Jonathan Grass

Drone venture takes honors at small biz competition

The coffee shop across the street from your office, custom helicopter tours, Netflix. All of these ideas had to come from somewhere and Alaskan educators and businesses joined forces in an annual effort to encourage new entrepreneurs to get going.

The earliest stages of new businesses — actually getting them off the ground — can be the hardest in the game. The Alaska Business Plan Competition, sponsored by a number by business and academic entities, aims to put some of these startups on the path forward. Just as importantly, it encourages them to get their ideas out in the open.

Mining initiative moves Alaska Forward

Alaska Forward has developed a strategy to enhance the state’s economic structure. These are called industry clusters, and a committee has just met in Anchorage to get its next one moving forward: that of the mining industry.

Industry clusters are sets of firms linked together by services, common customers, geographic areas, shared reliance on labor markets and other commonalities. They complement each other while remaining in competition and draw productive advantages from their mutual proximity.

Legislature awards money for UA engineering buildings

The University of Alaska has been on a mission to increase its engineering students for several years now. That mission got a big push in the final hours of the legislative session, when the House passed the Senate’s capital budget that include more than $100 million for new engineering buildings at two campuses.

To be complete, the governor must still sign off on the budget, but both campuses see this as a big step forward in the Engineering Expansion Initiative the university’s Board of Regents adopted in 2007.

Copper River Highway could be closed until 2015

Businesses in Cordova usually get a big boost in the summers from visitors to Childs Glacier, but that boost may be put on hold for a bit longer than they thought.

The Copper River Highway, which runs from Cordova to the Million Dollar Bridge, is closed indefinitely just before Bridge 339. The state Department of Transportation and Public Facilities cites safety concerns necessitating the closure.

King Cove access road is one step closer to fruition

A long-awaited road project at the far end of the Alaska Peninsula is one step closer to fruition. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has issued a draft Environmental Impact Statement for proposed single-lane road construction connecting King Cove and Cold Bay.

King Cove residents have pushed for this project since a resolution for the road was first passed in 1976, according to City Manager Gary Hennigh. The city has gone through several alternatives in the past for getting better transportation access, especially for emergencies.

Alaska Railroad expenses, income flat in 2011

The Alaska Railroad Corp. released its 2011 annual report, and while the numbers don’t change dramatically over the previous year, those small improvements are a sign of momentum the company will try to maintain in an uncertain 2012.

Ketchikan federal buildings sets precedent in biomass power

It’s not unusual to find people or businesses looking for environmentally conscious modernizations in a place like Alaska, especially if one can save a few bucks. Government entities show they aren’t immune to these ideals either, as Alaska sets a national precedent in biomass power.

The Ketchikan Federal Building recently became the first federal building in the nation to install a biomass boiler system. The effort was administered by the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA), which manages federal buildings with the exception of military installations.

Alaska senators, DOT pleased with transportation bill

The Senate passed a major transportation overhaul March 14 to put about $109 billion toward projects throughout the nation. While the bill itself may mean the end of a lot of funding for the Alaska Railroad Corp., other Alaska programs may come out ahead.

The bill would put out $109 billion across the nation over two years with a healthy chuck of that increasing funds for Alaska’s divisions. The measure passed in the Senate with a vote of 74-22.

Senate transportation bill could mean drastic cuts for Alaska Railroad

A surface transportation reauthorization package that passed the U.S. Senate March 14 is making the Alaska Railroad Corp. nervous.

The U.S. House has its own version for transportation reauthorization that wouldn’t affect ARRC as currently written.

Senate Bill 1813 creates a new funding program for freight that essentially replaces provisions that provide Federal Transit Administration funds to this railroad. If passed, those funds could drop from $36 million per year to $6 million.

Spring break program gives construction students an edge

There is no beach trip for 19-year-old DeAnna Amox this spring break. She has something else on her mind: beating the boys at the carpentry game.

