Reservations Have Extra Bureaucratic Hurdles for Small Businesses

By Apollo Fuhriman, Region 10 Advocate

Recently, Region 10 Administrator Jeremy Field and Region 10 Advocate Apollo Fuhriman met with small businesses operating on the Warm Springs Reservation in Oregon. While these businesses are trying to expand and thrive in the area, they told Advocacy about some of the regulatory burdens that make operating a business on the reservation difficult.

Businesses operating on non-reservation land often face issues acquiring permits from the city and county government entities. Small businesses operating on reservation land also face this issue but are also required to obtain additional approval from federal agencies. Long waiting periods to get approval for permitting and rezoning on the reservation can take time and money away from the small businesses trying to operate there.

Another major issue for businesses on the reservation is in acquiring capital investment to fund physical locations, such as stores, restaurants, and buildings. Because the land on the reservation is limited in its use, it is difficult for businesses to obtain land ownership and the ability to freely alienate the land or use it as collateral. This is a major hindrance to increasing investment on reservations where capital is often desperately needed. 

In order to work around the regulatory issues, businesses have started operating their businesses out of portable buildings and RVs. However, this is only a temporary solution, as snow and inclement weather in the winter restricts businesses to seasonal operations. Due to federal control of these lands, federal solutions are needed to resolve impediments to economic prosperity on reservations and lift businesses in the reservation community.

Apollo Fuhriman serves as the Region 10 Advocate for the SBA Office of Advocacy, representing small businesses in Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington. Fuhriman works with small business owners, state and local governments, and small business associations to bring the voice of Region 10 to Washington DC. He can be reached at