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Twin Buttes plant is building tribal economy

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TWIN BUTTES, N.D. ? Workers on the Fort Berthold reservation in north central North Dakota are building a solid reputation at a year-old, 60,000 square foot, custom homes plant in the southern region of the Three Affiliated Tribes' reservation.

Roger Head, director of sales and marketing, said the facility not only produces quality affordable homes, it builds offices, apartments, assisted living centers, hotels, classrooms, garages and cabins.

While much of its business the past year has been home building, it has reached into a regional market of institutional and contracted buildings. During the next year Head said the tribally owned builder will concentrate on government contracts in a tri-state area. More than 50 percent of production will be geared toward facilities for the BIA, federal and tribal entities as well as the private sector, he said.

Although the plant won't abandon its home construction, it will pursue a highly competitive market of building contracts.

Head, a tribal member from Red Lake, Minn., formerly was executive director of the Minnesota Indian Affairs Council. He later served as a federal evaluator for the Head Start program.

He said he views his job as a chance to bring added economic development to the North Dakota reservation while proving that a tribally owned enterprise can compete in a tough marketplace filled with contractors.

The facility, which started out as a tribal economic development venture, already employs 70 workers when it is operating at full production.

Doing the work indoors, the workers use highly automated equipment including a massive crane to attach the roofs to the buildings. Precision tools allow for exact cuts of lumber and siding. The buildings are constructed in sections with hinged roofs that allow them to be easily transported.

'The highest quality and delivering on time are the two rules for employees working at the plant,' Head said.

He cited a Department of Housing and Urban Development report stating that the housing market is a $200 million business with a need for more than 47,000 owner-occupied homes needed on the nation's reservations. The need for rentals was at least 152,000 units, it said.

'Twin Buttes Custom Homes will work with tribes to address the housing shortage by providing quality, economical single family homes by using the latest building innovations and adhering to uniform building codes,' he said.

'Ours are built in a modern, controlled environment. They are precision engineered for a lifetime of trouble-free durability.'

As Head showed off the facility, he said workers assemble homes with the best lumber, windows and siding available. Because the plant is a large building, workers can continue to produce homes and buildings during the winter months.

Primary customers are tribal housing authorities hoping to bring new homes to reservations where people are on waiting lists.

The cutting edge technology used at the facility allows workers to finish buildings within 45 days, he said. During a recent building tour, workers were working on projects from single-family homes to a classroom facility. A treatment facility was being prepared to be shipped to foundation sites.

The plant employs nearly 35 workers who transport and assemble the homes at various sites.

'Our work force is very diverse,' said Head.

The plant employs a variety of people from different nationalities and there are women carpenters.

The modular home plant has a variety of plans available, but if customers want more customization, an architect can modify those plans, he said.

When the buildings are finished, they are ready to be placed on the foundations and then ready to move into within a couple of weeks of arrival. All the fixtures, including cabinets, plumbing and lighting are installed before buildings ever leave the plant.

Its commercial building plans include a 20-unit apartment complex, a facility for judicial and administrative offices, daycare center and a 10-unit motel. Its residential plans include split-level and ranch homes. They range in size from 988 square-foot, two-bedroom homes to nearly 1,885 square-foot structures with six bedrooms.

'We can build them to suit our customers,' Head said.

For more information contact Twin Buttes Custom Homes at 701-938-3100 or at tbch@pop.ctctel.com.