Gun Lake Investments started 2022 with a permanent CEO in place and plans to become more active in the market.
Directors at Gun Lake Investments — the non-gaming economic development arm of the Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish Band of Pottawatomi Indians, or Gun Lake Tribe — named Monica King as CEO effective Jan. 1. King had served as interim CEO since July following the departure of Kurtis Trevan, who led Gun Lake Investments for six years.
King expects Gun Lake Investments, formed in 2015 to diversify the Gun Lake Tribe economically, to accelerate activity in 2022. As well, Gun Lake Investments this year plans to “refresh” a strategic plan that will guide the organization’s investments in the coming years.
“We’re going to be able to keep diversifying, and 2022 and 2023 are going to be really active years for us with our pipeline. I’m excited to see how all of that evolves and to be part of that,” King told MiBiz. “The foundation is really solid and we want to just keep doing more of the same. We’ve learned some lessons along the way, but we can definitely build on the foundation, too.”
King previously served as CEO and managing partner of Grand Rapids-based DWH LLC, a financial advisory, transition consulting and M&A firm that is majority owned by Waséyabek Development Co., the non-gaming investment arm of the Nottawaseppi Huron Band of Potawatomi.
At DWH, which has a tribal practice, King worked with the tribe and Trevan in a variety of capacities, including repositioning Gun Lake’s business model. She has more than 20 years of experience in business finance and operations.
“I’m happy that someone with Monica’s experience and proven track record has accepted the CEO position,” John Shagonaby, chairperson of the GLI Board of Directors, said in a statement. “Monica has already demonstrated she has the experience, character and leadership qualities we need as we continue to seek new investments to support the tribe’s long-term financial stability and success. We welcome her to her new permanent role with Gun Lake Investments.”
As directors at Gun Lake Investments (GLI) sought Trevan’s successor, and after they went through a round of candidates, King once jokingly said in a conversation: “If you don’t find anybody, let me know.”
GLI directors later approached her about the CEO role. King saw the permanent position as aligning with the work she loves to do.
“The mission is important to me. Similar to consulting, I’m really passionate about helping businesses grow,” King said. “I love seeing what the tribes are doing and how impactful they are to the community.”
Gun Lake Investments invests for the long term in real estate, operating companies — either as active owners or through passive investments — and debt placements. The organization typically makes one or two investments a year. Most recently, it partnered with Waséyabek Development in October to acquire transportation companies Zip Xpress Inc. and Green Transportation Inc. in Holland.
Gun Lake Investments and Waséyabek Development previously partnered in 2020 to acquire the McKay Tower office building in downtown Grand Rapids for $17.5 million.
King’s five months as interim CEO, plus prior experience working with the tribe, provides continuity for Gun Lake Investments in the leadership transition.
“It helps significantly just knowing the team and the dynamics with the stakeholders, and I won’t have to go through so much of an onboarding process,” King said. “Being alongside them from their initial strategy, now I’m going to be able to just jump in and hit the ground running full speed.”
Another investment may close in early 2022, and Gun Lake Investments has “been actively rebuilding our pipeline, too” that’s “very strong and growing,” King said.
“I wouldn’t say we were on pause, but with the transition we had to re-evaluate everything that was in the existing pipeline and with the strategy conversations coming up and really think through what that looked like,” she said. “We’re going to be active and we’re a very good alternative, too, for sellers” who are concerned about their legacy.
Much of Gun Lake Investments’ pipeline is primarily for deals in Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo, King said.
“We have some really cool things we’re going to be doing with real estate development” in the years ahead, King said. “We’re actively working through plans there.”
Gun Lake Investments is involved with a parcel at 733 Wealthy St. SE in Grand Rapids’ East Hills neighborhood that it wants to develop over the next couple of years. Planning for the Kregel Building property — which is owned by Rockford Construction Co. Inc. CEO Mike VanGessel, doing business as Wealthy and Charles LLC — is in the preliminary stages. Previous plans by 616 Development LLC for a mixed-use project at the site never came to fruition despite receiving nearly $1 million in tax incentives in March 2017. Gun Lake Investments wants to develop a use that’s “symbiotic with the community,” King said.
The tribe also owns property in Wayland, Dorr and Shelbyville in Allegan County near the Gun Lake Casino that Gun Lakes Investments will actively look to develop.
“We’re excited to see what’s feasible for those pieces of property and also seek input from tribal stakeholders,” as well as local public officials, King said. “We want to take our time and work with all of the stakeholders that would be involved to make sure that we do the right thing.”