Around the world

NATIONCharges filed against work-at-home scamsWASHINGTON -- Law enforcement officials have brought fraud charges or lawsuits against dozens of operations that promise people easy money for work-at-home businesses such as making crafts or stuffing envelopes."Business opportunity scams and work-at-home schemes are frauds that can cost consumers their life savings and destroy their dream of owning a successful small business," said Howard Beales, director the Federal Trade Commission’s consumer protection bureau.Such scams cost consumers more than $29 million last year, the agency estimates.Beales on June 20 announced the results of a sting conducted against 77 such operations by the FTC and Justice Department in cooperation with agencies in 16 states.The states participating in the operation were Alaska, Arkansas, California, Florida, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Texas, Washington and Wyoming.Ex-Enron workers get larger severance awardNEW YORK -- Employees laid off by Enron Corp. will receive an additional $29 million in severance thanks to a federal bankruptcy judge’s preliminary ruling that effectively doubles the amount already paid to 4,200 former workers.The former employees are eligible to receive even more, according to the terms of the ruling made June 24 by Judge Arthur J. Gonzalez.The ruling comes after several months of negotiations between Enron’s lawyers and those representing the laid-off workers.The severance agreement is voluntary and allows former employees to opt out and sue the company on their own.The former workers have already received severance payments totaling $29 million, or $5,678 each. Under the terms of the June 24 agreement, they will be paid up to $13,500 each, depending on their salary, years of employment and other factors.Wells Fargo gets PayPal credit card transactionsSAN FRANCISCO -- Wells Fargo & Co. agreed to handle the credit card business of online payment provider PayPal Inc., which has struggled to stay in good graces with both the MasterCard and Visa payment systems.San Francisco-based Wells will replace Electronic Payment Exchange Inc., which took over from Chase Merchant Services late last year. Wells is supposed to take over the job by November and continue processing PayPal’s credit card transactions until May 2004, according to Securities and Exchange Commission documents.The alliance is designed to rid Mountain View-based PayPal of a major headache -- dealing with the rules and regulations of MasterCard and Visa."This was a natural fit," said Debra Rossi, a Wells executive vice president, on June 20. "We can handle the credit card regulations and PayPal can focus on growing its business."Credit card transactions accounted for 51.5 percent of the $3.5 billion in payments delivered through PayPal last year. PayPal makes its money by arranging online payments for goods and services through e-mail.WORLDCanadian firm reports oil find in North SeaLONDON -- A Canadian oil company prospecting in part of the North Sea overlooked by a larger rival has discovered a field that could rank as the region’s biggest petroleum find for 25 years, the government said June 20.The Buzzard oil field off Scotland’s eastern coast could contain more than 1 billion barrels of crude, Energy Minister Brian Wilson said. He based the announcement on an appraisal by EnCana, the firm that first discovered oil there one year ago.EnCana has drilled eight exploratory wells since then and plans to begin producing oil at Buzzard in 2005."To actually get to this stage in 2002 and find a 500 million-barrel recoverable field is awe-inspiring," said Jason Kenney, an industry analyst at ING Financial Markets in Edinburgh, Scotland.Many of the North Sea’s biggest fields were discovered during a flurry of exploration and development that began in the 1970s off the coasts of the United Kingdom and Norway. More recent finds have generally been smaller.Russia’s WTO bid may take several more yearsGENEVA -- Russia’s seven-year effort to join the World Trade Organization is stalling because Moscow insists on protecting its telecommunications business and financial sector from foreign competition, a European trade official said June 20."We still have a limited number of problems, but of a very serious nature," European Union negotiator Herve Jouanjean said after a three-day meeting on Russian membership. "On financial services and telecoms there’s enormous work to be done."In December, EU trade chief Pascal Lamy had said that Russia was likely to enter the WTO, which sets the rules of global trade, in 2003 or 2004 if it continues to open its markets. Its bid was boosted earlier this month when the U.S. Commerce Department formally recognized Russia as a market economy, following a similar EU move.But on June 19 in St. Petersburg, WTO director-general Mike Moore offered a more cautious three-year time frame.Three more countries join steel tariff probeGENEVA -- The World Trade Organization June 24 added China, Switzerland and Norway to the official list of complainants against a U.S. increase in tariffs on imported steel to help the embattled U.S. industry.The WTO’s Dispute Settlement Body approved a request from the three countries that their grievances should be considered by a neutral panel, which is due to assess whether the U.S. measures violate international trade rules.The panel was set up June 3 in response to a complaint from the European Union against the decision by the Bush administration to raise tariffs on steel imports by up to 30 percent. The United States says it needs the levies as protection against a flood of cheap imports.The WTO subsequently agreed that complaints by Japan and South Korea should be considered by the same panel. Brazil and New Zealand also want to join the case.U.S. trade officials have repeatedly argued that the tariffs are consistent with WTO rules, saying they believed the dispute settlement panel would rule the import duties were justified.-- Compiled from business wire services.

Three Alaska ports get federal funds to boost security

Three Alaska cities are getting a share of millions of dollars in federal grants designed to shore up security at ports throughout the United States.The ports of Anchorage, Ketchikan and Valdez will receive $1.34 million in grants out of $92.3 million given to 51 ports nationwide.Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, announced the grant awards June 18.Young, as chairman of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, created the Transportation Security Administration in the Aviation and Transportation Security Act.Alaska’s sole congressman introduced a port security bill under the act to help protect the nation’s ports in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The Transportation Security Administration, along with the Maritime Administration and the U.S. Coast Guard, are administering the grant program."These important funds will help Alaska’s ports make necessary updates to their security infrastructure. Our nation must take steps to ensure that our coast is safe from attack from hostile nations and groups," Young said in a press release. "These funds are especially vital for Alaska because we have a large portion of the nation’s coastline." The Port of Anchorage will receive $403,833 for surveillance cameras and motion detectors plus $54,375 for a perimeter security fence. The Port of Ketchikan will receive $122,721 for the purchase of vehicle barriers and pedestrian barriers. And the Port of Valdez will receive $764,000 for remote thermal imaging of tanker shipping lanes.Roger Graves, manager of government and environmental affairs for the Port of Anchorage, said security at the city-owned facility has been tightened following the terrorist attacks on the East Coast.Several new security measures have been established at the Port of Anchorage, including increased patrols from the U.S. Coast Guard by land, air, and water.All inbound drivers -- whether commercial operators or private individuals -- are checked for proper identification and inspection of their vehicles, Graves said. Those who have business at the port must have a confirmed sponsor.The port serves more than 80 percent of Alaska, with an annual economic impact of $725 million. Some 2,500 cargo containers arrive weekly at the port’s five-terminal dock that in peak years has handled more than 3 million tons of cargo, petroleum and cement annually. The port also routinely serves as a staging facility for military equipment and vehicles."The port had always been open to the public, but on Sept. 12, that stopped," Graves said. "We are locked up, and now things are going to be even better."Our security fence needed some mending, and we’ll use the video equipment to watch critical areas and the motion detection equipment will indicate when someone is out in the lots and around containers."Cmdr. Peyton Coleman, captain of the Port of Valdez, said the federal grant to purchase remote thermal imaging equipment would improve the security of tanker shipping lanes.Coleman would not go into detail about the new equipment’s capabilities, only to say that it would "improve our surveillance."The Coast Guard also is using its eyes, ears, and other equipment to a greater extent now, Coleman said."We’ve stepped up patrols and greatly increased our security position here," Coleman said.

