Deidra Mitchell looks back on 2021 as a pivotal year in many ways for Waséyabek Development Co., the Grand Rapids-based investment arm of the Nottawaseppi Huron Band of Potawatomi.
Following some board turnover and internal repositioning during the first nine months of the year, the tribally owned company stacked three deals into the fourth quarter that proved meaningful for very different reasons.
The accelerated pace of dealmaking in the tail end of the year “was definitely a heavy lift,” especially when combined with the company’s typical year-end audits, said Mitchell, who has served as president and CEO of Waséyabek since April 2016.
For the first time, Waséyabek moved up-market to acquire Safari Circuits Inc., an Otsego-based middle market electronics manufacturer that serves the medical device, military and automotive sectors, in a deal that closed Dec. 31. Mitchell said the middle market shift, piloted by COO Rabih Jamal, serves as a key milestone in the maturity of Waséyabek, which is now poised to go after larger deals as it continues filling out its portfolio.
As well, Waséyabek filled a white space identified in its four-year strategic plan by making its first passive investments. They included a co-investment with Gun Lake Investments and DWH LLC into the related trucking and logistics companies Zip Xpress and Green Transportation. As well, Waséyabek invested $3 million in Series B funding in BAMF Health, a Grand Rapids-based firm that’s pioneering a new cancer treatment in the United States.
Both the BAMF Health investment and the Safari Circuits deal also helped Waséyabek further develop a medical vertical in its portfolio, while the deal for Zip Xpress and Green Transportation fulfilled a desire to get into the trucking and logistics industry, Mitchell said.
Additionally, the co-investment with Grand Rapids-based Gun Lake Investments, the non-gaming investment arm of the Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish Band of Pottawatomi, continues to develop best practices for tribes to work together on deals. Previously, Waséyabek and GLI partnered to acquire McKay Tower in downtown Grand Rapids, “but that’s very different from an operating business,” Mitchell said. Having DWH also take a piece of the deal provided “a somewhat neutral third party that’s managing and running the operations day to day.”
Mitchell credited the stability of the tribe for positioning Waséyabek for success, while praising the flexibility and adaptability of the team during the growth spurt. It also helps that the team works well together, she said, chalking it up to Waséyabek’s focus on creating a strong culture.
The award was presented to Deida Mitchell and the entire WDC Deal Team at a ceremony held on March 2, 2022, at the McKay Tower Ballroom.
New Managing Partner Named – Two New Partners Added to Firm
Ben Borisch, Managing Partner
DWH, a leading business consulting and financial services firm based in Grand Rapids, Michigan, today announced several key leadership appointments including the promotion of Ben Borisch to the position of Managing Partner.
Borisch joined DWH four years ago and became a partner and chief operating officer in 2020. His background is in finance, operations, human resources, family office, and business start-ups. Prior to joining DWH, Borisch spent most of his career working in or with family-owned businesses. He succeeds Monica King, who has been named the CEO of Gun Lake Investments, a long-term DWH client.
“I’m extremely honored to take on this new role with DWH,” said Borisch. “We have a terrific staff that is experienced and customer-focused, delivering great service to our clients.”
Jeremy Cosby, Partner
Heather Garnder, Partner
As DWH continues its growth trajectory, additional leadership will be provided by newly named partners, Jeremy Cosby and Heather Gardner. Cosby has been with DWH since 2019. He has experience in technology-related roles, with a specialized focus on costing, pricing analysis, and cash flow management. Gardner has been the managing director for DWH’s Detroit office for the last two years. Prior to joining DWH, she spent more than 25 years in entrepreneurial roles with a focus on operations, finance, human resources, strategic planning, and organizational design.
Borisch, Gardner, and Cosby are committed to DWH’s belief that business advisory can and should be done differently. DWH’s philosophy focuses on recommending business and financial solutions to maximize value for owners, investors, employees, customers, suppliers, and the community. By maximizing value for all stakeholders – rather than simply protecting the interests of a select group – DWH’s solutions are more comprehensive, productive, and focused on creating successful business outcomes. These advisory services include turnaround and restructuring services, financial advisory services, succession and management transition planning, strategic planning, merger and acquisition advisory services, and tribal economic development.
DWH was founded in 2006 by Doug Wilterdink who remains involved in the firm as an advisor and consultant. In 2018, Waséyabek Development Company (WDC), the economic development arm of the Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi, acquired a majority share of DWH, which established DWH as a minority-owned firm. Over the years, the firm has grown in size and service offerings. This growth, along with DWH’s commitment to internal talent development, created an opportunity for the firm to expand its leadership team on a more formal basis.
To learn more about the firm and its full suite of services, visit www.dwhcorp.com
Waséyabek Development Company (WDC) announced its investment in Safari Circuits, an Otsego, Michigan-based electronics manufacturing firm. Safari is an innovative leader in electronics, engineering services, and supply chain management.
“We are extremely pleased to add Safari Circuits to the WDC portfolio,” said President and CEO Deidra Mitchell. “Safari is an established leader in the electronics manufacturing field, powered by their highly skilled staff and leadership. It fulfills WDC’s desire to expand its manufacturing, medical, and Federal contracting verticals.”
Safari was founded in 1985 and serves clients in the medical, instrumentation, industrial, automotive, and military sectors. It employs more than 150 people.
“As the founder of Safari, it was important to me to find a majority investor who would maintain our commitment to employees, the community, and our customers, ” said CEO, Larry Cain. “We believe the leadership at Waséyabek Development Company shares that commitment and will carry on that legacy.”
This new investment adds to WDC’s portfolio diversification of non-gaming investments, including its October 2021 co-investment with Gun Lake Investments into Zip Xpress/Green Transportation in Holland.
“Waséyabek is proud to invest in locally-based companies that generate jobs and income in this region,” said WDC Board Acting Chair, Chris Rogers. “As the majority owner of Safari Circuits, we will work with the leadership to grow the firm, which in turn will strengthen the overall economy in Southwest Michigan.”
The addition of Safari Circuits to the WDC portfolio once again demonstrates WDC’s commitment to investing in economic opportunities in Michigan, investments that contribute to the long-term success and economic self-sufficiency of the Tribe and the people in this region.
“Our goal when we established WDC was to have a positive and lasting impact on this region where our ancestors first settled,” said Jamie Stuck, Chair of the Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi Tribal Council. “We feel this investment will benefit our Tribal Members, the local economy, and all the people who call West Michigan home.”