INDIAN ISLAND, Maine — The Penobscot Indian Nation has hired a former Reagan administration appointee to help bring further economic growth to the tribe.
Matthew Novick, 78, joined Penobscot Indian Nation Enterprises, or PINE, on Monday. The former inspector general in the Environmental Protection Agency, who was picked by President Ronald Reagan in 1981, will oversee PINE contract compliance and help the tribal holding corporation grow its contracting portfolio.
Novick met Tribal Chief Kirk Francis earlier this year during a conference in Tampa, Fla., where Novick lives.
“I was just enamoured with what he’s trying to do,” Novick said Tuesday at PINE headquarters on Indian Island. “It’s a small tribe. He’s trying to build it economically, and I think he’s on the right track.”
Novick said he would evaluate PINE’s organization and make recommendations on how to improve the way the corporation operates and draw more contracts and job opportunities to the tribe.
Before taking over as inspector general at the EPA, Novack held other positions within the agency and also worked on Department of Defense audits during the Vietnam War under Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara. Novick said he decided to switch to the EPA because it was “more to my liking,” considering “some terrible things that were happening” during the war.
Novick’s past positions within the government have excluded him from working for any company that deals with the government, he said, but there is an exception that allows former government officials like Novick to work with tribes contracting with federal government entities.
From 1993 to 2007, Novick worked with the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. That tribe was concerned because it saw that federal grants and contracts were dwindling and wanted to develop a way of bringing reliable money to help the tribe develop.
Novick helped start Choctaw Management Services Enterprise, which raised $20 million in revenue in its first year.
“Ultimately, within the next five years, the company grew to $100 million per year,” and had contracts with the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service and the Department of Defense.
Most recently, he served as chief operating officer for Goldbelt-Cedar LLC, which is owned by Alaska Native Corp.
PINE headquarters employs eight people, mostly members of the tribe. It also has about 50 people nationwide working on current military and alternative energy projects, according to Francis.
Francis said local competition and rough economic times have limited revenue from the tribe’s bingo gaming operation, and the tribe started PINE in 2005 in hopes of generating new business and new means of income.
“We’re very much in our infancy with this and have had huge success so far,” Francis said. “More than we ever imagined, I think.”
One project in the works would create a commercial wind farm in Alder Stream Township in Franklin County. The plan is in the permitting stage, according to Francis, and would provide a continuing source of revenue for the tribe.
“As the company has grown over the last 14 to 16 months, we’re really now starting to see a need for building our bank not just on dollars but on wealth of knowledge,” Francis said, adding that contracting between tribes and the federal government is a complex business.
Novick said he has many ideas on how to bring new contracts and jobs to PINE, but would wait to share them until after he has a chance to consult with PINE and tribal leaders.
“I’m here to help in any way I can,” Novick said.