Supercomputer center matures

As Alaska’s supercomputer center reaches its 10th anniversary, the Fairbanks facility is helping hundreds of researchers around the country learn more about everything from human genes to weather in space.It’s a far cry from the Arctic Region Supercomputing Center’s beginnings in 1992, when an appropriation by Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, brought the first supercomputer to the University of Alaska Fairbanks.At the time, the idea was widely questioned.No more, said Frank Williams, the center’s director since 1995. "That was our childhood," he said. "We’ve moved through that to adolescence and, now, maturity. It took a long time but now we’re being productive."Today, the center has a core of 37 employees tending three supercomputers, gigantic data storage systems and laboratories where information can be visualized, Williams said. When contractors, paid students and faculty are added in, the total rises to 53, he said. Williams said the center will soon gets its fourth supercomputer and in mid-July will begin using a "loaner" machine from Japan that it gets to try out for 12 months for free. Known as a Cray SX-6, the machine was actually built by NEC Corp. Its arrival marks the end of an international dispute between Cray, the leading American supercomputer manufacturer, and NEC of Japan.In 1997, Cray won a ruling from the U.S. Commerce Department that NEC was selling its supercomputers below cost, effectively blocking the sale of an NEC machine to a weather research center in Boulder, Colo.Last year, the two companies patched up their differences. According to a June 14 report in the New York Times, NEC invested $25 million in Cray and gave Cray exclusive rights to market NEC machines in the United States.The first machine to arrive in this country under the new arrangement is now being prepared for use in Fairbanks.Williams is clearly delighted to get his hands on the technology, which is a smaller version of an NEC supercomputer called the Earth Simulator."The Earth Simulator is the biggest, baddest, meanest supercomputer in the world, by far," Williams said. "We found a way to bring this architecture to the U.S. so we can test and evaluate it."We think there may be a class of problems it’s really good for. It may lead to the next batch of American supercomputers."The Cray SX-6 is what’s known as a vector supercomputer, which uses custom chips to process huge chunks of data at once. Williams said it’s especially good for modeling the earth’s climate and studying the circulation of the oceans. One of the Fairbanks center’s three existing supercomputers, an American-built Cray, also is a vector machine.The other kind of supercomputer is called a "massively parallel" machine. It contains hundreds of processors similar to those found in ordinary desktop computers. It solves a problem by breaking it up into small chunks and working on all of them at once. The Fairbanks facility has two parallel machines, a Cray and an IBM.Williams said each kind of computer has a role to play. "It depends on what the problem is," he said.These days, the Arctic Region Supercomputing Center has lots of problems to solve. Researchers from around the country link up with the Fairbanks machines via a high-speed fiber optic connection to Seattle. The center’s staff helps scientists convert their questions into code the supercomputers can understand and set aside time on the appropriate machine to run the code.Many of the projects are of interest to the military. That’s not surprising since the bulk of the center’s funding, some $10 million a year, comes from the Department of Defense High Performance Computing Modernization Program. Williams said no classified projects are run at the Fairbanks center, and the arrangement allows for plenty of computer time for nonmilitary research.Recent military-related projects include creating three-dimensional models of the airspace over Interior Alaska to help fighter pilots understand where they are allowed to conduct training flights. The center has also studied the pressures on submarine hulls when they maneuver underwater; simulated a high-tech pilotless fighter plane; and studied the interactions of air, water and ice in the Arctic Ocean.Other projects include modeling solar winds, predicting tsunami flood zones on Kodiak Island, plotting the airline approach path to Juneau, and simulating the evolution of galaxies. A major effort to understand the effects of carbon dioxide on global warming also is under way.In recent years, the supercomputer center has entered into several partnerships. One is with the U.S. Army Cold Regions Test Center. The latest, signed last year, is with the Institute for Systems Biology in Seattle.The institute’s researchers will use the Fairbanks computers to identify genetic patterns and model the proteins that are the building blocks of life.Williams said he’s always on the lookout for other partnerships."The future calls for us to identify research areas that have meaning to Alaska and to the supercomputer center," he said. "We want researchers to come to us because of the people and the resources we have to help them solve their problems."

Railroad will still have customer

The Alaska Railroad Corp., which makes most of its freight revenue from hauling petroleum, doesn’t expect any financial hiccups before or after the sale of Williams Alaska Petroleum Inc., its largest customer. "Obviously, we’re tracking the issue," said Pat Flynn, Alaska Railroad spokesman in Anchorage.Flynn said the railroad suffered no losses or capacity when Williams Cos. purchased MAPCO in 1998. The railroad expects the same to hold true after the sale of Williams."We pulled MAPCO fuel cars and when MAPCO became Williams, we pulled Williams fuel cars. We’ll pull somebody else’s fuel cars because we’ll still have a customer," Flynn said.The Alaska Railroad and Williams, which announced last week plans to sell its Alaska assets, together weathered criticism for a series of derailments and fuel spills over the past few years, including the largest in 1999 at Canyon and at Gold Creek, where 15 cars left the track, five of them spilling more than 120,000 gallons of jet fuel.Still, Flynn said Williams as a company has been a "great customer’’ and will be missed.But Flynn expects the state-owned railroad will continue to work with many of the same employees after the sale of Williams, just as it did after the MAPCO buyout."I expect most of the same people we are working with now, are the same people we’ll be working with in the future," Flynn said.Jeff Cook, vice president of external affairs for Williams, said he, too, believes most of the same folks will stick around after the sale."A lot of the value of this asset is the people we have," said Cook, himself a former MAPCO employee.Some 711 million gallons of petroleum products were moved by rail from Williams’ North Pole refinery to Anchorage last year.Cook said he expects those levels to continue.Petroleum makes up most of the freight revenue for the railroad, about $35.7 million last year. Most of the petroleum product, about 1.7 million gallons a day, is jet fuel used at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport.Williams provides more than half of the jet fuel used at Anchorage International, Cook said. Tesoro provides about 40 percent of the fuel via its Nikiski pipeline. Up to 10 percent of the fuel normally comes from producers outside Alaska and is shipped to Alaska’s largest city in tankers and barges. Jet fuel haulage for the railroad is followed by diesel, which is transferred by barges to be used in the Bush for home heating and electrical generation.Fuel shipped from Williams’ North Pole refinery to Anchorage averaged more than 100 rail cars a day in July and August last year, the most ever, Flynn said.

