The Poarch Band of Creek Indians, based in Atmore, is best known for its gaming casinos, now spread from Atmore, Montgomery and Wetumpka in Alabama, to Nevada, the Caribbean islands of Aruba and Curacao, and, now, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, following the $1.3 billion acquisition of a Sands Casino Resort in May.
Or if it’s beach time, you might think of the tribe’s $241 million OWA amusement park just north of Gulf Shores.
Less well known is the tribe’s growing portfolio of non-entertainment enterprises, from metal fabrication to virtual reality production — the work of the Creek Indian Enterprises Development Authority.
“What we do is to try to diversify the tribe in areas of nongaming,” says Cody Williamson, CEO of the CIEDA, which now employs 590 workers.
The OWA amusement park falls under that umbrella and is by far the Poarch Band’s largest non-gaming enterprise. But it also includes a surprising variety of vertically networked small enterprises, such as Integrated Federal Solutions, a federal government contractor in Reston Virginia that CIEDA bought in June.
Integrated Federal Solutions is a small company that provides staff support for companies contracting with the federal government and Department of Defense. It received a Department of Homeland Security Small Business of the Year award.
“They have three or four full-time corporate employees,” says Williamson. However, they place employees with various federal departments. “The Treasury Department, for example, may need 30 to 40 employees to fulfill a service contract, and they (IFS) will hire the workers directly.”
More important than the size of the company acquired, says Williamson, are the connections it brings. “With the acquisition of IFS, our governmental services staffing is approximately 250. This includes 35 corporate positions and 215 positions servicing the government contracts.”
CIEDA’s government contracting enterprises have benefited, at the early stages of their life, from the 8(a) Business Development Program, supporting minority-owned businesses. The term of that status, however, is limited. IFS, for example, had graduated from its 8(a) status before its acquisition by CIEDA.
Networking with potential customers has been a key to growth for CIEDA’s four largest enterprises outside of the amusement park: PCI Aviation, PCI Support Services, Media Fusion and Muskogee Technology.
Huntsville-based Media Fusion is a multimedia company that works with the federal government, especially NASA, to provide a team of workers skilled in social media and multimedia, including virtual reality productions used for training.
“They were brought to our attention a few years back,” Williamson says of Media Fusion, which was an acquisition. “They have been in business 23 years, so they have a lot of connections.”
Not all of the diversified enterprises have been acquisitions. PCI Aviation and Muskogee Technology are both homegrown. But they are also vertically networked.
“PCI Aviation has done a lot of contract work with wiring harnesses for helicopters and repair work for helicopters,” says Williamson, “which has gotten us work that is performed by Muskogee Technology.
“Muskogee Technology, our manufacturing company, does a lot of metal fabrication and composites cutting, for various engine parts. It does a lot of work in aerospace. They also perform work in the oil and gas sector as well. They also manufacture brush cutters for Lane Shark USA.”
Muskogee Technology employs 87 workers, and the trade magazine Manufacturing Technology Insights in its May issue featured Muskogee Technology as one of its Top 10 Machine Tool Solution Providers.
PCI Support Services sells businesses a portfolio of services that includes facilities maintenance, landscaping, small construction, procurement and project management.
Prospecting for new enterprises, says Williamson, has a lot to do with making connections.
With federal government work “you get a small piece of the big pie. There are big vendors out there, and they have to find small vendors to help them out. You can get to know bigger contractors whose doors you could otherwise not get into.
“We got into government contracting hot and heavy with PCI Aviation. It started small and has come a long way.”
On watch for new acquisitions, says Williamson, “We look at reports on which sectors are getting the most funding and what the government is wanting to acquire and what services they are going to need, and that’s where we focus our attention, looking at the next five to ten years.”
The purchase price of IFS was not disclosed, but Williamson says, “We are looking for small to mid-size companies less than $10 million.”