Waséyabek Development Company invests in healthcare startup
Grand Rapids-based BAMF Health developing revolutionary cancer treatment technology
Pictured from left to right: Chris Rogers, Waséyabek Board Vice-Chair and Interim Chair; Bryant Phillips, Waséyabek Board Member; Deidra Mitchell, President and CEO of Waséyabek; Dr. Anthony Chang, CEO of BAMF Health; and Chad Bassett, COO of BAMF Health.
Waséyabek Development Company (WDC), the Tribally-owned economic development arm of the Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi (NHBP), announced a $3 million investment into healthcare startup BAMF Health. The passive investment marks the first foray of the company into the healthcare industry and further diversification of its portfolio. Grand Rapids company BAMF Health is developing cutting-edge cancer treatments with a technology that is showing promise in treating non-cancer-related ailments as well.
“Our goal is to invest in companies that not only align with our values but also show a strong potential for growth and success,” said Deidra Mitchell, President and CEO of Waséyabek. “This technology shows so much promise, and BAMF’s vision to provide accessible and affordable treatment solutions is one that we stand firmly behind.”
The technology, which is already being practiced in Germany, uses an innovative radiopharmaceutical approach that more directly targets cells and is less invasive than current methods. Patients from over 44 countries have sought treatment, including many from West Michigan. In their work to create a scalable platform for the treatment, BAMF launched a $30 million Series B raise, which WDC is participating in along with other investors.
“Having diverse communities invest in this company is well aligned with our mission and vision,” said Dr. Anthony Chang, CEO of BAMF Health. “These treatments and early detection can significantly impact positive outcomes for patients. We’re working towards smarter solutions, like same-day diagnosis and treatment, while deploying advanced AI and other technology to ensure it is affordable and accessible for everyone that needs it.”
BAMF’s process uses 1/40th the amount of radiation in traditional detection routines, making it more affordable and much less strenuous on the body. BAMF has been working on technology and the infrastructure to support it that will drive the cost down, enabling more patients access and making earlier treatment and detection the goal.
According to the CDC, Native American communities suffer much higher rates of several cancers, including lung, colorectal, liver, stomach, and kidney cancers. They are also more likely to be disproportionately impacted by a lack of preventative healthcare access and affordability.
“This investment represents something that is sorely needed in the healthcare industry, Tribal participation. When our communities are lacking accessible and affordable healthcare, it is our responsibility to ensure we’re making decisions to increase access and quality of care,” said Jamie Stuck, NHBP Tribal Council Chair. “Making this type of treatment and technology available to all is something that aligns closely with our values.”
“We welcome opportunities to be involved in groundbreaking technologies, especially those that are being researched and developed right here in Michigan,” said Chris Rogers, Waséyabek Board Vice-Chair and Interim Chair. “This is our first investment in the health care sector and another opportunity for us to broaden our investment strategy.”
Congratulations to our President & CEO, Deidra Mitchell, for being named by the Grand Rapids Business Journal as one of the 200 Most Powerful Business Leaders in West Michigan! We are proud to see the NHBP and WDC being recognized for their continued positive impact on West Michigan.
Grand Rapids 200 is a comprehensive list of the most powerful executives in more than 20 industries in Grand Rapids and is the most highly selective biographical database of business leaders in Grand Rapids.
The resource list of individuals was compiled based on a number of factors including the size of a given company or organization, growth rate, geographical reach, and extensive personal contacts.
Rare partnership between two Tribes results in unique economic development opportunity
Michigan based Zip Xpress and Green Transportation deliver sustainable shipping solutions
Dina McKnight-Dargis (left), former owner and CEO of Zip Xpress, Inc., with her husband, Mike Dargis (right), former owner and CEO of Green Transportation, Inc.
In a first-of-its-kind collaboration in Michigan, two Tribally-owned economic development companies have partnered to acquire a pair of operating companies. Waséyabek Development Company and Gun Lake Investments are investing to obtain full ownership of Zip Xpress and Green Transportation of Holland, Michigan.
The partnership will be managed by DWH, LLC, a Tribally-owned business consulting firm that also specializes in Tribal economic development. Currently, the businesses are owned and managed by a wife-and-husband team who have built both companies from the ground up. Dina McKnight-Dargis owns and manages Zip Xpress while her husband Mike Dargis owns and operates Green Transportation, Inc.
“This is an exciting opportunity for us, and the collaboration with both Tribes and current ownership has been incredibly successful, making this process really effortless and enjoyable,” said Monica King, CEO of DWH. DWH will be actively managing the businesses. “Not only will these businesses be Tribally-owned, each entity involved is managed by female leaders, something we’re incredibly proud of.”
Zip Xpress, Inc. and Green Transportation, Inc. are LTL and truckload companies. Zip Xpress, founded in 2001, is a woman-owned, general, and specialty commodity carrier known for load consolidation and white glove services. Green Transportation was founded in 2007 to provide enhanced long-distance trucking services to Zip and several others. Both companies focus on freight optimization and environmentally sustainable solutions, something that aligns very closely with the principles of both Tribes. Unlike many other transportation services, Zip Xpress’s mission is to fully load their trucks for each trip using a unique optimization process that reduces their customers’ cost and carbon footprint.
“For my husband and I, growing these businesses has been a labor of love, and each company has grown around the foundations and principles we believe in,” said Dina McKnight-Dargis, current CEO and owner of Zip Xpress. “It is always a tough decision to sell a company that you have built yourself but with DWH we know it is in good hands and will only help to contribute to continued growth for our team members and the companies themselves.”
“Leadership and a common philosophy about how our respective Tribes do business are really what makes this deal work. Dina and Mike’s commitment to their employees and the community is what makes it truly meaningful,” said Deidra Mitchell, CEO and President of Waséyabek Development Company, LLC. “The way this rounds out our portfolio, both financially and from a diversification standpoint, aligns with our investment strategy.”
Green Transportation, Inc is notable for its training school which provides a pipeline of trained and talented drivers for the company. This has become especially important during severe labor shortages across the country.
The school focuses on teaching drivers how to operate successfully in a high-risk business and how to be healthy while doing it. Drivers that graduate from Green Transportation’s program are also underwritten for insurance with the company so they can capture more of their income from driving with most drivers making six figures within a couple of years of graduating.
While both companies are Michigan-based, they serve a national clientele with Green Transportation’s service to 38 states. Together, both companies employ around 90 people.
“In addition to being a great investment, this acquisition also brings career development opportunities for Tribal Members in the form of truck driving instruction. This makes it an added benefit for both Tribes as Tribal Members plan for careers,” said Jamie Stuck, Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi (NHBP) Tribal Council Chair.
Boards of both development companies approved the deals and partnership. Jason M. Palmer, Gun Lake Investments Board Vice-Chairman said, “Gun Lake Investments is thrilled to be part of the new ownership team for Zip Xpress and Green Transportation. Our community development investment goals, people-first companies with a history of success in Michigan, align with our strategic partners and represent another historic co-investment from these two formidable Tribes” referencing an early 2020 real-estate co-investment with their purchase of McKay Tower in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Palmer also added, “We look forward to sustaining and growing the successful business that Dina, Mike, and their team have built.”
Waséyabek interim Board Chair Chris Rogers also added, “The Zip Xpress / Green Transportation acquisition represents more than an investment for Waséyabek and the Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi Indians. The collaboration of the two Tribes is an outreach and manifestation of our desire to be in partnership with other Tribes to advance Indian Country.”