By Levi Rickert
American Indian businesses are sometimes left out of the conversation when it comes to minority business development. Perhaps, it is the “other” designation American Indians are afforded by non-Native organizations. Even when looking for statistics from federal governmental agencies, it is often difficult to find data and information.
So, when the Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) included The Sparrow Group, an American Indian-owned construction company, in a recent newsletter, it was worth calling CEO and President David Wiegand to find out more about his business.
The Sparrow Group was established in 2014 by Wiegand, whose mother is Navajo and Hopi and his father is German. Wiegand was born on an Army base in Louisiana and spent most of his formative years in Saudi Arabia. Far removed from his Navajo and Hopi relatives, Wiegand admits he and his brother did not have much of a chance to learn about his American Indian heritage, except summers spent with his grandfather on the reservation. Then, when he was still in high school, Wiegand visited Albuquerque, New Mexico and decided to enroll in a boarding school close by.
“Coming back was full circle; it brought me back in touch with something I had been separated from because of geography and circumstance,” says Wiegand.
After high school, Wiegand earned a bachelor’s degree in technical project management from ITT Tech and spent 25 years learning every aspect of the construction industry he possibly could before he started The Sparrow Group.
Since then, the construction company has grown to 12 employees, most of whom are American Indians. The Sparrow Group specializes in commercial construction renovations and civil projects in Arizona, New Mexico and Nevada.
Wiegand acknowledges his infant company “crawled along the first couple of years,” but began to grow after he reached out to the Santa Fe MBDA Business Center, which has played an integral role in the development and growth of The Sparrow Group.
“I can give you a hammer, but you need to learn how to use that hammer. That’s how I see MBDA. Here’s where the hammers are, but you need to learn how to utilize them,” Wiegand comments. >
“Just doing that little bit helped absolutely, tremendously. MBDA was getting my name out there. Once I signed up, I started getting calls from people wanting to team up. They were curious about what we did. That was a great contributor to the initial success of getting the company’s name out there. It’s like you have a backstage pass from behind the curtain, where nobody gets to look into government contracting. MBDA knows what’s behind that curtain. It just blew my mind. I thought, ‘Why isn’t your door being kicked down?’ Really, there wasn’t an answer. The resources granted to me by the organization were pivotal in the success of the company,” says Wiegand.
Wiegand says the most successful project his company has worked on to date was a xeriscaping job—a water conservation project—completed in February of this year for Indian Health Services (IHS) in Crownpoint, New Mexico. The Sparrow Group completed it during winter months on schedule and under budget.
“They had a huge ribbon-cutting ceremony, with surrounding chapter houses from Navajo Nation, IHS and the contracting staff, embarrassing us with compliments and congratulations,” Wiegand recalled. “Out there on the Navajo Nation, sometimes it’s not that easy. That’s why, I gathered, we’re getting so much attention. That was the jewel for us so far, as far as government contracting.”
Poised to gross $5 million in business this year, Weigand is looking forward to a bright future through sustainable growth for The Sparrow Group and has a deep commitment to doing his part for economic development in Indian Country. Through his business success Weigand has worked hard to make sure money stays longer in Indian Country.
“How can we get more dollars on the reservation and stay in the reservation? The families back in Navajo Nation, those dollars we’re paying to carpenters, it goes straight back into the reservation,” he says. “It brings a tear to my eye. That impact is only going to grow exponentially in the ensuing years.” ♦