This week in Alaska history

EditorOs note: OThis Week in Alaska Business HistoryO revisits events that shaped our past. 20 years ago this weekAnchorage TimesJuly 15, 1982Energy panel refuses to expedite tariff decisionBy Bill WhiteTimes Juneau BureauA federal panel this week denied requests to decide quickly part of the 5-year-old state challenge to tariffs set by the owners of the trans-Alaska oil pipeline.The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission said Monday the case is too complicated, the issue too new and its staff too raw for it to rule by the state requested deadline of Sept. 1.The court directed FERC to take a "fresh hard look at every aspect of the whole subject," the commission said in its decision.The state and federal governments claimed the tariff is too high. They filed suit just after the pipeline opened in June 1977.A lower tariff would cause the well-head price of oil to rise and thus increase royalty income to the state. At stake is about $3.2 billion extra to the state if it wins the case.Anchorage TimesJuly 15, 1982CIRI creates new department for real estate developmentA new real estate development department has been created by Cook Inlet Region Inc. for expansion into this field, according to Roy M. Huhndorf, president of the regional Native corporation.Huhndorf said the new department, which began operating July 1, will permit more active participation in residential subdivision development and possible future commercial property projects.Robert W. Rude, senior vice president of CIRI, has been chosen to head the new department.Working with Rude will be Charles J. Akers, CIRI vice president for real estate properties, John Evans, manager of CIRI real estate development, and Eugene Sheehan, who has been promoted to CIRI property manager.10 years ago this weekAlaska Journal of CommerceJuly 20, 1992Sealaska stronger than ever, Mallott saysBy the Alaska Journal of CommerceSealaska Corp., boasting an eighth consecutive profitable year, showed net income of $21.3 million for the fiscal year ended March 31, on revenues of $127.3 million, corporate officials said."Sealaska is stronger financially than ever before," said Byron Mallott, president and chief executive of the corporation. "Shareholders equity continues to grow each year and that means stable long-term benefits for all our shareholders." Operating income for the company, before natural resources revenue-sharing directed under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, was $29.8 million, while earnings from continuing operations reached a record level of $21.8 million.During the fiscal year, Sealaska paid out dividends to shareholders totaling $7.9 million and deposited $6.7 million into the Elders’ Settlement Trust fund, a fund created by a vote of shareholders in 1991.Sealaska’s primary sources of operating income came from timber harvesting and a carefully managed investment portfolio, company officials said.Alaska Journal of CommerceJuly 20, 1992Mammoth owner faces federal payroll tax trialBy Margaret BaumanAlaska Journal of CommerceA California businessman, who owned two Alaska trucking firms, was to go on trial today on a 101-count indictment of alleged failure to pay federal payroll taxes totaling $4.7 million.Donald C. Klein was indicted May 1 by a federal grand jury in Fresno, Calif., on 49 counts of failing to account for and pay employee withholding tax returns and three counts of making false statements to the Internal Revenue Service.Klein was arrested May 1 and freed on a $50,000 bond, the U.S. Attorney’s office said.Klein was identified in the indictment as an owner of Mammoth of Alaska Inc., Progressive Transport Inc., Mammoth Freight Lines, and Kandle Co. Inc. Bill Almeida, also of Fresno and an owner of Mammoth, was not named in any of the indictments, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office.Almeida, 63, who was in Anchorage on June 12 when employees of Mammoth of Alaska and Progressive Transport received their final paychecks, never mentioned Klein’s troubles with authorities. He blamed deregulation of the trucking industry for much of the firm’s troubles.-- Compiled by Ed Bennett.

Rising demand drives health costs

One morning a colleague of mine met with a prospective client -- I’ll call him Mr. X -- who was looking for an employer-sponsored health plan for his small company. Later in the day, when I asked how the meeting went, I heard an all-too-familiar story from my colleague: the rising cost of health insurance versus small business’ ability to pay.The story is familiar because so many employers find it difficult to find a connection between the cost of health care and the cost of health insurance.My colleague had presented Mr. X a summary of rates and plan designs for a comprehensive health and welfare plan. The package included options for medical, prescription drug, dental, life and vision coverage, standard for Mr. X’s industry and group size.Mr. X responded, loudly and with colorful language, that he was not going to pay that high a premium for a health plan. I do not believe that Mr. X is a mean-spirited man, and his statement did not offend my colleague. I, however, was frustrated, and not by the use of expletives in a business meeting. I was frustrated at Mr. X’s reaction to the cost for health insurance in Alaska.We are told almost every day that the cost of health care is rising at dramatic rates. We read it in the paper, see and hear it on the news. So why are employers, such as Mr. X, and employees shocked when they learn how much they must pay to insure that same health care? Perhaps it is because they don’t understand why those costs keep going up.Clients often ask us why costs for employer-sponsored health insurance plans continue to rise. The reasons are so familiar that we can recite them from memory. More educated and aging consumers are demanding access to new and expensive services and therapies, including expensive medical technology, that require a specialized staff. Federal and state mandates that cover certain benefits require specific, and costly, administrative procedures. Health claim payers must improve infrastructure to meet federal regulations. The federal government is attempting to shift costs to the private sector. Prescription drug prices are rising. More new prescription drugs are available than ever before, and more people are demanding them in response to marketing by the drug industry. Research and development costs for new drugs increase their initial price. People are supporting more and more mandates, such as those for cancer screenings and contraceptive coverage. We all pay for mandates, even for those that don’t interest us.While I was completing an online health care economics course, the instructor asked us to chant, "If demand goes up, so does the cost." This is the mantra for anyone who owns or manages a successful business, regardless of the size. So why do employers and employees have trouble applying that principle to health care? If American consumers are truly more educated than ever, why can’t we put two and two together and get four?The United States pours more money into its health care system than any other industrialized country. People receiving care here have access to the most advanced medical technologies in the world. Yet we still think our health care system needs changing. Maybe the system needs repairing, but the fact remains that development of sophisticated diagnostic machines and new medicines carries an equally sophisticated price tag.Many small-business employers are quick to blame insurance companies or the health care system for these rising costs. They also believe larger companies get a better deal when it comes to purchasing health insurance. Large companies usually do have an advantage over small businesses when purchasing anything, such as copier paper, because of the relative volume. But even a large company will feel the pinch if the cost of paper starts doubling every five or seven years.Instead of feeling helpless in the face of rising health care costs, and angry about the corresponding rise in premiums, employers and employees need to work together to satisfy their mutual needs. Here are a few suggestions: Understand that medical care in this country isn’t free, to anyone. Even when the patient doesn’t pay, someone does. Seriously consider how necessary a major test or treatment is before accepting it. If a physician orders an expensive test, such as a MRI, find out if the problem can be diagnosed in a less expensive manner. Examine options for having lab work done at a facility other than the doctor’s office. Realize that most employers, particularly small businesses, simply don’t have the resources to pay the full amount for coverage. Employees must be willing to assume some of the cost. Work with an employee benefits professional to assemble a plan that combines basic coverage with options employees can purchase according to specific needs. Focus on the value, not the cost, of the benefits package. Buying health care coverage is not unlike buying other goods and services. Weigh the expense against the return to determine the overall value.No one wants to pay the premiums for health care insurance. But we all want to take advantage of continuing improvements in technology and treatment. As long as we keep consuming, we have to keep paying.To all the Mr. Xs out there: The next time you pay the bill for a medical procedure or service that you or a loved one consumed, think about your experience. Was it the latest and greatest? Did it help you, or someone else, feel better? I hope it did, but I also hope you understand it came at a high cost.That is why those health insurance premiums are so high.Jennifer Bundy-Cobb is a senior account executive for The Wilson Agency LLC in Anchorage. She can be reached via e-mail at [email protected]

