by KEVIN TAYLOR & r & & r & & lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & B & lt;/span & erg Integrated Systems (BIS), the little Spokane company that was purchased by the little Coeur d'Alene Indian Tribe last year is on the verge of big things in the fields of both war and peace.
Berg took a variety of products -- 3,000-gallon water bladders and "throw-and-go" hazmat containment berms, but especially an expandable hard-walled shelter -- to Florida this week where it is displaying them for the military.
On the other end of the conflict spectrum, the company also announced it is supplying the international humanitarian group Harvest Aid, Inc. with expandable shelters to be used by aid groups as mobile clinics.
One of the strategies for the partnership between Berg, a Spokane tent and fabric company with roots back to 1904, and the tribe was to gain access to federal procurement systems like the Forest Service or the Defense Department to sell its interconnected system of instant base camps and shelters.
With diligence, says spokeswoman Gwen Lankford, this goal has been met in seven months instead of a more typical several years, and one immediate payoff is an invitation to the Pentagon's Joint Committee on Tactical Shelters (JOCOTAS) and the Rigid Wall and Soft Wall Shelter Industry Exhibition at Panama City Beach, Fla., this week. (Yes, that's the real name.)
JOCOTAS is a grail of sorts for manufacturers like Berg. The once-every-two-years trade show is a chance for military procurement officers to kick tires on a variety of products. The competition can be fierce for a Pentagon contract.
Berg plans to show off its Expandable Shelter Platform (ESP), basically a shipping container with onboard hydraulics that almost instantly converts into 720 square feet of combat-ready workspace.
"It takes only two men to deploy it," says spokeswoman Lankford. "That's a huge issue with the military that it take only 2.5 soldiers to set this up in 10.3 minutes."
Berg Integrated Systems General Manager Darren Stuck says there are two companies that integrate shelter systems, and both of those use parts that come from overseas. Berg is the only firm in the U.S. to manufacture and integrate its own components, Stuck says, which makes the company's offerings infinitely adjustable while remaining compatible. He hopes this will be a draw at JOCOTAS.
Berg's shelter can be configured as a kitchen, command post, shower unit, forensics lab, clinic, jail or barrack.
As the military switches from tents to containerized units (just like the ones you see on trucks and trains), Berg is hoping to push the envelope, Stuck and Langford say.
The expandable shelter fits a standard container profile but has an onboard generator to power its own expansion into 720 square feet of space wired for Internet, Ethernet and telephones with AC, heat and even bullet- and shrapnel-resistant walls.
Berg has moved its manufacturing plant to the Coeur d'Alene Reservation near Plummer and -- the other goal in the partnership -- has expanded its workforce from 10 to 45.
The company is excited that many of its products have military application. If Berg scores a contract, the company may build a plant in Post Falls.
But the idea of making a profit from war can be sobering. "One of the things we are excited about is the humanitarian mission," Lankford says. Berg has entered an agreement with Harvest Aid, Inc., to supply expandable shelters for use as medical clinics in places where there is a dire need, such as Africa.
Harvest Aid's mission is to help other nonprofits more effectively mobilize aid during humanitarian and disaster relief missions. Harvest Aid has agreed to purchase at least five of Berg's remote-site expandable shelter platforms for U.S. Doctors For Africa's mobile clinic project.
U.S. Doctors For Africa provides medical care for people suffering HIV/AIDS and other diseases.