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Blackfeet entrepreneur delivers the latest computer technology

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BROWNING, Mont. - Martin Marceau Jr. wants to help American Indian tribes catch up with the latest technology.

That's why the Blackfeet tribal member started Crew Technology Systems, a Browning-based firm that sells computer hardware and software and provides installation, training, repairs and related services on reservations around the state.

In time, Marceau says, he and his wife, Caroline, would like to expand the business nationally. But for now they're focusing their efforts on building a steady local and regional clientele. From there they predict exponential growth over time.

"We're just evolving as we go along," he said. "We're doing well. It's working."

Marceau, 30, grew up on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation and attended the University of Montana in Missoula before enrolling at the University of California-Riverside, where he earned a degree in computer science.

He then went to work for SMS Inc., an Orange County-based technology firm whose big-name customers included the Boeing Company, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and Delta Airlines, among others. Cutting his teeth on large and prestigious accounts, he says, helped him prepare for going out on his own.

Crew Technology Systems was formed in 1998, and soon was providing services for The Walt Disney Company, Southern California Edison and various aerospace firms and banking institutions. The Marceaus moved the business to Browning last year.

The firm has given an economic shot-in-the-arm to the area, which has some of the highest unemployment and poverty rates in Montana. Crew Technology currently has eight full-time and four part-time employees, and the Marceaus hope to add more as the business expands. The company already has secured contracts on six of the state's seven reservations and has completed additional work with the BIA, U.S. Border Patrol, state government and the Native American Bank in Browning, among many other clients.

Marceau said Crew Technology has equipment packages and services for the common household user on up to full-blown offices and organizations. They provide network administration services, information management, network security, wireless communication setups and satellite Internet connections.

"If they don't have it, we'll build it," he said. "They're desperate for technology" on reservations. The company also does Web page design and computer graphics work and sells used equipment to help get reservation residents started.

"If we know they can't afford it, we give it to them," he said of their second-hand models.

A new sidelight for the Marceaus is BuyMontanaMade.com, an Internet firm they share with Ruth and Darwin Bizarro-Cook of nearby Valier. The site provides a cyber marketplace for a wide array of goods ranging from artwork to saddles, food and holiday items, books, home furnishings and everything in between.

A new outlet, BuyNativeAmerican.com, is also being developed, along with other similar marketing sites in other regions of the United States.

The lynchpins of the Internet trading marts are the individual clients, who at BuyMontanaMade.com pays $79 a month to exhibit an unlimited number of wares on the site. The owners tout the service as "a safe atmosphere for sellers and buyers to meet." Clients are responsible for handling all of their own financial transactions when purchases are made.

"Everything has been going the way we want it to go," Marceau said of the multiple ventures. "They're growing."