Jonathan Grass

Alaska Air has record year yet lower 4Q

Alaska Air Group has reported record earnings for the second consecutive year. At the same time, fourth quarter results dipped a bit.

The Seattle-based parent company for Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air reports a record full-year net income, excluding special items, of $287.4 million. This compares to the previous year’s $262.6 million. On an adjusted basis, earnings per diluted share grew by nearly 10 percent over last year from. $7.14 per share to $7.83.

Retail boom slows but new stores still coming

Alaska has experienced a huge retail market boom in recent years as several national brands set up shop here for the first time. That growth will continue, albeit more slowly, in the next few years.

2011 marked the latest year that several brands introducing themselves to the Alaska market. National brands like Apple, Aeropostale, Teavana, Bare Escentuals and most recently Olive Garden opened their first local stores and all in Anchorage. Olive Garden has already begun moving on a second location in south Anchorage.

Busy construction season slated for 2012

Alaska’s contractors are back in the upswing, according to the Associated General Contractors of Alaska.

AGC released its annual construction spending forecast, and it’s good news for the most part, with total spending up, particularly in the private sector.

Total spending for 2012 is expected to be up 3 percent to $7.7 billion compared to 2011. Without oil and gas spending, that amount is $4.6 billion, which is still an improvement. Wage and salary employment will remain unchanged from last year at 15,800. This is still down from the 2005 peak at 18,300.

The cost of having diabetes in Alaska isn't cheap or easy

Diabetes isn’t cheap. Luckily, the number of Alaskans who have it are relatively few. Still, those who do can expect to pay out the nose ... and in more ways than one.

The state Department of Health and Social Services reports that an estimated 6 percent of people in the state are diabetics, slightly less than the rest of the country. Granted that’s not a huge number, but it does amount to more people than those in all but one of our cities. And that means a lot of individuals spending some extra money.

Hospitals expanding across the state

Correction: This story has been updated to reflect the correct hospital that Dowl HKM is working on in Nome

Alaska’s medical facility expansions have boomed over the last few years. Consensus among hospital administrators reveals that current facilities cannot adequately serve expanding populations. As such, a number of hospital projects have recently gotten under way or have been announced.

Pacific Alaska acquires Southern Alaska Forwarding

Tacoma, Wash.-based freight company Pacific Alaska Freightways (PAF) has acquired its old partner company, Southern Alaska Forwarding (SAF), out of Kodiak.

PAF is an asset-based freight company serving Alaska from Lower 48. SAF did similar work while consolidating shipments from down south to move them to Kodiak and Cordova customers.

Brewing up power: Beer maker finalizes biofuels project

Alaskan Brewing Co. has entered the final stage of a 16-year process in setting a precedent in renewable energy. The Juneau-based brewery has a new boiler to make its own malt waste a sole energy source and has been selected for nearly $500,000 in federal money to finish the job.

Alaskan Brewing is in the commission and testing phases of a $1.8 million steam boiler fueled entirely by the company’s own spent grain. The grain is a protein-rich material that lends itself thoroughly with the combustion technology the company has been perfecting.

'Coast Guard Alaska' renewed for two seasons

The series “Coast Guard Alaska” premiered on the Weather Channel in November and has already garnered at least two more seasons on the air. The show, produced by Al Roker Entertainment, follows Guardsmen from Air Station Kodiak to show what it takes to live and work in this corner of the world where extremely hazardous weather adds to both the necessity and obstacles to their rescue missions.

The second season, debuting this April, will feature five 60-minute episodes. The third will have eight and is due out in October.

AKRR engine No. 557 comes home

A blast from the past hit the Alaska Railroad Corp. this month with the return of one of its original steam locomotives. There will be no museum or warehouse destination for it either. Engine No. 557 is ready to be renovated and put into service as a tourism vehicle.

Alaska Reserve group gets early 'Red Tails' viewing

Alaska’s 477th Fighter Group can trace its roots directly to the famed Tuskegee Airmen of World War II. This heritage was honored when Lucasfilm gave select Reserve servicemen an early screening of the company’s new film “Red Tails.”

About 200 current and former military members plus community leaders, students and a member of Tuskegee Airmen Inc. were treated to the special showing at the Tikhatnu movie theater in Anchorage in December. A publicity manager for Lucasfilm plus one of the movie’s actors, Marcus Paulk, accompanied their work to Alaska.

