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New West Daily Roundup for June 15, 2016

Today in New West news: Montana tribal company awarded $50M contract from Boeing, Utah STEM company launches 3D game design program, commercial construction in Idaho, and Growler USA looking to go national.

According to the Missoulian, S&K Global Solutions (a company owned by the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes and headquartered on the Flathead Reservation in northern Montana) was awarded a $50 million contract from Boeing—for work involving NASA and the International Space Station. The contract is set to last five years. According to S&K vice president of business development Mike Monahan, the work will involve engineering and technical services, but the company “won’t know the exact dollar figure until [they] receive task orders. From the Missoulian:

S&K Global Solutions is one of six limited liability companies owned by S&K Technologies, which is owned by the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes. S&K Global Solutions employs 160 people in six locations across the United States, including its Polson headquarters.

In 2012, the company was awarded a five-year federal contract worth up to $50 million to help the Engineering Directorate at Johnson Space Center put robots in space. The work done by S&K Global Solutions on that, Monahan said, led to the invitation to bid on this newest contract.


Monahan said the new contract will add approximately 90 more employees at both the Johnson Space Center in Houston and the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

In addition to work with the space station, the contract will also involve S&K in Boeing’s Commercial Crew Program.

“That’s the most exciting, in my opinion,” Monahan said. NASA has hired Boeing to take astronauts into space, and to the space station, starting later this decade, and the long-term goal is for that to develop into a vehicle to transport “space tourists” as well.

“It’s fascinating stuff,” Monahan said.

Salish Kootenai College in Pablo has been heavily involved in the robotics program, and the goal is to utilize the tribal college in the new work.

“We’d like to find ways to partner with them again,” Monahan said.


“It’s an untold story about the tribes, the capabilities the tribes have nurtured for a long time,” Monahan said. “The real hidden story is the level of space capability going on on the reservation, and at the college.”

S&K’s ties to the Johnson Space Center date back to 1997, he said, when the company began working on a software robotics program for NASA.

“The last several years it’s really started to grow,” Monahan said. “This will be the largest contract yet, because there are no subcontractors involved. We’ll be the only vendor supplying these services to Boeing.”

According to the Missoulian, the contract will start in October and run until September 2020.

Down in Utah, Park City-based Zaniac, a national STEM franchise, has released a new course in 3D Game Design, which they hope will encourage children to get excited about the field while providing educational opportunities in coding, modeling software, and game engines. From Utah Business:

In 3D Game Design, fourth- through eighth-grade students will learn to design and program every element of their own game, including game mechanics, three-dimensional animations, character models and more. The 3D Game Design course will also allow students to gain experience using modeling software, Gimp image editing software, the Unity game engine and the C# programming language.

Students who fall in love with 3D Game Design can expand their skills by participating in Zaniac’s Mastery Progression Program. To earn a Certificate of Mastery, students must complete all three 3D courses, including 3D Character Design, 3D Environment Design and C# Fundamentals.

“At Zaniac, one of our core principles is to teach children how to create the technology and games they play with every day and to expose them to skills that will help prepare them for the jobs of tomorrow,” said Sidharth Oberoi, Zaniac President and Chief Academic Officer. “We’re excited to introduce 3D Game Design to our course list to teach children the fundamentals of what goes into the creation of their favorite games.”

Currently, outside of Utah, Zaniac operates eight franchises in California, Connecticut, Florida, Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, and Texas, with plans to expand their reach to 50 campuses by 2017.

Over in Idaho, construction companies who survived the recession have found themselves in somewhat of a boom period. According to the Idaho Statesman, companies like Datum Construction (who lost money in 2012 when four subcontractors declared bankruptcy) have found themselves inundated with work, with construction revenue setting records in January, February, and March, according to the U.S. Census. From the Satesman:

Jones’ Meridian company has managed construction of dozens of pharmacies in the Treasure Valley. With a construction cost of $3 million and about 15,000 square feet of commercial space, the new Rite Aid hits Datum’s sweet spot. The company also builds medical buildings and restaurants, including a Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers being built in Eagle.

Jones says Datum has doubled revenue each year in recent years, though he declines to disclose amounts. He has already booked more work for 2016 than last year. Contractors and subcontractors are scrambling to cover all of the work that needs doing in the Valley.

Some of the Valley’s largest contractors are seizing on the national boom to expand their footprints. Among them are Meridian’s Petra Inc., which already has offices in North Dakota and western Washington and is opening a Denver office; and Boise’s HC Co., expanding to Missoula.

Petra revenues have also doubled each year since “break-even propositions” in 2011 and 2012, says Brett Myron, executive vice president of Petra’s Idaho region. The rebounding local market has offset the recent North Dakota oil bust, Myron says. The company brought in more than $40 million in 2015 and expects to increase 2016 revenue by 50 percent, he says.

Petra, which has about 50 employees in the Valley, now has more apartment, hospitality and storage projects than before the downturn, when office and retail projects were more common, Myron says.

He sees changes in the approaches of other developers too.

“It feels different,” Myron says. “These are more thoughtful projects. Developers have thought about them for some time, picking and choosing how to put the plan in motion.”

Finally, over in Colorado, according to the Denver Business Journal, Centennial-based Growler USA (a brew pub specializing in take-out growlers) is looking to expand nationwide as part of a franchise deal. Currently, the company has three locations: in Charlotte, North Carolina; Austin, Texas; and Eugene, Oregon. The Journal reports that Growler USA is looking to expand into Boston, Houston, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Orlando, and Phoenix, among other locations.

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