Williams to sell all Alaska properties

ANCHORAGE -- Williams Cos. announced June 18 it plans to sell its businesses in Alaska, including the North Pole refinery, a chain of convenience stores, a small stake in the trans-Alaska oil pipeline and its share of the Williams Lynxs Alaska CargoPort.The decision will shed Williams of its Alaska properties, said Jeff Cook, vice president of external affairs for Williams Alaska Petroleum Inc.Williams Alaska Inc. has about 500 employees statewide. It will be up to the new buyer whether or not to keep the employees, Cook said. "At this point it will be business as usual," he said.The Tulsa, Okla.-based company said it also will sell its Memphis, Tenn., refining business. Williams said it had received one unsolicited offer to buy the refining and marketing businesses in Tennessee and Alaska. It declined to name the possible buyer.Williams acquired the North Pole refinery in March 1998 when it bought fellow Tulsa energy company Mapco Inc. The refinery was never part of Williams’ core businesses, Cook said."Obviously these assets are being put up for sale because they are noncore and good performing assets," he said.Williams announced previously that it plans to sell approximately $3 billion in assets as part of an overall plan to improve its balance sheet by $8 billion.A year ago, Williams was earning good profits from long-term contracts managing risks in deregulated power markets. It also had successfully spun off a second telecommunications subsidiary in six years.But now the company is suffering from Enron Corp.’s bankruptcy and federal regulators are questioning its energy trades.In Alaska, Williams said it will sell the North Pole refinery, two petroleum products terminals, 29 convenience stores, a 3 percent stake in the trans-Alaska oil pipeline and its ownership in the CargoPort facility at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport.The Alaska refinery has a crude oil processing capacity of 220,000 barrels a day. About 60 percent of production is jet fuel for airlines and the military. The other 40 percent goes to producing other fuels and asphalt.Williams distributes its products through a 20,000-barrel jet fuel terminal at Fairbanks International Airport and a 700,000-barrel terminal at the Port of Anchorage."I think these are good assets. I assume they will be picked up in fairly short order," said Bob King, spokesman for Gov. Tony Knowles.The state will not be involved in what it considers a private business transaction, King said. However, it will be keeping an eye to make sure it doesn’t weaken competition in Alaska.Tesoro Petroleum Corp. of San Antonio, Texas, owns the other main refinery operating in Alaska.

This week in Alaska business history

Editor’s note: "This Week in Alaska Business History" revisits events that shaped our past."Those who cannotremember the past arecondemned to repeat it."-- George Santayana,1863-195220 years ago this weekAnchorage TimesJune 23, 1982State cancels plan for oil lease sale in Norton BasinBy Dave CarpenterTimes WriterA controversial state oil and gas lease sale targeted for the rich salmon and waterfowl breeding area of Norton Basin has been called off in the face of vocal opposition and a lack of interest by the petroleum industry.Natural Resources Commissioner John Katz announced Tuesday that the state is canceling the sale, No. 38, that had been proposed for next January and replacing it with two coal disposals and a sale of geothermal resources.The decision follows more than a year of vehement protest to the proposed sale from western Alaska residents and others. Critics of the sale have been concerned about the risks of industry activity in an area that experiences severe weather and ice conditions, is loaded with fish and is considered one of the world’s most productive waterfowl areas.Anchorage TimesJune 23, 1982Developer purchases 47 acres at Old Seward and DimondBy Dan BrownTimes WriterForty-seven acres of land posed for a major "retail development" on the south side of Dimond Boulevard between the Seward Highway and Old Seward Highway have been sold to a New Jersey land developer for $6.5 million.In acreage, this was the largest sale of commercial property in Anchorage history, according to Sewell Faulkner of Jack White Realty, which headed the partnership that sold the land last Tuesday. The property was sold as three parcels.William Juliano of Medford, N.J. who completed the Northland Business Center at Fairbanks Street and 53rd Avenue in 1979, closed on two of the three parcels Tuesday, and signed an option to buy the third, 17 acres, by late August, Faulkner said.Faulkner could not say exactly what type of development would be built on the site, other than to say it will be a "retail development."10 years ago this weekAlaska Journal of CommerceJune 29, 1992Alaska firms unite to fight AT&T entryBy Ed BennettFor the Alaska Journal of CommerceVirtually the entire telephone industry in Alaska has lined up to fight the proposed $330 million sale of Alascom Inc.’s interstate long-distance services to industry giant AT&T, a deal which opponents fear could eventually cause major increases for the in-state phone rates.Alascom and AT&T announced their proposals late last year and asked that the Federal Communications Commission approve it by Nov. 1. The Alaska Public Utilities Commission has planned its own review by Sept. 8, although that deadline may slip.If approved, the sale would represent the biggest change in Alaska telecommunications since Alaska’s long-distance phone service was transferred from the military to RCA Corp. in 1969.It is far more than a simple sale of assets. It represents a complete reorganization of the way long-distance telephone service is handled within Alaska and between Alaska and the rest of the world. In its filing with the commission, Alascom’s parent company said the sale would promote competition by bringing Alaska’s telecommunications structure in line with the rest of the countryBut just about everyone else in the Alaska telephone business appears highly skeptical of the claim.Alaska Journal of CommerceJune 29, 1992Princess Tours will shift to SewardBy Rose RagsdaleFor the Alaska Journal of CommercePrincess Cruises and Tours, Alaska’s largest cruise ship operator, has announced plans to move its port-of-call to Seward from Whittier next year to cut costs and improve passenger access to Southcentral Alaska.The Seattle-based company also said it would increase capacity in Alaska by 25 percent, transporting up to 3,000 travelers per ship visit through Seward.A top Seward official, who was unaware last week that Princess Cruises has decided to leave Whittier, said his town had tired unsuccessfully to woo the cruise operator for several years.Earlier this year, the city of Whittier approved a disembarkation tax of $3 for every cruise ship passenger who comes ashore in the Prince William Sound community.-- Compiled by Ed Bennett.

