Blue Stone Strategy Group today announced the addition of Eddy Edwards to its tenured team. Edwards is a former Keweenaw Bay Indian Community Tribal Council Member with extensive tribal government and housing expertise.
“We have a responsibility to continue to be the best in class in Indian Country and for our tribal clients and I believe that with the addition of Eddy Edwards we are adding another great resource to our tribal advisory team,” said Blue Stone chairman and CEO Jamie Fullmer.
An enrolled member of the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community (KBIC), Edwards has served in numerous positions within his tribal community, including tribal council, tribal treasurer, director of retail development, and executive director of his tribe’s housing authority.
As a senior strategist and subject matter expert at Blue Stone, Edwards brings decades of leadership experience specializing in tribal housing, economic and community development.
Given the remote location of the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community’s L’Anse reservation on Lake Superior, within the exterior boundaries of the State of Michigan, Edwards understands obstacles to economic development faced by tribes in similarly isolated areas. Gaining unbiased perspective from top subject matter experts can drastically improve a tribe’s economic trajectory.
“Tribes are notorious for being in rural, hard-to-reach areas where expertise is also hard to find,” said Edwards. “Accessing outside expertise that is competent in working in Indian Country to provide assessment and actionable plans is critical to success.”
Edwards’ experience in tribal economic development started in 2000 when he was hired by the KBIC as director of retail development. He implemented best practices from the Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development, which he studied for years. Edwards built two commercial FM radio stations, and developed and opened three different convenience stores within the reservation boundaries, overseeing acquisition, design, construction, negotiating wholesale supply, and more. For more than eight years, Edwards actively managed these C-stores.
Additionally, Edwards helped create tribal codes to incorporate a tribal corporation, Aanikoosing, Inc., for his tribal community. He served on the board of directors of this corporation for several years.
In 2004, Edwards’ tribe appointed him Executive Director of the Keweenaw Bay Ojibwa Housing Authority (KBOHA). Over six years, Edwards took the KBOHA from under $2 million a year in revenues to over $11 million a year. Edwards created a homeownership program, a supportive housing initiative, chore services for the elderly and many more programs.
He additionally launched profitable businesses, including Do It Best building supply store, a BP-branded C-store, and a construction company that won numerous million dollar contracts. The KBOHA then created and spun off a non-profit corporation in 2008 that eventually became a native community development financial institution (CDFI) certified by the U.S. Treasury.
As Executive Director of the Keweenaw Bay Ojibwa Housing & Community Development Corp., since 2008, Edwards continues to lead an organization that promotes community financial literacy, home buyer education, and a matched savings program known as Individual Development Accounts (IDA) that help tribal members save for college or homeownership.
Edwards expanded that program to include three different revolving loan funds for home improvement, homeownership, and business startup or expansion. As Housing Director, Edwards successfully managed more than $20 million in federal grants from numerous federal agencies to benefit his community.
Edwards served as tribal council treasurer for two terms, and was directly involved in managing the tribe’s finances, health care plans, retirement plans, and more. An active legislator, he introduced numerous laws. In 2014, the tribal council asked Edwards to supervise the tribe’s two casino operations. Edwards hired executive management, implemented new systems including a slot management system and a point of sale system casino wide. Edwards also developed a plan to acquire land, finance and build a new casino on the Lake Superior waterfront.
Edwards earned his Bachelor’s degree in economics at the University of California Los Angeles in 1988, and received his Master’s degree in business administration (MBA) from the University of Phoenix in 2004.
Edwards was born in Los Angeles California after his mother was relocated by the Bureau of Indian Affairs from the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community’s L’Anse reservation, located on Lake Superior, within the exterior boundaries of the State of Michigan. Edwards has been involved in his tribal culture from an early age. Edwards’ parents brought him and his siblings back to the reservation every summer to visit his family and participate in their tribal community. Edwards met his wife, another tribal member, while attending their annual pow wow held in late July every year. Edwards and his wife were married on the shore of Lake Superior by an Ojibwe medicine man.
Edwards and his wife moved back to the reservation in 1998 and Edwards became deeply involved in his tribal government. Edwards and his wife also became licensed foster parents and have hosted numerous children in their house as foster parents. Edwards and his wife adopted three girls from agencies in Michigan, Florida and Wisconsin, through the Indian Child Welfare Act.
Now more than ever, Edwards believes that tribes need a plan for self-sufficiency, given predictions of discretionary funding cuts by this administration.
“It’s exciting to assist tribes as they develop strategic plans to become better at governing and developing their economies by becoming more self-sufficient,” Edwards said. “Indian country has to be ready for less from the federal government, not more.”