Tribal Tech Company Lands Milestone Contract

By Beacon Staff

The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes have been a valuable partner for the U.S. military dating back to World War I, when tribal members relayed undecipherable messages among troops using the Salish language.

That partnership remains strong today and it’s reflected in a recent historic deal.

The U.S. Air Force signed a five-year contract estimated to be worth $975 million with a branch company of S&K Technologies, a global corporation owned by the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes and based on the Flathead Indian Reservation in Northwest Montana.

The landmark contract was announced on March 15 and is the largest in the company’s history. The deal employs Polson-based S&K Aerospace, one of seven branches in the S&K family, to be the prime contractor for the U.S. military’s Parts and Repair Ordering Services IV Program. S&K will help provide supplies, maintenance and technical services for 83 foreign countries. One example of what S&K will be doing is when a piece of weapons machinery is needed anywhere in the world, S&K will facilitate the order on behalf of the U.S.

CEO Tom Acevedo said early estimates show the company will earn roughly $40-$50 million a year.

“The recognition that you can have a company with its headquarters in Northwest Montana and compete at a national level, that’s very exciting,” Acevedo said.

The latest contract will also maintain a strong flow of investment returns for the tribes, he said.

“They can use those dollars either for economic development, programs or more opportunities for tribal government services they provide,” said Acevedo, a tribal member.

S&K Technologies has its corporate headquarters in St. Ignatius and has locations spanning the globe, from Polson to Saudi Arabia. Since being incorporated in 1999, S&K has grown into a highly successful and multifarious corporation, with seven branches — S&K Technologies, TerraEchos, S&K Aerospace, S&K Environmental, S&K Global Solutions, S&K Security Group and S&K Logistics Services. Each company works in a different market, from information technology to robotics engineering to environmental restoration.

In 2010, S&K Aerospace signed a contract with the Federal Aviation Administration to provide information technology for the Air Traffic Organization, which essentially controls national flight patterns. Prior to the latest Air Force deal, the company’s previous record contract was with the Royal Saudi Air Force worth $325 million.

Several private sector and federal departments have recognized S&K’s branch companies for innovation throughout the years. In 2010, S&K won the New Product Innovation of the Year Award from NASA after creating a system for docking vehicles and measuring radiation exposure on the International Space Station and measuring radiation exposure.

TerraEchos is widely regarded as a leading provider of covert intelligence and surveillance sensor systems. The company was honored with the North American New Product Innovation of the Year Award in the category of Fiber Optic Sensors for Border Security in 2010.

Overall, Acevedo said the corporation has returned roughly $14 million to the tribal government, a number that will only grow with the latest contract.

“S&K is a true Montana success story and this contract is well-earned,” Montana Sen. Jon Tester said in an email following the March 15 announcement. “Developing new business and creating jobs is good for the Flathead Indian Reservation and good for northwestern Montana. I applaud S&K for driving our economy forward and making a difference for our state.”

In a company newsletter issued recently, Acevedo outlined the corporation’s goals moving forward. The emphasis, he said, will be to continue growing into a global-minded company working in various industries and markets. Despite its vast success, S&K was not immune to the economic recession. Yet, the business model — running a diversified company with many family branches — has proven to be beneficial.

“It shows,” he said, “that our business model of having multiple companies in different areas of work can carry us all through when other companies within the family are having difficulties.”

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