Getting ahead requires polishing your 'personal brand'

As a professional speaker for more than a decade, I have come to the realization that I have a personality that instinctively polarizes an audience. As soon as I’ve begun to launch into my discourse, a small segment of the audience will take an instinctive dislike to me -- the look, the voice, the attitude.Fortunately, the rest immediately become Alf acolytes; they’ll drink my Kool-Aid without question. The process is visceral and irrational, and it only takes minutes to play out.What they’re all responding to is the "Alf brand," which, in turn, leads to the premise that each and every one of us carries a brand personality, very evident to others and both immediate and instinctive in terms of how it is communicated and perceived.Unfortunately, most of us don’t recognize the fact that we are a brand, nor do we take the time or make the effort to think about how we communicate our brand personalities to others. What this means is that the best person doesn’t always win; the best candidate doesn’t always get the job or the promotion.Joe Heller, president of Houston-based Heller International, who coaches entrepreneurs and executives, defines a personal brand "as a positive expectation, a promise to your market. It is the preferred position in your client’s mind. A personal brand owns the equity stake, the mind share on which no one else can compete."The beauty of the process is that once a brand dialog has been established it puts the individual in a position of unassailable strength.The brand dialog is more than telling the buyer or the listener what he or she wants to hear. Rather, it’s a process of recognizing who you are, knowing what you want your brand personality to be, being comfortable with that personality and making it congruent with marketplace needs, be they a job, a promotion, a deal or even a marital partner.The biggest mistakesMost of us aren’t aware of the value of the personal brand because, simply stated, we don’t think of ourselves as a brand. Martha Stewart, Oprah and General Electric Co.’s Jack Welch do. That’s one of the reasons that they’re more famous and make more money than we do.Most of us also fail to appreciate the old adage that perception is reality. Appearance matters. The truth is, most of us don’t want to know what others think or say about us behind our backs for a variety of reasons.The result is that we have no clear understanding of what our "brand perception" is in the marketplace. We display inconsistency in our words, our actions and our behavior. We try to be all things to all people.Benefits of brand personalityIn the entrepreneurial environment, the success of the company is very much tied to the personal brand of the entrepreneur or leader. Quite often it’s the force of that brand personality that takes the company from start-up to success; that attracts new customers when there is little substance or credibility behind the company; that helps raise venture; and that recruits new staff.For the professional or the corporate player, personal branding provides career enhancement. Promotions and raises come more quickly. It positions the individual to move more quickly up the corporate ladder.Incidentally, one of the major reasons that so many talented and experienced victims of downsizing are now on the street and can’t find a job, is that they have the credentials but lack the brand packaging to wrap them in. A good-looking resume is not enough nowadays.For the chief executive of a public company, increasing the power of your personal brand has a direct impact on stock price. It’s one of the reasons that GE did so well with Jack Welch at the helm and why Home Depot can’t hit a stock price that should match its performance and potential.Going through the processAccording to Heller, the steps in developing a personal brand are sequential and logical. First there is the discovery process. It includes discussion of goals and values, a discovery of personal experiences and skills that will reinforce the brand, as well as an assessment of unique attributes, "packaging" strategies, and a determination of what you want the market to think of you.Audit assessment follows. This involves testing the brand message, seeking feedback and sharpening the message. After that it’s a matter of implementing the marketing plan, refining leadership skills and engaging in a disciplined program of acceptable self-promotion.Finally, there’s the issue of finding a coach, someone who can act as Sherpa guide through the brand development process. Good coaches are nothing more than marketing consultants for the ego.What defines a good coach? It’s someone who has operational background, who has done it before; someone who has experience to take you where you want to go; and someone with whom you can bond.Martha Eskew, an Atlanta-based executive coach, defines the good coach as one "who listens underneath for what’s being said and brings it out." This demands acute perceptiveness coupled with integrity and candor. "A good coach must always be willing to be fired by the client," Eskew said.Alf Nucifora is an Atlanta-based marketing consultant. He can be reached via e-mail at .

Martha Stewart's line unshaken by scandal

NEW YORK -- How durable is a brand if its founder becomes mired in a much-publicized scandal -- and can the consumer separate the product from the person?It’s a question that industry observers are asking after Martha Stewart’s sale of stock from Imclone Systems Inc. came under scrutiny in an insider trading investigation. The answer isn’t simple.Stewart’s image and her multimedia company’s stock have taken a beating from the tabloids and Wall Street, despite her repeated assertions of innocence. But so far there’s no sign that the unsavory publicity is turning off fans of the doyenne of domesticity, who still are reading her magazine and buying her bed linens.History has plenty of examples of brands that collapsed in such situations -- and also of others that continued to thrive during such a crisis.The upscale Helmsley hotel chain never regained the luster that it once enjoyed, after the hotel baroness Leona Helmsley was convicted of tax evasion, and dubbed the "Queen of Mean" by the tabloids, according to Gerald Celente, director of The Trends Research Institute.TV personality Kathy Lee Gifford was stung by reports in the mid-1990s that her namesake clothing was made in Honduran factories that used child labor, and this helped to stunt sales of her merchandise, some industry experts believe.On the other hand, while Steve Madden is heading for prison in August to serve a 41-month sentence for stock fraud and money laundering, Steve Madden Ltd. is doing fine. Under a new management and design team, the $240 million empire he built on designing chunky shoes for teens delivered a robust first-quarter earnings and sales report in May.And the offstage antics and legal woes of rap star Sean "Puffy" Combs, lately known as P. Diddy, have only increased the appeal of his white-hot line of clothing called Sean John, experts say."Strong brands are held together by a number of threads, and they have incredible amount of buoyancy, even if one thread gets in trouble," said Scott Talgo, chief strategy officer for Landor Associates, Inc., a brand consulting company.Talgo said that, to have an impact, the scandal must suggest that the brand betrayed the consumer in some way, such as offering them inferior services or poor quality of merchandise.Charles Riotto, president of the International Licensing Industry Merchandisers’ Association, said a brand’s fate also depends on "what kind of trouble that person gets into, and how that plays against the image."P. Diddy, for example, has a bad-boy image. So perhaps his worst legal problem -- he was arrested on weapon charges in a 1999 nightclub shooting but was later acquitted -- only helped bolster that reputation with his fans, according to Michael Wood, vice president of Teenage Research Unlimited, a market research firm in Northbrook, Ill.Celante believes that "Martha Stewart’s image can recover if it ends at this level. If this snowballs, then it could really begin to hurt her."Potential retailers and advertisers may be afraid of using her name if Stewart’s situation gets more complicated, some say.Congressional investigators are looking into whether Stewart had inside information when she sold nearly 4,000 shares of Imclone stock on Dec. 27, the day before the Food and Drug Administration made public its refusal to review the biotech company’s application for a promising cancer drug. ImClone’s stock price then plummeted.Stewart is a friend of Sam Waksal, ImClone’s former chief executive, who was recently arrested on charges of insider trading for allegedly trying to sell his stock and tipping off family members after learning of the FDA’s decision.Stewart said her trading was "entirely proper and lawful."For now, industry observers are closely watching to see how such negative publicity could affect the decorating maven’s empire, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia Inc., which encompasses merchandise, from sheets to paints, a TV show and a magazine all bearing her name.Stewart’s line of home accessories and kitchenware is the top sales generator at Kmart Corp., which has filed for Chapter 11 reorganization. It depends on her name to continue to drive customers to the store.Many marketing experts believe the Martha Stewart brand is durable enough to deflect the bad publicity. They also say the news that’s unfolding right now isn’t egregious or compelling enough to turn off her average fan.

