Business Profile: Color Creek Fiber Art

Name of the company: Color Creek Fiber ArtEstablished: 1997Location: 5520 Lake Otis Parkway, No. 104, AnchorageTelephone: 907-344-7967Web site: www.color-creek.comMajor focus of services: Color Creek Fiber Art provides commercial fabric dyeing services for costumes, clothing and prom or wedding dresses. The studio also hosts paint-your-own-fabric parties for groups and leases space to art groups or artists. Color Creek offers classes from local artists including silk painting, bead weaving, children’s classes, mask making, basketry and others.History of the company: In 1997 Alaskan Mary Hertert spent six months researching the possibility of opening her own business. She had heard of paint-your-own-ceramics businesses and wanted to develop a similar concept specializing in fabric painting and dyeing for clothing, scarves and fabric. She opened Color Creek Fiber Art on Nov. 1, 1997, in Anchorage. To date she believes her do-it-yourself-fabric-dyeing business is the only one of its kind in the United States.Since opening the business, Hertert has shared space with bead artist Linda Smith. Today, they are joined by printmaker Laurel Carnahan.Hertert specializes in fiber dyeing, painting on silk and custom pieces. Her custom work includes wall hangings, custom bedding, silk scarves, art quilts and art animals for Alaska’s Natural Wonder B&B, Alaska Dance Theater and Artworks Gallery among others. Earlier this year she helped students from Wonder Park Elementary paint banners and dye fabric to create a wall hanging for the multipurpose room. She has also crafted backdrops for Out North Contemporary Art House.In April Color Creek moved to a new location, tripling the size of its studio.Hertert also eyes the future, hoping to build commercial dyeing operations and explore art as therapy for people with disabilities.Top accomplishment of the company: Hertert enjoys running the business of art, color and do-it-yourself. "I’m in constant amazement that it works, that people can have ideas, that there’s something of value (in fiber arts,)" she said. "I’ve never had so much fun in my life." Hertert credits loyal customers who have helped spread word about Color Creek.Major player: Mary Hertert, owner, Color Creek Fiber Art.Hertert spent 15 years in the computer and education industry. She came to Alaska in 1991, working on computer training in schools. Later she led training classes at Microage before starting Color Creek.-- Nancy Pounds

Infant intensive care continues as Providence renovates

Earlier this month contractors began work on a $3.2 million renovation of the neonatal intensive care unit at Providence Alaska Medical Center in Anchorage.The project requires finesse, though, since the unit must stay open round the clock, nurturing babies born prematurely who require high-tech monitoring, hospital and project officials noted.Renovations are expected to be completed in September, said project manager Erik Fredeen who works for Meridian Management Inc. of Anchorage.The unit is Alaska’s most extensive neonatal intensive care unit and nurtures for babies from around the state who need special care, according to hospital spokeswoman Karina Jennings.Changes to the 38-bed unit include improvements to lighting, flooring, plumbing and heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems. The project also will add six private rooms for parents who need long-term lodging to be with their babies.Installing the private rooms and other new features in the department follows research Providence conducted for the past four years by visiting other U.S. neonatal intensive care units, said Mary Diel, a registered nurse and a clinical supervisor at the unit.Providence is adding the private rooms to test the benefits of having parents nearby for extended periods, to see if it allows babies’ health to improve so they can go home sooner, or if it helps their later development, Diel said. Some babies log long hospital stays, she said. For example, a baby born at 24 weeks old may need to stay at the unit for four months, she said.Each room will feature different flooring, lighting and other elements to test which work best, she said.The project is a joint venture between Cornerstone Construction of Anchorage and Andersen Construction Co. Inc. of Portland, Ore. The two companies also worked together on the recent expansion of Providence emergency room.Construction at a neonatal unit is probably one of the most sensitive projects, Fredeen said. Builders in the unit must follow strict requirements ranging from infection control rules to covering carts holding demolition debris, he said."It’s important to emphasize that the level of care patients get won’t decrease during construction," he said.Fredeen also stressed the teamwork in place between staff, the contractor and project management.Preparations have already been made to smooth the process including an extended period for the contractor to work on the design, he said.The project tallied three years of conceptual design work, he said.Up to 75 nurses work in the unit, and Providence encouraged the nurses to offer ideas that could be incorporated into the design, said Diel, who has worked 19 years at the unit.Sixteen years ago the unit was moved to its current location, she said. Renovations will include upgrading the lighting system to incorporate a controlled system that will dim to simulate the body’s circadian rhythms of day and night, she said. The new system also will allow dimness near the baby who needs darkness while allowing pinpointed light for nurses to record chart information, she said.Flooring will be updated to ergonomically improve the area for health care providers who administer care chiefly while on their feet, she said.The current unit includes a 13-bed critical room plus another 25-bed area which will be relocated during construction. The newborn nursery at the maternity unit, now less used since babies spend more time in their mother’s rooms, is scheduled to accommodate some of the babies in a temporary intensive care unit, she said.Diel anticipates completion of the project as the culmination of careful research and innovation."I think the end result will be wonderful," she said.

Rate of AIDS up for Alaska Natives

FAIRBANKS -- Alaska Natives are infected with the human immunodeficiency virus and AIDS at a higher rate than Caucasian Alaskans and state health officials aren’t sure why. Officials say the rate has gradually increased since 1997.Alison Bell, a medical epidemiologist specializing in HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases, said one reason for the increase could be that more Alaska Natives are being tested for the disease. On the other hand, she said, the rise also could mean the stigma of AIDS continues and people aren’t being tested in time, spreading the disease."In some of the smaller villages, we hear that there is some reluctance to do testing because it’s hard to do it confidentially," Bell told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.Since the first known case in Alaska in 1982, 781 cases of HIV and AIDS have been reported. Of those, 21 percent are Alaska Native or American Indian. In 1997, that number stood at 18 percent. Alaska Natives and American Indians make up 17 percent of Alaska’s population, Bell said.Caucasians account for 59 percent of the total cases and 74 percent of the overall state population.Statistics by the Alaska Division of Public Health do not show whether the majority of HIV and AIDS cases among Alaska Natives are among people who live in urban or in rural areas of the state.But Megan Gerson, youth outreach specialist and case manager at Interior AIDS Association, noted the cost of providing services in the villages as one reason for the increasing rate of the disease among Alaska Natives.Interior AIDS Association has little money for outreach programs in rural Alaska, Gerson said."With few exceptions, basically our clients need to be able to get to us," she said.Tanana Chiefs Conference, the main entity for health care for Alaska Natives in the Interior, administers some HIV and AIDS programs in the Bush, Gerson said.Officials with TCC either could either not be reached or declined comment."I think this (the high rate) goes along with national trends for a lot of people infected with HIV," Gerson said. "There’s not enough money for so many groups, and I’m sure Alaska Natives are among them."

