Over the next five years, CEO Tom Wilbur plans to build Grand Traverse Economic Development into a $100 million diversified portfolio of eight to 10 firms capable of capturing federal and state contracts.
Primarily, GTED will focus on annually acquiring an existing non-tribal business with $5 million to $10 million in revenues that could benefit from the minority status that comes with tribal ownership.
The portfolio also includes GTED-led startups for professional services. For example, the firm launched Grand Traverse Engineering & Construction (GTEC) in 2015 to provide civil engineering, construction management and planning for federal and state funded projects.
Wilbur also just received approval from GTED’s board of directors to launch individual entities focused on information technology, development and land holding.
“In the next week or two, I’ll have five companies lining up to get in the federal space,” he said.
Wilbur’s growth strategy is predicated on a formula he developed along with an economist, a CPA and a statistician that assumes the 8(a) certification will increase the market value of well-operated tribally-owned companies by 35 percent over about a five-year period. That growth, coupled with aggressively pursuing progressively larger federal contracts, will put GTED on a path to generate $1 billion in annual revenue over the course of a decade, he said.
It’s a model Wilbur developed after watching how various Alaska Native corporations were able to take advantage of federal contracting and surpass $1 billion in annual revenues over a period of three decades.
“I think we can get to a billion dollars, not in 30 years like the Alaska Native companies, but in 10 years,” Wilbur said. “I think that because the pace of change in 21st century is quicker than what it was during the 30 years it took the Alaskan Natives to get there. We know all the best practices. We’re not going to make the mistakes that the Alaskan Native companies made. They’re fine companies, but they went through a lot of growing pains, which are documented and case studied, and we know them.
“And then, the size of federal government contracts are much larger than what they were 30 years ago. I think you can get to the billion dollar mark in a third of the time it took them to get there. … It’s just a different era.”