NACE officials hoping to break ground for new building in spring

By Bill Donovan
Special to the Times

WINDOW ROCK, January 17, 2013

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O fficials for the Navajo Arts and Crafts Enterprise are making final preparations for a new $10 million headquarters.

Barbara McGough, NACE's director, said the company is working with an off-reservation bank to finalize a loan for the enterprise that would allow for the construction of a new headquarters building in Window Rock.

The only question that needs to be answered, McGough said, is where to put the new headquarters.

One option is to build a second story on its present building, which is located on Highway 264 between the Pizza Hut and Quality Inn in Window Rock.

The second option is to build on land directly behind the current headquarters, land that is owned by Navajo Shopping Center.

The third option is land that is located between the Quality Inn and the Navajo Nation Museum. That land is owned by the Navajo Nation Hospitality Enterprise, which runs the Quality Inn.

The fact that the enterprise is looking at construction of a new building is somewhat of a miracle since just three years ago, NACE was on the brink of bankruptcy, unable to pay its employees and vendors, and facing a debt of more than $8 million.

The appointment of McGough as director, however, turned NACE around and in the span of three years, she managed to bring down the debt to about $2 million, which is mostly from merchandise purchased for the past Christmas season and is now being paid off by NACE personnel who purchased it through payroll deduction.

McGough said it's time to replace the current headquarters, which was built in the 1950s and is nearly falling apart. The idea is that the money NACE is spending to keep the present facility going would better be used to pay for part of the cost of a new, bigger facility.

"We really need to expand," McGough said, adding that the present facility, which encompasses only about 12,000 square feet, is not big enough to meet either the needs of NACE or of its customers.

NACE has been moving in recent years into selling western clothing and, more recently, into selling traditional clothing to the point where clothing now brings in as much money as the sale of Indian crafts.

A new building has been designed by a Navajo firm in Albuquerque and will be two stories high with about 38,000 square feet of space.

McGough said part of that space – some 8,000 to 10,000 square feet – would be rented to KTNN, which would move its radio station there.

If things go as scheduled, McGough said she would like to see groundbreaking for the new building to be held in April with completion about a year later.

She said she is not worried that the bank loan would cost financial problems in the future.

KTNN would be paying part of the costs and extra revenue will be coming from NACE's expanded product line. And although NACE has a history of ups and downs, McGough said she is confident that the enterprise's financial problems are history and while she has managed to bring the enterprise back to financial stability, she said that the company will continue to operate in a financially prudent manner, even after she steps down as director.

The reason is that NACE now has personnel in-house who have the education and training to make sure that the enterprise operates in the black.

She added that she is also not worried about the affects of the national downturn in the economy, which has forced a number of other Indian arts and crafts wholesalers to scale back their operations or close their doors.

"We haven't been affected by the downturn," she said.

One reason for this is that NACE doesn't rely solely on its income from arts and crafts sales.

The clothing line has been very profitable for the company and with more space that will be available in the new building, McGough said the company can look at going into other areas, such as household goods, which would include sheets and linens and possibly even kitchen items.

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