Chili's franchiser suddenly closes three restaurants

Employers and customers were baffled last weekend when they went to any of the state’s three stand-alone Chili’s restaurants but could not get past the front doors.

Duke Investments LLC, the franchise partner responsible for these stores, after much financial trouble abruptly closed all three.

Industry Day event connects contractors with agencies

You won’t find Industry Day on any federal holiday schedules, but it’s still a big day for small contractors. Actually, it’s not a holiday but a networking event to help expose small businesses to bigger outfits and perhaps give them some information on upcoming contract opportunities.

The Associated General Contractors of Alaska will sponsor Industry Day for the third time on March 21. It will take place at the Captain Cook Hotel in Anchorage from 9 a.m. to 6:15 p.m. Registration starts at 8:30 a.m.

Environmental groups challenge Port MacKenzie rail plan

The nonprofit environmental groups Cook Inletkeeper, the Sierra Club and Alaska Survival are challenging the Surface Transportation Board’s approval of the Port MacKenzie Rail Extension.

The three groups oppose the federal board’s November decision to construct the 32-mile rail line to connect the port to an existing rail near Houston. They have filed a legal challenge to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to review this decision, which took around three years to pass. The Matanuska-Susitna Borough and Alaska Railroad Corp. are filing to intervene in the Petition for Review.

Sno-way! Mother Nature pounds city streets, budgets

Snow ain’t free. It costs a lot of money to remove and pile up the vast amounts of snow that Mother Nature has blessed (some would say cursed) much of Alaska with this winter.

The state’s and several cities’ snow removal budgets are busted, tallying well above the usual costs set aside to keep up with nature’s weather-related smack downs.

The National Weather Service reports higher than normal snowfall for many areas throughout the state.

Some storms have made national news, like when the snow reached the rooftops in Cordova.

CH2M Hill launches program to teach welding

Eighteen-year-olds Dakota Rudolph and Andrey Zagorodniy had spent all week behind protective gear as sparks flew by their faces or burning through metals with enough heat to turn a laptop into fertilizer ash.

Both agreed: it beat a classroom, especially if it leads to a job.

Girls Scouts pave way to future scientists

Jania Tumey has had a keen mind for science since longer than she can remember, and she’s only 12. But Tumey has a not-so-secret weapon she’s been using to make the most of her interest.

Tumey has been a Girl Scout since kindergarten. She’s now in sixth grade at Rogers Park Elementary School in Anchorage. She’s planning on getting into biology once she reaches high school.

FAA to implement ADS-B nationwide within a decade

A small aviation company is making big strides in getting its technology to become an industry standard. A long-awaited reauthorization from the Federal Aviation Administration adds widespread installation real-time safety technology in 2020.

Comprised of about a dozen employees, less than half of which are full-time, ADS-B Technologies has been working on the technology since it was conceived in the mid-1990s. The most advanced version was perfected in Alaska in the early 2000s.

Education construction spending gets boost in 2012

Construction spending for the schools gets another boost this year, and there are several projects to account for it.

The Associated General Contractors of Alaska and Institute of Social and Economic Research forecast that education-related construction spending will get a 15 percent boost over last year to the tune of $408 million.

AGC’s forecast states the increase comes from a $397 million state bond package passed in 2010 in addition to more local school district spending.

State, ISER seek better student data

The Alaska Commission on Postsecondary Education is teaming up with the Institute of Social and Economic Research to learn more about students. Specifically, to keep learning about them once they get to college.

Anchorage construction to see moderate growth in 2012

Anchorage is in for some moderate construction growth next year, as predicted by ECI/Hyer Architecture and Interiors. Principal architect Brian Miessner recently addressed the 2012 forecast to BOMA Anchorage.

Miessner said Anchorage’s construction could be on the rise again after a recent slump. 2011 showed a total of $404.9 million in permit values through November. This is a slight increase over 2010, when total values fell drastically from the previous year.


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