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Landmark Village Partnership Creates Opportunity

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As a business grows, innovation fuels opportunity. This belief is at the heart of a groundbreaking partnership between BBNC and Dillingham-based village corporation Choggiung Limited—a collaboration sparked by new ways of thinking and the first of its kind between an Alaska Native regional corporation and a village corporation.

As announced this summer, Choggiung has acquired majority ownership of the Bristol Alliance of Companies (BAC), a thriving, Anchorage-based group of construction, environmental, and professional services companies formed by BBNC in 1994. The sale closed in late July following a thorough selection process and the Small Business Administration’s approval. Since then, it has been business as usual for BAC, with BBNC retaining a minority interest and continuing to actively participate in the business group’s operations.

The path to this partnership began in 2014, with a directive from the BBNC Board of Directors to create new ways to further invest in the region. Among the initiatives developed was BBNC’s In-Region Government Contracting Initiative (IGC). Launched in 2016, IGC offered mentorship, training, and resources to village corporations interested in pursuing work with the federal government—an area of deep expertise for BBNC. Over the course of the program, Choggiung and the other participants learned how to navigate the complexities of working with the government. This provided the necessary knowledge base to participate in the Small Business Administration’s 8(a) program, designed to offer federal contracting opportunities to economically and/ or socially disadvantaged small businesses. 8(a) has played a critical role for numerous companies throughout Alaska.

In 2017, BBNC launched a search to find a partner for its ownership of BAC. According to Sara Peterson, Vice President, Deputy General Counsel, and Chief Compliance Officer at BBNC, the idea emerged from BBNC’s longstanding commitment to the economic vitality of Bristol Bay. “We started looking at new ways to help jumpstart a village corporation’s growth in the federal arena,” she said. “Partnering on an existing business seemed like a great way to do that. Instead of buying raw land, we offered them a house that’s move-in ready.”

To select a partner, BBNC sent an official letter to village corporations that had participated in the IGC program and expressed an interest in pursuing government work. All parties were given the same chance to apply. Qualifications included a common strategic alignment and plan that focused on business operations, government contracts, and associated investments. “We were cautious in our approach so we could ensure that whoever we partnered with was positioned for success,” said BBNC’s Executive Vice President and General Counsel April Ferguson. “That was really
key for us.” After spending months reviewing each qualified prospective partner, Choggiung was selected to acquire a majority ownership of BAC.

“The entire process was such a wonderful team effort,” Ferguson said. “Not just management and staff, but the full commitment of the BBNC and Choggiung boards, executive teams, and really every BBNC department uniting behind this. We are all excited to see Choggiung’s hard work pay off and to partner with them on the future of BAC.”

The collaboration has been met with enthusiasm and is expected to result in increases in revenue and earnings for BAC—creating a ripple effect in Bristol Bay communities. “Our opinion is there’s enough market in federal government contracting for many participants,” said Peterson. “Ultimately, having more participation will be good for our region and shareholders.”

Additional opportunities for partnership and mentorship are already on the horizon—both in government contracting and other business lines. “BBNC is constantly looking for new ways to share our knowledge and experience,” Peterson said. Ferguson agrees. “We are actively working on economic rejuvenation and bringing diverse income streams to our villages. We’re building a strong foundation to make sure that everybody can be built up the right way for continued success and growth.”

Village Corporations and Tribal entities interested in pursuing government contracting and exploring government contracting partnering opportunities are encouraged to contact BBNC’s Legal Department.