Industry study supports tax credit for Alaska natural gas

FAIRBANKS -- Sens. Tom Daschle and Frank Murkowski are promoting a new oil company-sponsored analysis that endorses tax credits for a natural gas line from Alaska to the Lower 48.Murkowski, R-Alaska, and Daschle, the Democratic majority leader from South Dakota, issued a joint news release touting the findings of the study, conducted for Phillips Petroleum Co.The study was released as House and Senate negotiators continue crafting a compromise energy bill. The Senate version of the bill contains the tax credit for the gas line, as well as a construction loan guarantee. The House version contains neither.Charles River Associates wrote the report for Phillips, said Don Duncan, the oil company’s vice president of government relations in Washington. He said the report was prompted by lobbying in Canada by Arctic Resources Corp., which wants to build a line on an alternative "northern" route that would be prohibited under both the House and Senate bills."Arctic Resources has been levying charges and got the Canadians excited that the financial mechanism that passed the Senate would create market distortions in the United States and would do the same at the Alberta hub," Duncan said. "We knew that wasn’t the case," he said, but the company wanted an independent analysis to confirm it.The Canadians, however, haven’t been convinced. Pam Chappell, spokeswoman for the Canadian embassy in Washington, said the subsidy is bad news for Canada and the United States.The credit "will distort natural gas markets, undermine their efficiency and slow development and production in the rest of the United States and Canada," she said. "This would reduce U.S. energy security, counter to the purpose of the act."Alaska Gov. Tony Knowles and Murkowski have said Canada doesn’t have much room to complain, since it has provided subsidies to some major energy projects over the past decade.Chappell said those subsidies went to oil projects that weren’t large enough to affect the market. Duncan, though, said the Alaska gas line would only supply 5 percent of the total North American market and that it would have an eight- to 10-year development period.The Charles River report predicted that the proposed tax credits would benefit all consumers by making possible a line that will lower energy prices.At the same time, the credits would likely cost the government nothing, it said. That’s because the authors figure prices will stay high enough to prevent the tax credit from kicking in. The tax credit would start whenever gas prices at the Alberta hub fall below $3.25 per million British thermal units. The money saved must be paid back whenever prices rise above about $4.90."Since June 2001, the 35-month futures contract has indicated a price range of $3.50 to $3.75," the report said. "This signals a market expectation that over the long-term, natural gas prices will be considerably higher than they were expected to be before 1999."Murkowski said encouraging the project was important because the United States needs "safe and secure North American sources.""The study confirms our belief that the ’safety net’ will have minimal impact to the markets and the taxpayers," he said.

Activist makes Internet safer for business and children

Parry Aftab has a blunt warning about the Internet. "If they don’t make the Internet safe for kids, they’re going to turn it off." Online commerce is equally at risk, she said, until businesses can convince consumers their money and their privacy are safe."We have to earn their trust."Aftab should know. Currently a special counsel for the New York law firm Darby & Darby, she bills herself as a an Internet privacy and security lawyer. As the executive director of, she has recruited more than 10,000 volunteers in 76 countries to help victims of identify theft, hack attacks and online stalking.Aftab is widely quoted in the national media and advises everyone from the United Nations to the Ad Council on the topic of Internet safety. She works closely with law enforcement personnel around the country, many of whom in turn have volunteered to help victims of Internet crime who come to her Web site.Aftab has been involved with the Internet since the early days of America Online, when she hosted a forum for people with legal questions. Since she didn’t have all the answers, she recruited other lawyers to help out. She was then invited to host a similar forum for Court TV’s online chat room.Aftab said she realized she was a "cyber lawyer" when judges started quoting her chat room comments in their decisions. She eventually made it official, forming a virtual law firm based in New Jersey, farming out cases to a group of affiliated attorneys based on their specialities.Aftab spoke with the Journal last month at the office of Lt. Gov. Fran Ulmer. Ulmer, who has long promoted making state government services available on the Internet, met Aftab in November 2000, at a security conference sponsored by Microsoft Corp.When asked about the advice she gives corporations on their Internet practices, she said companies should first make sure they’re observing existing laws governing customer records. "All the laws that apply on the ground apply to the Internet," she said.Aftab said that posting an accurate and complete privacy notice on a corporate Web site is vital, since failure to do so can be a violation of state and federal consumer protection statutes."If you collect information about your customers, you must spell out what you collect, how you collect it, how you use it, who has access to it and how people can get off it," Aftab said. She said this includes "cookies," small files placed on the computers of visitors that track their progress through a Web site.Aftab said it’s important to keep the privacy statement updated as practices change. In general, she said it’s best to gather as little information as possible. "If you’re not using the information, don’t collect it, because then you have an obligation to protect it."Aftab said another issue she’s ecountered involves small businesses who want to use their existing credit card merchant account to sell products online. Often, a different merchant account is required specifically for that purpose. She also said that companies selling products on the Internet should clearly spell out any warrantees.Aftab said sales taxes can be a tricky issue in the online world. Likewise, companies who hire people online need to be aware of income tax implications. "Employers need to know whose taxes apply if the employee is in another state," she said.Aftab said she worked mostly with corporate clients earlier in her career until the day about four years ago when she saw a particularly gruesome example of child pornography. "The child I saw changed my life," she said."Before, I protected corporations," she said. "After that, I protected people." She developed her group to help accomplish that goal. She has also written two books designed to help parents protect their children when they go online. "I’m a free speech advocate," Aftab said. "I don’t want to suppress information. I want to empower parents."Aftab is currently in the midst of a year-long sabattical from the law firm so she can deal full time with safety issues that range from online stalking to schemes designed to defraud the elderly.She continues to be interested in online business issues as well. "The Internet is God’s gift to small business," she said, using as an example the Alaska bed-and-breakfast she was able to find via the Internet for her trip to the state.But for e-commerce to truly flourish, the security of transactions must be assured, Aftab said. "If we don’t find a way to protect people and make them secure, they’re not going to shop." She also pointed out that many people don’t have credit cards, so a means for them to safely buy things on the Internet must be found."I like to say that if we can protect our kids, our cash, and our kidneys (our health), then the Internet will be a success," Aftab said.

