The Spirit of the Woods Manistee Gateway project will transform greater Manistee and bolster the Tribal economy. “This development is part of a continued economic development diversification for the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians that aims to create new revenue sources for the Tribe and future generations,” said Larry Romanelli, Ogema of the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians.
The economic development arm of the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians is revitalizing downtown Manistee, Michigan, adding a “business incubator,” hotel, marketplace and welcome center.
“This unique partnership provides our community with the opportunity to build a better future with investments, jobs, infrastructure, and improvements to downtown,” said Eugene Magnuson, CEO of Little River Holdings.
The project entails:
- The construction of a 100-room, nearly 100,000-square-foot, full-amenity hotel.
- A brand new welcome center to invite tourists to learn about Manistee’s rich history.
- The redevelopment of shops and restaurants as a trendy and inventive tourism attraction.
- Spaces that can seat around 300 people for business and entertainment events.
Little River Holdings, LLC houses all economic development entities of the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians other than Little River Casino Resort — the Tribe’s first major economic milestone since the federal government reaffirmed its Tribal status and sovereignty in September 1994. The Tribe opened its casino in 1999, jumpstarting the Tribal economy and creating opportunity for economic diversification. The Tribe began operating Little River Holdings, LLC on January 1, 2018.
While Little River Holdings is nearly three years old, in many ways, it’s still a startup, says Magnuson. He formerly served as the chairman of Mno-Bmadsen, the non-gaming economic development and investment arm of the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians.
Magnuson recently told MiBiz that when an opportunity arose to help out his dad’s Tribe, he leaped. “I still consider it my Tribe even though I’m a member of the Pokagon,” he told the publication. Magnuson also aspires to build bridges to economic opportunity between Tribal economic development entities, so “we can be stronger in the state of Michigan.”
Magnuson’s previous experience leading Mno-Bmadsen is informing his strategy at Little River Holdings. “With Mno, I started that out from day one. Some of the things that we did with Mno, we are kind of recreating here for Little River. I have the experience of knowing the growing pains at Mno, and that’s a good thing. They’re great growing pains to have,” he told MiBiz.
Little River Holdings is responsible for a home development, 300 energy-efficient, single-family homes in Fruitport, Michigan, as well as the mixed-use development center at the intersection of US-31 and M-22 near the existing Little River Casino and Resort in Manistee.
In 2019, the corporation launched subsidiary Little River Government Contracting, which has garnered service contracts with the U.S. government and military. “We’ll start out small and then we’ll build up,” Magnuson said in January 2020. “We just want to be able to demonstrate our experience in handling 8(a) contracts and prove ourselves and then we’ll start going after the larger projects.”
For now, the Spirit of the Woods Manistee Gateway project is a massive undertaking, slated to transform the greater Manistee community and bolster the Tribal economy. “This development is part of a continued economic development diversification for the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians that aims to create new revenue sources for the Tribe and future generations,” said Larry Romanelli, Ogema of the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians.