Terri Fitzpatrick has helped to build the communities she loves literally from the ground up with 30 years of corporate, tribal and public sector real estate experience, including six years as real estate director and strategic development director for the State of Michigan’s Department of Technology, Management and Budget (DTMB). She spent 10 years with the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians as real estate director and vice president of development, Greektown and Kewadin Casinos.
Prior to becoming the COO of Boji Group, she also served as vice president of tribal business development for the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, where she designed the state’s strategy to foster economic diversification for Michigan’s 12 federally recognized Native American tribes.
Day-to-day Fitzpatrick works to oversee and manage development projects that bring the best to areas around the state, but her job doesn’t end there. With years of experience and a network stretching across the country, Fitzpatrick’s title should also include mentor, cheerleader, mother and friend. Fitzpatrick has focused on creating a life built around community; those she builds, those she protects and those that have helped her achieve her goals.
Growing up in a small town in the Upper Peninsula gave Fitzpatrick insight into her future career and built her passion for community.
“I was raised in a really small town outside of St. Ignace,” Fitzpatrick said. “I would spend a lot of time outside and getting to know a lot about land and property lines. So, I guess I kind of ended up in real estate by default. I started working for a developer when I moved out to California at 21 and everything started to come together from there.”
And while Fitzpatrick found her place in the industry, it wasn’t luck that carried her forward: It was demanding work, determination and passion; all of which she credits to her parents for instilling in her at a very early age.
“I had a very modest upbringing,” Fitzpatrick said. “My dad was a carpenter and my mom did various labor jobs. They are extremely hardworking people. They taught me to have a good work ethic and to treat others the way you want to be treated. They are extremely generous people and taught me that your focus should really be on community and not yourself. They showed me that as I advanced in my career, it is important to give back and help others.”
Fitzpatrick has always felt her upbringing and the skills and morals her parents taught her prepared her not only for her career, but also for motherhood. She started working at a young age and hasn’t stopped since, always finding ways to move forward. She has shared those same values with her three sons Paul, Andy and Sam.
“I was blessed with the best of both my parents’ qualities,” said Fitzpatrick. “My dad is really creative and has a fantastic sense of humor and my mom is very, very organized. She was never daunted by big things. I know I have passed this on to my kids along with the value of hard work and open mindedness. I can see those things in them. That is an amazing thing. They have this strong business sense and a strong social sense.”
Her motherly guidance didn’t stop there. Fitzpatrick also shared with her sons a strong sense of community, a belief which stems from her Native American roots. Fitzpatrick is a member of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians which has influenced her view on life.
“I am immensely proud of being Native American,” said Fitzpatrick. “Having lived in the community and worked in the community, it is something really special. There is a lot of negative press out there and when people think of tribes, they think of casinos and gaming. But it is really about community. Your success is everyone’s success. The tribe’s profits support the community at large for things like new bridges, water and sewer. We put it all back into the community. When you do well, others can do well. It permeates how you approach everything and how you experience faith in your life.”
Fitzpatrick has lived her life based on these ideals and followed her faith to help build her community.
“In Native American culture, when you pray, you pray for everyone else and not yourself and you believe they are praying for you. It’s more about community and the strength you can draw from one another,” Fitzpatrick said.
For Fitzpatrick community means so much and can include so many things — not only the community that supported you when you were young, or the tribe that gives you strength, but the people you surround yourself with every day. Fitzpatrick finds strength and inspiration in her relationships. She attributes her strength and perseverance to these pillars of support.
“I have really good friends from every stage of my life. They are an inspiration to me. I see them do and accomplish things that make me extremely proud and extremely motivated,” Fitzpatrick said.
But Fitzpatrick does plenty of inspiring in her own right, though she would never say so herself. Her passion for life and her commitment to positive change is infectious, and it would make anyone want to jump out of their chair to go do something. She has faced her share of hurdles, but she continues to stay positive and move forward.
“As a minority and a woman, it is my responsibility and our responsibility as women to promote and raise each other up. It may not always be easy. You may not always want to hear the feedback, but it is what you need at that time,” Fitzpatrick said. “I have had people who have worked for me in the past come back to me and tell me they realized as they moved on from that time, that they were exactly where they were supposed to be and those experiences allowed them to get to where they are today. Sometimes the hurdles or the unkind words come off as overly critical, but those things end up being the best thing anyone can do for you.”
Fitzpatrick has found ways in her career to overcome obstacles placed in her way and make lasting impressions on those she has worked with. Through her professional experience, she has learned that it doesn’t matter what you’re working on because people are at the core of making things work.
“The best part of my job is all the people I have met along the way. I have been at this now for 30 years, and you meet some really interesting people and I love when they come around again in my life,” Fitzpatrick said. “I don’t think about networking as work. I think meeting new people is important to your life and the more diverse groups of people you surround yourself with, the more you learn and the more you create.”
And create she did. With millions of square feet of development in her portfolio, an impressive career within government and Native American communities, she has curated a network of trusted partners and close friends. Fitzpatrick has truly created her very own community.
“What motivates me is my children and my community,” said Fitzpatrick. “I want to do good for them, and I want to leave them something good.”