Joe Nayquonabe Named NAFOA Executive of the Year


By Andy McPartland, May 7, 2015

On April 21, Joe Nayquonabe Jr., Commissioner of Corporate Affairs and CEO of Mille Lacs Corporate Ventures (MLCV), accepted the 2015 NAFOA Executive of the Year Award in Austin, TX.

At their 33rd annual conference, NAFOA, the Native American Finance Officers Association, honored a number of innovative tribal leaders, tribal nations, and financial professionals for positively impacting tribal economies.

The Executive of the Year award honors a tribal leader who has demonstrated “cutting-edge thinking in developing the financial plans of the tribe, leadership in effectively sharing suggestions with the tribe, and success in implementing ideas for the overall betterment of the tribe.”

Joe, named Commissioner in September 2012, received his Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from St. Cloud State and his MBA from University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management. In 2013, he earned a second Master’s degree in Tribal Administration and Governance at the University of Minnesota-Duluth. Previously, he was VP of Marketing for Grand Casinos.

In his current role, Joe oversees existing businesses and analyzes new business opportunities for the Mille Lacs Band. When he assumed the role of CEO, he created a new strategy and directed MLCV to grow its non-gaming revenue streams and invest in hospitality and marketing industries. Since then, non-gaming revenue and non-gaming cash flow have increased significantly.

“I’ve known Joe since he was a child, growing up on the Mille Lacs Reservation,” explained Chief Executive Melanie Benjamin. “I’ve been amazed at what Joe has accomplished in such a short time.

“He quickly gained a reputation for being very talented and hard-working,” Melanie said. “Despite his young age, he quickly won the respect and admiration of his staff, many of whom were twice his age.

“Joe Nayquonabe is a man who is committed to family, to our tribal community, and to making a difference for our people,” she concluded.

NAFOA is a national non-profit which seeks to strengthen tribal economies through its policy work and education initiatives. They host two conferences a year, inviting leaders of finance, tribal and policy in Indian Country.

Other awardees included the First Nations Oweesta Corporation, Snoqualmie Indian Tribe, and Chief Michell Hicks of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.