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Expansion planned for Berg

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PLUMMER, Idaho - Berg Integrated Systems was acquired by the Coeur d'Alene Tribe only last year and a huge expansion is already being planned. With construction to begin this fall, the latest plan is to construct a new building just north of the reservation near the town of Post Falls and be operational near the beginning of 2008.

Robert Matt, administrative director for the tribe, explained the reasons behind the expansion and the move to Post Falls. ''The tribe has been successful in navigating the Small Business Administration process for being an 8A business. This opens up the door to bid on various government-related contracts that are 8A set-aside products. We've been working for several months on an omnibus contract with the Department of Defense, a contract for fuel containment bladders.

''They come in a plethora of sizes and one is an 8A set aside for a specific product: a 210,000-gallon tank. These tanks are flexible and field mobile and are part of the military's field deployment. We are one of two or three entities that are 8A-certified and thus in a pool for a share of that order for these products. We positioned ourselves well and have gone through all the pre-screening process, and hope to be sitting down with the Department of Defense in the next few weeks to negotiate a contract. It's a five-year contract.

''That's going to require us to have an additional 40,000 square feet of space,'' Matt continued. ''The building is going to be about 100,000 square feet but initially will be a mixed-use, mixed-occupant facility we will share with sister-companies of Berg Company, the parent company of BIS which the tribe owns.''

BIS is located on the reservation in Plummer and will continue to operate there and serve as headquarters. That facility manufactures steel structures that can be used for a variety of things including field offices, medical clinics, kitchens and offices. They are about the size of railroad shipping containers but the sides fold out for more space and are used by the military or government in disaster areas. Individual containers start at about $100,000 and can be much higher when outfitted for certain uses. When construction began in August 2006 there were six employees, but the number has grown enormously and now ranges from 40 to 50.

The Plummer facility simply didn't have room to expand to meet the needs for producing the flexible fuel tanks and the labor force was nearly expended. That combination caused plans to move to Post Falls and a larger labor force for a huge new building.

''This 8A contract will probably add another 75 to 100 jobs,'' Matt said. Salaries will likely average around $14 or $15 an hour, well above minimum levels and good salaries for this region.

''Engineering people within the Department of Defense have already made the technical site review,'' Matt explained in response to a question about contracts not having been signed yet. ''We're going to get it. We're going to get some share of it. They toured our operation and facilities, and looked at our quality control systems and those sorts of things, and left very pleased with what they saw. They gave us a positive review.

''The question is not if, but when. What they tell us is they'll be coming to see us in the next couple of weeks to talk about the tribe's role and start putting together the structure for contracting options. This would be confined at this point to manufacturing the flexible fuel tanks.''

The 8A certification opens up the door to future contracts with government agencies as well. The tribe's goal has been to strengthen the tribal economy and offer good paying jobs. This is another huge step in that direction. Already the second-largest employer in the Idaho panhandle, it's now taking a large step toward becoming the region's largest employer.