Juneau research center moves forward despite high bid

State and federal officials remain determined to build two fisheries research facilities at Lena Point in Juneau, but one has been set back by bids higher than construction estimates. The other awaits voter approval in November.Construction bids on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric facility were higher than expected, said John Gorman, NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service program manager in Juneau.Agency officials are considering their options, including the possibility of building the 69,000-square-foot facility in stages, he said.Anchorage-based Cornerstone Construction was the apparent low bidder in late May, but its bid was $6 million higher than agency estimates, Gorman said. Cornerstone bid $42.5 million for the project, compared with the federal department’s construction estimate of $36 million. Haskell Corp. of Washington bid $47.1 million. McGraw Custom Construction of Sitka bid $48.5 million.NOAA asked Cornerstone to recalculate its bid, although the company had not responded as of mid-June, he said. After that, NOAA might reconsider the scope of the project, but Gorman believes work won’t be downsized.The project already had been scaled back from $78 million. In 1992 Congress transferred property for the center at a different location. A controversy led to a relocation to Lena Point, Gorman said.Some construction could begin this year, Gorman said."We’re probably looking at a three-month delay," he said. "There’s still a chance that some work will take place this year like some site work."Researchers, originally scheduled to relocate to the building in 2004, probably will move in 2005, he said.The new facility would double the research space for about 85 employees at the current Auke Bay lab, Gorman said. Employment could climb to 107 at the larger facility. Designs also anticipate growth to become prominent in the Pacific Northwest, he added."This could be our major research presence north of Seattle," Gorman said.The University of Alaska Fairbanks also plans to relocate a fisheries research facility to Lena Point, alongside the NOAA fisheries lab.UAF’s School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences, operating in Juneau for 20 years, offers the state’s only graduate-level fisheries degree program. The school now operates at the University of Alaska Southeast’s Anderson Building, near the federal agency’s Auke Bay lab.However, the school has outgrown its facility and NOAA asked university officials to consider relocating to Lena Point.The new three-story building would have 37,400 square feet and accommodate 14 faculty members, 10 research assistants and 45 graduate students.The project is estimated to cost $18 million. The Legislature included $9 million for the facility in a capital bond package on the November ballot, said Mike Ruckhaus, project manager with UAF’s Division of Design and Construction.If approved, funds would pay for finalizing designs, he said. Design work should take another six to eight months to complete, he said.Architects are ECI/Hyer Inc. of Anchorage and NBBJ of Seattle.The remainder of the funding would be part of the university’s fiscal year 2004 budget request to the state, he said. Construction could begin in late 2003 or 2004, Ruckhaus said.Ruckhaus and Gorman said the labs’ productivity is enhanced by having them at the same location."A lot of wonderful collaborative work goes on between the two," Ruckhaus said.The connection with UAF’s fisheries school is an important part of the federal fisheries program, Gorman said. Also, many federal employees are former students or teach or attend classes at the UAF facility, he added.

British regulators approve cruise line merger

LONDON -- A planned merger that would reshape the cruise ship industry moved a step closer to completion June 19 when Britain’s competition regulators approved the union of Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. and its smaller rival P&O Princess Cruises PLC.The Competition Commission said the merger was not likely to restrict growth or competition within the industry or reduce the diversity of cruises available to British consumers.Britain is the second country after Germany to approve the deal, which was put on hold in February after a hostile bid for Princess by Carnival Corp., the world’s largest cruise operator, sparked a revolt among Princess shareholders.U.S. regulators are still assessing the competing offers, as are European Union antitrust officials. EU authorities in May gave Carnival a list of their concerns about a Carnival-Princess deal.Princess Cruises includes the Princess Tours division in Seattle. Carnival’s holdings include Holland America Line-Westours Inc. of Seattle. All three companies operate in Alaska waters.Miami-based Carnival has offered $5.4 billion for Princess. Although Princess had refused to talk with Carnival about its bid, a majority of Princess shareholders voted to postpone the planned marriage to Royal Caribbean to give competition regulators in the United States and Europe more time to review Carnival’s bid alongside the proposed merger.Analysts have estimated the Royal Caribbean merger to be worth approximately $3.7 billion for Princess shareholders.

FAA to add runway lights at 30 airports

Too many times in Bush Alaska, pilots have had to rely on snowmachine headlights or fire pots placed along the edge of village runways so airplanes could land to transport people out of the communities in medical emergencies.Those methods of lighting rural runways are unreliable and downright dangerous, said John Madden, a Federal Aviation Administration spokesman in Anchorage.At least for some rural communities, help is on the way.The FAA last month released $10 million in federal funds for the installation of permanent runway lights in about 30 Bush communities. Some of the funding also will be used to study the feasibility of portable lighting equipment in some villages.The funding came at the request of Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, who had the FAA identify communities with no road access to medical facilities. The FAA found that of the 201 communities in the state identified, 63 have no runway lighting.The lack of lighting at these airports poses significant safety risks to the 64,000 people living in these communities, Stevens said. No one should be trapped in an emergency situation without a way to reach help because of inadequate runway lighting. These funds are crucial to ensuring that residents in these communities can travel to and from their homes as safely as possible.FAAs Madden said it costs up to $350,000 to install lighting along a runway and at its approach, and several thousand dollars annually at each site for maintenance.The FAA is responsible for the maintenance of the approach lighting, and villages are responsible for the cost of maintaining edge lighting, Madden said.The FAA is working with Alaska Native groups, the U.S. Coast Guard and the state departments of Transportation & Public Facilities and Health & Social Services to prioritize lighting projects for communities, Madden said.Much consideration is given to communities that already have other airport improvements planned and funded, Madden said.So far, Egegik, Kwethluk, Marshall, Rampart, Shaktoolik, Shageluk and Toksook Bay have been identified for lighting projects.Madden said the remaining sites should be determined this summer.