Air France cargo may bypass Alaska

Air France cargo executives were given the red carpet treatment June 22 by folks in Fairbanks celebrating the Paris-based airline’s 10-year anniversary of operations in town. But any future party may well be a wake for the French airline, as it has hinted it may use an airstrip in Russia as its stopover for refueling. Air France also is purchasing three new long-range freighter aircraft this year capable of nonstop cargo service from Paris to Asia, bypassing Fairbanks International Airport or any other North American or Russian airport altogether.While Air France officials enjoyed sightseeing and riverboat rides during the gala last month, the looming threat of the airline’s pulling out of Fairbanks was like bugs in a punchbowl that everyone noticed but politely ignored, said Dave Carlstrom, Fairbanks International marketing director.Carlstrom said the airline earlier this year had said it was considering switching from Fairbanks to Tashkent, Uzbekistam, as its refueling stop, but "aero-politics’’ have stopped the move, at least for now.An April 1 European ban on noisy aircraft has hit hard Russia’s aging fleet of Soviet-era airplanes. In response, the Russians have banned some flights on shortcut routes over Siberia sought by the European carriers."(Air France) was unable to procure requested overflights from the Russians," Carlstrom said. "If they had been able to work out the overflight issues, it could have been au revoir."Air cargo companies operate on razor-thin margins and if they can save money somewhere or somehow, they will, according to Ray Keiser, an aviation consultant with Keiser Phillips Associates in Oakland, Calif."Airlines will use every possible economic advantage," Keiser said.Air France moved its operations to Fairbanks from Anchorage in 1992 after 33 years of refueling in Alaska’s largest city. The move, which followed Lufthansa in moving cargo operations to Fairbanks, saved the airline about 20 minutes in flight time between Europe and Asia. The move also presumably saved the air carrier in jet fuel costs since the airport is near Williams Alaska Petroleum Inc.’s (then MAPCO’s) refinery at North Pole.In the last decade, Fairbanks has recorded 3,755 freighter landings from the French carrier, which has purchased an estimated 115 million gallons of fuel and 20,000 rooms for crew lodging, Carlstrom said."The rule of thumb is for every gas-and-go fuel stop, $25,000 changes hands," Carlstrom said, adding that most of the money spent by the airline goes for refueling.To lose the French carrier would not be devastating to Fairbanks International, but it would be significant, Carlstrom said. Air France’s landing fees account for about 20 percent of Fairbanks International’s annual $6 million revenues."It would be a major hit," Carlstrom said, adding the best the airport can do at this time is to be a good host and hope for the best."There are forces at work that are not in our favor," said Carlstrom. "There is no other industry where major capital assets can literally fly away overnight."Air France has been extremely happy with Fairbanks International and does not have any plans to move out of town currently, said Ron Auge, Air France’s station manager in Fairbanks.But, he said, "The chance is always there."By the end of the year, the airline will take delivery of three Boeing 747-400 long-range freighters, airplanes that could allow Air France to make nonstop trips from Paris to Japan with a nearly full payload.Initially, Air France, the fourth largest freight carrier in the world, will use the new aircraft on flights to Mexico and South America, according to the airline.The airline’s dozen 747-200 freighters will continue freighter service throughout the globe, including the Paris-Fairbanks-Japan trip.In the short term, it’s the Tashkent airstrip in Russia, not the long-range freighters that pose the biggest threat to North American airports, especially those in Alaska, Carlstrom said.The airstrip in Tashkent has a nearby refinery and several of the world’s airlines make stopovers there.In the past two years, Lufthansa and Air France shifted Europe-Fairbanks-Seoul, South Korea, flights to the Tashkent airstrip. Korean Air and Asiana have also shifted their Anchorage stopover to the Russian airport for their Korean flights, Carlstrom said."(Tashkent) has cleaned our clock on the Seoul routing," Carlstrom said. "One hundred percent of Europe-to-Seoul traffic that once came through Alaska now goes through Tashkent."Mort Plumb, director of the Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport, said marketing studies have shown that the Russian airport would have little effect on Anchorage stopovers since nearly all traffic is routed from Asia to North America, instead of Europe to Asia, like Fairbanks."We would lose roughly 3 percent of our flights (to Tashkent) and none of our carriers," Plumb said.The world air cargo industry is in its worst slump in more than 30 years, due more from ailing Asian and domestic economies than from the impact of the terrorist attacks on the East Coast, according to Boeing Co. research.But the slide should be short-lived, as growth levels are projected to increase to historic growth levels by fall.

Juneau's Centennial Hall may pose problems for future conventions

JUNEAU -- Conventions contribute about $8 million to Juneau’s economy each year, but issues surrounding Centennial Hall challenge the city’s ability to draw future convention business, tourism officials say.The city-owned civic and convention center is managed by Juneau’s Parks and Recreation Department and contracts with the Juneau Convention and Visitors Bureau, a private nonprofit group, to provide marketing staff.The bureau’s Convention Solutions Department faces several challenges to enticing business to Centennial Hall, such as outdated electronic equipment and the building’s condition and size, JCVB officials said."Because of Centennial Hall’s size, we have a bit of a ceiling on how big of a convention we can go after," Lorene Kappler, JCVB president and chief executive, told a Juneau Chamber of Commerce luncheon last month. "Being that the meeting and convention industry is growing so competitive, it’s very important that Centennial Hall be brought up to speed."Kappler said a structural study has shown that a second floor could be added to Centennial Hall, but plans to expand are on hold.Dayle Tennison, Centennial Hall manager, said that keeping up with technology can be a problem, but the hall’s equipment constantly is updated and is in good condition."We ask people to come in early to test the equipment," Tennison said. "But sometimes they don’t and there can be some concerns because each piece of equipment operates differently."Tennison stressed Centennial Hall does not depend on the city’s general fund for daily maintenance and operation."All the (daily maintenance and operation) money is generated from revenues from rentals and the hotel bed tax," Tennison said. "We pay JCVB $123,800 to market Centennial Hall, which brings our portion of the bed tax down."She said the hall’s budget for the current fiscal year is $587,189, not including funds paid to JCVB."We are working hard to work with our customers and have the best audio-visual equipment we can have with our budget," Tennison said.Kappler said JCVB will contact people who have just held meetings at Centennial Hall to document problems."We need to keep it competitive," she said.The events of Sept. 11, coupled with the economic downturn, have placed a greater importance on drawing businesses to Juneau to hold conventions, Kappler said."A study by the U.S. Commerce Department recently ranked Alaska dead last in economic growth," said Sara Chambers, JCVB’s director of Convention Solutions. "We need to find ways to market Juneau."Chambers said convention attendees stay an average of 5.7 nights in Juneau. About 34 percent of the money they spend goes to hotels, 26 percent is on recreational attractions, and 15 percent is in bars and restaurants."In actual dollars, this economic impact amounts to $1,999 per convention attendee," she said.The option of changing the management of Centennial Hall from the Parks and Recreation Department to the JCVB also was mentioned at the chamber meeting."That has been discussed, there was a mayor’s task force on it, and they did talk about the benefits and cost and what would work," Kappler said. "They did come up with a conclusion that it was better off under the city because of liability and payroll."Tennison said many convention centers throughout the United States are operated successfully through city or county management."It’s a common practice," Tennison said. "Everyone is satisfied with the current management."Freda Rogers, with the Northwest region customer service department of Aetna U.S. Healthcare of Washington, presented a program about a year ago at Centennial Hall and said the audio-visual equipment needed to be replaced and the acoustics were bad. She thought it was a good idea to change the management of Centennial Hall to JCVB."They’re the experts," Rogers said. "Parks and Rec I think was intended for a different function than to oversee something of that nature."

