Warm Spring tech center caters to businesses
The new Warm Springs Community Technology Center, which held its grand opening on Saturday, is helping tribal small businesses market their products, while also offering an Internet caf‚ to the thousands of travelers passing by on U.S. Highway 26.
The technology center is located in the former Indian Trails Restaurant building at the Warm Springs Plaza, across from The Museum at Warm Springs. The center is owned and operated by Eagle-Tech Systems, an enterprise of the Confederated Tribes.
At the ribbon-cutting ceremony Feb. 24, Tribal Council Chair Ron Suppah said, "We need to convince and sell our (tribal) nation on the fact that we need computers to keep up with the world and technology," and noted that "We have over 400 tribal members with degrees now."
Center general manager Lloyd Phillips said the facility was made possible after, "We got a $70,000 U.S. Department of Agriculture grant which brought broadband connectivity to the reservation and connected 11 tribal buildings and funded the remodeling of this center."
Eagle-Tech spokesperson Daniel Berumen said they are working in partnership with Connecting Oregon for Rural Entrepreneurship (CORE) to help current and future Warm Springs entrepreneurs become successful and overcome any hurdles.
"The tech center is one of the highlights of the CORE effort, and they are helping us fund trainings related to small business," Berumen said.
At the tech center, classes will be offered in starting, marketing and expanding a small business, networking with state partners, and usage of the computer and Internet to enhance a business.
The center not only teaches computer use, but provides access to computers and Internet for tribal businesspeople in its training room outfitted with 14 computers.
"We have several Warm Springs entrepreneurs who want Web sites," Berumen said, noting this summer they are working on an internship program for high school students. "We'll match businesses with students who will help them build Web sites," he said.
A 12-week "Indianpreneurship" class instructed by Yvonne Iverson will begin in April, focusing on business development activities specifically aimed at Native American entrepreneurs.
Brigette Whipple, owner of the Wild Rye Bead Gallery in the plaza, has already been working with the tech center. Whipple, who runs the business part-time and also works as the tribal anthropologist, said she planned to join the chamber because, "As a group of business owners, we will be able to apply for funding and get more advertising together under the chamber name."
She is also interested in learning about Web-based advertising through tech center classes to help get the word out about her shop.
Other support services will include public relations services, and the creation of a user-friendly Warm Springs business directory.
Open to public
"Soon we will be opening an espresso shop and deli inside the tech center," Berumen said, noting they want the center to have an inviting Internet caf‚ type atmosphere to attract tourists and travelers as well as local people. Besides high-speed Internet, the center also has wireless Internet with free access to the public.
"When the caf‚ opens it will be open from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., with six computer stations, which will make it a good access point on long drives," Berumen said. The espresso cafe itself will be able to seat 30 to 40 people.
Another section of the center contains a mini print shop, where customers can have everything from large banners to hundreds of copies printed.
Offices for Eagle-Tech Systems are also located at the center. Eagle-Tech serves Warm Springs and the surrounding area with technicians who can install wireless Internet, do computer repairs, and help with technical issues. The office is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
A newly reorganized Warm Springs Chamber of Commerce will be located in the Warm Springs Plaza, according to Ted Brunoe, the chamber's interim secretary.
Brunoe and chamber board chair Gerald Danzuka were signing tribal businesspeople up as chamber members on Saturday, and had a poster listing some 90 existing businesses.
The list included trappers, cattle ranchers, beading artists, loggers, mechanics, restaurant owners, construction workers, house painters, guides, Indian singers and dancers, providers of legal services, and more.
It costs $25 a year for small businesses to join the chamber, or $50 for businesses with over 12 employees.
"We will be focusing on another project late this spring when we establish an outside Saturday Market at the plaza," Berumen said.
He said they have gotten several grants to expand and build a Saturday Market. "It will be a precursor to a revitalization of the Warm Springs downtown area, and the market could be moved downtown in several years," Berumen suggested.
Future plans include luring a pizza shop or other food service business to open in the plaza.
"We just moved there one month ago and are still doing needs assessments and figuring out what business people want," Berumen said.
CORE is a statewide effort to create more visibility and opportunity for rural economic development. Funded by a W.K. Kellogg Foundation grant, CORE helps to strengthen and publicize rural entrepreneurship -- the growing of small businesses to enhance economic diversity and power in rural Oregon.
The umbrella for CORE in Oregon is Rural Development Initiatives Inc. (RDI), a private nonprofit organization located in Eugene.