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Training grant awarded to Coeur d'Alene Tribe

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COEUR D'ALENE, Idaho - Coeur d'Alene Tribal Chairman Chief Allan announced that the tribe has been awarded a grant in the sum of nearly $1.6 million to provide customized training for people who work at tribally owned companies. The grant was awarded through the Native American Career and Technical Education Program of the U.S. Department of Education. The money will be divided over five years, with $338,675 each year.

A press conference for the announcement was held at North Idaho College, which will provide much of the training for employees of HearthBread BakeHouse and Berg Integrated Systems - two companies the tribe has acquired during the past 18 months. Allan commented, ''NIC is on the headwaters where we used to celebrate, so it's only fitting to come back here and be a housing place for the grant to train kids of all colors. The tribe is always here to be a good neighbor and I'm happy to say that. The grant is wonderful. It's here for everybody.''

NIC President Priscilla Bell reiterated those comments. ''We're very, very pleased with our ongoing and strengthening partnerships with our friends, the Coeur d'Alene Tribe, and about our growing working relationship with their various enterprises, which are numerous, growing and important. We're impressed here at the college, not only with their amazing economic diversification and how the tribe is facilitating that diversification which has to be a model on a national level, but also with the tribe's willingness to share their economic enrichment with their neighbors across north Idaho.'' She concluded, ''NIC is a proud partner in the education and training that is taking place in collaboration with the tribe and its various business interests. Our job is to offer welding and on-the-job customized training.''

John Dickson, general manager for Berg Integrated Systems, reflected on the recent announcement of a $400 million contract to produce fuel bladders. ''Next year alone, we're going from a $2 million to a $40 million company. That's huge.''

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The expansion will require hiring many new employees, and this grant will help provide the training needed to acquire qualified people. The company hopes to recruit workers from towns on the reservation, providing training for good salaried jobs and to retain those people within the company. NIC has sent welding instructors to the facility on the reservation in the past as part of the training. ''It's been a great partnership,'' Dickson said. ''This grant will allow us to continue our partnership with NIC.''

The Hearthbread BakeHouse has also seen substantial growth and increasing need for qualified workers. Larry Condon, general manager, spoke of the tribe's vision and chance in acquiring a small company ''that wanted to run with the big dogs. They've given us the opportunity to do that and go from a little 65-person operation to where it will be 100 - 125 in the next year and a half. We'll go from a $4 million company to $8 million with almost unlimited potential.''

The grant monies will also allow the bakery to train people and get them up to a better educational level. ''It will allow us to prepare a better product and to continue to grow. It will also allow us to train people who have no skills into skills for a job that can be a lifetime career with benefits,'' Condon said.

The grant money will be administered by the tribe.

Allan also announced that they had just received another grant for $121,000 from the Idaho Department of Commerce Workforce Development Training Fund. Those funds will essentially be used for the same purpose, thus bolstering the dollars available for specialized training.