Flight crews learn defense skills

An Anchorage martial arts club is offering self-defense classes to airlines for the protection of flight crews, passengers and airplanes.About 18 pilots and flight attendants from Era Aviation Inc. have completed the "proportionate response and diffusion tactics program’’ offered by the Kung-Fu San Soo Center."After Sept. 11, I felt it was something the company could do to alleviate some concerns,’’ said Paul Landis, senior vice president of Era Aviation. "To my way of thinking, it’s been money well spent.’’The training is voluntary for Era flight crews and is funded by the company."We’re not forcing anybody to do this, but we’re certainly open to continuing training,’’ Landis said."I’ve had some excellent feedback,’’ Landis said. "Cabin crews are feeling more comfortable in the back of an airplane.’’The 21-hour course is being taught by Bruce Bibee and Ted Stickel, masters of kung-fu san soo and Brazilian jiu-jitsu.Jiu-jitsu is a self-defense art of grasping or striking an opponent so that his own strength and weight are used against him. Translated, kung-fu san soo means "man working to become proficient with his hands and feet in combat.’’Bibee also works as an anger management and substance abuse counselor, and Stickel is a security specialist.Stickel and assistant instructors gave a demonstration Nov. 27 to members of the Anchorage Air Cargo Association.Among the techniques shown was a choke hold that can render someone unconscious in less than 3 seconds.The seven, three-hour sessions being offered provide flight crews with mental and physical training to control a dangerous situation either by voice or by force.As part of the training, flight crews are shown techniques ranging from restraining to "doing harm and incapacitating a person,’’ Stickel said. The training takes place in confined areas to simulate the inside of an airplane’s cabin or cockpit. Flight crews are put in situations where they have to deal with an armed terrorist, an aggressive intoxicated passenger, or a passenger that may be attacking another.Controlling a dangerous situation does not always involve physical contact, said Stickel, who has won gold and silver medals in international martial arts competitions."There are a lot of ways to de-escalate a situation besides physical force,’’ Stickel said. "There is a lot of power in voice.’’Knowing how to appropriately diffuse a situation creates the courage to do so, Stickel said."Confidence,’’ Stickel said, "is the biggest ally in a stress situation.’’

Head tax could make bad tourism year worse, cruise official says

With Alaska tourism facing a possible decline in summer 2002 visitors, a $50 per person head tax proposed by some lawmakers is ill timed, said one cruise line representative.John Fox, a senior vice president with Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., spoke Nov. 30 at Sheraton Alaska Hotel during the Resource Development Council for Alaska Inc. annual conference.He presented his views as a member of the Vancouver, British Columbia-based North West CruiseShip Association."In these grim days Alaska should send a message that it welcomes visitors," he said.For 2002, cruise lines plan to deploy four additional ships to Alaska, a result of repositioning ships away from less attractive Middle East and Mediterranean routes, he said.The cruise industry made the changes so more Americans could be within reasonable driving distance of a cruise port.This summer 25 large cruise vessels will serve the state: 21 based in Vancouver, British Columbia, and two each based in Seattle and San Francisco, he said.The move represents a 10 percent increase in capacity, Fox said. Typically, cruise ships in Alaska run at 90 percent occupancy, he noted.Fox cited reports in late November from the Alaska Travel Industry Association that advance bookings for tours and shore excursions were down 40 percent compared with the same period last year.One major factor affecting the travel industry is Americans’ reluctance to fly following this fall’s terrorist attacks on the East Coast, he said.Whatever faith had been restored in air travel was stalled after the November airliner crash in New York, he said.Alaska could post a good tourism season if people return to commercial flying, he said."We do know Americans are postponing their vacation decisions so we literally won’t know until the season arrives," Fox said.Tourism around the country has been affected by the September attacks, he said."The fallout from Sept. 11 has been particularly devastating to the travel industry," he added.Communities around the state were affected, including Anchorage losing revenue from convention cancellations and Juneau’s loss of $2.5 million in sales tax revenue, he cited.The cruise industry has been hit hard by the slowing travel trend. Two cruise lines have filed for bankruptcy and others have laid off workers or delayed market entry of new ships, he said.Fox believes a proposed $50 per person tax is unnecessary because the cruise industry already pays fees totaling $60 million annually to support Alaska infrastructure. The industry in the state supports 15,000 jobs, he said. Cruise companies spend $70 million on their own to market travel to Alaska, while the industry also financially supports ATIA’s marketing budget, he said.A study by the state trade organization, conducted before Sept. 11, showed that 58 percent of those people surveyed said an additional $50 charge could cause them to decrease spending for onshore activities, Fox noted.

Beat the recession by being aggressive, never giving up

This is not a column about gloom and doom. There’s enough of that going around already. But, based on more than 100 days on the road this year and the avalanche of resumes that I continue to receive from formerly well-paid, recently laid-off job seekers, what we have on our hands is certainly as bad as if not worse than 1990-1991. And I can’t see most of 2002 being any better. It strikes me that we have two available options: to either buckle with fear or be imaginative, aggressive and fight back. The clarion call is for common sense, not panic. In football parlance, it’s the fundamentals, the blocking and tackling, that count, not the long ball. A quick refresher course follows. Revenue is the door opener In most environments today, particularly business to business, the demand is for more sales. That’s what they want to hear. If you have a legitimate, credible story as to how you can help a company generate revenue, management will clear the calendar with great haste to hear what you have to say. This message is a particularly strong door opener for consultants and service providers. Don’t cut marketing This is especially true of advertising support. Marketing is the first thing that most companies do in an economic downturn because it is the easiest course of action. But all it does is concede the playing field to the competition. Statistics clearly show that marketers who increase their spending during a recession experience sustainable long-term gains in market share and profitability. Market to your base Revisit your loyal customers, the ones you have probably taken for granted and ignored of late. Now is also a good time to consider instituting a workable customer relationship management system that will help you identify and nurture that loyal base by maintaining an on-going communication channel with them. Start sponsoring In times of stress, consumers gravitate to the familiar. Your job is to be there as a touch point. That means event promotion, cross-promotion, cause marketing, all of the in-the-trenches, one-on-one, hard-working marketing labor that many companies forsake for the ease of an advertisement or commercial. It’s not a matter of either/or, but both. Try something new Consider test markets, new product or service introductions and any new revenue stream that got put on the back burner when times were flush. If the old revenue streams are drying up, where is the risk in experimenting? Think vertical For small businesses in particular, understanding and mining a vertical segment makes good sense. Dig in and dig deep. Capitalize on the credibility that you have built up and sell it aggressively, particularly through referral and word of mouth. Don’t be afraid to leapfrog from segment to segment when you think you have a translatable story to tell. Client retention is key The importance of the relationship with the customer never diminishes. For most small businesses, developing and exploiting the relationship is the one major advantage they have over the big players who don’t have the time and energy for it in the first place. And, don’t forget the added value. Customers crave it but don’t get enough of it. When was the last time you gave serious thought to providing the value-added premium in a customer transaction? It’s a failure that comes from taking our customers and clients for granted. And, on that point, the best way to gauge the value of your customer relationships is to seek feedback, using mechanisms like third party evaluations, mystery shopper programs or written surveys. Aggressively seek new business Now is the time to undertake that aggressive, long-term new business program. Segment the prospects; maintain a disciplined follow-up program; and remember that it is a process of consistent and persistent approach and attack. Don’t hesitate to contact prospects out of the blue with an idea as to how you can legitimately impact their business. In focus groups, prospective buyers quite often remark on how little they get called on or approached with a legitimate, new perspective about their business. Don’t forget self-promotion When times are tight, most small businesses tend to give up on self-promotion. Now more than ever we should be super-aggressive about telling the world how good we are by seeking high visibility clients, taking on select pro bono assignments, hitting the speech circuit and chasing ink. The best line on the subject comes from Kevin Roberts of Saatchi & Saatchi: "Consumers don’t stop buying when economies go through down cycles. They look harder for value." The job of the survival marketer in 2002 will be to identify that value, proclaim it loudly and go after the thinning customer herd where others show fear and give up. To end with a sports analogy, now is the time to know the playbook and never, never take your eyes off the ball. Alf Nucifora is an Atlanta-based marketing consultant.  

