PLUMMER, Idaho – The Coeur d’Alene Tribe of Idaho began production this summer on 210,000-gallon fabric fuel tank bladders that stand 6 feet high and are 72 feet square. Tribally owned Berg Integrated Systems won a five-year U.S. Army contract worth $400 million, with first year revenue projections in excess of $40 million.
Awarded the contract in October 2007, the tribe passed quality control testing in May 2008 and began production.
BIS Tanks Division is producing one bladder every working day under the contract.
“The tribe was looking for something outside its casino to help enhance the entire north Idaho community. This was a great opportunity for the tribe to invest some of its money and start a company that tribal and community members could be involved in,” said Lindsey McDonough, BIS representative.
The large fuel bladders are part of a larger system, the Inland Petroleum Distribution System, used to connect four bladders together to store the JP-8 fuel used by military aircraft, vehicles and other equipment.
BIS is part of the Berg Companies family of manufacturing businesses, which includes Berg Flexible Containment and Berg Manufacturing Inc., owned by Andy Barrett and Craig Dolsby. Barrett and Dolsby hold minority ownership in BIS.
There are two divisions of BIS which the tribe operates: the Tanks Division and the Berg Integrated Metalworks Division. The latter specializes in producing expandable shelter platforms used by the military and for disaster relief efforts.
The first shipment of the tanks has been sent overseas and will be deployed into the field for use by the Army.
“The tribe, as majority owners of BIS, is really focused on the economic growth that could happen with this contract,” McDonough said. The growth of the company has allowed better than average wages for employees, sometimes up to 25 percent over normal starting wages in the area, according to McDonough.
“I am very proud of the positive growth and direction of Berg Integrated Systems. The Coeur d’Alene Tribe set out with a vision to make a real difference in the lives of our membership and the people of northern Idaho. This contract is a major milestone in our initiative to expand our economic portfolio while also creating attainable employment opportunities for our future,” Tribal Chairman Chief Allan said.
The tribe also owns a third facility, located in Tensed, which is used for quality control testing of the giant fuel bladders. The bladders are filled with water to test the strength of the seams. BIS has developed and installed one of the world’s largest seam vulcanizing presses for use in making the long seams required in their fuel and water tanks.
In 2007 BIS achieved stringent quality management standards in all its business operations and gained ISO 9001 – 2000 certification from one of the world’s largest quality management system companies, SGS North America.
“ISO certification is an international certification; an employee of SGS from Brussels came to BIS to make sure that a standard set of operating procedures was being followed during our manufacturing process. ISO standards are very high; it is a really good certification for BIS to have,” McDonough said.
BIS employs 70 people – 53 in the Tanks Division and 17 in Metalworks. Twenty-five percent of BIS employees are tribal members.
The tribe has an enrollment of about 1,900 members with a reservation which covers 345,000 acres on the western edge of the northern Rocky Mountains. The name Coeur d’Alene comes from French fur traders and means “Heart of the Awl,” honoring the sharp trading skills of their people. In their ancient tribal language they call themselves Schitsu’umsh, which means “The Discovered People” or “Those Who Are Found Here.”
The Tanks Division of BIS is set to become a global leader in the manufacturing of collapsible fuel tanks.