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Enterprise zone: Three tribes forge historic partnership

Yahoo! News Re-post of Sierra Clark, The Record-Eagle, Traverse City, Mich.

Wed, November 16, 2022 at 8:38 AM·4 min read

Nov. 16—TRAVERSE CITY — Three sovereign Anishinaabek nations of Michigan announced a first-of-its-kind joint partnership.

The Little Traverse Bay Bands Of Odawa Indians, Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians, and Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish Band of Pottawatomi Indians, also known as the Gun Lake Tribe, are partnering in a real estate development, construction, and property management company.

The new entity, Aki Construction LLC, will operate through the non-gaming developments of the three nations; Odawa Economic Affairs Holding Corporation (“Odawa Holdings”), Mno-Bmadsen (Pokagon), and Gun Lake Investments (“GLI”).

Across Michigan, federally recognized tribes continue to exercise sovereignty over trust lands to attract investments in various industries. Alongside this joint venture, all three tribes have ongoing economic development initiatives in various sectors and stages.

In recent years, the economic corporation owned by LTBB, Odawa Holdings, pursued opportunities in the cannabis industry through leasing commercial property owned by the nation to LUME dispensaries in three locations.

The company is in the process of refinancing the first phase of construction with a hotel and several businesses, which relied entirely on loans and various incentives, according to Odawa Holdings Vice President Alan Proctor during the Great Lakers Economic Summit.

A planned second phase will include 50 units of workforce housing and a second hotel.

Odawa Holdings Executive Director Shanna Shananaquet said LTBB is the youngest charter in the partnership of sovereign nations.

“We look forward to watching this unique platform grow with the collaborative mindset of family, culture and traditions,” Shananaquet said, adding that when considering partnership with various companies, LTBB looked to the future of the next generations.

These are the same cultural and economic values the Gun Lake Tribe and Pokagon Band embody that are important for the partnership.

“They are our brothers and sisters in the south,” she said.

The goal is to be a leader in tribal-driven construction projects within the Midwest and across the country, she said.

The the Dowagiac-based Mno-Bmadsen launched more than a decade ago. The Pokagon Band owns more than 6,000 acres of land in Michigan and Indiana, roughly half of which is held in trust for the tribe by the federal government.

In 2021, the company expanded to Oklahoma, and now has 12 businesses in four states, including Michigan, Indiana, and Illinois.

Investment from some of the treasury from the nation’s gaming enterprise and returns generated by Mno-Bmadsen’s investments allowed them to buy profitable companies with existing management teams in place.

“Our vision is to continue to uplift one another’s tribes by capturing the synergistic results of this collaboration. We expect this joint venture to expand on the very important work we do to grow our Tribe’s economic development investments for the benefit of future generations,” Julio Martinez, chief executive officer of Mno-Bmadsen said in a press release.

Gun Lake Investments has an ownership stake in an array of businesses and real estate ventures throughout the state that include several properties in Grand Rapids and Detroit. It manages a private, non-gaming portfolio of equity and debt investments in real estate and operating companies, according to its site.

Recently, Gun Lake Tribe secured about a 2.75-mile stretch of highway frontage spanning approximately 1,200 acres, north of Gun Lake Casino on the east side of U.S. 131 in Allegan County.

GLI plans to transform hundreds of acres of property into a massive development that could include retail, health care, housing and manufacturing. Parts of the development could complement the tribe’s growing casino operations, including a new 15-story hotel, but the new project will not involve gaming, according to GLI.

Currently, the casino property and a nearly 140-acre parcel immediately north of 130th Avenue are held in trust by the federal government for the Gun Lake Tribe as part of its reservation lands.

Shananaquet said Aki Construction LLC has future plans for expansion in the midwestern part of Michigan that will include forming another partnership with other sovereign nations in the state.

She said she cannot comment on those details just yet.