Committee hears call for regional planning

A regional planning approach presented with a collective voice is what is needed to best secure funding and prioritize long-range transportation needs in Southcentral Alaska.That was the consensus of various lawmakers and transportation officials at a state Senate Transportation Committee meeting Nov. 28 in Anchorage."There is a real opportunity to advance many projects if we work together,’’ said Sen. John Cowdery, R-Anchorage, chairman of the transportation committee.Cowdery called the meeting to look at the transportation needs of Upper Cook Inlet and the Railbelt and to discuss the concept of a regional planning committee or a port authority.Local, state and federal government agencies and entities most often plan road, rail, marine and airport projects independently and don’t take into account what affect they may have on other projects, Cowdery said. The projects also compete for funding.Up to 35 percent of a project’s cost goes toward reports and studies, which often overlap with another project, Cowdery said.A concerted planning effort would likely increase the chances for funding for large regional projects, Cowdery said."Each impacts the other in one way or another,’’ Cowdery told the crowd of 40 or so, filled with representatives from local governments, airlines, shippers and others.The state is taking steps toward coordinating projects.The Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities will hire a consultant sometime before the end of the year to begin studying the idea of a "regional transportation planning committee," said Rob Campbell, the department’s chief of preliminary design.The study will cost about $250,000 and should be finished by next September, Campbell said.A consultant has not yet been named, Campbell said.Initially, an ad hoc committee would be formed of agencies and transportation groups in and around the Kenai Peninsula, Anchorage and the Matanuska-Susitna valleys, according to DOT’s request for proposals. The ad hoc committee and the consultant would, among other things, review about 31 transportation studies from the region.Frank Dillon, executive vice president of the Alaska Truckers Association, said there was likely a huge disparity in the amount of money spent on studies compared to anything that had actually been done."There is a better way,’’ Dillon said, emphasizing the need for a focus on regional transportation planning, versus piecemeal. "We’re drowning in a morass of process ... there needs to be a measurable way to see what gets done.’’Bill Sheffield, director of the Port of Anchorage and former governor, said he has had a part in at least a dozen of the transportation studies to be reviewed."We should have done this meeting 15 years ago,’’ Sheffield said. "We haven’t had any (regional) planning structure. ... There is money out there for projects, but we have to have a plan.’’"A united front,’’ said Pat Gamble, president of the Alaska Railroad Corp., "is the only logical way to proceed.’’Anchorage and the Matanuska-Susitna valleys share a common economic future, said John Duffy, Matanuska-Susitna Borough manager.Duffy said it was imperative to coordinate and prioritize transportation projects for the region and to seek funding from Alaska’s congressional delegation with a single collective request, instead of by many."We need to act now,’’ Duffy said.Matt Rowley, Whittier city manager, said his community also should be included in the regional transportation plan.

Around the World December 9, 2001

STATEFewer visitors could be stopping at SewardSEWARD -- While early, there already are some indications there could be fewer visitors to Seward next summer.At the moment, fewer cruise ship dockings are scheduled to visit Seward, although there is no word yet on passenger levels.Last year, Seward saw 106 dockings, and the schedule currently shows 94 dockings for the coming season, said Jenifer Trautwein, Seward port manager for Cruise Lines Agencies of Alaska. The first scheduled vessel will be the Star Princess due to arrive May 18.The decline in the local cruise ship schedule is largely due to Holland America’s decision to sell a vessel that has been using Seward as a turnaround point, according to the company."There is some shifting that has been done," said Erik Elvejord, director of public relations for Holland America in Seattle, Wash.Holland sold the Westerdam and is moving European and South American vessels to the domestic market, he said.The company will have six ships serving Alaska, but the cruise that turned around in Seward will be dropped this season.Whittier now pushing for private prison dealKENAI -- After two other Alaska communities abandoned plans for a private prison in the face of public opposition, Whittier is now stepping in. The city is trying to drum up support from the state Legislature and private contractors to build an 800-bed medium-security prison.Last fall, voters in the Kenai Peninsula Borough resoundingly defeated a plan to build a private prison near Kenai. Earlier, a plan to build a private prison on Fort Greely, near Delta Junction, fell apart amid community controversy."We watched the news, and as soon as we saw the vote fail in Kenai, we started making the chase from this end," Whittier City Manager Matt Rowley said.Whittier, bounded by chilly Prince William Sound on one side and imposing mountains to the other, is well suited for a prison, he said. A project of that magnitude could also stimulate the town’s economy, now dependent mostly on tourists and boaters.Whittier may have competition in Southeast Alaska, however.Ketchikan is pursuing the prison project, and Wrangell is considering the idea.Snow may be used to speed power lineFAIRBANKS -- If it doesn’t snow soon, contractors may be making their own fluffy white stuff so they can work on a high-voltage power line in the Interior.Under state and federal permits, there has to be both a foot of frost and a foot of snow on the ground before heavy equipment can be moved onto the Tanana Flats. The rule protects vegetation and soils."We’ll just keep our fingers crossed," said Greg Wyman, Golden Valley Electric Association’s intertie project manager.Frost won’t be a problem, but snow may be scarce.GVEA has permits pending with the Department of Natural Resources to draw water from lakes and rivers to make snow and an ice road to bring heavy equipment onto the flats if needed, Wyman said.Golden Valley is building the 230-kilovolt line from Healy to Fairbanks, nearly 100 miles altogether, to augment an existing line.The cooperative last week formally awarded a $28 million contract to Global Power-City Electric, a joint venture of two Alaska businesses.NATIONNew numbers indicate economy still shrinkingWASHINGTON -- The U.S. economy turned in its worst performance in a decade during the third quarter, shrinking at a rate of 1.1 percent. Many economists expect an even steeper drop in the current quarter but are hopeful for a turnaround next year.The revised reading on gross domestic product released by the Commerce Department Nov. 30 showed the economy was much weaker in the July-September quarter than the 0.4 percent rate of decline estimated a month ago.The 1.1 percent drop in GDP, the total output of goods and services in the United States, followed a barely discernible growth rate of 0.3 percent in the second quarter and illustrated just how quickly and dramatically the economy sank.Many economists believe the economy is sinking deeper in the current quarter, forecasting economic output will fall at a rate of at least 1.5 percent.Home Depot outlines plans for its growthATLANTA -- After 23 years of consistent growth, The Home Depot hopes to plot a more focused course for making each store more profitable by better tailoring them to specific markets and offering new services for homeowners.The company’s president and chief executive, Robert Nardelli, led his first conference for Wall Street analysts Nov. 30, outlining a strategy that relies on diversifying revenue through better performance of existing stores, new residential services and increased sales to professional contractors.The company expects to increase revenue at least 15 percent annually over the next two years, with earnings increases of 18 percent to 20 percent through 2005.The company’s sales will be about $53 billion this fiscal year, with Home Depot on target to break $100 billion per year by 2005, said Nardelli.The company plans to slow the number of new stores it opens each year, with fewer than 200 in 2002 and a nearly 50 percent cut in the number of EXPO Design Center stores. Instead, Home Depot plans to focus those stores in the top 100 U.S. metro areas.Bankrupt mill will keep making fleece for troopsBOSTON -- Malden Mills says it will keep outfitting U.S. soldiers with high-tech fleeces, some of which are being used in Afghanistan, despite filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.The company appeared in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Worcester, Mass., Nov. 30, the day after announcing it would seek bankruptcy protection from creditors.Spokesman David Costello said the court approved all arrangements for $20 million in debtor-in-possession financing, as well as a petition that will allow the company to pay its workers.Lawrence, Mass.-based Malden Mills, founded in 1906, prospered with military contracts during the 1920s and ’30s, and got back into the business in October 2000, when it landed a three-year, $17 million deal to supply the Marine Corps and Army with its Polartec synthetic fleece products.WORLDSales plunge as Hong Kong faces downturnHONG KONG -- The government said Nov. 30 that Hong Kong is barely managing to avoid falling into a recession, although many ordinary people say they already are suffering from the economic downturn."This is the worst year I’ve ever experienced," said 74-year-old Wong Sing, who has watched in dismay as sales plunged at his tiny, open-air banana stall. "The economy is really bad; very few people come to buy my bananas these days."Wong is far from alone in his worries, although economic numbers released after the stock market closed Nov. 30 indicate Hong Kong’s economy might not be as bad as many believe.Gross domestic product shrank by 0.3 percent in the third quarter compared with the year-ago period, following a rise of 0.8 percent in the second quarter, the government said.-- Compiled from business wire services.