Mining firm meets stock exchange equity requirements

COEUR D’ALENE, Idaho -- Coeur d’Alene Mines Corp. announced June 25 that the New York Stock Exchange has removed the company from its "watch list" and now considers Coeur a "company in good standing" in relation to the NYSE’s continued listing standards.Coeur d’Alene Mines Corp. is the country’s largest silver producer, and in 1995, acquired its 100-percent interest in the Kensington gold property, located 40 miles northwest of Juneau. The Kensington mine is Coeur’s only gold development project. The company has mining interests in Nevada, Idaho, Alaska, Argentina, Chile and Bolivia.According to Mitchell J. Krebs, spokesperson for Coeur d’Alene Mines Corp., the NYSE has certain minimum requirements that must be met by companies listed on the Exchange. If the requirements are not met, the NYSE puts the company on the watch list and it has 18 months to get back into compliance with minimum listing requirements.Ben Prater of Edward Jones in Juneau described a watch list as a special surveillance list for investors with which irregularities can be identified regarding companies they are or potentially will be invested in.Coeur was first advised by the NYSE in November 2000 that the company was not in compliance with its continued listing standards.The company announced in a press release Jan. 11, 2001, that it had fallen below one of NYSE’s continued listing requirements that either its total market capitalization or its shareholders’ equity amount to at least $50 million. The company’s total market capitalization, based on the 37 million common shares of its common stock outstanding and the $1 per share closing price of its common stock on Jan. 10, 2001, was approximately $37 million.Coeur announced Dec. 13, 2001, that the market price of its common stock had been less than $1 per share for a period in excess of 30 consecutive trading days, and the NYSE notified the company it had fallen below the Exchange’s share price continued listing standard.Krebs told the Juneau Empire the equity market value is now more than $130 million. The stock price deficiency was cured earlier this year when prices rose above $1 per share for a sustained period of time. He said values rose due to the increasing value of gold and silver and changes in operations that cut costs for the company."We have been executing our turnaround plan over the past 12 months, and we are thrilled that this ’New Coeur’ has once again placed the company in good standing with the NYSE," said Dennis E. Wheeler, Coeur’s chairman, president and chief executive.

New Homer city dock will accommodate bigger vessels

HOMER -- Under brilliant blue skies and backed by a fire truck pumping a powerful stream of water high into the air, Sens. Ted Stevens and Frank Murkowski and others cut the ribbon dedicating Homer’s new Pioneer Dock in a well-attended ceremony July 2."Homer is one of the really bright spots in Alaska," Alaska Republican Stevens said, addressing a large gathering before cutting the ribbon. "We’ve come through a lot of storms and a lot of chaos down here, and you have persevered and maintained. It is a place we all love to come to and we know that you love to keep it up and improve it and make it more permanent."Murkowski, R-Alaska, noted Homer’s long relationship with the U. S. Coast Guard. It was the possibility that Homer might lose the Coast Guard’s presence that spurred the city to seek the help of the state and federal governments in building the new U-shaped steel and concrete facility.The wooden dock it replaces, built following the 1964 Good Friday earthquake, was too old, too weak and didn’t reach water deep enough to accommodate the new Juniper Class Coast Guard vessels or the larger Alaska ferries about to come on line.A collaboration of local, state and federal agencies found the funding to build the $12 million facility, which is capable of handling cruise ships as long as 850 feet. It will be home to the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Hickory due to arrive next year to replace the aging Buoy Tender Sedge.It also will serve the Alaska Marine Highway ferries Kennicott and Tustumena. Its larger size makes it capable of handling containerized cargo. The dock, already in use, was designed by the Anchorage firm of Tryck Nyman Hayes Inc. and built by Hurlen Construction Co. of Seattle. Mostly cosmetic work remains to be completed by later this summer."The reason we are putting this dock together is not for the pioneers we are honoring with it, not for the current pioneers who had the vision to build it, but for the next generation," said Homer Mayor Jack Cushing.Also on hand to address the audience was Coast Guard Rear Adm. James Underwood."We are quite pleased to have a new pier waiting here for the Coast Guard Cutter Hickory as Sedge’s old berth would not have been suitable for this new cutter," Underwood said."The tremendous cooperation of everyone here today in completing Pioneer Dock is the principal reason Hickory’s crew will call this fine city home."He noted Homer’s proximity to the important port of Anchorage and critical infrastructure at Nikiski and Valdez, which, he said, had proven "quite advantageous for us as we work to safeguard the coast in the wake of the events since 11th of September."The Coast Guard, he said, has been handed a new mission, homeland security, a job he called "the mission for the Coast Guard in the 21st Century."Others on hand for the event included former Rep. Gail Phillips, now a candidate for lieutenant governor, as well as Rep. Drew Scalzi, R-Homer, along with a host of Homer city officials.Gov. Tony Knowles, who earlier had been expected to attend, was unable to make it.