National Guard trade experts spend holidays overseas

Twenty-six Alaska Air National Guardsmen from the 176th Wing started their holidays supporting airfield infrastructure in four countries this year. The Guard deployed experts to Kuwait, Kirguistan, Afghanistan and Cuba to join an expeditionary Prime Base Engineer Emergency Force in support these base operations.

“They’re going to established military bases and they’re going to be doing day-to-day maintenance and operations of facilities,” said Lt. Col. Edward Soto, 176th Civil Engineer Squadron commander.

Bids for Fairbanks' Illinois Street project under review

After 30 years, work is finally pushing forward on improving Fairbanks’ Illinois Street. The Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities has opened bids to reconstruct a major throughway to help correct confusing lane configurations and improve safety conditions.

Illinois Street is the city’s main access route downtown from the north. A number of safety concerns has spurred the state into pushing ahead.

Russian ship closer to getting needed fuel to iced-in Nome

The Department of Homeland Security has waived the Jones Act for the Russian ice-class tanker Renda, bringing it that much closer to getting much-needed fuel to the city of Nome.

The Renda was chartered by Vitus Marine to carry fuel into Nome after a previous fuel delivery by barge was thwarted by the heavy storms along the Bering Strait this fall. It was previously reported that the alternative of air delivery would bring fuel costs up to $9 per gallon.

ACVB becomes Visit Anchorage, revamps website, logo

What’s in a name? It can actually mean a lot, which is why the Anchorage Convention and Visitors Bureau has changed its name to Visit Anchorage.

The title that once spelled out ACVB is officially no more. Other than that, everything remains the same. Tourism promotion, programs and the mission go unaltered as the organization continues its goal of stimulating tourism growth and diversity.

Alaska still a cool destination for tourists, ski buffs in winter

In the dead of winter, the air outside swings past zero on the Fahrenheit scale around the Anchorage area. Further north around Fairbanks, it gets even colder. But none of this dissuades tourists who see this as a time to take in some of the attractions that have built Alaska’s tourism reputation.

Recent residential construction trends follow national average

Alaska’s home construction continues to follow national patterns: first up, then down, now maybe up again.

Alaska’s residential construction rose dramatically between 2000 and 2005, when about 3,000 new single-family homes were built annually in the state. Also during this time period, more than 8.5 million homes went up across the country. Alaska’s numbers dropped along with the rest of the nation’s as early as 2006 and reached a low-point in 2009. Now the decline has stopped and even reversed a small bit.

Being Santa is a busy, exhausting business

Santa Claus is one busy guy nowadays. The holidays demand a lot of him and the business of being Santa is a busy one indeed.

Santa seems especially busy in Alaska, which makes sense given the northern location. He’s appearing everywhere with a little help and — as Santa puts it — a little magic. He said this isn’t a business to him. It’s a way of life. It’s a way to make people of all ages happy and bring them hope, even if it’s just during Christmas.

Women in the Trades program helps women see options

At 35 years old, Myla Odom of Anchorage was at a career crossroads. After years of administrative work, she wanted to explore options for more hands-on physical work.

It’s a similar story for Caren Moss, 40, who also made the transition from office work to trade skills.

“Construction was something I knew I wanted to try, something I knew I would enjoy instead of something just to pay the bills,” Odom said.

Port MacKenzie rail extension clears final regulatory hurdle

The Port MacKenzie rail line extension has cleared a major hurdle. The Federal Transportation Board has issued a record of decision toward its approval, thereby clearing the final regulatory requirement for construction.

The Matanuska-Susitna Borough has been developing the 32-mile rail extension since 2007. The line would go from Port MacKenzie to an area on the Alaska Railroad Corp.’s existing line north of Willow.

Retailers looking at happy holiday sales

Shoppers didn’t even wait until Black Friday as traffic backed up outside stores Thanksgiving evening. On that Friday, the crowds started strong. While the congestion diminished across the weekend, Alaska can still expect strong seasonal retail sales that are on par with the rest of the country.

The stores are expecting positive figures with this year’s holiday sales. Studies are showing positive sales outlooks as the nation continues to emerge from the recession and the retailers agree.


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