2001 salmon catch is seventh largest in decade thanks to pinks

A preliminary wrap-up of the 2001 salmon season shows the statewide harvest at just more than 172 million fish, making it the seventh largest catch since 1990. A strong pink run served to boost the catch, while the take of all other salmon species came in slightly below projections.Before the season, state forecasters had predicted an all-species commercial catch of roughly 142 million fish, distributed as 419,000 chinook, or kings; 28.7 million sockeye, or reds; 4.78 million coho, or silvers; 92.7 million pinks, or humpies; and 15.3 million chum, or dog, salmon.As of late September, the actual catch was estimated at 337,000 chinook, which was 20 percent below the forecast. The coho salmon harvest was just slightly below predictions at 4.3 million fish. The pink catch of 126 million was well above projections, thanks primarily to bumper runs in Southeast and Prince William Sound. The statewide chum harvest of 15 million missed the preseason projection by less than half a million fish, with Southeast and Sound harvesters also making up the brunt of that catch. For sockeyes, Alaska’s most valuable salmon species, the harvest came in at 9 percent below forecast at 26 million fish.World markets are awash in salmon, causing prices for both wild and farmed salmon to continue a downward spiral. Most fingers point to Chile for flooding the market with farmed salmon and selling it below cost. The value of all species of Alaska’s salmon catch is estimated at $198 million, down more than $80 million from the previous year.In fact, the sharp declines in the value of salmon catches and a reduction in crab landings have combined to reduce the dock-side value of Alaska’s 2001 fisheries to around $933 million, down from $1.05 billion last year. According to figures from the Alaskan Seafood Marketing Institute, crab fisheries are expected to be worth about $82 million, down from $133 million from last year. The value for groundfish -- cod, pollock, flatfish, rockfish and related species -- has increased slightly to roughly $400 million from $392 million in 2000.The drop in the value of the catch means that ASMI’s budget for the current fiscal year will drop by about 21 percent. ASMI doesn’t receive a dime from the state to promote Alaska seafood to the U.S. market, although nearly 55 percent of our nation’s seafood production comes from Alaska. Funds for that daunting and desperately needed task comes from a 1 percent assessment on salmon catches paid by all harvesters, and other voluntary assessments on various fish species paid by Alaska processors.Conversely, ASMI receives several million dollars each year from the federal government to market Alaska seafood in foreign countries. Seafood is Alaska’s top international export, representing 40 percent of all exports. Alaska’s seafood industry is also the state’s largest employer, comprising more than 16 percent of all basic sector employment and nearly half of all private sector jobs. That’s way ahead of oil and gas, mining, forest products and tourism.Why care about fish prices?There is a misconception that fishing income remains only in the coastal communities where the fish is landed. However, fully half of the 3 percent landing tax goes into the state’s general fund and is appropriated at the whim of the Alaska Legislature. That share in fiscal 2000 was just less than $20 million, and it means that school roofs in Fairbanks, for example, or roads and services in other Interior regions are likely funded in part by fish dollars.Kodiak-based free-lance writer Laine Welch can be reached via e-mail at ([email protected]).

