GRAND RAPIDS — Waséyabek Development Co. LLC is venturing into uncharted territories for tribal economic development firms following a new acquisition.
Waséyabek, the non-gaming economic development arm of the Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi, announced today that it has acquired Otsego-based Safari Circuits Inc., which specializes in electronics manufacturing in addition to both engineering and supply chain management services.
With the purchase, Waséyabek now generates roughly $70 million in yearly revenue through its collective investments.
“That’s just unheard of, so we’re really excited about that and we’re excited about — not only growing jobs and keeping jobs in Michigan — but setting an example for Indian Country on how to diversify their portfolios and their economies,” Deidra Mitchell, president and CEO of Waséyabek, told MiBiz.
The right fit
Mitchell said Waséyabek continues to aggressively pursue investment opportunities in companies with high potential for growth and success. The group focuses on manufacturing, medical and federal contracting verticals. As a manufacturer that supplies both the medical and military spaces, Safari checked all three boxes.
Founded in 1985 by CEO Larry Cain, Safari Circuits employs 150 people and serves more than 180 clients in the medical, industrial, automotive, military and other industries.
Cain will transition to a part-time role and serve on the board of advisers. Longtime President Mike Kintz and Senior Vice President David Briggs will remain in their roles at Safari.
Terms of the deal were undisclosed.
While the M&A market currently tips in favor of sellers, Mitchell said that her group has a leg up when it comes to striking deals with family-owned companies and those with strong roots in their communities.
“I think it’s definitely a seller’s market — there is just a lot of capital out there to be deployed,” Mitchell said. “I think our advantage at WDC, being tribally owned, is that there is a lot of assurance to the sellers that we’re not going to turn around and sell the company in the next four years or move it somewhere else and take it out of the community. We’re a ‘buy, hold and grow’ model that is in line with the seven-generation thinking of the tribe.”
Kintz, who joined Safari in 1997, agreed that was a big selling point.
“Both their belief structure and value structure — and the fact they want to hold these businesses for the next seven generations — is what we as employees want to hear,” Kintz said.
Mitchell did acknowledge a hit to Safari’s sales because of the debilitating cramps in the electronics supply chain, most notably the global shortage of semiconductors. But she and company leaders also said that the Safari team has navigated the market pressures well and expects to see a bounce back.
“Every business that is in electronics manufacturing has been struggling getting enough components to build products right now, so we do have that problem,” Kintz said. “We have orders stronger than our supply chain is able to give us materials for.”
The Safari acquisition comes on the heels of an active 2021 for Waséyabek.
Last fall, the organization announced a co-investment with Gun Lake Investments, the non-gaming economic development arm for the Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish Band of Pottawatomi Indians, or Gun Lake Tribe. The two companies partnered to purchase transportation and logistics companies Zip Xpress and Green Transportation, both in Holland.
The two parties also partnered on a high-profile investment in early 2020 when they jointly acquired the 18-story, 154,000-square-foot McKay Tower, located at 146 Monroe Center St. in downtown Grand Rapids.
To close out 2021, Waséyabek also announced a $3 million investment in BAMF Health Inc., a company developing a new clinic for advanced cancer treatment in Grand Rapids.
Waséyabek was advised on the Safari Circuits deal by legal counsel Dickinson Wright PLLC, accounting firm BDO USA LLP, and Huntington Bank. Safari Circuits worked with Grand Rapids-based investment banking firm BlueWater Partners LLC and Kalamazoo, Mich.-based law firm Howell Parfet Schau PLC.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This story was updated from its original version to include deal advisers.