Tribal development organizations form joint construction company – Grand Rapids Business Journal

Three Michigan tribes have come together for a first-of-its-kind joint venture.

Odawa Economic Affairs Holding Corp., Mno-Bmadsen and Gun Lake Investments have launched Aki Construction, the first such tribal joint venture in the Midwest, according to an announcement from the trio last week.

“Aki” in Ojibwe means “earth, land or ground.”

The joint venture started when Odawa Holdings Executive Director Shanna Shananaquet and GLI CEO Monica King ran into each other at the Gun Lake Powwow and realized there were several projects and investments between the organizations that aligned.

“We have a lot of the same goals and thought we could build on that,” Shananaquet said. “Later on, we hit it off with Julio and tribes always end up talking about coming together, sharing ideas and thinking about bringing things into fruition.”

GLI is the economic development arm of the Gun Lake Tribe in Grand Rapids. Odawa Holdings is part of the Little Traverse Bay Band of Odawa Indians and based in Petoskey, while Mno-Bmadsen is the non-gaming investment arm of the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians in Dowagiac.

With similar interests and investments across Michigan, the three tribes felt there were enough overlaps it made sense to team up and pool resources.

“We realize we’re stronger together, and this was a good time to come together,” Shananaquet said.

The Odawa have Victory Square in Petosky, a cannabis company in northern Michigan and multiple other commercial projects in the pipeline. GLI has a large-scale corridor project coming up, while Mno-Bmadsen also has variety of hotels and retail projects.

There’s no shortage of their own projects to build. Still, Shananaquet said eventually Aki Construction will work with other tribes and construction projects as well. This is also just the beginning of collaborations between the trio, Shananaquet said, as “this relationship grew so fast, and the synergy is awesome.”

“It is an honor for us to be able to work alongside leaders at GLI and Odawa Holdings on this venture and set the tone and process for additional co-investment opportunities,” said Mno-Bmadsen CEO Julio Martinez. “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.”

Added Monica King, “This partnership is the first of its kind in the Midwest, which not only makes this an important move for each of our tribes, but also a historic milestone for tribal country. Three tribes are coming together to further develop and give back to their communities, which will create economic value and provide meaningful opportunities for our tribes and beyond. GLI is thrilled to partner on this new endeavor.”

There are tribal construction endeavors across the country.