Pokagon Band, LMC announce new partnership

Published 9:31 am Wednesday, June 10, 2015

LMC President Robert Harrison (left) accepts a $100,000 check from Pokagon Band Chairman John Warren during Tuesday’s press event. (Leader photo/TED YOAKUM)

LMC President Robert Harrison (left) accepts a $100,000 check from Pokagon Band Chairman John Warren during Tuesday’s press event. (Leader photo/TED YOAKUM)

With its highly successful chain of casinos, growing industrial ventures and expanding scope of its tribal government services, the employment opportunities the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians presents to its population are more plentiful than ever. 

In order to ensure that its citizens are properly prepared for these and other careers in the modern workforce, tribal leadership is making a heavy investment in the education of future generations.

The band inked a new partnership with Lake Michigan College on Tuesday, during a special signing ceremony held inside the tribal community center in Dowagiac. The tribe announced they will be donating $500,000 over the next five years into funding the construction of the community college’s new Hanson Technology Center, which is expected to open by fall 2016.

“This is an amazing day for not only Lake Michigan College and the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi, but also for southwest Michigan,” said LMC President Robert Harrison. “It does truly represent a community looking at its needs and working together to try and make sure that everyone is able to achieve their ultimate destiny.

Pokagon leadership has been working with the college to get the ball rolling on these initiatives since last year, said Pokagon Band Chairman John Warren. As factory jobs move toward greater computerization of its operations, the technical knowledge that the Hanson Center will provide students will prove essential for people entering the manufacturing field, Warren said.

“As we talked to business leaders, and we found it true with the businesses we own, it’s hard to find talent, young talent, that will come and run your machines,” he said. “You have to know how to run a computer; you have to know how to program a machine. It’s no longer one of those jobs where you walk in and do it all hands on.”

In addition, the college will create three new cohort programs for Pokagon citizens, employees and custodial parents, which will allow groups of Pokagon students to study together throughout their degree program. Expected to begin in fall of 2017, this initiative will allow students to earn degrees to prepare for careers in manufacturing, tribal government or gaming.

This partnership is the latest agreement the Pokagon Band has signed with a higher education institution, joining those with colleges and universities like Southwestern Michigan College, Western Michigan University, University of Indiana and Michigan State University. LMC has already had a program in-place that provided training for the tribe’s casino employees, so this new venture should  expand on the success of that, said Four Winds Chief Operating Officer Frank Freedman.

“Part of what we need to do as industry leaders is give back the community, and this is a great way to do that,” Freedman said. “You’re going to reap what you sow.”