Native corporation gets wireless bidding rights

Arctic Slope Regional Corp. continues to pursue investment in the telecommunications industry despite setbacks in bidding on TV and wireless telephone frequencies.The Alaska Native corporation, which has a Colorado-based communications industry partner, filed to participate in a spectrum auction originally set for this month but that has now been rescheduled for fall.Earlier this month Congress moved to postpone a spectrum auction that had been scheduled to begin June 20. The Federal Communications Commission had planned to auction 758 wireless licenses, but lawmakers were concerned about when the licenses would become available since some are tied to broadcast television’s conversion to digital.The airwaves up for bid include some UHF channels used by television stations that are completing a move to digital signals during the next five years.Alaska Republican Sen. Ted Stevens fought delays in the auction, which included rural licenses, but others lawmakers pushed to postpone it. According to Stevens’ staffers, a compromise was reached to auction the rural licenses, located at a lower spectrum, within three months, while postponing the bidding on blocks of upper spectrum licenses.FCC officials said the legislation was passed by Congress and signed by President Bush. The rural licenses, in the C and D blocks of the Lower 700 megahertz band, will begin between Aug. 19 and Sept. 19, according to the FCC. Bidding is limited to organizations that already qualified for the auction. Other Alaska groups qualifying include Arctic Slope Telecommunications and Cellular Inc. and Ketchikan Public Utilities.Council Tree Wireless LLC also qualified.ASRC is managing partner for an Anchorage-based limited liability company formed with Council Tree Communications, said Conrad Bagne, ASRC chief operating officer.Bagne would not disclose what geographical areas the company is interested in.Council Tree Communications of Longmont, Colo., also helped the Alaska Native corporation develop a consortium in 2000 with Doyon Ltd. of Fairbanks and Sealaska Corp. of Juneau called Alaska Native Wireless. Last year the consortium, with partner AT&T Wireless, successfully bid $2.9 billion on wireless licenses covering 43 markets including major areas like Los Angeles, New York City and Denver.However, a U.S. appeals court decision in June 2001 blocked the transfer of spectrum licenses previously owned by a company, NextWave Telecom Inc., which later went bankrupt.The ruling tied up the reassignment of the licenses rather than releasing them for use by other companies. Now the Supreme Court is considering the fate of the licenses, said Haidee Schwartz, a spokeswoman for Alaska Native Wireless. "We think they (members of the court) will hear oral arguments before the end of the year," she said.Carriers in that auction petitioned the FCC to refund deposits. This spring Alaska Native Wireless received back $472 million, Schwartz said.

Movers & Shakers

Providence Health System in Alaska has hired three new psychiatrists, Dr. Mary Langdon, Dr. Ramzi Nassar and Dr. Nancy Lehman, for its Langdon Clinic, a behavioral health practice. Langdon specializes in adult and women’s issues. Langdon received a doctor of medicine degree in psychiatry from the University of Colorado. Nassar specializes in general and cross-cultural psychiatry. Nassar received a doctor of medicine degree in psychiatry from Howard University. Lehman specializes in general psychiatry. Lehman received a doctor of medicine degree in psychiatry from the University of Pennsylvania.The American Academy of Arts and Sciences recently inducted Terry Chapin into its organization. Chapin is a biologist at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Inductees are nominated by current fellows based on distinction in their field or profession. Chapin has been published more than 250 times, has been recognized at UAF with the Emil Usibelli Award for Distinguished Research in 2000 and as the Outstanding Faculty Member of 2002.The Alaska School Activities Association recently presented Ron Gleason and Don Stump with a Gold Lifetime Pass recognizing their contributions to high school activities in Alaska. Gleason of Douglas has been involved with high school education and interscholastic athletics and activities for more than 25 years. Stump of Anchorage is marking his 30th year in the field of education. Michael More was recently awarded an Outstanding Music Educator Award from the National Federation Interscholastic Music Association. More, who currently serves as the Alaska governor for the National Association of Teachers of Singing, is director and conductor of North Star Singers.Glacier Bay Cruiseline has hired Brian McKiernan as director of national accounts. McKiernan will be charge of all new business development programs and expanding the national accounts program. McKiernan has been involved in the travel industry for more than 19 years, holding management positions with Singapore Airlines, Reno Air and Alaska Airlines. McKiernan recently was co-owner and managing director for Hurricane Communications in the Seattle area.HCI Steel Building Systems Inc. has appointed Michael J. Finn customer service representative for Alaska. Finn has a background in pre-engineered steel buildings and roofing systems. Finn serves as a liaison with HCI’s builder network, engineering and manufacturing departments.Mary K. Hughes has been elected chairwoman of the Providence Alaska Foundation. Hughes is presently of counsel at Hughes Thorsness Powell Huddleston & Bauman. The following officers also were elected: vice chairman, David Karp, vice president and chief operating officer of Hawaiian Vacations; secretary, Susan Ruddy, vice chancellor at the University of Alaska Anchorage; and treasurer, Bill Hopper, business manager/controller of Wilder Construction Co. Newly elected board members are: Dan Hisey, Tony Izzo, Naomi Fuller, Kathryn Anderson, Diane Prier, Roberta Quintavell, Frank Peake, Bob McManus, Dr. Rodney Cook, Dr. Paul Peterson and Marian McDonald.Jennifer Toomer has joined Dynamic Properties in Anchorage as a sales associate. Toomer has served Anchorage families for the last seven years through an area nonprofit organization. Toomer also has worked as a Pampered Chef consultant for two years. Dynamic properties has hired George Barth as a sales associate. Barth originally received his real estate license in 1958. Barth has been involved in the fields of construction and sales of residential property, multi-family homes, commercial real estate, subdivisions, warehouses and demolition.Chris Ashenbrenner has been appointed director of the Division of Public Assistance. Ashenbrenner is former deputy director of public assistance. Ashenbrenner has worked in the medical assistance and public assistance divisions of the department since 1983 and also has served as chief of policy and program development and Southeast regional manager. Ashenbrenner was chosen Outstanding State Employee of 1992 by the Legislature.Michele Brown has earned the 2002 Excellence in Leadership Award for a Woman in State Government. Brown serves as commissioner of the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation. Women Executives in State Government presented the award at a Washington, D.C. banquet June 13. Brown was nominated by current and former employees.Note: Unfortunately not all photographs could be included in this weeks Movers & Shakers online section - they are however in the printed version.

Directors have a 'duty of loyalty'

