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Cayuse Technologies boosts Umatilla Tribe's self-reliance

PENDLETON, Ore. - In an effort to further diversify its tribal economy, the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation entered into a five-year contract with Accenture Ltd. to form Cayuse Technologies.

Accenture, a global management consulting, information technology support and outsourcing company, has more than 178,000 employees in 49 countries.

Cayuse Technologies has hired about 150 employees since its opening last fall to serve Fortune 500 companies by offering software development, a customer contact center, image processing and business process outsourcing. The company is the first to open its doors in the tribe's new Coyote Business Park.

Business development manager Alanna Nanegos said the company recently received Minority Business Enterprise status from the state of Oregon and its 8(a) certification is pending. The 40,000-square-foot building could comfortably seat 425 employees.

Cayuse Technologies came to life thanks to Accenture senior executive Randall Willis, an Oglala Lakota Sioux who spent most of his childhood and college years in the Northwest.

Willis said that he pondered the concept for an on-reservation site while examining how the company could best serve its Fortune 500 and Fortune 1000 clients that wanted to keep their sensitive data within United States borders and by their keeping costs low.

''Economics have driven them where they have to take their work outside of the building,'' he said.

''This works perfectly for clients with sensitive data that don't feel comfortable taking it out of the country.''

So, he examined the tribes that would meet the company's criteria. For starters, a tribe needed to be located a commutable distance to a fairly large city. ''In order to be able to constantly staff 400 to 500 people, you really need a population base of a quarter of a million within a commutable distance,'' he said.

While on a visit to Umatilla reservation with his wife and two daughters, he ran his concept by a member of the tribe's board of trustees. He was then ushered into a board meeting to explain the concept. He turned into the accidental executive donning only a T-shirt, shorts and sandals, and absent the fancy overheads or PowerPoint presentation.

His spontaneous pitch worked and today Cayuse employment rates continue to grow. He said the goal of the company is to seat about 400 employees by the end of the year.

He said most employees started at the company with little or no call center experience.

But those with the willingness to serve customers and tech know-how have moved up the ranks. ''You really have to have an aptitude for technology and the attitude to serve clients,'' he said.

Currently, there is a mixture of management from Accenture and Cayuse. The Accenture team has provided mentoring and training for new managers and employees.

''Our clients are also taking a leap of faith that Accenture is ensuring that they are going to get the same type of service that they expect of Accenture broadly,'' Willis said.

He explained that they currently provide a variety of technical help for companies that use J2WE, Java, and Legacy-type languages such as Cobalt. ''There is a huge demand for older technologies because there is an embedded base out there and it works very well for the skills we have right now, and the skills that we want long-term.''

Nanegos said she went to work for Cayuse to practice what she calls ''individual sovereignty.'' She said Cayuse Technologies creates another employment opportunity for tribal members outside of gaming. ''To me, sovereignty is about having a choice. Employees can take these skills anywhere and honestly compete.''

Willis said the feedback from clients has been mostly positive. When questioned about another on-reservation call center, he said that this one is still in the ''proving stages.'' He has ideas about what reservations would work best, but before he reveals any breaking news, he must be sure that Cayuse continues its upward growth.

''The commitment that I made to the firm is to prove basically that this one is going to work before we do another one.''

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