GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Three West Michigan tribes are joining forces to launch a first-of-its-kind real estate development and property management company aimed at expanding and growing investments.
Aki Construction LLC will be run by Odawa Holdings of the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians, Mno-Bmadsen of the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians, and Gun Lake Investments of the Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish Band of Potawatomi Indians, also known as the Gun Lake Tribe.
The name Aki is rooted in the Anishinaabemowin language meaning earth, land or ground. All three tribes trace their roots to the Anishinaabek people.
In a statement, Shanna Shananaquet, the executive director of Odawa Holdings, said she is “ecstatic” to announce the partnership.
“Together, our goal is to be a leader with Tribal-driven construction projects within the Midwest and across the country,” Shananaquet said. “We look forward to watching this unique platform grow with the collaborative mindset of family, culture and tradition.”
The three entities represent each tribe’s non-gaming investment organizations. The hope is that the alliance will stabilize revenue streams for all three tribes through an array of investments. Julio Martinez, the CEO of Mno-Bmadsen, believes it’s the tribe’s way of expanding beyond casino revenue and gaming.
“I’ve been doing this for a long time and (I’m impressed by) the willingness of the tribal councils to allow these economic development entities to take the reins and be forward thinking,” Martinez told News 8. “The casino is great, and it has done wonders for us and we’re able to develop all of this infrastructure and help our citizens. But you can’t put all of your eggs in one basket, and they know eventually there will either be competition or there will be regulation, or something will happen. The long-term, seven-generation look forward is a big, diversified portfolio that can not only diversify revenue streams but provide employment, provide training and provide options for its citizens.”
Monica King, the CEO of Gun Lake Investments, echoed Martinez’s statements and said the three tribes have already shown a willingness to work together.
“I think it has been an incredible thing to be able to work together. I’ve had a lot of mentorship. Even Julio has given me a lot of great advice, and that’s something that I think is a little different, that most wouldn’t expect amongst tribal country, that camaraderie. I think having that support at all levels in and out of the tribal community is a real key to success,” King said.
All three organizations have projects in the works that will be rolled into this new joint venture, including a 2.75-mile stretch of land between Gun Lake Casino and the city of Wayland. That project was announced earlier this month.
The Gun Lake Tribe had been buying up property around the casino after it opened in 2011, including approximately 1,200 acres on the north end of the casino, stretching from US-131 east to a set of railroad tracks.
The plan is to allow restaurants, hotels, shopping centers and manufacturing facilities to develop the land. The tribe is still putting together a master plan and hopes to start construction next year.