COULEE DAM, Wash. – The Colville Tribal Services Corporation and Graham Group (US) Inc. have entered into a joint venture creating “twelve bands,” now among the largest tribally owned construction companies in the world. Combining the financial strength and bonding ability of Graham with Indian country and public sector experience of CTSC will open many opportunities not formerly available to the tribe.
The term “twelve bands” comes from the fact that 12 bands make up the confederated tribes of the Colville Reservation.
A signing ceremony was held in late July at a city park with the Grand Coulee Dam forming a backdrop. It remains the largest concrete structure ever built, although another in China will surpass it this year. Construction of Coulee Dam began more than 70 years ago causing many changes in the life of tribal members. Speakers talked about the negative and positive impacts and its relevance to this occasion.
John MacClain, Colville Tribal Enterprise Corporation board chairman, talked of the many tribal members, including many of his relatives, who helped build, “this 8th wonder of the world. They’re heroes of mine. Construction goes way back for our people. The fact that we’re able to provide a company for our children to work at is really exciting for us. I’m very proud to be here today and be part of this joint venture with twelve bands.”
“This day is the beginning of a greater future for our tribes. There is going to be the ability for many of our members to gain employment,” said Jeanne Jerred, Colville Confederated Tribes chair. “There is the ability for our corporations to look to a brighter future, something that has been the goal for many years. The cooperation and joint venturing with Graham is going to remove some of the inherited impediments that the corporation and board have had. It has taken many hours, but today is the culmination of all those efforts.”
Troy Johnson, CTEC CEO, said good things would come from the joint venture. Perhaps the biggest business factor is Graham’s bonding ability, which will allow the tribe to consider jobs previously outside their reach.
Johnson focused on one point in particular, the opportunity for small entrepreneurs to work as subcontractors on various jobs. “This joint venture is not only an opportunity for the Colville Tribe and CTEC, as well as for Graham, to become if not the biggest, one of the very biggest Title 10 companies in the entire world. It’s not only that, it’s to create opportunities for all Title 10 companies. Most Title 10 companies are small. They don’t have bonding and many times don’t have administration and management in place.
“What this joint venture truly means is there are a lot of small entrepreneurial people that exist today and yet to come, not only in the Colville Tribe, but on other reservations with small Title 10 companies. They need someone who can get these big contracts and provide subcontracting opportunities for people with small businesses. It’s a big opportunity for the tribe. It’s a big opportunity for CTEC. It’s also an opportunity for individual tribal members to have their own companies or to develop existing companies.”
Ken Snyder, president of Seattle-based Graham, was one of the final speakers. Graham was formed in 1992 and has a staff of roughly 100 people doing business largely in commercial and institutional building construction. Snyder expressed thanks, particularly to Johnson for bringing this together, saying it was his driving force and enthusiasm that got Graham interested and the venture together.
“One thing that’s important, not only for myself but certainly to Troy, is making this successful for the Colville Tribe. There is a lot of opportunity out there that the tribe currently isn’t taking advantage of. We feel very positive that we’ll be able to take this company and do quite a bit more work than CTSC and CTEC have been able to do in the past.”
Twelve bands will have the capability to construct longhouses, health clinics, casinos, administrative and educational buildings along with roads and bridges and power facilities. It’s 60 percent tribally owned, known officially as Colville-Graham Ventures, LLC, and will be doing business as twelve bands.
Following the official signing ceremony and honor song, gifts were presented to various instrumental people including blankets showing the 12 chiefs of the Colville Tribe given to Snyder and Johnson.