Reports in recent weeks of apparent sharp dealings by corporate boards favoring individual directors over the best interests of their companies and shareholders have drawn into question the integrity of those who govern corporate America.In particular, the apparent insider dealings by certain members of the board of directors of Adelphia Communications Corp., one of the largest cable companies in the United States, shows at a minimum a lack of attention to their duties. The NASDAQ’s recent de-listing of Adelphia stock may also be in part a result of a failure of those directors to see clearly their duty to their company and its shareholders.To what standard should Adelphia directors have been held in avoiding conflicts of interest with their company? Stated differently, to what duty of loyalty are directors of a company held? Specifically, to what duty of loyalty are directors of an Alaska company held?Corporate governanceIn the arena of corporate governance, directors on a company board as a matter of Alaska law owe a duty of loyalty to the company. That is, generally, a director cannot place himself or herself in a position where personal interests conflict with the director’s duty to the company. This duty is basic to corporate governance.For-profit corporations formed in Alaska have a guideline for directors carrying out this duty. The duty of loyalty is set forth in the Alaska statutes as a part of the Alaska Corporations Code.The code also allows a few limited exceptions to the duty, while at the same time keeping in mind the best interests of the company. These exceptions center on "interested directors" and "common directors."Interested directorsUnder the Alaska Corporations Code an agreement between a company and one or more of its directors is permissible if the material facts regarding the agreement and the interests of the directors are fully disclosed or known to the shareholders or the board.Also under the code, such an agreement is not prohibited because those persons are present at the meeting of the board acting on that agreement.Should the interested director seek compliance with these provisions through action by the shareholders, the agreement must be approved by a vote of the shareholders in good faith. The vote taken in this context must exclude any shares owned by the interested directors.Should the interested director seek compliance with these provisions through the board, the agreement must be approved in good faith by the board. The vote taken in this context must exclude the interested directors.Interested directors have the burden of proving the agreement is just and reasonable to the company at the time it was acted upon by the board.The code specifies that a director is not an interested director in addressing a resolution fixing compensation of another director as a director, officer or employee of that company.The agreement may be a contract or other transaction between the company and one or more of its directors. In addition, the agreement may be between the company and another corporation, firm, or association in which the interested directors have a material financial interest.Common directorsA common directorship results where one or more individuals are directors of two companies. They are sometimes referred to as "common directors."An agreement between companies having common directors is allowed because one or more of the common directors are present at the board meeting at which action on the agreement takes place, provided certain procedural steps are taken. These steps are as follows: The material facts of the agreement are fully disclosed; The common directors’ other directorships are fully disclosed or known to the board; and The board approves the agreement in good faith by a vote that does not include the common director votes, or the agreement is approved by the shareholders in good faith.The Alaska Corporation Code provides that common directorship alone does not constitute a material financial interest.Note that the duty of loyalty provisions on common directorships do not apply to agreements involving interested directors. That is, the lesser standard for common directorships does not apply to a proposed agreement where a director has a material financial interest. The material financial interest must be disclosed in the case of an agreement between the company and an interested director.Specific exclusionsThe Alaska Corporations Code expressly prohibits inclusion in a company’s articles of incorporation a provision eliminating or limiting personal liability of a director for a breach of the director’s duty of loyalty to the company or its shareholders.In addition, the duty of loyalty as set forth in the code expressly provides that it does not affect the prohibitions or restraints imposed elsewhere under Alaska law pertaining to competitive practices and regulation of competition.In summary, a director’s duty of loyalty to his or her company is a basic requirement of Alaska law. It is, in addition, a basic ingredient to ensure public confidence in companies doing business in Alaska.Similar duty of loyalty requirements and exceptions apply in one form or another in most states. They likely apply to Adelphia’s directors. Duty of loyalty is bound to be an issue in any litigation stemming from that company’s de-listing and other recent financial woes.A director of an Alaska company who does not lose sight of his or her duty of loyalty to the company best serves that company and its shareholders.Julius J. Brecht is an attorney and managing shareholder of the Anchorage law firm of Wohlforth, Vassar, Johnson & Brecht. He can be reached via e-mail at [email protected] This column is not legal advice.

Williams' assets include chain of 29 convenience stores

A new owner of the Alaska properties currently held by Williams Cos. would pick up one of the state’s major private employers and a top convenience store operator.The Tulsa, Okla.-based company has about 500 employees in Alaska, making it the 37th largest private employer in the state, according to Department of Labor and Workforce Development statistics.Williams Alaska Petroleum Inc. has 325 employees at its 29 convenience stores, 150 workers at its North Pole refinery and an administration and marketing staff of 25 in Anchorage, said Jeff Cook, vice president of external affairs.The energy company announced June 18 it plans to sell its Alaska and Memphis, Tenn., operations for $1 billion to improve its financial standing.Williams’ officials hope to sell by year-end. The company has one unsolicited offer and other showings of interest.Alaska assets for sale include the refinery, two petroleum-products terminals, 29 convenience stores, a 3 percent stake in the trans-Alaska oil pipeline and part ownership in the Anchorage CargoPort, a center for refueling cargo jets.The Alaska and Tennessee properties are profitable. Williams wants to sell them together, Cook said.Nineteen convenience stores are in Anchorage, four in Fairbanks, two in Wasilla and one each in Eagle River, Juneau, Kenai and Soldotna. Cook doesn’t expect job cuts. "A lot of the value of this asset is its outstanding people," he said.The company entered the state convenience store and gas station market in 1987 with the purchase of several Toppers stations in Anchorage, Cook said. That gave Williams outlets for gasoline produced at the refinery, he noted.In 1989 the company, then operated by MAPCO, began building convenience stores in Fairbanks, he said.Five years ago MAPCO expanded its convenience store business by building several larger stores, Cook said. In 1998, Williams acquired MAPCO’s Alaska operations, and stores were subsequently renamed Williams Express.Besides the Alaska stores, Williams also operates about 60 convenience stores in Nashville, Tenn., and Memphis called TravelCenters, which cater to the trucking business.Williams’ Alaska gas stations sell up to 350,000 gallons of gas each month. The Tennessee TravelCenters sell about 950,000 gallons per month, Cook said.About half of the gasoline produced daily at the North Pole refinery is sold at Williams Express convenience stores, he said.Tesoro Alaska Co. is perhaps Williams major competitor in Alaska. Tesoro employs about 500 people, said company vice president Ron Noel. Its Nikiski refinery employs about 175 workers while another 295 work at Tesoro convenience stores and 30 employees staff an Anchorage administrative office, he said.Of Tesoro’s 30 company-owned convenience stores and gas stations, 13 are in Anchorage, with six in Kenai and Soldotna, five in Fairbanks, four in Wasilla and one each in Eagle River and Palmer.Antitrust issues probably prohibit Tesoro from purchasing Williams in Alaska.Noel does not anticipate many changes with a new operator for Williams Alaska, and the move could include minimal changes similar to Williams’ acquisition of MAPCO, he said.However, any changes would be up to the buyer, he said."They could sell to a company that is much like they are, interested in running a good company in Alaska," Noel said.

