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Mno-Bmadsen Leverages an Innovative Investment Strategy – Native Business Magazine

by Native Business Staff | Jan 2, 2020 | Banking / FinanceFeaturedHappening NowLeadershipNews

A Potawatomi word, Mno-Bmadsen translates to “The Good Path.” It’s an apropos name for the non-gaming investment arm of the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians.

Mno-Bmadsen makes investment decisions based on “a very long time horizon,” Julio Martinez, Mno-Bmadsen’s Chief Financial Officer, told Native Business. A seventh generation philosophy informs its strategy of buy, hold and grow.

As an instrumentality of the Tribe, Mno-Bmadsen is afforded the same rights and privileges as a sovereign Nation, yet it operates and makes investment decisions independent of the Tribe.

“We engaged in a charter within the Tribe that created Mno-Bmadsen,” Pokagon Band Chairman Matthew Wesaw explained of Mno-Bmadsen, launched in 2012 with the mandate to diversify the Pokagon Band’s business interests, revenue streams and wealth for future generations.

We did a charter so it would be politically free, so that the Tribe is not directly identifying what economic development options there might be. A seven-person board oversees Mno-Bmadsen’s direction and economic development opportunities. There is no overlap between the  Tribal Council Board and Mno-Bmadsen,” Chairman Wesaw underscored.

This separation of church and state, if you will, provides substantial liberty to Mno-Bmadsen leadership.

Mno-Bmadsen leadership (Photo Courtesy Mno-Bmadsen)

The Pokagon Band functions as the investor, funding Mno-Bmadsen, which maintains four direct-investment portfolios: professional services, manufacturing services, construction services, and real estate investments and services. Across its businesses, Mno-Bmadsen employs 315 individuals in 13 locations throughout Michigan, Illinois and Indiana.

A Potawatomi word, Mno-Bmadsen translates to “The Good Path.”A Potawatomi word, Mno-Bmadsen translates to “The Good Path.”CLICK TO TWEET

“With these portfolios, I’m not looking to buy a company to redo it and then sell it. I’m looking to buy a company that’s going to add value and grow our existing portfolios. It’s different than how a private equity firm would look at it. We seek a different kind of seller — either a legacy seller (somebody who is getting older and doesn’t have another generation to run the business), or someone who seeks to sell the business and it’s a tactical buy for us,” Martinez explained.

Mno-Bmadsen also purchases smaller businesses that private equity firms wouldn’t consider due to their size. “Some of those buys, we frequently have the previous owner stay on,” Martinez says. 

And Mno-Bmadsen doesn’t operate the businesses it purchases. “We’re a pure investor,” Martinez clarifies, “so we either buy a company with existing management, or we can use our existing talent.”

Julio Martinez, CFO

Martinez brought a wealth of experience when he joined Mno-Bmadsen in May 2016. He previously served as the financial officer for the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde in Oregon, where he oversaw their large tradeable portfolio and substantial endowment accounts. Prior to that, for 20 years, starting in 1989, Martinez managed investments, Tribal holdings and trust accounts for the Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida.

Under Martinez, Mno-Bmadsen has revised its investment plan, targeting specific sectors and expanding its foothold in others.

Its professional services sector includes a civil engineering firm as well as the award-winning Seven Generations Architecture and Engineering (A+E).

While Seven Generations A+E is a hallmark business under Mno-Bmadsen, the largest company in its portfolio is the sole business within its construction division: D.A. Dodd.

“It’s a large union, mechanical contracting company that does commercial and industrial HVAC construction and service,” Martinez said.

Mno-Bmadsen recently entered the real estate market through a partnership to redevelop a historic hotel in Elkhart, Indiana — a project underway and set to open in spring 2020.

“That’s our first partnership in commercial real estate and it [adheres to a] different philosophy; it’s a subset of alternative investments,” Martinez explained of how this differs from Mno-Bmadsen’s typical “buy, hold and grow” approach.

Tasked with handling all non-gaming investments on the Tribe, Mno-Bmadsen also manages the Pokagon Band’s C-store. “We don’t handle the Tribe’s tradeable portfolios, but we handle all private equity alternative class investments for the Tribe,” Martinez said.

Mno-Bmadsen’s office in Dowagiac, Michigan (Photo Courtesy Mno-Bmadsen)