Airport trims growth projections

Long-held predictions of skyrocketing growth at the Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport over the next 20 years have taken a nosedive, lessening the need for airstrips to be built outside of the facility’s current boundaries.Airport director Morton Plumb said a forecasted 6 percent annual growth in cargo operations is now probably overly optimistic, considering, among other things, economic turmoil in Asia and the United States, and the impact of the terrorist attacks on the East Coast.Airport officials are now projecting growth in cargo operations of just more than 2 percent annually.At an Anchorage Chamber of Commerce luncheon Nov. 26, Plumb presented the "draft preliminary airfield alternative,’’ a guide for development of the state-owned airport over the next two decades.Among the alternative’s proposals are the construction of a new runway parallel to the existing north-south airstrip and the extension at least one of the two east-west runways. Also proposed are high-speed exit taxiways, a tunnel under the existing north-south runway, and the possibility of relocating the control tower.A new runway may mean that a portion of the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail may have to be re-routed under the proposed plan but no details are available, Plumb said.Airport officials had no final cost estimates on the proposed airport expansion work, but Plumb said he expected it to be about $6 million.No permits have been applied for nor has money been earmarked for the proposed project, Plumb said.The $1.5 million federally funded master plan draft plan was years in the making and had much public input.Initially, there were 20 proposals for airport expansion. Those proposals were narrowed to six and ranged from doing nothing to closing the airport and moving it across Knik Arm to Point MacKenzie. In between those alternatives, were proposals that included building a new north-south runway adjacent to the existing runway at the airport; expanding the airport and developing a new facility at Fire Island or Point MacKenzie; or fully developing Anchorage International beyond its existing boundaries to Kincaid Park, where a new east-west runway would be built.Constructing a runway through the park, however, proved unpopular with many.Just two weeks before Plumb’s announcement of the final proposal, airport officials and their consultant, HNTB, a Alexandria, Va.- based firm, predicted a near tripling in cargo operation at the airport by 2020, and more than double the amount of passenger flights.Those predictions were based on projections from the Federal Aviation Administration and aircraft manufacturers, Plumb said. But on the ground, the airport has seen less traffic in recent months, not more.Long delays caused by security measures in place since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 have forced Cathay Pacific Airways and China Airlines to drop some flights in Anchorage, and Korean Air has not added additional flights leading up to Christmas, as it traditionally does, Plumb said.The new FAA regulations, which are written in a 81-page document, force an air carrier to unload and re-inspect its overseas cargo in Anchorage. Those rules must be amended for Alaska, or other airlines will likely stop operations here, Plumb said.In addition to the terrorist attacks and ailing Asian and domestic economies, a slowdown in airport growth also could come from the consolidation of some airlines and larger, more efficient aircraft."That may reduce some of the airplanes needed here,’’ Plumb said.Based on current growth projections, Plumb said the proposed expansion at the airport would have to be done between 2008 and 2015, when the number of airport operations -- take-offs and landings -- increases to 336,000 annually, about 100,000 more than recorded last year."That’s the trigger point,’’ Plumb said.Work on a new parking garage could start as early as 2005, Plumb said.Public comments on the proposed airport expansion plan will be accepted until Feb. 1.

Cook Inlet seeks a name brand for its seafood products

KENAI -- The search is on for a name to give Cook Inlet seafood. The Cook Inlet brand steering committee hopes to have a trademarked name for salmon and eventually other seafood harvested here by the second quarter of 2002.Steering committee chairman Mark Powell said the committee is just beginning to address names."What we have thought about is going to the schools and let children submit ideas," he said.The ideal name will be locally recognized as well as easily marketed and remembered by consumers throughout the nation.But a name for Cook Inlet fish is only the tip of the iceberg. It’s what lies behind that name that will guarantee success: quality."Quality control will be measured from the point of harvest through icing and transportation and into the plants," Powell said. "And each lot that goes to market will be tested to make sure its quality is at a high level. This is all done by independent third-party inspectors."He said the company Sure Fish, a Seattle-based company that has been working with fishermen in the Aleutians, East Coast and Asia, initially will be contracted to provide the quality control.Paying better attention to quality initially will be a burden on fishermen and processors alike. They will have to sort their fish by grade, bleed them as soon as possible, layer them in ice without packing too many on top of one another and get the fish to the processor as soon as possible."The main thing is icing. The faster you ice the fish upon their demise, the less breakdown inside the fish you get," said Kalifornsky Beach setnetter Paul Shadura. "Doing this will provide for better flesh and better flavor."He said that ultimately, processing a fish should be done before it goes stiff through rigor mortis.He said setnetters and gillnetters alike probably will have to sort their fish as they pull them out of the net and then cut their gills and let them bleed out in refrigerated sea water before being layered in ice.The committee envisions two grades of fish to be sold under the brand name they eventually come up with, premium and grade A. A premium fish will be bled at harvest, while a grade A fish will not be bled immediately but will be otherwise unblemished. The salmon will be sold fresh and fresh-frozen in several different forms, including headed and gutted, portioned fillets and full fillets."And it’s possible for this to expand to not only sockeye, but halibut and other bottom fish," Powell said. "The possibilities are endless if we get the initial plan off the ground and functional."He said the committee’s hope is to have 80 percent of Cook Inlet seafood sold under the branded label."The possibility is there for very high volumes of the two grades," he said. "Copper River has had success with both premium and grade A."He said there is a high probability of success for a Cook Inlet brand of salmon because the area is well-known and has easy access to national and international transportation.The goal of creating a high-quality brand named for Cook Inlet seafood is to increase the price per fish. Cook Inlet fishermen have been plagued by a combination of poor runs, low prices and decreased fishing opportunity, which has forced processing plants to close and some people to abandon fishing altogether.There are some inherent dangers to culling all the premium and No. 1 fish from the catch. It could mean the large fish buyers will wind up with more No. 2s and No. 3s."There’s some problem when you do this, but the hope is the branding will raise the broad bar," Shadura said.He said that because much of the damage to a fish comes after the time it hits the net, much of the damage can be reduced."We hope that a No. 3 fish won’t be as evident and be more like 2s and 1s," he said. "We would like to see the whole industry join in."There will be additional costs associated with the extra-special handling, and Shadura said the reward will be a couple of years down the road."Probably a lot of fishermen will take that into consideration before they enter the program," he said. "The whole process will have to be supported for the first couple of years."The Kenai Peninsula Borough’s Department of Community and Economic Development is seeking grant funds from several different sources to fund the program for three to five years."This is a rough estimate, but we’re looking at between $300,000 to $500,000 per year," said Jack Brown, director of the DCED.The money will be used for marketing, quality control, start-up costs for fishermen and processors and for education on how to best handle the fish.Powell said after three years or so, the brand name should be established and the program well under way. At that point, targeted marketing will be the responsibility of the processors, who will license the brand name from the nonprofit corporation that will own it.So far, the Kenai Peninsula Borough has contributed $95,000: $30,000 from Mayor Dale Bagley’s office for a feasibility study and $65,000 to do testing and quality-control studies.The nonprofit that controls the brand name and oversees the contracted quality control will be made up of three representatives from the processing industry: two driftnetters, two setnetters, one seiner and a designee by the borough mayor.Brown said he hopes to have an ordinance introduced to the borough assembly Jan. 8 outlining the funding plan and asking for matching funds."In general, we see four places for potential funding," he said, "the Alaska Manufacturing Association, state Department of Community and Economic Development grants, industry support and we’ll be looking to the borough for support."

Liquified natural gas panel disbands after analysis shows project is uneconomic

FAIRBANKS -- An oil industry group has dispersed after failing to find a cost-efficient way to export liquefied North Slope natural gas in tankers.Members of the group included Phillips Petroleum Co., BP, Foothills Pipe Lines Ltd. of Calgary and Marubeni Corp. Their mission when forming three years ago was to study how to transport natural gas reserves through a pipeline to Valdez or Nikiski.The gas would then be liquefied and placed on tankers for shipment to Asia, Mexico or the West Coast of the United States.Members of the group have returned to their respective companies, Phillips Petroleum spokeswoman Dawn Patience told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. Patience said that each of the companies will individually gauge the information gathered from the studies and decide whether to further pursue a liquefied natural gas project.The group’s work began in October 1998 with an attempt to design a cost-effective project for liquefied natural gas, also known as LNG."In stage 1 we assessed that the project was not economic," Patience said. "Stage 2 focused on ways of driving down the risks and the costs."That second stage began in the summer of 2000, and the studies are now completed. The commercial manager for the sponsor group’s work came from Phillips Petroleum.Patience said some improvements were found in that second stage of work but the cost reductions were not sufficient, at least in the analysis of Phillips officials.A separate oil industry consortium, consisting of BP, ExxonMobil Production Co. and Phillips Alaska Inc., is in the midst of studying whether the construction of a natural gas pipeline from the North Slope to market in the Lower 48 would be economically feasible.But no matter what route a gas pipeline to the Lower 48 takes, most of it would run through Canada.So an LNG line from the North Slope to Southcentral Alaska for export in tankers is often heralded as an "all-Alaska option."

