Figure 70. Photograph of the Waséyabek Development Company Headquarters in Downtown Grand Rapids, by F. N. Ruffer, 2018.
Waséyabek Development Company, LLC (WDC) is a 100% Tribally-owned holding company that manages the Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi’s non-gaming economic development activities. By fostering the development of a stable, diversified economy for members of the Band, WDC seeks to contribute to the Tribe’s long-term sustainability and economic self-sufficiency by providing revenue and diverse employment opportunities for Tribal Members. The need to diversify Tribal economies is well established, as are successful strategies.
Nation-building and Tribal community expansion are supported by revenue generated through the profitable operation of WDC’s subsidiary companies, which have the added benefit of boosting the economies of the communities in which they are located. Our strategy includes a phased approach of active investments with businesses operating in the commercial and federal sectors.
“Our economic development organization is based on a proven model called the ‘Harvard Project Model’ developed 29 years ago and utilized today by those Tribes who are most successful at implementing economic diversification,” said WDC President and CEO, Deidra Mitchell. “The study can be broadly summarized by saying that Sovereignty Matters, Institutions Matter, Culture Matters, and Leadership Matters.”
(For more information on the Harvard Project, go to http://hpaied.org/about/overview.)
Many Tribes have experienced exponential economic growth because of gaming. The resulting revenues have been a valuable resource to assist Tribes in turning their community’s wealth (people, land, culture, ideas, and initiatives) into Tribal government policies and practices that sustain the health and well-being of current and future generations. However, even during the early years of Indian gaming, dialogue began among Tribal leaders regarding the wisdom of singular and long-term dependence on gaming.
Time has passed, and these conversations have acted as a foretelling: Increased competition from non-Indian gaming enterprises, over-saturation of the national gaming market, increased regulatory requirements, online gaming, and public concern over gambling addiction have placed ever-increasing pressure on Indian gaming.
Because of these concerns, WDC was organized in May 2011, and Tribal Council began a search for qualified Waséyabek Board Members in 2013. In 2014, the Board was seated and began conducting business to diversify the Tribe’s economy.
Today, Waséyabek Development Company, LLC continues to build the infrastructure needed to support economic diversification efforts with people, procedures, and equipment; strengthen its financial position by evaluating the viability of current business holdings; and identify and evaluate businesses for potential purchase or investment. In keeping with the philosophy of the Tribe, WDC evaluates its investments, acquisitions, and partnerships with an eye towards supporting the next Seven Generations.
Mitchell, D. (2016). Why Waséyabek? Turtle Press, 7(July 2016), p. 34.