Mat-Su rail spur faces opposition

A decade-old study has been dusted off to help define rail and highway corridors to the new port at Point MacKenzie.In 1992, the concept of new transportation links to Point MacKenzie from various parts of the Matanuska Valley drew little support and much protest. Reintroduced recently, the idea is meeting a similar reception. Matanuska-Susitna Borough officials believe a new rail spur from the existing Alaska railroad mainline along with better highway access to Port MacKenzie would pay big dividends through the shipment of and access to coal, timber, gravel and petroleum.But a new transportation corridor across Cook Inlet from Anchorage also would mean a railroad and perhaps a highway near folks who want no such infrastructure. "It’s a NIMBY (not in my back yard) thing," said Jim Swing, the Matanuska-Susitna Borough’s public works director."There is a lot of buildup in the Big Lake area by people concerned about living conditions and recreational use out there."The 10-year-old study focused on several transportation corridors mainly to the east of the Little Su River, between Point MacKenzie and Houston.That area has swelled in population over the last decade and borough officials expect even more opposition from residents there, Swing said.With $400,000 in federal money, the borough has hired Anchorage-based engineering firm Tryck Nyman Hayes to restudy the transportation routes. The amended study identifying a preferred route is slated for completion in February.Swing said the route being looked at with greater interest now is a rail spur on the west side of the Little Su River that would link in with Alaska Railroad Corp.’s mainline near Willow."There are a lot less people on the west side of the Little Su," Swing said. "It would actually go through virgin ground."Port MacKenzie opened last spring for limited operations. Some 4.4 million pounds of cargo were exported during the 2001 summer shipping season, including more than 40 homes built by Alaska Manufacturing Contractors, the first and only tenant to operate at the port. The construction of the homes built at Point MacKenzie and shipped to the Bush generated some $8 million in gross revenues, the same amount it cost to build the facility, said Marc Van Dongen, Port MacKenzie port director.Van Dongen said transportation access to the port, especially rail, would help provide a sustained and strong economy for the Mat-Su borough, currently the fastest growing region in the state with an annual growth rate of more than 3 percent.The new transportation corridor would also open up land in the Matanuska Valley for development, he said.Van Dongen points out that Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, chairman of the powerful Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, is committed to funding a road and rail bridge between Anchorage and Point MacKenzie, a project that has a price tag of more than $1 billion, according to some estimates."That’s not a lot of money or a big project on a national scale," Van Dongen said.The Knik Arm crossing linked with a rail spur to the Alaska Railroad’s mainline, 33 miles away to Houston or 40 miles to Willow, has too many benefits to ignore, including lessening train traffic in Wasilla, Palmer, Eagle River, Elmendorf Air Force Base and north Anchorage, Van Dongen said."It would get the railroad out of several communities and provide a more direct, shorter line to Fairbanks," Van Dongen said.The route would save the Alaska Railroad 24 miles one-way in its fuel-shipping operations between North Pole and Anchorage, Van Dongen said."It will save them time and money having faster trains," Van Dongen said.The railroad has not taken a position on any additional rail spur being considered by Mat-Su borough officials, said Patrick Flynn, Alaska Railroad spokesman.A new highway from the port also would lessen traffic on the Glenn Highway, already the busiest in the state where more than 8,000 people commute daily between the Mat-Su area and Anchorage, according to state statistics."It would be quicker and cheaper for truckers, and safer for commuters," Van Dongen said. Van Dongen said he understands the opposition from people in the Big Lake, Willow and Houston areas who don’t want increased vehicle traffic or a railroad running nearby."I don’t blame them," Van Dongen said.But he said with Anchorage starved for land, it’s inevitable new road and rail will be built someday, kind of a manifest destiny for the Matanuska-Susitna area."Maybe it will take 10 years, maybe 30 years," Van Dongen said of rail and highway corridors to the new port at Point MacKenzie. "But I’ll bet anything it’s going to happen and we need to be planning for it."

Gas-to-liquids plant almost ready

Scientists from around the world will soon plug into the Internet to test new natural gas technologies in the $86 million gas-to-liquids test plant built in Nikiski, near Kenai.The plant, built by BP Exploration (Alaska) Inc., is essentially complete and is in the process of being started.It is a commercial demonstration unit to test a new compact reformer unit that BP developed, according to Shane O’Leary, BP’s former manager for the project. The reformer is the first stage of the plant, which converts natural gas into a liquid product.With technology used today the former is the most costly part of a gas-to-liquids plant. If BP is successful in testing its smaller, less-costly reformer, the cost of producing liquids from gas will be reduced.With the plant complete, O’Leary has been transferred to another job in BP. Len Seymour has taken over management of the project at BP.One aspect of the plant is its automation and advanced instrumentation. Scientists in London, Houston or anywhere in the world will be able to conduct experiments in the plant using the Internet for data transfer through the use of "DataLink," a new software system.If proven feasible commercially, the technology promises to reduce the costs of full-scale gas-to-liquids plants that could be developed anywhere in the world, including Alaska, O’Leary said.Gas-to-liquids plants operate in South Africa and commercial-scale plants are planned in Nigeria and Qatar, but technology advances are needed to lower costs enough for such plants to be built in Alaska or elsewhere.Davie Process Technologies, BP’s partner in the research, will license the gas-to-liquids technology to others once the demonstration is complete.BP’s plan is to operate the Kenai test plant for five years, but there are indications that other uses for the facility will be found. It is being built as a "test-bed" so that other natural gas conversion technologies and products can be tested in the unit.O’Leary said BP has been approached by other companies interested in using the plant for research. BP itself is working on other advances in gas-to-liquids which can be used in the plant, he said.BP conducts similar remote real-time monitoring of production facilities, such as offshore platforms, but this is the first time it will be done with a research facility.The plant can operate with two operators per shift, although maintenance and other support staff will be employed, for a total of 20 on the project.Austin International, a Texas-based company, is managing construction of the plant, while Udelhoven Oil Field Services of Alaska installed instrumentation.While the test plant is too small to be converted to a commercial-scale gas-to-liquids plant, the facility does focus attention on Alaska as a location for such a plant.Exxon Mobil Corp., a major owner of gas reserves on the North Slope, has studied construction of a 50,000 barrels per day gas-to-liquids plant there using its own technology. BP believes gas-to-liquids is a serious option for commercialization of North Slope gas, although a conventional gas pipeline is the best option, O’Leary said.Other companies are considering a smaller, 12,000 barrels per day gas-to-liquids plant in Kenai, built separately from the BP test plant.The plant could share support infrastructure with the existing Tesoro refinery and Agrium Corp. fertilizer plant. It would supply high-quality, sulfur-free diesel fuel and other premium products to the West Coast, according to Richard Peterson, president of ANGTL Inc., a company that has performed gas-to-liquids studies in Alaska.

Agency extends Ketchikan shipyard lease, plans transfer

Alaska Ship and Drydock Inc. has gotten the nod from the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority to continue operating a shipyard owned by the authority in Ketchikan, despite a competing proposal from an Oregon-based company.AIDEA is in the process of transferring ownership of the shipyard to either the Ketchikan Gateway Borough or the City of Ketchikan. At its June 13 meeting, the mayors of both governments were strongly supportive of Alaska Ship.AIDEA extended Alaska Ship’s lease for three months. It was due to expire July 15. That will provide enough time for the ownership transfer to take place; the new owner will then negotiate a much longer lease with Alaska Ship.Alaska Ship took over operation of the shipyard in 1994 after two previous private operators failed. In the eight years Alaska Ship and Drydock has managed the yard, revenues from repairing large and small vessels have reached $20 million per year, according to Doug Ward, the company’s marketing manager.AIDEA was considering an extension of the company’s lease, but also considered putting out a request for pjroposals for a new shipyard operator. This attracted the attention of Shipyard America, an Oregon-based company.At the June 13 meeting, however, the two mayors spoke in favor of Alaska Ship. Both municipal governments intend to contribute matching funds or land, to a possible $5 million federal grant that would add a ship-lift facility to the yard.Ward told the AIDEA board June 13 that the company has demonstrated that it can perform well despite limited facilities at the yard, and that it should be given a longer lease on the yard to attract new private investment.Alaska Ship has invested $3 million of its own funds in taking over the yard and buying equipment, and another $700,000 in marketing, Ward said.The yard was built by the state in the 1980s mainly to serve the state ferry system.

