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Construction in Indian Country: ASU’s Del E. Webb School of Construction plans inaugural conference

January 9, 2004

A first-ever “Construction in Indian Country” conference will bring together tribal officials from all over the U.S. with contractors and developers on May 6-7. The conference, which is expected to draw over 1,000 people, will be at the Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort and Spa in the Gila River Indian Community and is sponsored by Arizona State University ‘s Del E. Webb School of Construction.

The goal is to prepare Indian and non-Indian constructors for the continually expanding construction projects in Indian Country. The national conference will gather tribal officials, tribal construction personnel, contractors, suppliers, vendors and developers, and federal, state and local agencies to discuss the issues of construction management for American Indians.

“Building trust between the Indian owner and the construction contractor, and ensuring quality construction of tribal schools, homes, hospitals, commercial buildings and roads is critical,” says Peterson Zah, adviser to ASU’s President Michael Crow on American Indian Affairs. Zah says trust and quality construction will be the major points addressed at the conference.

Construction by tribal government owners has increased significantly in the United States . Gaming revenue is projected to exceed $15 billion in 2004, and with it tribes are building hospitals, schools, homes and commercial properties. Infrastructure construction also is increasing.

Native American construction management expertise continues to develop at the policy and administrative levels, and among tribal officials. Organizers view the gathering as an opportunity to promote communications and discussion between tribes and experts in the U.S. construction industry.

 Session topics also include the following:

* developing and keeping a skilled American Indian labor force

* understanding cultural and historical background in order to build appropriate and sustainable housing for the American Indian

* buying construction services so that the owner and the contractor mutually benefit

* establishing leadership and finance skills and accountability in construction on Indian lands, and

* understanding land use and tribal culture.

To promote professional development among current American Indian construction managers, the Del E. Webb School of Construction also will present an overview of its Construction Management Certificate Program, a non-credit program that can be customized to tribal needs nationally.

Urban Giff, community manager for the Gila River Indian Community and a member of the conference planning committee, says the ASU Certificate Program is ideal for people without formal construction management education, but who work in construction directly, such as superintendents and maintenance and project managers, or peripherally, such as accountants, attorneys and human resources personnel. “We believe the Certificate Program has significant promise for professional development in Indian Country, and that’s why we are including it in our session topics,” says Giff.

Plans are for proceeds from the conference to be dedicated to establishing an endowment at the Del E. Webb School of Construction for American Indian Construction Management Education and Development.

ASU has offered a bachelor of science degree with a major in construction for 45 years. In 1992, the Del E. Webb Foundation established a $4 million endowment for the construction program at the university, the largest single endowment at the institution at that time. The endowment enabled the Department of Construction to become the Del E. Webb School of Construction, one of only two schools of construction in the United States . It is a unit in ASU’s Ira A. Fulton School of Engineering.

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