7GenAE takes next step

Published 8:47 am Thursday, February 20, 2014

Pokagon-owned architectural firm gets certification

Nearly two years to the date since their founding, Pokagon-owned architectural firm 7GenAE has received a coveted federal status that could bring a surge of future business.

The six-person company, which is located in Benton Harbor, announced Wednesday that they had received 8(a) certification from the U.S. Small Business Administration, the first tribally-owned business to do so in Michigan. The certification places them in the SBA’s business development program, which is designed to help minority businesses compete for government contracts, said Troy Clay, CEO of Mno-Bmadsen, the Pokagon Band’s economic development arm and 7GenAE’s holding company.

“The federal government is a major purchaser of architectural services,” Clay said. “This certification gives us a good foot in the door in that market.”

7GenAE has pursued entry into the 8(a) program since Mno-Bmadsen started the company in February 2012. However, the SBA imposes rigid requirements for participating businesses, which must demonstrate long-term feasibility and technical competency. In addition, the government performs extensive background checks on both employees and board members, Clay said.

“When you get certified, they are certifying that you are a good enough organization to do government work, not just that you are a minority business,” Clay added.

In addition to giving the business a leg-up in in competing for federal contracts, the program could also open up new subcontracting opportunities with major government contractors, such as Lockheed Martin, Clay said. The status could also help benefit other Mno-Bmadsen operations, like as Accu-Mold, their Portage-based plastics manufacturing plant the company acquired last year.

“We hope, in three to five years, to make a major impact in the tribal economy, and the economy of the region,” Clay said.

7GenAE is one of the major development ventures by Mno-Bmadsen, which was chartered in 2007. Since then, the economic developer has become a large part of the Pokagon Band’s operations.

“There’s a real commitment to tribal economic development, and not just gaming,” Clay said. “Gaming is still going strong, but it’s time to diversify our business.”

Headed by Scott Winchester, who has 30 years of experience in architecture, 7GenAE has performed design work for projects both inside and outside the tribe. Most recently, the company created plans for the new Pokagon health clinic on Sink Road, which is currently under construction.

While the 8(a) certification is a milestone in the young company’s life, neither 7GenAE nor Mno-Bmadsen have any intentions on resting on their laurels, Clay said.

“What you’re seeing come out of Mno-Bmadsen is just the beginning,” he said. “We’re just launching this ship.”