Closure of Kenai king salmon fishery 'devastating' to businesses

KENAI -- Rick Giannini of Liverpool, N.Y., traveled to the Kenai Peninsula with friends to celebrate their respective 50th birthdays by catching Kenai River kings.Much to their dismay, they found that Kenai kings were no longer on the menu."We went into the gas station to buy our (king) salmon stamps, and we saw the headline in the newspaper," Giannini said June 11.Giannini’s disappointment mirrored the reaction of many in the peninsula’s tourism industry, as well as other visitors."We’ve been planning this trip for six months," he said.Although there are some who are optimistic the peninsula will survive the closing of the Kenai to early run king salmon fishing, many others feel it has pulled the plug on the beginning of an already shaky tourism season."It’s going to be a pretty devastating effect," said guide Tim Berg, who owns Alaskan Fishing Adventures in Soldotna. "What’s happened in the past, people think the whole Kenai Peninsula is closed. So we don’t get the tourists from Outside. People don’t come down for halibut fishing, as well."Berg, who has been guiding for 15 years, said there are alternatives to fishing the Kenai River, but "the Kenai is still the No. 1 draw on the whole peninsula."The Alaska Department of Fish and Game announced June 10 the Kenai River would be closed to fishing for chinooks because of a weak run, the second lowest on record.Because the Central Peninsula’s economy depends so heavily on sportfishing during the summer months, there could be some backlash to 20 days without king fishing, said Brett Huber, executive director of the Kenai River Sportfishing Association."Seventy percent of all sportfishing in Alaska is in Southcentral," he said, referring to Alaska Department of Fish and Game numbers, "and 70 percent of sportfishing in Southcentral is on the Kenai."What you’re going to see are campgrounds that don’t have people. You’re going to see it at grocery stores, hotels and gas stations. I don’t think any sector of our economy is sheltered from this."Bill Wirin owns the Salmon Haus Bed and Breakfast in Soldotna. He said he doesn’t anticipate any additional guests for the remainder of June because of the river closing."Many times in June, people decide at the last minute to come from Anchorage," he said. "I think we’ll see people going other places on the peninsula, but not coming to Soldotna. It certainly will mean we won’t pick up any drop-in guests."Ken Lacy, owner of Ken’s Alaska Tackle in Soldotna, runs a fishing guide business along with his store on the Sterling Highway. He said as of June 11 he had refunded $3,100 for fishing tours, and he expects more. Although he was prepared for the possible financial hit a Kenai River closure could take on his guide business, Lacy said he is more concerned about the revenue in the store."I’m down about 60 percent in sales today," he said. "There was a massive drop in license sales, king tag sales and tackle sales. Normally today, I should have sold 60 licenses. I only did 14."Although fishermen are displeased with the closing, they acknowledge the importance of preserving the resource. Huber said in spite of the downside, he is accepting of no Kenai River king fishing."We’re disappointed that the run is so poor, but we also support the closure," he said.Joe Connors, president of the Kenai River Professional Guide Association, concurred."If these numbers are correct, we’ve got to protect the resource," he said.Connors and Lacy said there could be broader impacts from the closing of the kings, however. Connors said the closing will equate to missed business with tourists from Outside."These people are going to go away, and they’re not going to come back," he said.Lacy said history shows things have been getting worse over the years. He said lagging revenue in his store could mean a cut in hours for some or all of his six staffers."Every year that I’ve seen this happen, we lose more and more tourists," he said. "I used to write 12,000 licenses. Last year I wrote 7,900, and it’s getting worse."If it doesn’t pick up in a couple of days, I’ll have to either cut two employees’ hours back or lay two off."One of Giannini’s traveling companions, Rich Strohl, of Albany, N.Y., said his party was lured to the river by lore that reached them in the Lower 48. But they may not come back if there are better places to hook the big ones.

Army power plant gets cleanup funding

ANCHORAGE -- The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has awarded an $18.5-million contract for emission-control system improvements for the Fort Wainwright power plant to GHEMM Co. of Fairbanks.Construction will begin this month and be completed in late 2004.The new facility, commonly referred to as "the bag house," will bring the power plant into compliance with the Federal Clean Air Act.The project will consist of six new full-stream bag houses, one for each boiler, in a new building adjacent to the power plant, according to Corps project manager John Malecha.The 40-foot-high bag houses function like big vacuum cleaner bags. Each bag is about 9 inches in diameter and 15 feet long. Exhausts from the boiler flow through the bags, which filter particulate from the air before emissions are released into the atmosphere.Each bag house will include five modules containing 220 bags each.The emission control project is part of a $45 million upgrade of the 50-year-old central heating and power facility. The plant burns nearly 200,000 tons of Alaska coal annually.

New hotel rises from the ashes

Carol Fraser has had her trial by fire in the hotel business -- literally. On April 9, she watched what she had hoped would be the crown jewel of the Aspen Hotels of Alaska chain burn to the ground in downtown Anchorage."It was really horrible," said Fraser, vice president and co-owner of the chain. "We went through anger, sadness, complete despair, shock and confusion."The four-story, 90-room hotel was 90 percent complete when the fire occurred. The Anchorage Fire Department estimated the loss at $5.2 million. The fire was intentionally set by "person or persons unknown," according to a June 10 press release from the department, and its investigation is continuing. Fraser said the hotel was fully insured.After the fire, however, something wonderful happened. "People we didn’t even know called to offer condolences," Fraser recalls. "People sent food. My office was completely filled with flowers. We got offers of support from clients, the city, the travel industry."That response helped Fraser and her partner, George Swift, decide to rebuild. "Friday morning (April 12, three days after the fire) we decided, ’Yup, we’re going to do this again,’ " Fraser said. "Brush off your pants, it’s time to do this."The first thing Fraser did was to order another set of plans for the project. "The first set was burned."As it turned out, the foundation of the hotel was in good shape, but some of the utility pipes imbedded in it had melted. Those problems have been repaired, and on June 1 the first wall of the replacement hotel was raised.The Anchorage Aspen Hotel is now scheduled to open March 1, 2003. "As of today, I am sick of construction," Fraser said. "I just want to have a chain of hotels and market them and run them." That’s a concise summary of a dream that Fraser and Swift have shared for the past several years. Even with the fire, they are well on their way toward completing the dream in a remarkably short period of time.Swift is president of Seattle-based Western Steel Inc., which serves as the general contractor on all the Aspen properties. He is president of the Aspen chain. Fraser assists in the design and helps oversee construction of each hotel; once they’re completed, she serves as marketing director and operations manager for the chain. Each hotel is a separate limited-liability corporation, owned 50-50 by Swift and Fraser.Fraser said she met Swift in 1997 when she was hired as general manager of the Clarion Suites in Anchorage, which Swift was building. When another Swift project, the Hawthorne Suites hotel, was completed in 1999, she managed it, as well. She said being around while the hotels were being built helped her learn the construction side of the business.Three years ago, Swift sold his interest in the Clarion and Hawthorne. "George had a dream of building around the state," Fraser said. "He knew he needed a marketing person." That person was Fraser.The partners’ first project was in Juneau, where Swift had purchased property for a hotel. Construction began in 1999. Even before the hotel was completed, "I got a call that the Village Inn in Valdez was for sale," Fraser said.The partners bought the property, began renovating it in December 1999, and it opened in March 2000. The Juneau hotel opened two months later.Then, Fraser got another call from a real estate agent in Fairbanks about a piece of property suitable for a hotel in the Interior city. The partners independently checked it out and agreed it would work. The Fairbanks Aspen Hotel opened in April 2001.Yet another phone call led to what Fraser called "a beautiful piece of land on the Kenai River," which eventually became the home of the Soldotna Aspen Hotel. It opened in March this year.In three years, the partners had either bought or built four hotels. "Things just fell into our laps," Fraser said.Fraser said she and Swift had been eyeing the Anchorage market all along, but were concerned that a construction boom in the late 1990s had created a glut of hotel rooms.An improving market, along with the fact that many of their customers had to go through Anchorage to get to places like Valdez and Soldotna, convinced the partners to make their move in Alaska’s largest city, Fraser said. They bought a piece of property at Eighth Avenue and A Street and began construction last year.The Anchorage hotel will be what Fraser called the "crown jewel" of the chain. It will include extended stay suites similar to one-bedroom apartments, plus family suites with a separate room for the children. It will also have one large "presidential" suite, Fraser said.Those features will help differentiate the hotel from the competition. Fraser said her chain’s other selling point will be a high level of service.To make sure that happens, Fraser has hired all women to run each of the chain’s five properties. "Women make better general managers because they care more on a personal level in a service industry," she said. "In the long run, it makes a huge difference."Fraser said that until two recent marriages -- including hers -- all the general managers in the chain were single mothers. "Single moms work harder than anybody else," she said. "They have to support their families."The strategy is working, Fraser said. "Our service is outstanding, our employees are staying with us, and we have very, very loyal customers."It’s all a far cry from her college days, when Fraser studied to be a concert pianist. She came to Alaska in 1991, and, with virtually no experience, worked in marketing at the Best Western Barratt Inn in Anchorage."I fell in love with it," she said. "It was exciting and different. I was fulfilling peoples’ dreams of coming to Alaska."I also discovered I was pretty good at it."Eleven years later, she’s eager to get back to marketing, as soon as the Anchorage hotel is rebuilt. But she will never forget the night her hotel burned down."I was amazed at how fast the Red Cross showed up to help the firefighters with hot coffee," Fraser recalls. "I got so cold that I finally asked if I could have some coffee, too, and they said, ’Sure.’ "Fraser said that once the Anchorage hotel is built, she will put it on the Red Cross list of places people can go to if they are displaced by a fire."We want to give back to the community," she said.

