West Michigan Tribal Economic Leader to Speak at Harvard University on Native American Business Operations

West Michigan Tribal Economic Leader to Speak at Harvard University on Native American Business Operations

Tribal Economic Leader

Waséyabek Development Company (WDC) announced today that president and CEO Deidra Mitchell will appear as a guest lecturer at the prestigious Harvard-Kennedy School on March 24th.

Ms. Mitchell has served as WDC’s top executive since 2016.  Under her leadership, WDC has implemented business practices consistent with the Harvard Project of American Indian Economic Development (“Harvard Project”).  The model is considered one of the most successful approaches to economic development for Tribes, with the tenets of Sovereignty Matters, Culture Matters, Leadership Matters, and Institutions Matter, with an emphasis on separating Tribal politics from business decisions and day-to-day management.

“I’m honored to accept the invitation to speak to students at Harvard University about current trends and Waséyabek’s success in the Native American economic sector,” said Deidra Mitchell. “For us, the practices recommended by the Harvard Project are very consistent with the Tribal teachings of the Nottawaseppi Huron Band of Potawatomi Indians. Consequently, WDC is benefiting from the principles encouraged by both organizations.”

Ms. Mitchell will deliver her comments to students enrolled in Harvard’s Native Americans in the 21st Century – Nation Building II course. The class is led by Eric Henson, who is a citizen of the Chickasaw Nation and has been a research fellow/affiliate with the Harvard Project since 1998. Ms. Mitchell will focus her comments on the best practices employed by WDC, which have set the foundation for the company to grow from $0 revenue in 2017 to $75 million at the close of 2022.

“Waséyabek Development Company has embraced the practices outlined by the Harvard Project, implemented them within their organization and created a culture of positivity and growth,” said Mr. Henson. “Harvard students are fortunate to be able to hear about the real-world practical application of the Project’s principles from Ms. Mitchell.”

More than 30 undergraduate and graduate level students are expected to be present for the lecture.

“This invitation is a tremendous honor for Deidra and reflects the positive and productive impact she and the WDC team have had regarding our Tribe’s economic interests,” said Jamie Stuck, NHBP Tribal Council Chair. “When you consider that there are 574 federally-recognized Tribes in the United States and Harvard has chosen a representative from our Tribe’s economic team to present information to their students, well it really speaks to the value that Deidra and her team are bringing to the NHBP Tribal Members and to Indian Country, at large.”

WDC is one of the largest Native American economic development companies in Michigan. Its economic portfolio now includes 29 business entities, employing more than 400 people throughout its portfolio, and has investment interests in companies from coast-to-coast.

Waséyabek Development Company Names CEO

Waséyabek Development Company Names CEO

Waséyabek Development Company Names CEO

Deidra Mitchell joins our organization as the CEO of Waséyabek Development Company, LLC.  She was born and raised in Ohio and is the middle child of Jack and Lynda Mitchell; a retired machinist and a retired bookkeeper.

Deidra attended Kent State University and graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree. It was early in her career as an environmental project manager that she began to study the relationship between people, processes and profits, which is the foundation for her business model today.  She started her first company in 1990 and grew it to 15 employees performing projects in Ohio, Missouri, California, Canada, Midway Island, Guam and other Pacific Islands.  Since then, she has started 8 additional companies.

“I find that if I retain quality employees, support them well, provide them with effective and flexible policies, communicate a clear goal, and steer the organization by responsibly allocating resources, a successful business will follow, no matter what the industry,” Deidra explained.

She has started and developed companies for herself, private Corporations and Native Corporations.  Examples include a national demolition and environmental division for a large corporation in Seattle; a private California Corporation that was offering a new technology in the environmental clean-up industry; a company that imported handicrafts from Bali; an Alaska Native IT & Communications company that performed government projects requiring a Top Secret clearance; and a construction division for a large engineering firm in Alaska.

Most recently, she has started up an e-commerce company offering technical documents, and a construction manufacturing company holding 3 newly patented products.

“I enjoy what I do for a living and also think having a balanced life is extremely important.  I enjoy fishing, nature, mosaic art, traveling, my pets, writing and reading.  Most of all, I enjoy the time I get to spend with family and friends.”

Deidra has been in her position for two weeks and says, “I am impressed with the solid business foundation that the WDC Board and Staff have built over the last year.  I am extremely grateful for the opportunity at Waséyabek, and for the Board’s and Tribal Council’s vote of confidence in my abilities to build an economic development arm for NHBP.  I’ll do my very best.”