University of Alaska sets Internet speed, distance record

Information technologyIn the world of network engineering, winning the Internet2 Land Speed Record gets you noticed.These days, people are noticing the University of Alaska Fairbanks, which currently holds the record for sending the equivalent of an hour-long music CD from Fairbanks to Amsterdam, Netherlands in just 13 seconds."It’s a major deal," said Steve Smith, chief technology officer for the University of Alaska System. "Within the networking world, it lets people know the university and Alaska are players."Smith said he first heard about the Land Speed Record program at an Internet2 meeting a year ago. During the meeting, the first record was awarded to a group for sending data from Seattle to Washington, D.C.Since the record rewards a combination of speed and distance, Smith said he thought to himself, "We might have a shot at this."He stood up at the meeting and announced that the University of Alaska would set the next record and invited other organizations to join in the attempt.Several weeks after the meeting, Smith said he received an e-mail from his counterparts at the University of Amsterdam, who eventually agreed to take part in the project.At the University of Alaska, Kerry Digou, senior systems programmer, was named team leader of the project, with help from Ian Hegdal, manager of network engineering, and Ajay Nautiyal, senior systems programmer.Smith said all three men kept their day jobs and worked on the speed record project whenever they had the time.To win the record, contestants must use existing networks and off-the-shelf equipment available for purchase by anyone. They must also beat the previous record by at least 10 percent for it to be recognized. The transmission must use standard Internet protocols, so it’s just like any other file transfer except for its size and speed.Smith said the team used a standard Dell computer to send the data. "We tweaked it, but they were tweaks anyone could make," he said. The computer was running the Linux open-source operating system.The key to setting the record was to establish a path for the signal that used very high-speed fiber optic lines. Smith said that the University of Alaska Fairbanks already had such a connection to Seattle that is normally used to connect the university’s supercomputers with researchers around the country.At Seattle, the transmission was switched over to a national Internet2 backbone network called Abilene, which transported the information to Chicago. There, it linked up with the national research network of Netherlands, called SURFnet, which transported the signal to the East Coast and across the Atlantic to the University of Amsterdam.The total distance of the link: 7,608 miles.The attempt at the record took place on April 9. "The actual record was set in the middle of the night," Smith said. "The team picked a time when there wasn’t much traffic."He said the team sent 620 megabytes of data, roughly the same amount of information found on a compact disc. He said the average speed of the connection was 401 million bits per second. That’s more than 7,000 times faster than the typical 56k dial-up modem connection."We take particular pride in this because we have the top network engineers in the country working on this," Smith said. "We’re judged by our peers." He said Dijou will attend the next Internet2 meeting to pick up the award.Smith said he expected the record to stand until next year, but he’s not sitting still. "What I’d like to try is to circle the globe -- to start here and end here," he said. "So far, there are no takers, but I’m sure I will find them."

Voters reject fuel tax by nearly 2-to-1 margin

FAIRBANKS -- Residents of the Fairbanks North Star Borough soundly rejected a proposed fuel transfer tax June 25, putting an end to the latest chapter in the argument over reducing property taxes.Voters rejected the idea of a 2 cents per gallon tax by nearly 62 percent to 38 percent. With all but absentee and questioned ballots counted, 4,905 votes were opposed and 3,028 votes were in favor.Merrick Peirce, the main force behind the tax proposal, and his supporters had pushed the tax as a way to reduce property taxes by about 40 percent.The tax would have applied to the first transfer of gasoline, heating oil and jet fuel within the borough or refined in the borough and transported out.Most of the money would have been derived from jet fuel produced at the Williams Alaska Petroleum Inc. refinery in North Pole. Almost all of that jet fuel is shipped to Anchorage but would have been subject to the tax.Williams had said it would not pay the tax if it passed and that the borough would have to sue to get it.Williams Alaska believes state law exempts jet fuel from such local taxation. Without jet fuel in the mix, the fuel tax would bring the borough an estimated $5 million annually, for a property tax reduction of 8 percent.-- The Associated Press

Dispute ends over private mining claims inside Denali

FAIRBANKS -- A dispute over some of the remaining privately owned mining claims within the borders of Denali National Park has ended in federal court.Both sides in the lawsuit that pit the Kantishna Mining Co. against the Department of the Interior have agreed to drop their appeals of U.S. District Court Judge James Singleton’s verdict.The mining company will receive a little under $1 million from the government as compensation for the National Park Service effectively repossessing its claims in the park.The amount is considerably less than the almost $8 million the company sought. However, it is substantially more than the $98,000 the government had offered for the claims before trial.Chuck Gilbert, chief of the lands division for the Park Service in Alaska, said the ruling set a precedent for the prices afforded the remaining claim-holders."It basically set expectations,’’ he said. "It basically facilitated settlements on the other claims.’’The lawsuit revolved around 14 mining claims filed by Kantishna Mining on Caribou Creek, in an area 16 1/2 miles past the end of Denali National Park’s only road.Missouri orthodontist John Hayhurst and Talkeetna pilot Leonard Kragness founded the company in 1981, purchased the claims in 1982 for roughly $185,000 and pulled more than 3,400 ounces of gold out of the creek between 1983 and 1985.But in 1985, a court injunction filed against the government by environmental groups put a halt to all mining in Denali to study the practice’s environmental impact.The park was reopened to mining in 1991, but Kantishna Mining contended that the government was going through the motions and mining was effectively barred.Kantishna Mining’s lawsuit charged the Interior Department with repossessing its claims in 1991 and failing to compensate the owners for it. They placed the value of the claims at $7.93 million, an estimate based largely on the considerable amount of gold they believe remains on the property.The Interior Department argued that the claims are mostly played out.Singleton ruled that the land was worth $700,000 plus interest, which ultimately led to a total award of almost $1 million.With the verdict lying between the two sides’ offers, Singleton had to determine who was the actual victor in the case. At stake was Kantishna’s $2.4 million legal bill.The government was obliged to foot the bill if it was determined that Kantishna Mining in fact won the suit and that the government was not justified in bringing it in the first place.Singleton in June 2001 denied Kantishna mining’s request for the attorney fees. Appeals of the case were filed by both sides. In May, both sides agreed to drop their appeals and declare the case closed.The Park Service has spent more than a decade and $11.2 million buying up the remaining claims in the park in an effort to restrict development within its boundaries.

Public stations get digital studio grant

Four Alaska public television stations will receive a total of $3 million from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting’s Digital Distribution Fund for the construction of digital transmission facilities and the provision of digital services, according to an announcement from Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, on June 11. KAKM in Anchorage will host the new state of the art digital production studio for Alaska public broadcasters. KYUK in Bethel, KUAC in Fairbanks and KTOO in Juneau will have access to the studio by recording digital video, sending it to a network server and editing it either remotely or on site."The new studio will put Alaska on the cutting edge and will allow our public television stations to broadcast at least four shows simultaneously. At least one of those shows will be an educational channel to serve school children," Stevens said in a press release.Alaska public broadcasters must convert from analog to digital transmissions by May 2003 under current law. Failure to convert could result in the loss of their broadcast license.The Digital Distribution Fund was developed with the input of the community station representatives and public broadcast membership organizations. The Corporation for Public Broadcasting and Public Broadcasting Service’s Digital Strategic Services Group manages the fund.

ACS ordered to repay $1 million in overcharges

ANCHORAGE -- Alaska Communications Systems Inc. overcharged competing phone companies for access to its phone lines and must repay about $1 million, according to a recent order from the Federal Communications Commission.The ruling is the latest shot in the bitter contest between ACS, the state’s largest local phone company, and General Communication Inc. Both are based in Anchorage.According to the FCC ruling, ACS had set "unreasonable and unjust" interstate access rates, resulting in overcharges to GCI and another phone company, AT&T. Much of the ruling had to do with Internet-related calling.GCI and AT&T complained about those rates, leading to the FCC ruling.GCI spokesman David Morris said a refund of about $1 million is due under the ruling, with GCI to receive most of the money.Mary Ann Pease, vice president at ACS, agreed that the amount owed is about $1 million. However, she said, the repayment order would be appealed through lawsuits pending in various courts. She said the issue basically came down to a technical question of how interstate rates should be classified.In any case, Pease said, the refund would not result in higher phone bills for ACS residential and business customers. She said the company had already set aside the money."It’s really not a big deal. It has no impact on customers. It’s money that we’ve already reserved," Pease said. "The real question is what is going to happen to GCI customers? Are they going to get a rebate?"No, they won’t, Morris said. GCI as a company "was eating" the overcharges, so GCI customers weren’t being charged more and thus won’t be receiving a credit once ACS pays back the money, he said.