Push to make roadless rule permanent emerges in House

WASHINGTON -- A Clinton administration ban on logging and road-building in a third of the nation’s federal forests would become law under a bill introduced by Rep. Jay Inslee, D-Wash., and 173 other House members.The proposal would codify the so-called "roadless rule," which bans new roads in 58.5 million acres of untouched national forest land, except in rare circumstances.The Bush administration has said it supports the ban, but environmentalists complain that the administration has not strongly defended the rule in court. The ban needs to become law to insulate pristine forests from political whims, supporters said."We need a law to protect the forests, no matter which way the wind blows in Washington," Inslee said June 5, noting that some trees on federal land are older than the country itself.Rep. Sherwood Boehlert, R-N.Y., the bill’s chief co-sponsor, said the proposal was more than an effort to codify an agency rule."We are enshrining in law the views and values of the American people," Boehlert said, citing a recent national poll showing that 76 percent of those surveyed, including 60 percent of Republicans, supported protecting roadless areas.The bill faces an uphill fight in the Republican-controlled House. Only 18 of the bill’s 174 co-sponsors are Republican, and no public hearing has been scheduled.More than 40 members of Congress, mostly Republican and mostly from the West, sent a letter to President Bush June 5 urging him to oppose the bill, which they said would cut off access to significant portions of national forests and increase the risk of catastrophic fire. The bill also would handcuff development efforts, opponents said.Most of the 58.5 million acres set aside are in the West, although they range from Alaska’s Tongass National Forest to Florida’s Apalachicola National Forest.Rep. Scott McInnis, R-Colo., chairman of the Forests and Forest Health Subcommittee of the House Resources Committee, called the roadless rule a "sham" and said the Clinton administration had ignored significant Western opposition when it implemented the rule just before Clinton left office."It is nothing short of astonishing that national environmental groups and certain elected officials in Washington, D.C., continue to push the rule in the face of a federal judge’s injunction," McInnis said.U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge in Boise, Idaho, blocked the rule from taking effect last year, calling the policy a "Band-Aid approach" toward forest conservation that could do irreparable harm.A coalition of environmental groups has appealed Lodge’s decision to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The Bush administration declined to join the appeal, a decision that lawyers for the groups say hurt their cause and showed the administration’s true position on the roadless rule.Undersecretary of Agriculture Mark Rey, who oversees forest issues, disputed that June 5. The administration stands by its commitment to protect roadless areas in national forests, he said.USDA is working on a new rule that would be "better balanced" than the Clinton rule, Rey said, "and most importantly that will pass legal muster, which the Clinton rule has not so far."The Inslee-Boehlert bill, which is supported by a host of environmental groups, does not resolve the legal issues raised by the May 2001 court ruling, Rey said.But supporters said a federal law would make the court ruling moot and demonstrate bipartisan support for the roadless rule. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., backs a similar measure in the Senate."It’s time for the Congress to act on behalf of future generations who deserve the opportunity to enjoy these precious lands," said Jane Danowitz, director of the Heritage Forests Campaign, a national alliance of organizations working to protect national forests.