Phone contract comments allowed to Dec. 7

State officials have extended the comment period for response to selection of Alaska Communications Systems Group Inc. to provide state government telecommunications services in a five-year, $92.5 million contract.The move delays signing of the contract, which calls for ACS to take over most state telecommunications services soon after completing the process.The comment period, originally scheduled to conclude Nov. 26, was extended through Dec. 7, said Jim Duncan, commissioner of the state Department of Administration.Duncan and other state officials decided to lengthen the original 10-day comment period after receiving a request from competing contract bidder General Communication Inc., he said.State officials believed the request was valid since there were many contract documents to review and the comment period coincided with the Thanksgiving holiday, he said."We thought it was a reasonable request," Duncan said.At press time Duncan had received no protests against the new contract.Once the comment period is concluded, the state will either sign the contract or evaluate possible protests filed, he said.The Department of Administration issued a notice of intent to award the contract to Anchorage-based ACS on Nov. 15.The new contract aims to streamline state telecommunications services. The state issued a request for proposals in August 2000, and bids were due that December.ACS plans to provide $29 million in capital investments as part of the contract.Key elements in the contract include improved broadband services to state offices in urban and rural Alaska and reduction of the state’s long-distance calling costs by allowing calls between state offices to be local calls. With final approval of the contract, ACS would provide improved cellular and satellite phone service. Video conferencing is also part of the contract.

Movers & Shakers December 9, 2001

Bruce Zalneraitis has joined Life Alaska Transplant in the new position of clinical director. Zalneraitis has nearly 25 years of tissue and organ donation experience. Zalneraitis previously worked with New England Organ Bank and Northern California Transplant Bank. Life Alaska, formed as a nonprofit donor program in 1992, is responsible for all tissue, organ, corneal and research donations in the state.Jerry Dunn is continuing as general manager of the recently reorganized Western Alaska Village Enterprises. Dunn was appointed general manager in November 2000 to help manage the company through its financial difficulties. James Akerelrea is continuing as WAVE’s corporate business development manager. New members of the board of directors include: chairman, Earl Chase; vice chairman, Willie Attie; treasurer, Zach Ivan; secretary, Felix Hess; and assistant secretary, Archie Andrew.Ann Chandonnet was recently appointed the business reporter at the Juneau Empire. Chandonnet worked as a feature writer for The Anchorage Times for 10 years. Chandonnet has served as the police and courts reporter for the Empire for two years.Teresa Newins, senior manager of KPMG, was re-elected president of the YWCA of Anchorage board of directors. Other officers re-elected are: vice president, Suzanne Cherot, managing partner of Birch Horton Bittner and Cherot; secretary, Connie Ozer, community volunteer; and treasurer, Barbara Symmes, director of planning at Providence Alaska Medical Center. Directors elected to the board included: Barbara Cash, president of RIM Design; Diane Johnson, owner/exclusive agent, Allstate Insurance; Ouida Morrison, manager and equal opportunity officer of the Alaska Railroad Corp.; Marie Nash, officer director for Sen. Ted Stevens; and Cathie Straub, certified financial planner with Financial Resources Inc. Continuing board members are: Julie Alfred, development director, Anchorage Museum of History and Art; Carla Beam, associate director external affairs, BP Exploration (Alaska) Inc.; Charlotte Fox, executive director, Alaska State Council on the Arts; Deborah Gomez, facilities manager, Natchiq Inc.; Jana Hayenga, owner of Cabin Fever; Sherry Jaeger, retired, community volunteer; Lisa Keller, athlete, coach and trainer; Christine Klein, operations manager at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport; Carrie Longoria, director, SAFE City Program, Municipality of Anchorage; SanDee McDowell, owner, Chez Ritz; and Julie Millington, manager of patron services, Alaska Center for the Performing Arts.The Public Relations Society of America recently bestowed the rank of fellow on Karen Cedzo at its national conference in Atlanta. Cedzo, accredited in public relations, previously served as vice chancellor of university relations at the University of Alaska. Upon retiring in 1998, Cedzo established the public relations consulting firm, Sawmill Creek Enterprises Ltd. Cedzo also was honored by the Alaska Chapter of PRSA with a reception at the University of Alaska Museum Nov. 13.Jessica Mayer recently joined ASCG Inc.’s engineering department as a junior engineer in its airports/general civil division. Mayer, an engineer in training, has earned both a bachelor’s degree in geological engineering and a bachelor’s degree in geology from the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Since joining ASCG, Mayer has worked on several aviation-related planning and design projects. Ramona Jathanha recently joined the architectural department of ASCG’s Anchorage office as a staff architect. Jathanha has been with ASCG’s Barrow office since 1994 as a project manager. Jathanha has a range of experience on architectural projects throughout Alaska.The Greater Wasilla Chamber of Commerce recently announced the following award winners: Youth of the Year, Christi Gibson; Citizen of the Year, Bert Hall; Educator of the Year, Barb Shogren; and Business Person of the Year, John Klapperich. New board members for 2002 are: president, Annette DeLong, Wells Fargo Bank Alaska; president-elect, Bill Moll, Valley Meineke and Lube Express; treasurer, John Klapperich, KMBQ 99.7 FM; Paddy Coan, Prudential Vista Real Estate; and Susan Price, Mat-Su Title Insurance Agency.Gov. Tony Knowles has appointed Elmer Lindstrom deputy commissioner of the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services. Lindstrom of Juneau began working for the state in 1979 as an accounting technician and later as fiscal analyst for the Division of Legislative Finance. Lindstrom also served as staff to the House Finance Committee and with the Office of Management and Budget. Lindstrom has worked for the Department of Health and Social Services since 1993 and will continue as the department’s legislative liaison.

Fairbanks hospital plans expansion

Officials at Fairbanks Memorial Hospital are considering improvements that could nearly double the size of the facility in the next 15 to 20 years. Work on the master site plan was completed this fall, and hospital leaders were prioritizing a list of possible projects, according to Jon Lundquist, assistant administrator for plant operations and support. "We have been setting priorities on what we can accomplish next year," he said. Next the Greater Fairbanks Community Hospital Foundation will review the prioritized list, he said. The foundation, which owns the hospital facilities and leases them to Banner Health System, would approve funds for any construction, Lundquist said. Foundation members were due to review the plan in late November, he said. "I think this type of planning is integral to what we do here and is necessary for the future," he said. The current hospital building totals 500,000 square feet. But if the entire project is completed as proposed, Fairbanks Memorial could expand to measure 926,000 square feet, Lundquist said. He said it was too soon to note all the priorities. Some projects are needed to make room for subsequent work. "Certainly some areas are higher on our priority list," Lundquist said. Hospital officials are considering which projects and preliminary work could be tackled early next year and in summer.

