Elwood Brehmer

Changes may be looming for SBA 8(a) Native contractors

Proposed changes to the Small Business Administration’s Business Development Program have gotten the attention of Alaska Native business groups.

The changes to the 8(a) program are small, but could impact Native corporations in multiple ways, according to Chenega Corp. Vice President of Government Relations Kristina Woolston.

An SBA proposal to allow the administration to change a firm’s North American Industry Classification System, or NAICS, code without consent is cause for concern, she said.

Pentex purchase could cut ratepayers' bills immediately

Fairbanks Natural Gas customers could see their heating bills drop immediately if the utility is sold to the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority.

“We do believe through the financing tools that AIDEA has, we could reduce the (gas) rate in Fairbanks right away by approximately 14 percent,” former AIDEA director Ted Leonard said at the authority’s April 30 board meeting.

Alaska Air continues run with $149M record quarter

Growth, efficient operations and lower fuel prices helped Alaska Air Group Inc. turn a record profit of $149 million in the first quarter, the company announced April 23.

The strong early 2015 results mark the 11th record quarter of the last 12 for the Seattle-based parent company of Alaska Airlines and its regional carrier Horizon Air.

In January, Alaska Air Group reported its fifth consecutive record-breaking year with a total 2014 profit of $571 million.

Capital budget slashed; IEP bill approved

The capital budget passed April 27 was little more than a formality this year.

Nearly 70 percent of the $108.3 million in unrestricted general fund appropriations made by the Legislature for fiscal year 2016 will be used to match federal receipts.

A mere $7.7 million of unrestricted general fund money was approved for optional spending statewide. That amounts to virtually a complete cut in state capital spending from the comparative appropriations of $444.2 million in 2015 and $627.6 million in 2014.

Bringing 100 years of Anchorage to life

Editor’s note: The Journal of Commerce is recognizing the Anchorage Centennial with a series of articles over the next 10 weeks examining the events and the industries that have shaped Alaska’s largest city. The stories will be released as a single special edition of the Journal in time for the Solstice celebrations June 20 and will be available at centennial events throughout the summer.

The task: tell the century-long story of Anchorage in 124 pages. The man to do it: 50-year Anchorage resident Charles Wohlforth.

Ferry cuts may displace thousands of tourists

The full impact of proposed ferry system budget cuts could go well beyond the initial service cuts, according to state Transportation officials.

The state operating budget in conference committee April 15 would reduce the overall Alaska Marine Highway System budget by slightly more than $11 million, but the final tally is likely to be much more, DOT Deputy Commissioner Mike Neussl said.

Interior Energy Project progress is muddled

The Interior Energy Project briefly took center stage in the state House when an Anchorage legislator’s proposals raised the ire of Interior leadership.

Rep. Mike Hawker, R-Anchorage, added amendments to project legislation that would require the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority to get the Legislature’s approval of a project plan before moving forward.

Morrissey retires after career spanning half of rail's history

Karen Morrissey has had too many careers to count during her 48 years in Alaska, all with the Alaska Railroad.

She moved to Alaska, as so many young people have over the state’s history, because of the military. Her husband received orders to Elmendorf Air Force Base and the newlywed couple moved north from Illinois in the fall of 1967.

“We were only going to be here for two or three years,” Morrissey said nearly five decades later.

She retired from the Alaska Railroad Corp. director of real estate position April 1 after 19 years in the real estate division.

Walker to review AK LNG

Gov. Bill Walker has ordered a 45-day review of the state’s participation in the Alaska LNG Project with an eye toward possible changes in the partnership with North Slope producing companies and TransCanada Corp.

In a speech April 1 to Commonwealth North, an Anchorage business group, Walker said he had received the consent of the industry partners for the review, which would be done under terms of confidentiality.

The governor acknowleged he did get some pushback, however.

Walker declares a Dalton disaster

Flooding and ice over the Dalton Highway forced Gov. Bill Walker to declare a state disaster late Tuesday at the request of the Department of Transportation and Public Facilities.

Ice overflow from the Sag River has forced officials to close the road twice in the past week, with the latest closure currently in effect since Sunday, said DOT spokeswoman Meadow Bailey.

AIDEA to solicit partners for Interior gas

Fragmented at the start of 2015, the group leading the Interior Energy Project hopes to have a new plan in place by the middle of the year.