Quality helps Sitka firm market frozen salmon

Sherry Tuttle of Sitka could be Alaska’s answer to the Chilean salmon farmers who are running Alaska’s traditional salmon fishing industry onto the rocks.Tuttle and her partner, Lori Whitmill, operate the Rose, a 55-foot motor sailer built for tuna fishing that the two operate out of Sitka.Their company, Rose Fisheries, is carving a niche in the higher end of the seafood business, upscale restaurants and food stores on the West Coast and more recently in New York.Tuttle is doing something important for the future of Alaska’s fisheries: She’s demonstrating that quality-handled salmon that is frozen properly on the boat at sea, with the right equipment, can beat fresh salmon, farmed or wild, hands down.Tuttle is quick to point out that she isn’t the only Southeast hand-troller freezing at sea and direct marketing, although the total number is small. These pioneers are swimming against a current of public opinion that fresh is always better than frozen, a belief that gives salmon farmers their big edge over Alaska fish.In reality, a lot of fresh fish sold on the market is up to nine days old, Tuttle says. On the other hand, most fish isn’t frozen properly, which gives it a bad reputation.Tuttle is winning converts. New York Times food writer and chef Florence Fabricant gave Tuttle’s salmon a thumbs up in an April 2001 food column. "There’s no question that Rose Fisheries’ coho salmon has a big flavor," Fabricant wrote. "I cooked it alongside fresh king salmon steaks and preferred the flash-frozen coho."Anchorage chef Jack Amon, a partner in Marx Brothers Cafe, said he preferred fresh salmon for years until he tried Tuttle’s flash-frozen product. Now he’s a convert. The Hotel Captain Cook in Anchorage also buys her frozen salmon.Tuttle has been fishing in Southeast Alaska since the 1960s, when she started coming north for summers. "I’ve always been an outdoor person, and this was far better for a student than spending a summer working in restaurants," she said.After stints teaching and coaching at Mendocino College and Sonoma State University in California, she moved to Alaska, living in Juneau but fishing out of Sitka. She moved to Sitka after the Juneau-Douglas bridge got to be too much of a nuisance for her boat, the June Rose, with which Tuttle earned a living trolling for salmon and longlining for halibut.She tuned in on salmon quality under the tutelage of Harold Thompson of Sitka Sound Seafoods, who was developing salmon quality standards. "I learned a lot from Harold. It was a real challenge to get a score of 100 when I was offloading," Tuttle said.At the time, people were experimenting with frozen-at-sea, a concept where fish harvesters freeze their catch right on the boat to preserve quality. Tuttle became interested. She sold her Juneau house and purchased a larger vessel, the current Rose, which was large enough to live aboard.The key to her operation, she said, is the individual handling of the troll-caught fish. Coho or king salmon caught on lines are stunned before being taken from the water, then immediately gill-bled, dressed and pressure-bled with seawater to ensure no blood remains in the tissues.The fish are double-coated with a salt water glaze and then flash-frozen to minus 40 degrees Fahrenheit.Very rapid freezing to such low temperatures suspends metabolic activity, preserving the quality of the fish. The quality remains weeks or even months later. She has now invested in a larger freezer unit that can get her fish down to 100 degrees below zero.That’s cold enough that the product can withstand any erratic freezer temperatures during transit to the customer, she said.But quality has to be watched all along the line, even in the food stores, she said. Tuttle gives high marks to Samson’s Tug and Barge of Sitka and Alaska Airlines for quality handling of her frozen shipments.But she has seen sloppy handling further down the chain. "We put a lot of effort into quality handling but when someone behind the counter in the store is sloppy it can hurt our reputation," she said.Tuttle took over her own marketing after salmon prices plunged, along with prices offered in the upper end of the market. She worked through friends in California and now markets mainly to organic and natural food stores like New Season’s Markets in Portland, Ore., Newleaf’s in Santa Cruz, Calif., and Draegers’ Market in San Francisco.In New York City her salmon were sold last year at Fairmont-on-Broadway. She also sells directly to upscale restaurants, like Harry’s Savoy Grill in Washington, D.C.While most of her sales have been direct, by phone and word of mouth, Tuttle is now setting up a mail-order operation and a Web site for Internet sales."This has not been a slam dunk for Sherry," said Barbara Belknapp, executive director of the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute."Sherry has gone the extra mile in taking care of her fish and marketing them," Belknapp said. "She has traveled and talked people into trying it, getting people to taste it. She tells people ’I caught this fish, I handled it, and I stake my name and reputation on it."Are there lessons in what Tuttle is doing for others in Alaska’s fishing industry? Is she the solution to the challenge of salmon farmers?Yes and no. Part of Tuttle’s advantage is that she is a troller, catching salmon individually on hooks and lines rather than in a mass of fish by net, which is how seine fishermen work.Tuttle works at a slow, measured pace. Her goal is 100 fish a day, and if she is catching too many too fast, she slows down so the processing can catch up."When you troll you can handle the fish individually," she said. "If the fish don’t get bruised there is no scale loss, and they are beautiful. I can guarantee my fish to the customer."Harvesters in most of Alaska’s salmon fisheries can’t do that. "Combat fishing" is what Tuttle calls the kind of large-scale harvesting that takes place in places like Bristol Bay. "What happens to the product is just incredible," she said.Still, Tuttle’s adaptation of new technology, attention to quality and detail, and willingness to be innovative are concepts that can be copied.Overall, Tuttle thinks the fishing industry needs a new mindset. "The (traditional) system has indoctrinated people into a certain way of thinking," which has led to the present decline of the industry, she said.

It's time for Alaska to put its financial house in order

In May, at a breakfast speech before the Alaska Support Industry Alliance in Anchorage, economist Scott Goldsmith laid out in harsh detail what Alaska faces if it does not solve its impending fiscal gap in state government. Without some intervention, come the fall of 2004, Goldsmith said, the state’s Constitutional Budget Reserve, the bank account on the back of which the state has been balancing the state budget in recent years, would run out. That would mean a $1 billion budget shortfall, forcing the state to cut its discretionary spending by 40 percent, said Goldsmith, who is a University of Anchorage Alaska professor and director of its Institute of Social and Economic Research. You really couldn’t cut the budget that much, Goldsmith told the Alliance. Then, being the economist, he caught himself. Well, yes, you could, but it would eviscerate the state’s educational system, for example. That was only one example he offered of effects that would likely drop Alaska into a recession not unlike that it experienced in the 1980s. None of this is anything new. Alaska, where government is big business, has seen the crisis coming for years, only to have good fortune rescue it. But it has never been as close as now -- little more than two years. And the most poignant moment at the Alliance breakfast came when Dave Harbour, a consultant who operates the Northern Gas Pipelines Internet site as a public service, asked Goldsmith to describe how he would now rate the risk to an investor in Alaska -- high, medium or low. Goldsmith paused. He was willing to describe the challenge Alaska faces if it doesn’t address the fiscal gap and to offer solutions. But who wants to be the first to say that, with the recent failure of state lawmakers to put a solution in place, Alaska has arrived at the point now where financial investment is becoming an untoward risk? Goldsmith answered this way: He was heartened by the progress the Legislature made in its recent session, one in which the House passed a plan to address the fiscal gap only to have the Senate reject it. He said next year’s legislative session is not too late to avoid a crisis. But the longer the wait, the more drastic the remedy. The more drastic the remedy, the stronger the shock to the Alaska economy. Alaska’s good fortune in recent years may turn out to have laid the groundwork for self-deception. Five years ago, Alaska was supposed to exhaust its reserve bank account. It didn’t happen because of the luck that global oil prices went up -- and the royalties that fund state government went up with them -- and the U.S. economy boomed. Some think that no fix is needed until the crisis is actually here. Some think that the gas pipeline will save the state. But if construction started today, a gas pipeline’s positive effects are years away and its maximum potential for funding state government would solve less than half the fiscal gap. And Goldsmith will tell you that preventing a crisis is far less costly, in terms of financial hardship and social misery, than curing it once it arrives. The first order of business for the next governor and the next Legislature is to address this fiscal crisis, period. The year 2003 should go down in history as the year that Alaska stepped up to the plate and put its financial house in order. If it fails to address this challenge, good fortune could again rescue Alaska, especially with unrest in the Middle East affecting the outlook on oil prices. But with no action by lawmakers and no more strokes of good luck, a dismal answer to Dave Harbour’s question will become more and more difficult for Scott Goldsmith or anyone else to dodge. Mark Turner is general manager of Alaskan Publications, which publishes the Alaska Journal of Commerce, the Alaska Oil & Gas Reporter, the Alaska Military Weekly, the Alaskan Equipment Trader and the Alaska Star.