Gas pipeline does not make economic sense, BP reports

ANCHORAGE -- More than $100 million spent on studying the feasibility of delivering North Slope gas to the Lower 48 indicates the project does not make economic sense, BP’s gas expert told industry executives Nov. 29.BP Vice President Ken Konrad told a meeting of the Resource Development Council for Alaska Inc. that Alaska’s big three oil companies have spent the last year and large amounts of money evaluating the project. Work on the data will be done by the end of the year and a report completed as early as February or March, he said.Konrad expects the report to say the project is not economically viable right now."We simply cannot invest in projects where risks outweigh rewards," he told the group. That would put the huge international company out of business, he said.For the project to go forward, BP, ExxonMobil Production Co. and Phillips Alaska Inc. need both state and federal governments to move more quickly."We need government to keep up with us," Konrad said.The companies need federal legislation that would speed permitting for the pipeline, he said, calling that legislation a "must have."Delays in getting a national energy bill passed has not helped the project, Konrad said.The state has also failed to provide the companies with a clear understanding of how taxes and royalties from the proposed pipeline would be handled, Konrad said."This is by no means to say we have given up," he said. "Alaska gas can and will happen. We just need to get everyone in the same boat rowing at the same time."Sen. John Torgerson, chairman of the Joint Committee on Natural Gas Pipelines, told the group that the state won’t back off of its commitment to a southern pipeline route along the trans-Alaska oil pipeline and Alaska Highway to Alberta. State politicians believe that route would benefit Alaskans most.A route across the Beaufort Sea then south through Canada is favored by some Canadians because it would tap rich reserves being developed in the Mackenzie Delta.Roger Simmons, consul general of Canada, assured the group that the Canadian government is neutral on a route. He said his government believes the gas producers should make that decision.Joe Marushak, vice president for Phillips Alaska, said his company continues to support the southern route because Phillips believes it will be easier to permit and to expand in the future. Phillips announced earlier this month it would merge with Conoco Inc. in a $15.4 billion deal that would create the nation’s third-largest oil and gas company.BP is not interested in fighting the state, or any other government, over a preferred route, Konrad said."No project will go ahead unless all governments agree to it," he said.

GCI seeks to offer local phone service in 10 towns

General Communication Inc. said it has filed a request with Alaska Communications Systems to provide local telephone service in 10 communities also served by ACS.GCI reported Nov. 29 its plan to serve Delta Junction, Fort Greely, Homer, Kenai, Kodiak, Nenana, Ninilchik, North Pole, Seldovia and Soldotna. GCI said service could begin to some communities by fall 2003.The company also stated that the announcement followed a ruling on local phone competition earlier that week. Alaska Superior Court Judge John Reese upheld the Regulatory Commission of Alaska’s decision to allow local competition in most of ACS’ service areas, GCI said.ACS is required to negotiate an interconnection agreement to allow GCI and other telecommunications providers to serve these communities, GCI officials said.GCI began local phone service in Fairbanks in June, said David Morris, GCI public affairs manager.GCI has provided local phone service in Anchorage for four years.The battle for local service in Fairbanks, as well as Juneau, has been brewing for several years.The problem for phone competition in Fairbanks and Juneau stems from the Telecommunications Act’s rules for competitive markets, which are chiefly directed at urban areas. Only Anchorage is defined as urban.A decision on local phone service in Fairbanks has been before the Alaska Public Utilities Commission, reorganized in 1999 as the RCA, as well as in the courts and before state lawmakers as a bill.New RCA commissioners tackled the issue during their first month in office. They later ruled in favor of allowing competition in the Fairbanks and Juneau markets, although ACS appealed the decision.

Groundfish a bright spot in grim ore, forest, fish picture

There’s not much good news out there for Alaska’s mining, timber and fisheries industries, according to a panel of speakers at the Resource Development Council for Alaska Inc.’s annual conference Nov. 29-30 in Anchorage.Depressed resource commodity markets, made worse by recession, and in the case of fishing, competition from farmed salmon, make for a bleak outlook.One bright spot, however, is in the big groundfish industry in the Bering Sea, where harvests of pollock and cod have increased this year and are set to be up again in 2002, according to Frank Kelty, resource specialist for the City of Unalaska.Kelty, one of three speakers on the panel, also said crab populations are on the comeback. Adult opilio crab populations are still depressed, but juveniles are increasing rapidly."Juvenile crab populations are up 73 percent. That’s a good sign," Kelty said.It means in three or four years, opilio harvests may increase back toward historic levels. Crab has been one of the big-money fisheries in the Bering Sea, but has seen hard times because of depressed populations and harvests, he said.Halibut and sablefish, or black cod, are another bright spot for the state.The 2001 halibut season closed out with 26.4 million pounds harvested. Though prices softened toward the end of the season, fishermen still earned $200 million from halibut and sablefish this year, Kelty said.Things don’t look good for other fisheries, however. The Bristol Bay sockeye harvest is predicted to be 9 million salmon, one of the lowest levels in years, and salmon harvests in other areas of Western Alaska will remain depressed.Timber faces challenging times, too, according to Rick Rogers, vice president for land and resources for Chugach Alaska Corp.Japan, Alaska’s top customer for forest products, remains economically depressed, but fundamental changes in the nation’s construction industry also bode ill for Alaska, Rogers said.More homes are being built with western-style construction methods using two-by-four boards rather than the traditional Japanese wood-beam building.The wood-beam building that is being done is relying more on laminated, manufactured wood that uses less expensive European softwoods rather than the high quality, more expensive Alaska spruce, he said.There are also supply problems in Alaska. Restrictions on harvesting in the big Tongass National Forest have cut into the supply of available logs, although logging on private, Native-owned lands in Southeast Alaska continued, Rogers said.Alaska still has ample forest lands with good-quality timber, particularly in Interior Alaska. Much of this is owned by the state of Alaska and Alaska Native corporations, he said.For example, the Tanana State Forest in the Interior has a new timber management plan that could make available 60 million board feet of timber yearly, if markets were available, Rogers said.That’s as much as is being harvested in the Tongass this year, he said.Rogers thinks Alaskans should investigate the potential for manufactured wood products using the ample lower-quality, small-diameter trees that are available in Southcentral and Interior Alaska.This is the strategy Scandinavian forest operators are following, who are now selling in Alaska’s key market, Japan.The picture for minerals is similar. The world’s mining industry is in dire straits, but Alaska is positioned as well as can be expected given the circumstances, according to John Rense, chief operating officer for NANA Development Corp.The state has abundant prospects, a good track record with large, successful mines like Red Dog, Greens Creek, Fort Knox and the Usibelli coal mine, and a friendly state government and supportive political environment.Still, metals prices have been declining for several years in real terms. Prices for copper and zinc are at historic lows, in inflation-adjusted terms, Rense said.That is a result of fundamental changes in the economies of western nations, where technology changes have pushed almost all basic commodity prices to low levels."Commodity prices have been pushed down so the value can be taken in processing and manufacturing," Rense said. "In a macro sense, that’s a logical policy that’s politically popular because it results in a lot of jobs," Rense said.No turnaround should be expected in the basic price structure of metals markets until some major change affects these fundamentals, he said.Depressed prices and surpluses in metals markets have brought about consolidations and a general hunkering-down in the mining industry. "Managements have focused on return on capital, which means controlling costs," and concentrating on producing properties rather than exploring for new deposits, Rense said.