Kodiak lake study uncovers centuries of salmon booms and busts

FAIRBANKS -- Traces of salmon from 2,000 years ago are telling researchers a lot about Alaska’s past, and may provide clues about how today’s salmon will fare in a warmer global climate.The salmon lived on Kodiak Island, and Bruce Finney is one of the scientists who visits there to pull up plugs of ancient Alaska from lakes. Finney is an associate professor at the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ Institute of Marine Science. He is co-author of a recent paper in the journal Nature, "Fisheries Productivity in the Northeastern Pacific Ocean Over the Past 2,200 Years."The abundance of fish during the last 22 centuries and beyond is held in the sediment at the bottom of lakes. A few years ago, Finney devised a method to estimate ancient salmon runs by measuring a specific nitrogen level in this muck.For the latest study, he teamed with graduate student Irene Gregory-Eaves and professor John Smol of Queens University in Ontario. Together, they further validated Finney’s method and came up with records of salmon booms and busts that lasted centuries and were out-of-phase with fish numbers in the Pacific Northwest. They also found correlations with salmon availability and human settlement of Alaska.Finney uses a specific form of the nitrogen atom, nitrogen-15, as an indicator of salmon past. Salmon collect nitrogen-15 in their bodies, and when they die and decompose, they release the nutrient into the water. Plankton ingest the nitrogen-15 and leave behind a history of salmon abundance when they die and sink to the lake bottom.By dating layers of sediment using volcanic ash layers and other methods, Finney and his colleagues can determine how abundant salmon were at different periods in history.Complementing this technique is the work of John Smol, who studies diatoms, single-celled algae with cell walls made of glass. Smol knows what species of diatoms prefer an environment rich in salmon-derived nutrients; he was able to complement what Finney had to say about salmon during the past 2,200 years.During the latest study, the researchers pushed off from shore in boats and pulled cores from three lakes on Kodiak Island. Two of the lakes, Karluk and Akalura, have been nurseries for ocean-going red salmon since the lakes were formed. A third lake, Frazer Lake, has a waterfall that prevented red salmon from living there until the installation of a fish ladder in the 1960s. Finney, Gregory-Eaves, and Smol used Fraser Lake as a control lake in their study.The researchers found that salmon booms and busts lasted hundreds of years, not just the decades they last today. One of the longest-running high salmon runs in Alaska began about 800 years ago and lasted until about the 1880s, which coincides with the start of commercial fishing.Commercial fishermen catch 50 to 90 percent of the salmon that would return to lakes, but the study also showed low salmon runs in the past that lasted hundreds of years without human influence, Finney said. Around the birth of Christ and 800 years afterward, few salmon were returning to the lakes compared to the millions returning today.Records of sardine and anchovy abundance from cores containing ancient fish scales taken off the California coast near Santa Barbara show that those fish were thriving when Alaska fish were in low numbers, and vice versa. Other scientists have noted the same thing today, that great Alaska salmon years are bust years for Pacific Northwest fishermen.The researchers also tied salmon abundance with archaeological artifacts found on Kodiak. A drastic increase in salmon from A.D. 800 to A.D. 1200 matches a population increase on the island and a shift toward the use of fishing gear among aboriginal people."There’s clear evidence that people shifted from relying on marine mammals to salmon," Finney said.In the future, Finney wants to return to the lakes to extract deeper cores that will allow the researchers to get a record of salmon runs since the last ice age. He’s interested in seeing how salmon reacted to a period about 5,000 to 10,000 years ago, when summer temperatures may have been a few degrees warmer than today. Looking at the warmer past in the sediment of Kodiak lakes may tell us something about our future.This column is provided as a public service by the Geophysical Institute, University of Alaska Fairbanks. Ned Rozell, a science writer at the institute, can be reached via e-mail at [email protected]

Sterling manufacturer meets Bush transportation needs

Mike Kunz has a freight-hauling answer for Alaska’s vast expanses where there are no roads, rails, runways or riverboats -- at least for most of the year.Kunz’s snowmachine sleds are a hot item in Alaska and news about them has spread through Canada and to the snow states of the Lower 48.Kunz, owner of Mike’s Welding in Sterling, started building the sleds a dozen years ago for himself. Word of the smooth-riding, straight-tracking sleds spread quickly in Alaska, where previously the standard snowmachine sled was little more than a plywood box with runners. Kunz’s sleds are aluminum, slide on skis and come with a suspension as an option."My sleds can haul eggs up to a cabin and be unbroken when they get there," said Kunz, who, in addition to building sleds, specializes in making aluminum boats, all-terrain vehicle trailers and salmon dipnets.A single freight sled with a 30- by 60-inch tub can hold as much as 1,200 pounds and can be pulled at up to 70 miles an hour. Kunz says he’s built more than 600 to date, and shipped them all over Alaska and the Lower 48, including one to New York state.Kunz and two other employees make between 30 and 75 sleds a year, mostly in the summer months.Basic sleds start at around $750 each. Options include pin striping, tail lamps, and extended skis and handlebars for someone to ride musher-style on the back.He also builds a pop-up sleeper sled, complete with heater for Bush expeditions.Kunz has used his sleds to support dog mushers and snowmachine expedition members for the annual Norman Vaughn Serum Run. The 776-mile journey from Nenana to Nome has been held each year since 1997 to commemorate the historic 1925 diphtheria serum run to Nome.With four of Kunz’s sleds, Joe Giffo considers himself a collector."I’m waiting for them to go up in value," joked the retired Anchorage dentist.Giffo got his first sled with the purchase of a remote cabin. He negotiated the sled in with the cabin’s price.He and his wife Margaret pull the sleds in tandem to their cabin, hauling barrels of fuel and supplies to the cabin."They are beautifully made and are really fantastic sleds," Giffo said.Kunz prides himself in craftsmanship."Anything I make has a lifetime warranty," Kunz said. "It’s no big deal if you do it right the first time. "If there is a problem with something I fix it and send the guy back down the road."

Oil field cleanup costs could reach $6 billion

WASHINGTON -- The Interior Department should give oil and gas companies specific requirements for cleaning up any damage from drilling in National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska, congressional auditors said.A report released July 9 by the General Accounting Office, the investigative arm of Congress, said businesses face potential cleanup costs of $2.7 billion to $6 billion from drilling for oil and natural gas in the 23 million-acre tract in northwest Alaska. The GAO cautioned that those figures are preliminary since they are based on industry estimates.Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass., who requested the report, described the possible costs as "a world-class accounting scandal in the same league as WorldCom and Enron" since taxpayers could be left to pick up the tab.GAO’s figures are based on what industry says its total investment in oil and gas drilling will be and the Interior Department’s formula that assumes abandoning a project will cost roughly 5 percent of the original investment cost.Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, said Markey’s comments were irresponsible."The GAO report, if anyone bothers to read it, does not allege a scandal, let alone a scandal on the scale of WorldCom or Enron. In fact, I wonder where Mr. Markey got the basis for his allegations because it’s not in the report," Young said.Markey, who has been a leading opponent of the Bush administration’s proposal to drill in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, said Harvey Pitt, Securities and Exchange Commission chairman, should require a public accounting of the costs from companies.Markey also said Interior Secretary Gale Norton should require industry bonds that cover more than just a fraction of the cleanup costs.The Clinton administration opened 4 million acres of the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska, federally owned and managed by Interior’s Bureau of Land Management, to oil drilling in 1998 with stringent environmental restrictions. The government’s latest estimates say the tract contains roughly 9.3 billion barrels of technically recoverable oil.Interior Assistant Secretary P. Lynn Scarlett said in a letter to the GAO that her agency generally agrees with the report’s findings and the BLM would now review whether companies’ financial assurances provide enough protection for the environment and taxpayers.Alaska officials said the concerns are misplaced since cleanup may not occur for 30 to 50 years from now."The state does not believe it is self-evident that it is better to adopt specific standards today for ... activities that may not take place for half a century," said Pat Pourchot, commissioner of Alaska’s Department of Natural Resources, in a letter to the GAO.-- The Associated Press