Prove your value in salary talks

Ever wonder how to negotiate your salary? Here are 10 pointers for achieving a win-win result.1. Find out what you are worth.Salary mistakes are compound mistakes. Raises are usually a percentage of your base salary. Underestimating your value costs you income not only for this year but also for the future. Do the research to determine your worth. No salary surveys available? Talk to experienced professionals in the field. Ask for ranges: minimum to maximum.2. Stay focused on the value you deliver.The formula according to compensation consultants: Market value + your individual value + risk value = total compensation. Market value is the average for everyone as researched. Your individual value is what you uniquely bring to the job.Risk value is what you are willing to put at risk and say that you will uniquely deliver. Risk value is where you can shine. What problems can you solve for them? What key results can you make happen? Don’t forget the downstream value of your accomplishments in the future.3. The employer goes first in negotiations.It is the employer’s job to make a business deal with you that saves it money. It is your job to convince them to pay you for your value. Avoid being screened out based on salary.4. Put off salary questions until you are ready.Your written response when asked for salary history should be: "I would like to be paid fairly in relation to the job market for this type of work in your area." Past salary has no bearing on this position. The key factor is what you can do for them today.Your verbal responses when pressed, according to Jack Chapman, author of "Negotiating Your Salary: How to Make $1,000 a Minute:" "I’d like to put off salary discussions until I’m sure that I’m right for the job." "I want a fair salary for my responsibilities. Let’s first talk about how I can help." "Is your concern that you can’t afford me? Let’s discuss what I can do for you. Then later let’s talk about compensation." If pressed again: "I see we’re back to salary again. I’m happy to talk about money and even disclose my salary history at some time if it’s important, but could we talk now about why it’s important to talk about salary now?"5. Respond to their offer.In some countries a pause can be a good tactic. In others it can be a test of wills. When the offer is too low, ask this question: "My research indicates that the range for people with my qualifications is x to y. What can you do in that range?"Too high is nice, but what do you do? You negotiate benefits. Then ask for time, one to three days, to confirm the match.6. Perks and benefits play a role.These may provide opportunity for negotiation: Insurance, personal leave (rate of accrual), professional training and development, professional memberships, moving expenses and use of a business cell phone are examples.7. Get an employment agreement.Get the offer in writing, with benefits in writing. Clarify the duration of agreement. Spell out duties. In the event of termination, ask that it be "for cause." If a noncompete clause is required, try to limit this to direct competition.8. Use the Internet for research.I recommend (www.jobstar.org), which has over 300 U.S. salary surveys online.9. Again, your most important focus should be the value of your contribution to the organization.10. Track your value by project and accomplishment.Getting hired is just the beginning. Lay the groundwork for your next performance review and future promotions by delivering and tracking the value of your contribution. Remember, it’s all about value, value, value.Tim Pearson is a business coach and founding member of MindJazz. He can be reached at 907-562-1568 or via e-mail at ([email protected]).

Juneau Native corporation reports tourism-related loss

JUNEAU -- Goldbelt Inc. reported a loss of $4.4 million for fiscal year 2001 due in part to the weak independent travel market, Gary Droubay, president and chief executive, told shareholders at the Native corporation’s annual meeting."Our company depends a lot upon independent travel, and it was weak again," Droubay said in an interview.The market caused Goldbelt’s small cruise company, Glacier Bay Tours and Cruises, to suffer, he told shareholders June 2 in Juneau. "Goldbelt products that depend upon cruise ship passengers will do fine and continue to do fine," Droubay told the Juneau Empire. "But cruise ship passengers don’t stay in hotels, are not able to go to the Glacier Bay Lodge or take the Tracy Arm cruise."Goldbelt’s income for the year was $2.6 million. Operating expenses and long-term debt of $3.5 million, combined with depreciation and amortization costs of $3.6 million, produced the net loss. Goldbelt’s loss for fiscal year 2002 was about $3.5 million.Goldbelt was able to maintain its cash flow by disposing of real estate in Seattle and Anchorage at a substantial gain.As Juneau’s urban Native corporation, Goldbelt’s primary purpose is to manage assets and conduct business for the benefit of its approximately 3,200 shareholders. Its holdings include the Goldbelt Hotel, Mount Roberts Tramway, Goldbelt Tours, Glacier Bay Tours and Cruises, Auk Nu Tours and Raven/Eagle Gifts, all in Juneau, and Alaska Cruises in Ketchikan.To compensate for the loss and to ensure improvement in the future, Goldbelt has reduced its corporate expenses by 50 percent and consolidated some of its operations, according to Droubay."We have one vessel going to Tracy Arm and Gustavus now instead of two," said Droubay. "We refinanced some of the debt on Mount Roberts Tram as well as on our vessels."Goldbelt also is exploring a strategic partnership with Voyager Holdings, an American-owned maritime investment and holding company created to acquire and construct cruise vessels for U.S. domestic markets.According to a press release from Glacier Bay Tours and Cruises, Voyager plans to buy and provide two 200-passenger cruise vessels to Glacier Bay Tours and Cruises to operate in Alaska and along the Pacific West Coast."It is a key part of our strategy for the next year," said Droubay. "I still can’t disclose the details, but it would involve additional capital and strengthen the Glacier Bay operation and really allow it to grow."Goldbelt has made changes to the organization’s structure, dividing the company into the Marine Operations Division and the Land Operations Division.Droubay is still uncertain about how the independent travel market will do this year but is hopeful the numbers will increase."It’s too early to tell," Droubay said. "If people don’t want to go overseas, we hope they will consider Alaska as a potential destination."

Anchorage airport to handle wildlife parts and products

It now will be easier and cheaper to ship everything from snakeskin cowboy boots to hunting trophies and exotic zoo animals through the Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport.Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, has secured funding for his namesake airport that will be used to staff U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service inspectors to regulate the importation and exportation of wildlife and animal parts and products. Anchorage International is now considered a "designated port" by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, special status that will save shippers money by not having to obtain special permits.A formal ceremony was held May 29 in Anchorage with Stevens on hand to give the airport the designation.The federal Endangered Species Act requires that all animals or their parts be imported and exported through a designated U.S. Customs port staffed with inspectors from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. While Anchorage ranks sixth in the nation in the annual volume of wildlife and wildlife products, it is the 14th city in the United States to be awarded the special status."We were overdue," said Bruce Woods, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service spokesman in Anchorage.Other designated U.S. Customs ports are Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Dallas-Fort Worth, Honolulu, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, New York, Newark, Portland, San Francisco and Seattle.Anchorage will receive about $360,000 over the next three years to staff at least one additional inspector and a special agent for investigations.Each wildlife or wildlife-product shipment should save the customer about $65 in inspection fees with the new designation, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.Noncommercial shipments are now exempt from inspection fees if imported during regular business hours. Commercial shipments cost $55 each if imported during normal business hours. Shipments of federally protected wildlife still require additional permits in most cases.Before Anchorage became a designated port, shippers like United Parcel Service and Federal Express, which have large hubs in Anchorage, would bypass most of their wildlife shipments through Alaska to San Francisco, which has the special designation, said Stephen Oberholtzer, a special agent with the Fish and Wildlife Service in Anchorage.In 2000, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service handled 3,555 wildlife shipments valued at $9.3 million in Anchorage. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service expects the shipments to triple during the next three to five years now that the Anchorage International is recognized as a designated port.Federal inspectors monitoring wildlife shipments typically find between 150 and 250 violations a year in Anchorage, Oberholtzer said.The number of American and foreign hunters requesting clearance of wildlife trophies in Anchorage has jumped 300 percent in the last five years, according to the Fish and Wildlife Service. Over the last seven years, the number of foreign hunters exporting Alaska big game trophies has jumped 73 percent.Products, mostly from Asia, like lizard-skin belts or snakeskin shoes, also require special clearance, Oberholtzer said.An increase in international visitors to Alaska also required more wildlife shipments requiring clearance, Oberholtzer said.

