The American Indian Chamber of Commerce of Arizona (AICCAz) held its annual networking luncheon and business awards banquet on December 10 at Casino Arizona. The Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community was recognized and received awards in two categories this year.
During the luncheon, AICCAz recognized Peterson Zah, former president of the Navajo Nation, who recently retired from Arizona State University after 16 years of serving as special assistant to ASU president Michael Crow. Zah plans to return to government work back at the Navajo Nation.
“Thank you for honoring the group of Native people. I think we need more native entrepreneurs and small businesses,” said Zah. “When I went to ASU, they didn’t have the W.P. Carey School of Business, but during the last 12 years it has become one of the better business programs [at universities in the United States]. When they started the program, there were no Native American students enrolled; today, the program has 34 [Native] students. Hopefully some of those 34 will be sitting in this audience within the next five or six years and be up here receiving one of these awards.”
AICCAz recognized the Salt River Financial Services Institution (SRFSI) as Tribal Department of the Year. Joan Thiesen, SRFSI Business Services manager, accepted the award for the department’s demonstration of “exceptional support and dedication to the growth and betterment of American Indian businesses and entrepreneurs.” The award recognized SRFSI programs such as YES, the Youth Entrepreneurship Summer Academy. Thiesen provides support and organizes workshops to help new entrepreneurs and business owners achieve success in their chosen fields.
The Business Diversity Program of the Year also went to SRPMIC, to Paula Nitti of the Purchasing Department and the SRPMIC Human Resources Department, for providing significant opportunities and outreach targeted to the American Indian business community. The two departments were recognized for their “exemplary commitment and outreach to impact the first Major League Baseball Spring Training Facility Project at the Salt River Fields at Talking Stick.”
The Corporate Partner of the Year, Hensel Phelps Construction Company, was recognized as “a pillar of support for the betterment and growth of American Indian businesses in the State of Arizona.”
Finally, the AICCAz named the American Indian Small Business of the Year: ’Diné Nation, LLC. Owner Darryl Slim accepted the award for his American Indian–owned small business. Under Slim’s leadership, the award stated, his firm “has consistently grown in annual sales and performance, established a strong corporate culture of idea-sharing and diligence, and exhibited a reputation for integrity and proven involvement in Arizona’s American Indian business and civic communities.”
AICCAz is a nonprofit organization that provides opportunities for networking and support to American Indian business people in Arizona. It helps Native entrepreneurs promote their businesses, helps corporations to connect with American Indian businesses, acts as a liaison on tribal economic development issues, and offers resources, training and networking for the American Indian business.