Firms should prepare for provider flameout

Technology companies have been flaming out at an alarming rate.The implications for today’s businesses that rely on information technology -- and who doesn’t? -- are equally alarming.How do you find technology partners who won’t go bankrupt a year from now and disrupt your own business?In years past, simply going with a big company was enough. Sure, you paid for the bureaucracy and sometimes ended up with mediocre service, but at least you knew they would stick around.Of course, Enron and WorldCom have invalidated that approach.There are some questions every business can ask to help mitigate the risks.Are they creative, yet practical?Business cycles have continued to accelerate over the past several decades, and companies must adapt to change faster than ever.Before you hire a company that can do exactly what you need today, ask yourself the question: What will they be doing tomorrow?I can’t count the number of business leaders I’ve met who struggle to upgrade their core business systems because their vendor hasn’t kept pace.Doing business the same way, day in and day out, producing basically the same products and the same services, isn’t called stability any more. Today, it’s called stagnation.That doesn’t mean that you should hire a bunch of theorists who can’t distinguish between what is truly useful and what is just a neat idea.You need a company with balance. Statements like "I think we will have an Internet module in the 2003 release," and "Check out our artificially-intelligent virtual reality goggles for your receptionist," are equally dangerous.Evaluate their work. Watch for the sustained use of leading, not bleeding, edge technologies.Do they use industry standards?If you buy a product based on proprietary technology and the company that produced it flames out, you may be up a creek.If the product is based on open standards, on the other hand, you can transfer the data from the dead company’s software to one of their surviving competitors.Go with solutions built on accepted industry standards whenever you can.If the vender you are considering will provide mission-critical systems, you may want to hire a consultant to provide this level of technical evaluation.What are their business values?I hear all the time that you shouldn’t mix your personal and business affairs. I would argue, though, that the same values that create strong personal relationships equally apply to business relationships.Honesty, respect, integrity and trust represent a commitment to one another’s success and to building relationships that stand up in times of trial."You shouldn’t do business with friends" is a phrase that holds true only if people don’t conduct their business relationships as they would those with their friends and family.When you evaluate a potential technology partner, ask them about their values. Better yet, ask their clients. Business is about making money, but it has to be more than that.Be wary of companies that can’t articulate their values and aren’t intellectually, and dare I say, emotionally invested in their clients.Are they or will they be profitable?You can’t have a long-term relationship with an IT company that doesn’t have a business model that’s viable for the long term.New technology businesses are built based on market speculation all the time, and there’s nothing inherently wrong with that.But speculation has to turn into future revenue. In today’s economic climate, that must be sooner rather than later.Beware of IT companies that have not learned how to be profitable. Start-up companies funded by venture capital are particularly susceptible.Can they succeed without another round of investment? Venture capital is no longer free money.Profitable today doesn’t mean profitable tomorrow, either. What is their model for future viability?Do they have a diverse client base, or will they sink if they lose a big contract? Do they offer a range of products or services, or will they tank during an industry recession?Predicting viability can be a challenge, especially when corporations have begun reporting expenses as income to skew their market evaluation.Still, make the effort. If you’re really good, please call me with stock tips.Are you planning your own future?Perhaps the most critical component of long-term success with information technology vendors lies not with the IT firms, but with your own company.If IT is core to your critical business processes, then recognizing the ever-changing nature of IT is vital for long-term survival.The software you use to perform daily business and the company which provides it will change dramatically, so plan for it.Budget for hardware upgrades, training for your staff and systems integration work at least every three years.Research demonstrates that firms which resist IT change and maintain outdated equipment and software end up paying more in the long term.Know your contingenciesDespite all your best efforts, eventually you’ll partner with a company that folds. Have a contingency plan in place that defines your strategy if this happens.Review your contracts and know all your options. Do this, and you won’t get burned by someone else’s flameout.Scott Gere is chief executive of Impact LLC, a communications and technology company. He can be reached via e-mail at [email protected]

Communities say Exxon still owes them $12 million in spill costs

ANCHORAGE -- Thirteen years after the Exxon Valdez ran aground, spilling 11 million gallons of crude oil into Prince William Sound, six communities say Exxon Mobil Corp. stills owes them $12 million in costs associated with the spill.A trial on the claim is under way in state Superior Court in Anchorage.Winds, currents and tides carried the crude oil out of the Sound, around the outer coast of the Kenai Peninsula and southwest to Kodiak Island and beyond. The plaintiffs are Kodiak Island Borough, Seward, Cordova, Old Harbor, Larsen Bay and Port Lions."People were working hard on the spill, and Exxon continues to nickel and dime them to death," said attorney Brian O’Neill, who is representing the cities.Exxon Mobil disputes the claim and says it has paid what it owes, more than $2 million.The case is independent of the main unsettled spill question: How much will Exxon Mobil be ordered to pay in punitive damages to thousands of commercial fishermen, Alaska Natives, property owners and others harmed by the spill?The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found the $5 billion award levied against the international corporation by an Anchorage jury in 1994 to be excessive and ordered the Anchorage federal district court to reduce it. Exxon Mobil has since told the court the award should be no more than $40 million.The case in state court involves a far smaller amount, with Port Lions looking for as little as $98,000. Thousands of hours spent on cleanup by city employees that took them away from their regular duties were not reimbursed by Exxon, O’Neill said in the first week of trial.Darryl Schaefermeyer, deputy city manager of Seward at the time of the spill, has testified that during the summer of 1989, he received spill-related calls every day, including weekends. That led him and other city employees to underestimate the amount of time they worked on cleanup when reporting the hours, he said.But Exxon attorneys, who opened their case July 2, said that cities can’t ask for reimbursement years later."If I felt like we owed any money, we wouldn’t be here," said Chuck Diamond, an Exxon attorney. "We paid them all. They don’t get to come back 13 years later and submit an invoice."The state Superior Court initially dismissed the case in the early 1990s, saying municipalities and villages could not ask for money for services they were hard-pressed to provide to residents during the cleanup.But on appeal, the state Supreme Court said the cities’ claims were valid and ordered a retrial in Superior Court.

