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Coeur d'Alene Tribe might land five-year military contract

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COEUR D'ALENE, Idaho (AP) - The Coeur d'Alene Tribe in northern Idaho hopes to land a five-year military contract with the U.S. Department of Defense worth $300 million to $500 million to make large fuel storage bladders, officials said.

''It means new jobs and new money for North Idaho, not just recycled money,'' Coeur d'Alene Tribal Chairman Chief Allan told the Coeur d'Alene Press. ''It's very cool.''

The tribe wants to complete the deal by the end of August. It owns the majority interest in Berg Integrated Systems, which would make the collapsible bladders that can be transported around the world and can hold up to 210,000 gallons of diesel or aircraft fuel.

If the contract is awarded, the company would start producing the bladders in 2008 at its plant in Plummer. The company is planning to expand the 50,000-square-foot facility so it can build the bladders, which measure 72 feet by 72 feet.

The contract would create up to 70 more jobs at the plant with a starting wage of about $15 an hour, possibly increasing wages in the area.

''It's going to raise the whole water level in the pool,'' said Darren Stuck, general manager of Berg Integrated Systems. ''Wages should go up.''

Richard Williams, a manufacturing line supervisor at the plant and one of two tribal members employed there, predicted more jobs for the 2,000-member tribe.

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''I am hoping this succeeds,'' he said. ''We want to have other businesses besides the casino. The casino is great - only this is going to make the casino look small.''

Stuck said the company might also increase production of the Expandable Shelter Platforms it makes.

''We're very close to a deal that would potentially put 500 [of the shelters] in Africa for AIDS relief,'' Stuck said. ''The contract is substantial. On the front end it would be between $5 million and $10 million. It could mature into the $40 million and $50 million range.''

The steel structures measure 8 feet by 20 feet for shipping, but can be expanded to 20 feet by 24 feet.

They can be powered by generators and have air conditioning, and can be used for medical facilities, offices, water treatment and as mobile laboratories.

The company is joining with North Idaho College to train employees for the expected new jobs.

The college has helped train employees at other companies in the region, and said it could train employees at Berg Integrated Systems in everything from welding to mathematics.