Bob Shefchik, project manager for the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority, said during a March 26 board of directors meeting that key solicitations for potential project partners will be advertised in about a month.

Requests for information, or RFIs, for both a gas supply agreement and natural gas liquefaction capacity will be issued at the same time to allow for flexibility in plans, according to Shefchik.

Southeast communities prepare for sharp drop in SRS funding

The loss of millions in federal assistance could leave Southeast Alaska communities in a major financial bind.

The U.S. Forest Service’s Secure Rural Schools, or SRS, program, which paid Alaska communities $14.3 million in April 2014, went the way of the wooly mammoth this year when Congress quit funding the program.

Since federal fiscal year 2010, the payments to Alaska have fallen steadily from $18.8 million. In 2001, the state received about $9.1 million from the SRS program.

DOT unveils options for $250M-plus Cooper Landing Bypass

The Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities wants feedback on plans to move the Sterling Highway around Cooper Landing.

DOT released a draft supplemental environmental impact statement March 29 with four alternatives to improve traffic flow and increase road capacity on a 13-mile stretch of the Sterling Highway.

Cost estimates for the road construction options range from $250 million to $304 million.

UAF plant estimate $50M over budget

The University of Alaska Fairbanks will likely have to wait a year longer to get its new heat and power plant up and running.

Cost estimates available in February came in more than $50 million over budget for the coal-fired combined heat and power, or CHP, plant, according to university spokeswoman Marmian Grimes.

University of Alaska President Pat Gamble told Senate Finance Committee members March 17 that the school “put the brakes on the project” and is now looking for ways to value-engineer the cost down.

New design kickstarts transformation at KPB Architects

With views of the Chugach Mountains to the right and Cook Inlet and Mount Spurr to the left, one step inside the KPB Architects Anchorage office immediately comes with a unique feel.

The bright, open room lends itself more to a large studio apartment than a professional home — probably fitting given it is in a building of condominiums.

The walls that remain are sectioned glass and can be drawn back like a curtain.

KPB employees moved into the L Street locale last October after designing the new office to be a stark contrast from their old, traditional workplace.

Steelfab takes on Wood Bison, Slope, and coal stacks

In Alaska, oftentimes if you can’t do it yourself, it won’t get done at all. Richard Faulkner has built his business on that principle.

Faulkner and his wife Janet have run Steelfab since they purchased the North Anchorage fabrication facility in 1989.

“We do anything and everything you can think of to a piece of steel,” he said.

The couple has grown the business from about a half-dozen employees when they took over the operation to nearly 50 full-time workers today.

Does Alaska have a revenue problem or a spending problem?

As is often the case, the answer probably lies somewhere in the middle.

The revenue problem is no secret: A precipitous fall in Alaska North Slope crude price from a $102 per barrel average in August to a $49 per barrel average in January has placed a state that has left itself reliant on oil for income in a major bind.

Prices have pretty much stabilized so far in 2015, but some oil industry analysts have said the bottom of the canyon could ultimately be in the $20 per barrel range, with a slow climb out over several years.

Long-awaited Sealaska land transfer is complete

JUNEAU — It took 43 years, two months and 17 days since the passage of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, but Sealaska Corp. is finally whole.

The Southeast Alaska Native regional corporation officially took title of 70,075 acres of formerly federal land March 6 during a ceremony at the company’s headquarters in Juneau.

Sealaska President and CEO Anthony Mallott said the land transfer provides a time to reflect on Alaska Native history and will be a major benefit to Sealaska, its shareholders and the entirety of Southeast Alaska for years to come.

Sealaska Corp. continues search for the right business fit

JUNEAU — Sealaska’s land acquisition will help its timber business and the Southeast Alaska Native corporation is looking to expand in other sectors as well.

Sealaska Corp. President and CEO Anthony Mallott said in an interview that the corporation has a team continuing to pursue business purchase options, with the hope of announcing something significant within six to 12 months.

Power cost debate reaches from RCA to Legislature

Changes are coming to the regulations that guide Alaska’s electric utilities.

Where those changes come from and how broad they are will be decided in the next six months, but nothing appears to be off limits.

In the Legislature, House Bill 78 is being scrutinized by the House Energy Committee. In the Regulatory Commission of Alaska, draft rules would bring state regulations more in line with Federal Energy Regulatory Commission requirements that guide utilities in the Lower 48.


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