No cutbacks, producers say, despite low oil prices

Despite lower oil prices, Alaska’s petroleum operators are cautiously optimistic and are sticking with plans for increased spending on new projects and drilling in 2002.Steve Marshall, president of BP Exploration (Alaska) Inc., told the Resource Development Council for Alaska Inc.’s annual conference in Anchorage Nov. 29 that his company is planning $700 million in capital expenditures this year and will spend $3.5 billion over the next five years.A major project for BP next year will be a $100 million program to develop North Slope viscous, or heavy, oil resources, Marshall said.Alaska accounts for 10 percent of BP’s worldwide oil production, and the company’s production in Alaska will increase 13 percent next year with its new Northstar field now in production, he said.Responding to a question about reported offers to buy BP’s assets in Alaska by other companies, Marshall said BP is sticking with its long-range plans to increase its core assets in Alaska.The company is concentrating on work in and around producing fields and existing infrastructure, and will drill three exploration wells next year aimed at increasing reserves around the producing fields.The North Slope and the North Sea have been the two pillars of BP’s worldwide oil production for years, Marshall said, and the company now sees its large, undeveloped gas resources in Alaska as key to increasing its gas business in North America, where BP is the largest gas producer.The North Slope still has substantial potential for new oil, with an estimated 7 billion barrels of oil resource yet to be developed, Marshall said.Rick Mott, exploration manager for Philips Alaska Inc., told the RDC conference his company sees continued bright prospects for new exploration.Phillips will drill or participate in 10 exploration wells on the North Slope this winter, including five in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska. The company will also test three separate accumulations of oil and gas discovered in the NPR-A in previous drilling.Mott also said the company’s new Alpine field is producing more than 90,000 barrels per day on average. The field had originally been expected to produce 60,000 barrels daily.Jack Williams, Alaska production manager for ExxonMobil Production Co., said his company is proceeding with plans for a $1 billion gas recycling and condensate production project in the Point Thomson gas field, 60 miles east of Prudhoe Bay.The company hopes to have the project in production in 2006, producing 70,000 barrels per day of condensate, a liquid hydrocarbon product condensed from natural gas liquids produced with dry gas at the field. Until a gas pipeline is available, the dry gas will be reinjected into the underground reservoir, Williams said.In Cook Inlet, Marathon Oil Co. and Unocal are pushing ahead with an aggressive program to explore for gas on the southern Kenai Peninsula. The companies previously reported that exploration wells drilled in a partnership near Ninilchik were successful. Although reserve estimates were not released, plans for a gas pipeline from Kenai to the Ninilchik area are in the works, according to Chuck Pierce, who heads Unocal’s Alaska operations.Pierce told the RDC that he expects the pipeline to be in operation by November 2003. It could eventually be extended further south to Anchor Point and eventually Homer, depending on the success of other exploration wells in the area, he said.John Barnes, Marathon’s Alaska manager, told the conference that his company’s new Wolf Lake gas field began production Nov. 17, producing 3 million cubic feet per day. This is the first new gas supply brought into the Southcentral Alaska market since 1979, Barnes said.Marathon sees several other prospects for gas near the new field, which can be tapped using the infrastructure built for Wolf Lake, he said. Gary Carlson, senior vice president for Forest Oil Corp., told the conference his company’s top priority is developing its new Redoubt Shoal oil and gas field, which is now estimated to contain more than 50 million barrels of recoverable oil.Forest is spending $100 million on Alaska projects this year and will increase this to $150 million in 2001, Carlson told the RDC.

Concern for state's fiscal health a top Alaska 20-20 topic

Five hundred Alaskans, including almost one-third of the state Legislature, met in Anchorage Nov. 27-28 for the kickoff of "Alaska 20-20," an initiative by the Alaska Humanities Forum for residents of the state to chart a long-term plan for the future.The effort was to define "what kind of community we want our children to take over," said Ira Perman, who heads the Humanities Forum.Those at the conference split into working groups to tackle issues like the sustainability of the state’s economy, public services and education. Perman said the immediate effort was aimed at defining goals and benchmarks against which to measure progress in a similar gathering next year and in following years.The idea for Alaska 20-20 grew out of a meeting of 40 long-time Alaskans held two years ago. "There was an anxiety about the future that they felt, as nice as things seemed to be going then," Perman said. "The current generation of adult Alaskans have seen pretty good times. The economy was good, as was the quality of life," Perman said. "It was like a float down a river. But there were some that detected the sound of rapids ahead."Concern for the state’s economy and the fiscal structure of state government were major themes in the Nov. 27-28 conference. "You can’t have a high quality of life without a sound economy," Perman said.Ron Shoaf, an Alyeska Pipeline Service Co. senior manager and one of the participants in Alaska 20-20, said that several recent findings by a coalition of business groups he works with, through the Alaska State Chamber of Commerce, are causes for concern about the state’s future.The coalition, which participated in the Alaska 20-20 conference, also includes the Resource Development Council for Alaska Inc. and the Alaska High-Tech Business Council.One finding is that Alaska ranks 49th out of the 50 states in the rate of personal income growth. The rate of income growth in Alaska is one fourth that of the next state, ranking 48th. Most of the income growth that has occurred in Alaska can be traced to higher Alaska Permanent Fund dividends and increased government and oil industry spending, Shoaf said.Another indicator is that the amount of per capita personal income has dropped from 150 percent above the national average a few years ago to a point just above the national average, Shoaf said.One other troubling sign is that there is no growth on the state’s "under 40" population. Alaska has a high birth rate but this is being offset by high out-migration of young people in search of better employment opportunities elsewhere.Jamie Kenworthy of the Alaska Science and Technology Foundation, who headed the Alaska 20-20 session on a sustainable economy, said his group didn’t come to any clear consensus.This was no surprise, given that surveys indicate a huge disconnect between what the public thinks about the economy and what business leaders, who have their fingers on its pulse, think, Kenworthy said.A recent survey showed that business leaders are somewhat pessimistic about the next three to five years, he said. A public survey, on the other hand, showed 75 percent of respondents are optimistic."We see a larger issue, of the public not understanding the state’s economic base, and where the money comes from to run the economy," Kenworthy said."This is particularly true of people in services and education. The challenge is for people not to be confused about where the dollars that sustains jobs in the schools, business and industry come from, and how we can grow this," he said.

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