Alaska ranks last in economic growth

WASHINGTON -- At the end of America’s longest economic boom, Alaska and Louisiana were dead last in a ranking of economic growth, the government reported June 10.Rhode Island and Idaho were at the top of the list, the report said.The Commerce Department report on gross state product showed the 10-year economic boom was showering prosperity from coast to coast in 2000 but there were pockets of weakness, reflecting hard times in the oil and gas industry and manufacturing.Residents of Rhode Island enjoyed the fastest growth pace, a gain of 10.7 percent in gross state product in 2000 compared to 1999. Idaho was not far behind with an increase of 8.3 percent, followed by an 8.1 percent rise in economic output in neighboring Oregon.At the other end of the spectrum, Alaska, Louisiana and Mississippi were all hurt by weakness in the oil and gas industry and manufacturing. Economic output in Alaska fell by 2.9 percent in 2000 and was down 2.7 percent in Louisiana, the only two states where the economy shrank that year. Mississippi, third from the bottom, eked out a tiny 0.8 percent increase.The performance in the various states compared to a nationwide increase of gross state product of 4.5 percent in 2000. That performance compared with an increase in the gross domestic product, the benchmark for the entire economy, of 4.1 percent for 2000.The GDP and GSP figures are not directly comparable because the government subtracts some components from the state-by-state figures that are included in the overall GDP numbers. For instance, the gross state product excludes compensation paid for federal employees and members of the military stationed overseas.The National Bureau of Economic Research has ruled that the country’s longest period of economic growth ended in March 2001, exactly 10 years after the economic expansion began. The NBER has not determined when the recession ended, but many private economists believe the recovery began in January or February.

In Alaska, women running airlines no big deal

Alaska -- where men are men and women run airlines.Of the small sorority of airline owners and operators worldwide, nearly all are located in Alaska, says Peggy Chabrian, executive director of Florida-based Women in Aviation International.Chabrian says although women have been involved in aviation since its infancy and the number of women working in the industry is on the rise, it’s still extremely rare for a female to be in charge of an airline. Besides the handful of those in Alaska, she knows of no other woman in the United States who owns an airline currently. "The only other one that I know of is located in Singapore," said Chabrian, whose organization has more than 6,000 members worldwide and encourages young women to consider aviation as a career."I’m impressed," said Chabrian of Alaska’s female airline ownership.The work force in Alaska has long accepted women in tough-as-nails occupations like logging, mining and fishing. So for a woman to work in the airline industry, or even to own the company, is really no big deal, said Karen Casanovas, executive director of the Alaska Air Carriers Association. "Nobody really gives it much thought. It’s just the way its is,’’ said Casanovas who has nearly three decades in the aviation industry and heads the heavily male-dominated 85-member Alaska Air Carriers Association.The association counts between a half-dozen to a dozen airlines in Alaska either owned solely by women or run by husband-and-wife teams.A hard way to the topAt least three airlines in Alaska, F.S. Air Service Inc., Northern Air Cargo Inc. and Baker Aviation are run by the widows of men who started the businesses.After commercial pilot Floyd Saltz died in an airplane crash in July 1998, his wife, Sandi Saltz Butler, took over Anchorage-based F.S. Air Service and has vowed to make it safer.Safety, said Butler, is the No. 1 priority with the airline, which now provides pilots and mechanics with advanced flight and technical training.F.S. Air Service no longer runs cargo or makes what Butler calls high liability flights, like landing on beaches or unimproved village runways. "My late husband Floyd lived and died for this business. I think he’d be very proud of where we are today," Butler said.Floyd and Sandi, whose initials make up the company name, started the airline in 1986 with one airplane in a building with one room. Floyd Saltz was the sole pilot. Today, F.S. Air Service has a fleet of 10 airplanes that provide charter and jet ambulance services throughout Alaska. The airline also runs scheduled Anchorage-to-Seward flights.Butler said she believes the gender of a business owner makes little difference in the success of a business or how it is perceived."There are a lot of people out there that still think it’s a man’s world," said Butler. "But I can’t say up here it makes a whole heck of a lot of difference."She said men and women probably approach business a little differently but overall "we have the same goal in mind."F.S. Air Service has some 63 employees and several female pilots, including its chief pilot, Kathy Whittington.Some 20 years ago Butler thought she wanted to be a pilot and took a few lessons, but she said she never got the "seat-of-the pants" feeling needed to be a good aviator."I leave the flying to those who are good at it," Butler said.Northern Air Cargo Inc., the largest all-cargo carrier in the state, was founded in 1956 as partnership between Robert "Bobby" Sholton and Maurice Carlson.Sholton died in 1982, and the airline is now run by his widow, Rita Sholton, who serves as the company chairman and chief executive officer.Sholton was out of state and could not be reached by the Journal.Northern Air Cargo, according to company history, started as a charter air freight service with two C-82 "Flying Boxcars," pioneering the shipment of oversize cargo to the Bush. Northern Air Cargo now operates a dozen aircraft throughout the state, including nine DC-6 aircraft and three Boeing 727s.The company has some 240 employees and earned $40 million in revenues in 2000.Marge Baker, owner of Kotzebue-based Baker Aviation, runs a somewhat smaller operation but no less important one to the folks in the northwest region of the state.Baker, who, according to her children, has never lent herself to a media interview, politely declined an interview with the Journal, saying she had an airline to run.Lori Henry said she looks up to her mother, who was left with the airline and seven children when her husband, pioneer aviator Bob Baker, died in a plane crash in 1968."She managed the airline, built it up, took care of the kids -- all in the Arctic," Henry said of her mother, who is an Inupiat Eskimo. "She’s amazing."John Baker worked for 10 years for his mother as a pilot but now devotes most of his time to dog mushing, where he is a a veteran of seven Iditarods.Baker said his mother was as good of a boss as she is a mom."She is the type of boss that may be a little too caring, too sympathetic," John Baker said.For more than 30 years, Marge Baker has kept the family airline aloft and profitable, her children said."My dad would definitely be proud of her," John Baker said.’Two Babes and a Bird’