Small businesses can get a slice of the government pie

For anyone who has ever perused the federal budget, it becomes obvious that the United States government acquires a vast quantity of goods and services. In 2001, federal contracting totaled approximately $215 billion covering everything from diapers to nuclear reactors.In fact, there are 1,140 categories, or codes, of goods and services that the government contracts to buy, at least one of which probably fits the product offering profile of most American small businesses. The codes are derived from the North American Industrial Classification System. The best place to locate the listing in on the Web at a review of the top 20 purchasing categories reveals, research and defense related spending are the biggest ticket items, chewing up more than 40 percent of the available contracting pie. Yet it’s the less exotic, more mundane categories that offer hidden opportunity for the average business next door.For example, a contracting pool of approximately $26 billion is available for such services as "facilities support," "computer systems design," "custom computer programming" and "commercial and industrial buildings." In the latter case, the federal government requires massive facilities support simply because it’s the largest holder of commercial and industrial property in the country.Despite the common perception that the promised land of government contracting is the exclusive and private domain of a relatively small cadre of large corporate insiders or "beltway bandits," the truth is that small- to medium- sized enterprises are currently active suppliers to a full range of government agencies.In 2001, small businesses accounted for about 20 percent or $43 billion in direct contracting dollars. Interestingly, the government departments most accepting of small business participation were not the heavyweight spenders such as the departments of Army, Navy and Air Force, but the less visible entities such as Public Buildings Services, U.S. Coast Guard, Agricultural Marketing Services, Forest Service, Drug Enforcement Administration and National Park Service. Which raises the question: Is there room in your revenue stream for a piece of the government spending action?Not as impenetrable as it seemsAlthough there are more than 30 million small businesses filing tax returns in the United States, most are discouraged from the bidding process for two reasons: lack of knowledge of the opportunity itself, and the perception that the bidding process is both complex and resource-intensive, resulting in a situation where only the experienced and well-connected can succeed.It is undeniably true that the bidding process is infected with politics, excessive paperwork, long decision cycles and abstruse contracting rules. In many cases, it’s impossible to determine where the final decision is made and who makes it. And many so-called open bid competitions are already a fait accompli even before the request for proposals hits the street.Yet according to Matt Nussbaum, principal at consulting firm Thomas Associates International, "Government contracting need not be as daunting a process as many believe. Federal and many state programs have explicitly mandated procurement procedures that are intended to favor small business." How it worksIn general, a company can identify itself as a small business, either directly or as a subcontractor, through a simple process of self-certification. As Nussbaum notes, many federal contracts may have small business participation requirements, but the only demonstration of a small business credential takes the form of checking a box and appending a signature on the big proposal documents. Only in the case of a subsequent challenge would a small business have the need to further document its small business status.In its efforts to promote small business participation in government contracting, the federal government has also established programs that provide mandated benefits to small businesses but require more paperwork and the meeting of stricter certification requirements in order to partake in the programs. The Small Disadvantaged Business and the 8A are two such programs. Both favor small businesses that meet specific criteria with respect to size and disadvantaged status.Nussbaum also points out that large contractors should not be ignored as a source of government largesse. These contractors actively seek small business subcontractors in order to satisfy their own small business participation requirements, also know as "set asides."Notes Nussbaum, "Subcontracting to the larger prime contractors can be an excellent way for a small business to enter the government arena because the main burden of the bid preparation and submittal process is typically born by the prime contractor. A good prime may also mentor the small business contractor through the preparation of its own bid materials."Admittedly, seeking a piece of the government pie is not for everyone. But the truth is that there are enormous dollars at stake, especially if state and municipal contracts are factored into the equation.In these tough times, when traditional revenues streams have dried up, now may be the time to learn the ropes, fill out the paperwork and endure the pain of applying for some of that government money. It’s going to be spent and if you don’t get it, somebody else will. Alf Nucifora is an Atlanta-based marketing consultant. He can be reached via e-mail at [email protected]

State, federal agencies evaluate new Tok visitor center

State officials are considering several sites to build a new Alaska Public Lands Information Center in Tok, which may share facilities with the Tetlin National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center if funding is approved.Project leaders have recommended the sites to community members for review, said Odin Brudie, tourism planner with the state Department of Community and Economic Development."We want it to complement existing businesses and complement Tetlin or Tanacross (both near Tok) for cultural tourism," he said.The new visitor center would measure up to 12,000 square feet on a site measuring at least 2 acres, he said.Design of the new facility could begin this year on the public lands information center portion, Brudie said.However, funding has been delayed for the Tetlin National Wildlife Refuge portion, said deputy refuge manager Cris Dippel. Planning for fiscal year 2005 or 2006 may bring funds for the wildlife refuge visitor center, he said.Refuge managers are still discussing the possibility of sharing a facility, Dippel said.U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials are looking for new refuge offices in Tok, he said. Likewise, operators of the public lands information center there require a new center, according to state officials.A combined center would feature an information counter, an exhibit area, parking, restrooms, public phones, a theater/auditorium, indoor and outdoor interpretive displays, and information and tickets for the Alaska Marine Highway System.State officials have been working since March 2000 to develop a combined public lands information center and Tetlin refuge visitor center near Tok. Both operate under a dispensation from the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act, which designated millions of acres as national parks, forest and wildlife refuges.The law stipulated that Alaska Public Lands Information Centers serve the public on behalf of state and federal agencies.Public lands information centers are located in Anchorage, Fairbanks, Ketchikan and Tok.The new Tok public lands information center, which will serve Alaska Highway visitors, is eligible for federal aid highway funding.The current program should provide construction funding for the center and highway rest stop facilities in federal fiscal year 2005, according to state officials. Additional funds will be needed for Fish and Wildlife officials to build the wildlife refuge portion of the joint facility.

TOTE shuffles Alaska-based executives

Totem Ocean Trailer Express Inc. has promoted Bill Deaver to senior vice president and chief operating officer.Deaver, 54, will be the shipping company’s first-ever senior vice president and will relocate to Seattle. Deaver will be replaced by John Parrott, who most recently was general manager of Sea Star Stevedoring in Tacoma, Wash.Deaver joined TOTE in March 2000 as general manager of TOTE’s Alaska operations and was promoted a year later to vice president and Alaska general manager. He has 30 years of transportation experience and has held management positions on nearly every continent. Prior to joining TOTE, he held a variety of senior management positions with Sea-Land, now CSX, and Maersk. At Sea-Land, he held positions in California, Korea, Republic of China, Philippines, Canada, Hong Kong, Alaska, Ireland and Georgia. From 1995 to 1998 Deaver was Sea-Land’s general manager for Alaska. Deaver said he still will be in Alaska at least one week each month. He will continue to be responsible for all operations, sales and marketing, traffic and administration in TOTE’s Alaska division, including Fairbanks and activities on the Kenai Peninsula."Alaska is TOTE’s business," he said.Parrott, 37, began his career with Pacific Gulf Marine as a third mate. Parrott joined Interocean Management in 1989 and advanced to the position of chief mate, sailing on a variety of vessels including TOTE’s S.S. Great Land and the S.S. Northern Lights.Parrott has a bachelor’s degree from the United States Merchant Marine Academy and a master’s degree in business administration from Seattle University.

Doyon Ltd. awards exploration contract

North Star Exploration Inc. has been awarded an option to explore 1.2 million acres of Interior Alaska lands owned by Doyon Ltd., the Alaska Native regional corporation covering the Interior.Doyon owns 12.5 million acres of land in Interior Alaska.The new agreement, which is for three years, follows an earlier five-year contract under which North Star was given rights to explore 7 million acres of Doyon-owned lands."The new agreement comprises those land blocks where North Star has identified or assessed mineral occurrences and considers these blocks to have good potential for hosting economic mineral deposits," the company said in a press release.The company spent $10 million in its earlier assessment of Doyon lands. Under the new agreement, North Star will make annual payments of up to $225,000 each year, depending on how many land blocks are retained under option as exploration proceeds.Provisions for sliding-scale production royalties and conversion of specific properties into mining leases are also in the new agreement.North Star is owned mostly by EMEX Corp., but 10 percent of its stock is owned by Doyon.Meanwhile, another EMEX subsidiary, Zeus Exploration Inc., has signed an exploration and mine development agreement with AngloGold North America Inc. that will allow Zeus to earn a 65 percent interest in AngloGold’s West Pogo properties in eastern Interior Alaska.Zeus has agreed to make exploration investments of $800,000 during a six-year period and to pay AngloGold $170,000 during the same period.West Pogo is a mineralized area near the Pogo gold discovery that is now being developed by Teck Cominco. The discovery of Pogo set off a rush of new exploration and claims-staking in the eastern Interior region.Pogo is about 25 miles northeast of Delta, which is east of Fairbanks.

