program.
“When a business enters our 8(a) program we teach them marketing techniques, because they are the best salesperson for their company,” said Fisher. “We can’t guarantee government work, but, instead we show them how to enter the government market – it’s then up to them to market their product or service.”
Fisher said she and Business Development Specialist Marisa Fentzel became liaisons between North Wind and the federal agencies, whose contracts she was pursuing, to explain the purpose of the 8(a) program and its value and benefits. The SBA partnership paid off. To date, Northwind LLC., has secured 25 prime contracts including a new four-year project to remodel the Bradford Ranger Station and reconstruct the forest road at Kinzua Dam and Allegheny Reservoir.
November is Native American Heritage Month with Nov. 27 designated as Native American Heritage Day. For more information on Darcia North Wind or the SBA’s many programs, please contact the SBA Western Pennsylvania District Office at 412-395-6560.
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