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Mike Myers: Leech Lake Band takes lead in solar development

Solar panels on a building on the Leech Lake Reservation in Minnesota. Photo by Leech Lake Environmental Department

Mike Myers (Seneca Nation) of the Network for Native Futures shares more about his business venture with the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe Indians that will bring solar manufacturing to the Minnesota tribe's reservation:
The past seven months have been an interesting succession of opportunities, challenges and lessons learned as my business partners and myself have moved forward on three ventures – developing an LED assembly and testing operation; acquiring a solar panel manufacturing company and preparing to launch a beta factory to begin to refine our ability to manufacture energy efficient, high quality, low cost homes for Indian Country.

At the beginning of all of this my company, Wakaiagon Innovations (Wa ki a gon - Ojibwe for home), had been contracted by Leech Lake Financial Services (LLFS), a non-profit, to conduct a strategic planning session with their board and management. One of the key strategies that emerged was to pursue the establishment of a for profit subsidiary that could engage in economic and community development ventures that would underwrite financial stability for LLFS, pursue “green” business opportunities that would create jobs, and contribute to the economic revitalization of the region.

What resulted was the establishment of Aki Development, LLC as the for profit subsidiary of Leech Lake Financial Services, Inc. (LLFS). Each is tribally chartered for profit and non-profit corporations respectively. LLFS is a Department of the Treasury certified Native Community Development Financial Institution (NCDFI). Aki was created as a vehicle through which LLFS can meet its mission of promoting community and economic development within the Leech Lake Ojibwe Territory and a service area encompassing the 25 mile radius around the Territory.

Almost immediately after putting this together our companies were approached about participating in the planning and creation of a 200 Kw solar garden that would be dedicated to lowering the electricity costs of low-income Leech Lake families.

Read More:
Mike Myers: Engaging in Indigenous Development (Indian Country Today 10/17)