Chukchi Sea fishermen count crabs for study

KOTZEBUE -- A survey of the potential of the Chukchi Sea crab fishery indicates the fishery is looking up after a slow start."We’re coming back with anywhere from 50 to 60 crabs a day," said Bobby Richards, who is participating in the survey.The Bering Sea Fishermen’s Association is conducting the survey, which will continue into late July.Richards described how his catch has improved. "We had a slow start, but they’re starting to pick up. All the crab are from the shore to five miles out," he said. "Commercial’s been doing pretty good, but the subsistence pots have really been nailing ’em."Will Barber, a biologist hired by the association to run the survey, said there have only been about five or six crabbing days so far. The nine boats participating in the survey have been crabbing since June 16 but strong winds have kept the boats from venturing out."It seems like the crabbing is picking up," Barber said.The survey is focusing around Sealing Point. The nine crabbers fish the area for three days and then take a day off to evaluate the data.The survey results will be analyzed to decide whether a small-boat commercial crab fishery makes sense.

Health care continues its fast growth

Alaska’s fastest growing job sector is services, and health care has been leading that charge as the state’s senior population grows.In 2001 the services sector added 2,700 new jobs, accounting for almost half of the 6,100 new jobs added across all industries, according to the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development.As an official statistic, the services sector decreased slightly because federally recognized tribes were moved from the services sector to local government last year. But within the services sector, health care climbed from 17,000 jobs in 2000 to 18,100 last year.State labor economists expect that trend to continue in coming years as an aging population of Alaskans will require additional health care services."We have the fastest growing senior group in the U.S.," said Laraine Derr, president of the Juneau-based Alaska State Hospital and Nursing Home Association.That demand will require more nurses, she said. It also will require assisted living centers and home health care services, which require nurses’ aides, personal care attendants, certified nursing aides and nurses. That includes licensed practical nurses who have a one-year nursing degree and registered nurses with a two-year degree or bachelor’s degree in nursing, she said.The health care industry association has developed a plan, along with University of Alaska leaders, to remedy a statewide nursing shortage. A new program aims to double the number of nursing graduates per year from 110 now to about 220 by 2006.Major components of the program call for expanding the University of Alaska Anchorage School of Nursing and increasing distance delivery courses for rural students.Alaska’s health care industry also needs pharmacists, Derr said. Radiology technicians also are in short supply, she said.Increasing demand for radiological services is partly a result of technology advances, she said. The field, once specializing in X-rays, now regularly uses magnetic resonance imaging machines, with the newer Positron Emission Tomography scanner technology on its way.Providence Alaska Medical Center in Anchorage is due to install a PET scanner next year."As technology improves you need technicians who can run that kind of machine," Derr said.

Eateries poised to top $1 billion

Alaska’s burgeoning eating and drinking industry has served up a decade of uninterrupted growth and shows no signs of faltering.Industry employment has grown 2.8 percent annually for 10 years, faster than the total statewide job growth of 1.8 percent, according to the state Department of Labor. The state’s performance mirrors a national trend of restaurant industry growth, according to the National Restaurant Association.The amount of money from the total food budget the public is spending in restaurants has grown to 46 percent, up from 25 percent in 1955.The association expects more than 858,000 restaurants to tally $408 billion in sales this year, up nearly 4 percent from 2001. The association projects Alaska’s restaurant sales to top $1 billion this year, up from an estimated $982 million in 2001, when the state had 1,811 establishments.Last year eating and drinking establishments in Alaska provided 17,300 jobs, surpassing total statewide employment in the oil and construction industries.The industry is dynamic and new locations are opening, mainly on the road system, said state labor economist Brigitta Windisch-Cole. She helped analyze the sector’s growth for an article in the July issue of Economic Trends, published by the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development.Four in five jobs in Alaska restaurants and bars are in Anchorage, Fairbanks, the Kenai Peninsula and the Matanuska-Susitna Borough, the report found. In 2001, Anchorage had almost 600 bars and restaurants.Almost half of Anchorage restaurants are in a "general category," which includes steak houses and seafood specialists. About one in seven specialize in Asian cuisine. About one in 10 focus on pizza and one in 12 on burgers.Alaskans spend about $1 in every $3 of their food budgets eating away from home, just below the national average. Measured in terms of per capita sales, though, the tourism industry helps boost the state to second place, behind Hawaii."We expect tourism growth and therefore growth in eating and drinking places," Windisch-Cole told the Journal.Monthly restaurant employment peaked last year in August at 19,800 jobs. January marked the low point at 15,200 jobs."We go from 30 in winter to 110 employees in summer," said Michael Klopfer, assistant general manager at Anchorage’s Snow Goose Restaurant & Brewery, which opened in 1996 and has been growing.Klopfer attributes the industry’s expanding employment to a trend of adding employees to improve service."These days there’s more focus on customer service," he said. "It’s a small circle in the industry up here. Overall, everybody has made that transition."Peter McGlashan, manager at the new Chili’s Grill & Bar in Anchorage, has seen customer service improve during 17 years in the restaurant industry. Today, a server handles five tables at one time, down from about eight tables several years ago, he said.Chili’s opened its first Alaska location in May. McGlashan employs 55 servers, 45 cooks and more than 30 bussers and others to tackle the busy first summer season. "We’ve been open seven weeks and it has not let up," he said.Name recognition of national chains is helping Alaska franchisees, and chain restaurants record significant volumes, McGlashan said.Alaska’s population growth was also a factor during several years of increases in restaurant industry employment, said George Tipton, president of the state Cabaret Hotel Restaurant & Retailers Association.Tipton operates the 22,000-square-foot Ketchikan Entertainment Center with a bowling alley, an indoor miniature golf range, an arcade and the 200-seat Roller Bay Bar & Grille. He also runs two Godfather’s Pizza restaurants in Ketchikan, although one is open only during summer.The eating and drinking industry has grown because of changing lifestyles in which both parents work outside the home and families are more active, Tipton said. He expects that trend to endure, further stimulating the strong restaurant sector.Klopfer sees room for further eating and drinking industry growth. One reason he cites is that diners today have less time to cook and more money to spend eating out."I think it caters nicely to our industry," he said.


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