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Business in brief: Tribe finalizes Army contract

The Coeur d’Alene Tribe has finalized a five-year contract, worth an estimated $400 million, to make massive fuel bladders for the U.S. Army, a tribal spokesman said Tuesday.

Tribe-owned Berg Integrated Systems, which will make the 210,000-gallon bladders for diesel and aircraft fuel, anticipates hiring 40 more workers within the first quarter next year, said spokesman Quanah Spencer. Projected first-year revenue from the contract, completed last week, exceeds $40 million, he said.

With a plant in Plummer, Idaho, Berg currently employs 30, Spencer said. The new jobs will start at about $15 an hour with some benefits, he said.

The tribe will look for similar contracts with other military branches, he said. Spencer said there are “increased rates of service” by Native Americans in the military, and the tribe wants to supply them with the best possible goods.

“We have confidence in our military men and women; we want them to have confidence in the product that we supply,” he said.


WSU crafts wheat resistant to rot

Wheat scientists at Washington State University want to patent a plant that is resistant to a root disease.

Called Scarlet Rz1, the spring wheat can ward off Rhizoctonia root rot, a troublesome disease across the world that can cut yields by 30 percent. The disease can hit Washington farmers during droughts.

Kim Kidwell, a spring wheat breeder and associate dean of academic programs for WSU’s College of Agricultural, Human and Natural Resource Sciences, called the disease a major problem for farmers who direct seed – a planting process in which farmers inject wheat seeds into the residue of previous crops rather than first tilling. The root rot fungus persists in the undisturbed soils.

The gene responsible for the root rot resistance may eventually be adapted for use in other crops, according to a WSU news release.


Microsoft unveils newest Zunes

Microsoft Corp. took the wraps off its second-generation digital music players Tuesday, showing three new Zunes that bring the software maker’s offering more in line with Apple’s market-leading iPod.

Microsoft showed off a black 80-gigabyte hard drive model, slimmer than last year’s 30 GB Zune, with a larger, 3.2-inch screen. The company will also sell a smaller, flash memory-based Zune, similar in shape and size to the iPod Nano, in pink, green, black and red with 4 GB and 8 GB of storage.

Like the original Zune, the new models include an FM radio tuner and the ability to share songs with other Zune owners wirelessly.

This generation sports a new navigation button Microsoft calls the Zune Pad, and uses Wi-Fi to sync music, movies and photos wirelessly and automatically with users’ home computers.

The new Zunes are set to go on sale in mid-November. The 4 GB Zune will cost $149, the 8 GB will sell for $199, and the 80 GB model will cost $249.