Harvard University lifts up economic work of Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi

Deidre Mitchell is President and CEO of Courtesy Photo Editor’s note: This story is part of Southwest Michigan Second Wave’s On the Ground Battle Creek series.

The silencing of slot machines and gaming tables at FireKeepers Casino as a result of state-mandated closures during the pandemic amplified a decision made in 2011 by the Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi Indians to establish its own economic development company.

That entity – Waséyabek Development Company – had a staff of 3 and was losing money up until 2018 when it began to turn a profit. It currently has a portfolio of 29 businesses which generated revenues of $75.4 million in 2022 and passive investments totaling $19 million in three different companies.

These revenue streams are keeping Waséyabek on pace to become a $1 billion company by 2040, says Deidra Mitchell its President and CEO.

“We are diversifying beyond gaming,” Mitchell says of the NHBP. “The industry’s become more regulated and there’s more competition. When COVID happened and casinos got shut down, that was really an eye-opener for Tribes.”

Although it is a separate entity from the NHBP with its own board of directors, Waséyabek was established with a clear mandate from the Tribes’ leadership to ensure a diverse portfolio as a way to hedge their bets. Tribal politics and business decisions are kept separate, Mitchell says.

Jamie Stuck, NHBP Tribal Chairperson, and ex-officio WDC board member says almost every tribe in Michigan now has an economic development corporation as a way to diversify their portfolios […]

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