LDF’s construction of the Waaswaaganing Indian Bowl Living Arts & Culture Center
LDF Construction President Randy Soulier told Native Business that securing its contract from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forestry Service comes 18 months after becoming 8(a) certified by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA).
The 8(a) Business Development program awards federal contracts to businesses owned by socially or economically disadvantaged entities.
“There’s an element of patience, investment and y’know, ups and downs … not winning bids, that you have put in,” said Randy Soulier, BDC chief operating officer and president of LDF Construction. “So [now] it’s off to the races, I guess you could say and we’re looking forward to many more coming. That allows us to grow here in Lac du Flambeau, provides jobs.”
LDF Construction is a business unit of LDF Business Development Corporation (BDC), the non-gaming economic development arm of the Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, an Ojibwa Tribe with a reservation mostly situated in the town of Lac du Flambeau, Wisconsin.
LDF Construction was awarded a $1,015,000 federal 8(a) construction contract by the Forestry Service. And while it’s the business’ first 8(a) contract, it’s actually the fourth federal construction project that LDF Construction has worked on for the U.S. government.
Carpenters, masons and other skilled laborers from Lac du Flambeau will soon restore a government owned, Great Depression era lodge. The Tribally owned business will renovate the Mondeaux Dam Lodge in Westboro, a federal recreation site in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest in northern Wisconsin.
“While it’s lucrative, it’s more important winning a bid like this, because it reinforces the fact that we have the talent to see something through of this magnitude,” said Soulier.
“This project will largely be staffed by LDF team from Vilas County, about half of whom are Lac du Flambeau Tribal members,” Soulier added.
Renovations are slated for completion by summer 2020.
Soulier walked Native Business through LDF Business Development Corporation’s (BDC) and LDF Construction’s inception.
LDF BDC started with a $25,000 infusion from the Tribe.
“And we paid that back, and then some, within our first year. A year after, we started a construction company in 2013,” Soulier told Native Business.
Certified to participate in the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) 8(a) Business Development Program and the Wisconsin Department of Administration Minority Business Enterprise Program, LDF Construction resides within a HUB Zone and Opportunity Zone in Lac du Flambeau, Wisconsin.
“We’re a community of about 3,400 people, 40 to 50% are our Tribal members (1,800), and our year-round home ownership is just under 50%. It’s a very high tourism area. In terms of the economy, roughly 35% of the population is at or below poverty,” Soulier shared.
LDF BDC and subsidiary LDF Construction are helping to diversify the Tribe into revenue sources outside of gaming and also creating career opportunities for the community.
LDF construction started as a residential commercial, localized construction company.
“We are 100% Native American staffed — all the way from our board down to our labor are all Tribal members,” Soulier told Native Business.
Recently, LDF Business Development Corporation (BDC) received a Tribal Excellence Award from the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT).
The award recognized LDF BDC for its efforts to advance the Workforce Development & Business Training Center in the Lac du Flambeau Business Park, and its work with LDF Construction to secure federal and state certifications.
“Our team works diligently to position our businesses for success in the private sector and now in the government contracting space as well,” Soulier said. “Alongside our partners, we are developing a foundation to create more jobs and build self-sustaining economic futures for people in the region.”
Soulier told Native Business: “We’ve have performed some pretty amazing things here in our community. We’ve built our our living Cultural Center. We just completed the first of three phases on rebuilding that facility. It’s just spectacular. We’ve also been able to secure and build our inpatient treatment center here in Lac du Flambeau on a 40-acre plot as a healing campus. It’s just a phenomenal 20-bed facility, completely certified,” Soulier said.
“We make decisions that are seventh-generation based, building upon the more localized apprenticeships and projects to get back to the community type of opportunities,” he added.
Within the next five years, Soulier would like to see a half dozen professionals in LDF BDC’s ongoing apprenticeship programs. “We’re making an impact on bringing the trade skills back to the area — carpentry, plumbing, welding, electrician. Those are paid apprenticeship programs, both through public funding and also from the firm itself,” he said.
“I would also like to see us work with Tribes in terms of helping them remediate their homes. There are 11 tribes in Wisconsin; there’s such an amount of homes that need to be taken care of, and I think that LDF Construction’s duty is to help — to be the healer for the future,” Soulier shared.