Seven Generations Architecture + Engineering Demonstrates Exponential Growth in Federal & Tribal Spaces

In 2015, Seven Generations Architecture and Engineering (A+E) generated about $1 million in annual revenue. “This year, we’ll probably do close to $8 million, which is pretty significant growth in the professional service industry,” Jeremy Berg, managing director at Seven Generations A+E, LLC, told Native Business Magazine.

That growth is primarily fueled by the federal market, he said. The tribally-owned, 8(a) firm has won nationwide contracts with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Indian Health Service, as well as statewide contracts in Michigan with the General Services Administration and the Department of Veteran Affairs.

“We anticipate continued growth,” Berg said of Seven Generations A+E, founded in 2012 by Mno-Bmadsen, the non-gaming investment arm of the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians in southwest Michigan.

In 2015, the firm counted five employees. “We’ve quadrupled since 2015. Now we’re at 20 people, and moving to downtown Kalamazoo, Michigan, we’ll be able to have up to 32 people at our company,” Berg said.

For the HUBZone-certified architecture and engineering company, part of the impetus for relocating its headquarters to The Foundry in East Kalamazoo’s historic River’s Edge District is to increase community exposure. The firm’s active projects stretch across Michigan, Indiana, Minnesota, South Dakota, New Mexico, Texas, Washington, D.C., and a myriad of other places throughout the nation, thanks to the Army Corps. But the firm wants to expand its presence in Kalamazoo as well.

A $215,000 grant from the Michigan Economic Expansion Corp. (MEDC) is helping to offset Seven Generations’ office build-out costs, as well as technology costs that will enhance remote connectivity to servers—critical for a company with projects across the country.

The firm has designed health clinics, government and community facilities, retail applications such as gas stations and stores, and numerous tribal spaces. Seven Generations focuses on “how to design a space that in seven generations still feels like it’s applicable. We’re striving for that timelessness,” Berg said.

In designing the Mille Lacs Band District 2 Health Clinic, Seven Generations divided the building into ’wings’ to separate community service functions from general clinic functions. A traditional healing space was also incorporated to allow for cultural healing events such as smudging ceremonies. (Courtesy Seven Generations)

Material selection is also vital to the firm, which makes decisions to benefit the next seven generations. “We err on the side of sustainability. I think with that comes picking materials that are not only sustainable but will last and endure. In our mind, sustainability is not only the latest green product. It’s building in a way that is going to last for a long time and won’t be disposable.” (Read Native Business Magazine‘s article “Seven Generations Partners With WholeTrees to Bring Green Building Materials to Native Markets.”)

The firm additionally chooses materials and textures that communicate a space as a tribal space, Berg said.

Seven Generations started one its first big projects in 2013—a 35,000-square-foot, $12 million outpatient health clinic for the Indian Health Service. “As a startup company, to get an opportunity to do a project like that is pretty unheard of,” Berg said. “From that single health clinic, we were able to win a new health clinic with the Milles Lac Band of Ojibwe in Minnesota to design an 80,000-square-foot clinic, a roughly $18 million project,” Berg said.

Seven Generations constructed the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Language and Culture Center. (Courtesy Seven Generations)

Seven Generations also inked the initial design for an Indian Health Service 200,000-square-foot replacement clinic in Rapid City, South Dakota, a $100 million project.

Berg emphasized that Seven Generations approaches each tribe or tribal business without any preconceived notions. With open minds, they seek to understand a tribe’s unique culture “and how their culture can apply to their building,” Berg said.

“That’s one way that the Pokagon culture has put a mark on this company—this idea of being quiet and listening. It’s opened our ability to hear what our clients really want to say. We offer solutions that embrace not only their programmatic needs but also their cultural significance,” Berg said. “We strive for a deeper understanding of how the architecture can reinforce the culture of the tribe.”

Beyond structure, tribal names can imbue more meaning into a space. “Instead of the mental health clinic, a tribe can call it the Sweetgrass Clinic,” Berg offered.

Seven Generations designed the Mille Lacs Band District 1 Health Clinic, created to act as a ‘one stop shop’ for members of the Mille Lacs Band Community, offering treatment ranging from dental operatory to imaging / radiology. (Courtesy Seven Generations)

Over the next five years, Seven Generations hopes to assert itself as the premiere architecture and design firm in Indian Country. “I don’t want to sound audacious, but we want to be ‘the’ tribal design firm in the country,” Berg said.

In coming years, Seven Generations will also consider acquisitions or opening another branch. “We’re looking to move to multiple offices to increase our reach across the country. Currently we work with a lot of tribes in the Midwest; we’d like to start talking and working with tribes in the southwest,” Berg said.

He added: “Mno-Bmadsen has an aggressive growth plan through the next 5-10 years and Seven Generations A+E is poised to be a part of that. We want to be a national firm in 10 years.”

The Mille Lacs Band District 1 Health Clinic is situated on a large open prairie and wraps around existing wetland area that acts as a focal point for the general waiting areas for the clinic and community support service zones of the building. (Courtesy Seven Generations)