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Doing global business in Indian Valley

What do 9,000,000 sheep in Mongolia have to do with a Alaskan-owned meat processing plant and bed and breakfast? Quite a bit, as it turns out.

Indian Valley Meats, owned by Doug Drum, extends all over the world. This global business originally started through Drum's love for hunting.

At age 22, Drum moved to Alaska from Michigan with $1,000 in his pocket to hunt and fish. He worked several jobs, including commercial fishing, before starting a small meat processing plant in Indian Valley in 1977.

With 1,200 square feet and a freezer, Drum slowly built the business over the years into a 17,000-square-foot operation with 64 rooms and plenty of freezer space. Despite some concern over the out-of-the-way location, Drum knew if he operated with solid values, he would be successful.

"We knew that if we treated our customers right and were honest, they would come," Drum said. "The summers especially are unbelievable--even though we're off the beaten path, the tourists still find us."

First National Bank Alaska recognizes Drum's sound business policies, and has assisted him with financing and other projects for many years. Working closely with First National helps Drum and his two daughters, who help run the business, keep their ventures financially organized.

These ventures include Indian Valley Meats, Indian Valley International and Indian Valley Economic Development.

Indian Valley Meats is one of Alaska's largest game processors and seafood smokehouses. It's also one of the only facilities in the United States to provide complete installations, training and consulting for meat processing plants. These unique capabilities led Drum to expand globally beginning in 1988.

Indian Valley International and Indian Valley Economic Development are very similar, with the latter focusing on sausage processing. Through these companies, Drum travels to Russia and Mongolia to build meat processing plants and install equipment. He then brings local workers from these countries to the shop in Indian Valley to train them how to process meat such as sheep, fish, walrus, goat, yak and more.

He is currently in talks with Namibia, Africa, to install a plant there. In Namibia, there is the potential to process in one plant at least 40,000 pounds of boneless meat a day--an amount that is currently going to waste.

"In America, we take our technology for granted. These other places don't have what we do," Drum said. "It's great when you see little kids diving into our meat for the first time--they love it!"

Back in Alaska, Drum is working with First National on yet another project. Three years ago, he purchased a 115-acre homestead in Indian Valley and is now subdividing it.

"We went out and checked other banks, and weren't satisfied with what they offered. First National has gone above and beyond," Drum said. "They not only helped us with financing, but are helping us follow through with the rest of the project, too. You can't get that anywhere else."

Selling this kind of property is a major undertaking, and First National has been able to help Drum meet his property buyers' needs for short-term and long-term financing.

The bank specializes in putting together owner-builder loan packages, and these individualized packages make this typically long and complicated process as easy as possible. This specialty has added tremendous value to Drum's project, and is helping make it a success.

With this local project under control, Drum is very excited about his work overseas, particularly in Mongolia. He was recently visited by the Mongolian ambassador, and plans to continue bringing better technology to this and other countries.

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