Outgoing seafood marketing chief questions lack of state support

KODIAK -- One of the industry’s most dedicated and industrious crusaders is saying so long to the world of marketing Alaska’s seafood. Barbara Belknap, executive director of the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, gave her letter of resignation last month to the ASMI board."I realized that I want to spend more time with my grandson, and I was only seeing my friends in airports. I feel like it’s time for someone else to bring in new ideas and creativity," she said in a phone interview. She said she also has another grandchild on the way.Belknap is credited with redefining and revitalizing the seafood marketing agency during her tenure. She began her career with ASMI twelve years ago and rose through the ranks to become director five years ago. She has been responsible for domestic and overseas marketing programs for all species of Alaska seafood, a staff of 17 and a budget of $10 million.Belknap doesn’t expect a stressful departure or a tough transition when she leaves the job July 31. She said she feels so good about her staff, it makes it easier to go. In fact, Belknap calls building the current ASMI team her finest accomplishment.As far as the biggest challenges ASMI has faced during her tenure, Belknap said there are two: "Telling the people in the industry what we’re doing for them. That’s been a challenge ever since ASMI started. People outside the organization are often critical and ask what ASMI has done for them lately. That’s frustrating and I haven’t been able to overcome that challenge."And the salmon industry -- that’s been an enormous challenge over the past few years with the value so low. How do we do more with less money?" She referred to the money ASMI gets from a 1 percent tax on all Alaska salmon catches.Asked her thoughts about the state of Alaska not providing a single penny to promote and market its seafood industry, Belknap said, "I don’t get it. The state provides funding to tourism and not to seafood even though the seafood industry affects more people in Alaska and provides more jobs. It’s tough, especially when you see other countries where the government feels it’s an investment in their industry."And why is it such a tough sell to Alaska’s policy makers?"I believe people have very mixed emotions about the seafood industry," Belknap said. "They’re proud of the product, but much of the industry is located out of the state and there is a long history of animosity and dissension. Even though the processors own so much land and have so much infrastructure in Alaska and employ so many people, there are still very mixed emotions. I think it’s cultural."Belknap says the ASMI directorship provides a unique vantage point that offers a very different perspective of Alaska’s seafood industry."I get to see and talk with buyers, fishermen, marketers, the press all over the world. People would die to have the kind of resource we have," she said. "The problem all over the world is that they have no fish. They’ve either polluted the environment or overfished the stocks. We have all this beautiful fish. Our problem is getting our act together on how we harvest and market it."She offered these parting comments to all Alaskans: "Be optimistic. I know how tough things are. We just have to do right by the product; it’s the people who have gone awry. And respect the job ASMI is doing for the seafood industry and state of Alaska."Fish view from afarWith catch projections of less than 10 million fish in Bristol Bay this year, many Japanese see the good landings in the Copper River fishery as confirmation of poor runs in the other Alaskan fisheries. That’s according to market analyst Bill Atkinson who added that, as a result, many doubt that there will be any major declines in prices as the Alaskan sockeye season progresses."This view of the supply and price trend for sockeye salmon is coming from within Japan, rather than from the packers in Alaska," Atkinson said in his weekly newsletter. Bill Atkinson’s News Report is a summary of articles from the Nikkan Suisan Keizai Shinbun, the Hokkai Keizai Shinbun and the Suisan Tsushin covering the Japanese market and other developments regarding select fish species in the North Pacific and North Atlantic.Whole Foods goes wildWhole Foods Market is in the midst of a month-long promotion of wild Alaska salmon in over 130 stores across the nation. Whole Foods, which claims to be the world’s largest natural and organic supermarket group, said the "Fish For Our Future" campaign is part of the company’s mission to teach customers how to make good environmental choices when buying seafood.Alaska salmon is one of the few seafood species to obtain an "eco-label" from the international Marine Stewardship Council, a partner in the salmon promotion. The label assures customers that a species is well-managed and not overfished or caught in any way that harms the world’s oceans.Through the end of July, the height of Alaska’s salmon season, Whole Foods will feature educational brochures and recipes to tell its customers about the benefits of Alaska salmon, and how the council’s logo can help them make better seafood choices.The council is an international nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting responsible fishery management.Seafood reaches top 10Frozen seafood ranked No. 8 on the ACNielsen Top 10 List of the fastest growing food and beverage categories for last year. ACNielson, based in New York City, is the world’s largest market research company. According to the WorldCatch News Network, sales of frozen fish, shellfish and seafood dinners valued at between $1 and $5 billion rose 10 percent in 2001. Of more than 90 food and beverage categories, only nine grew by 10 percent or more last year.The ACN survey revealed that customers continued to be attracted by innovative, new things. Customers also clamored for convenience foods, as shown by a 13 percent growth increase in ready-to-eat meals, meal makers and refrigerated prepackaged salads. Consumers are also more concerned about food-related safety, the survey said.Three of the five fastest growing categories in the global marketplace were beverages, led by a 30 percent growth of prepared alcoholic beverages. The ACNielsen survey was based on retail sales in 47 countries, accounting for more than 70 percent of the world population.Kodiak-based free-lance writer Laine Welch can be reached via e-mail at [email protected]

CDQs cleared to invest in nonfish firms

Community Development Quota fisheries corporations in western Alaska communities will be able to invest in businesses that are not related to the fishing, the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council decided in its recent meeting in Unalaska.The six CDQ corporations, which were formed to harvest a quota of groundfish, halibut, crab and other fish in the federally managed Bering Sea, will be able to invest 20 percent of income from the pollock quota in nonfisheries investments within the region, under the decision.There is no limit on money invested in financial markets, such as stocks or bonds, or for education and training or charitable contributions.Current federal regulations that guide the CDQ quota allocation program do not explicitly limit the groups to investments in fisheries development, but the program has been implemented by the National Marine Fisheries Service as if it were.Some of the groups, such as Norton Sound Economic Development Corp. of Nome, have pushed to have the rule clarified so the groups are not limited to the industries in which they can invest. There may be practical limitations to investments in fisheries and more-profitable opportunities in other businesses that will contribute to the regional economy more effectively, said Steve Rieger, a financial advisory to the Norton Sound organization.Under the council’s guidelines, fisheries investments can be made outside as well as within the region. The CDQ groups have become major owners of offshore fishing companies and vessels in recent years.Norton Sound, for example, owns 50 percent of Glacier Fish Co., a Seattle-based fishing company. Two other CDQ groups own 20 percent of American Seafoods, a major operator of offshore catcher-processor vessels in Alaska waters.

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