Nevada regulators give nod to CIRI casino investment

CARSON CITY, Nev. -- Nevada gambling regulators are recommending approval of a complex agreement letting 7,000 Alaska Natives profit from a planned Las Vegas-area hotel and casino.If approved by the Nevada Gaming Commission June 20, the agreement would allow the Cook Inlet Region Inc. to receive gambling profits from a 350-room Ritz-Carlton resort being built at Lake Las Vegas in suburban Henderson.The agreement recommended by the Nevada Gaming Control Board June 5 seeks to resolve conflicting federal and state requirements, balancing Nevada gambling law and the rights of the Alaska Native shareholders in their Anchorage-based company.Nevada officials said regulations might ban some shareholders in prison from receiving gambling profits."I think this achieves a very good balance in terms of strictly regulating this company," said Dennis Neilander, control board chairman .He added that the issue of shareholder suitability is very narrow and should not be the focus of a gambling application. The company has assets of more than $1 billion and has a "commendable history," Neilander said.If the commission approves the agreement, the company must apply for a license.Control board member Scott Scherer said Nevada gambling law allows for flexibility. He said the agreement approved by the panel encourages investment while maintaining strict control and regulation of gambling.Control board members were told in April that CIRI was established under the authority of Congress, and that the federal act requires all shareholders to receive equal dividends.But Carl Marrs, company president, told the control board at the April meeting that some shareholders are in prison and could be found unsuitable by Nevada officials.Nevada law, designed to weed out mob influences, prohibits unsuitable persons from receiving gambling earnings.The proposal, drafted by Cook Inlet attorney Paul Bible in cooperation with control board attorneys, allows for members who may be unsuitable to transfer their shares to selected family members.The agreement also says that if a shareholder is found unsuitable, gambling profits from the hotel-casino could not be disbursed to shareholders until the issue is resolved.CIRI has a 47 percent interest in the Village at MonteLago development at Lake Las Vegas, which will be anchored by the Ritz-Carlton resort.The company already has a 50 percent share in the Hyatt Regency at Lake Las Vegas but does not share in its gambling profits.

Women own one-fourth of businesses

In Alaska, women count for an important portion of the work force and as employers.The U.S. Small Business Administration in 1999 recorded 16,136 employer businesses in Alaska and 97 percent of those were classified as small businesses with fewer than 500 employees. Women-owned businesses counted for 25.9 percent of businesses in 1997 and employed 16,520 people, according to SBA statistics.According to U.S. Census 2000 figures released in May, Alaska has a population of 302,820 women who make up 48.3 percent of the total population. The total statewide labor force age 16 and older was 326,596, including 145,422 women. Of all Alaska women age 16 and older, 65.9 percent are in the labor force.The state Department of Labor and Workforce Development reports that at least 50 percent of women workers in 1999 were employed in administrative support, clerical and service jobs.State research shows occupations employing the largest numbers of female workers were general office occupations, sales clerks, bookkeepers and accounting and auditing clerks, secretaries, elementary school teachers, waiters and waitresses, teacher aides and cashiers.Jobs employing at least 90 percent of workers who were female in 1999 were legal secretaries, dental assistants, hairdressers and cosmetologists, secretaries, receptionists, billing clerks, pre-kindergarten and kindergarten teachers, bank tellers and registered nurses.Jobs with 5 percent or fewer women include heavy equipment mechanics, plumbers/pipe-fitters, automobile mechanics, welders and cutters, carpenters, electricians, material moving equipment operators, truck and tractor-trailer drivers, supervisors of mechanics and repairers, airplane pilots and navigators, and excavating and loading machine operators.

Senate-approved bypass mail bill could save Postal Service $30 million a year

FAIRBANKS -- The U.S. Senate has approved changes to Alaska’s bypass mail system.The Senate June 6 added the bypass mail language to a supplemental spending bill for the federal government’s current fiscal year. Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, offered the amendment, which was adopted by unanimous consent.Stevens said overhauling the bypass mail system should save the Postal Service $30 million a year.The Senate action comes after more than a year of work on the proposal, which was supported by some air carriers in Alaska but opposed by others.The House version of the supplemental bill, which passed last month, contains intent language supporting revisions to the bypass mail system. Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, secured that language.The House and Senate versions must be merged in a conference committee."I don’t expect any problems from the House or anybody on this bill," Stevens told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.Under the current bypass program, shippers can send 1,000 pounds or more of material, including groceries, to rural Alaska at parcel post rates. It’s dubbed "bypass" because the packages bypass post offices and go directly to eligible air carriers on a rotating basis.The Postal Service pays the air carriers to carry the bypass mail, using a formula based on industry costs.Those costs will continue to rise if nothing is done and more companies get into the bypass mail business, according to Stevens. As the mail gets split among more carriers, the amount each carrier spends to deliver each shipment inevitably rises, he said. Under the cost-based formula, those rising expenses must be reimbursed by the Postal Service.Eliminating the cost-reimbursement system isn’t an attractive option, Stevens said June 7. If that were done, the Postal Service would contract out the mail delivery to the lowest bidder. Then air carriers would have to cut back their rural passenger service dramatically, something he doesn’t want to see happen.So he and Young have pushed a two-pronged approach to cap costs while potecting passenger service.First, their legislation would restrict new carriers on mainline routes between Alaska’s larger cities and the Bush hubs. No new carriers on a route would be allowed unless they provided at least as many passenger seats as the current largest passenger carrier serving the hub community.Existing carriers would not face the minimum passenger requirement. Those carriers include Northern Air Cargo, Air Cargo Express, Alaska Airlines and Lynden Air Cargo.At least one company hoping to get into the bypass mail business, Evergreen Aviation, has said requiring new mainline carriers to carry a certain number of passengers while exempting existing carriers is unfair.Stevens, however, said the restriction is necessary to prevent the cost escalation.Provisions of the bill also will encourage consolidation of the mail into fewer, larger planes, he said.The legislation’s second prong would affect Bush routes between the hubs and the smaller outlying villages. Carriers that transport more passengers and non-mail freight would be given most of the bypass mail. Also, carriers using small planes would have to upgrade to twin-engine aircraft under certain conditions to remain eligible.The legislation delays the new rules for 15 months.

Gov. Knowles asks unions to keep loading ships bound for Alaska

ANCHORAGE -- With less than a month before a West Coast longshoremen’s contract expires, shipping companies operating in Alaska are girding for a possible strike or work slowdowns. Gov. Tony Knowles, meanwhile, has asked the longshoremen’s union to continue loading Alaska-bound ships if a strike occurs.Neither the International Longshore and Warehouse Union nor the Pacific Maritime Association, both based in San Francisco, will comment on the contract talks because of a self-imposed news blackout. Talks began last month. The three-year contract ends July 1.Union spokesman Steve Stallone said that there’s been only one strike in 54 years and that the two sides usually work out a contract. The maritime association’s chief executive, Joseph Miniace, said he’s optimistic that the union shares the goals of modernizing workplace practices and technology. The maritime association represents shipping lines, stevedore companies and terminal operators.Trucks and jets haul some goods to Alaska. But the threat of a dock workers’ strike looms large in the state because the bulk of Alaska’s groceries, clothing, furniture, cars and building materials arrives by container ship from the Port of Tacoma.Frank Peake is Alaska vice president of CSX Lines, one of the two major shippers that bring everything from milk to toilet paper to minivans to Alaska."I don’t think that they’ve really tackled any of the tough issues yet," Peake said.Peake said he’s monitoring the labor talks. In the meantime, he’s repositioned another ship to handle any spike in inventory to Alaska this month. With the possibility of a strike, department stores and car dealers often increase the amount of goods shipped."For this state in particular, it’s critical because we only have seven to eight days worth of inventory in many cases. It wouldn’t take long for us to be out of milk and bread and what have you," said Peake.The other major shipping company that serves Alaska, Totem Ocean Trailer Express Inc., or TOTE, is also making contingency arrangements, said Bob McGee, president. McGee declined to offer specifics, saying it wouldn’t help the contract talks.McGee noted that the longshoremen’s union hasn’t had a work stoppage since 1972. When strikes have loomed in the past, the union has agreed to exempt Alaska because shipping, to a large extent, is the state’s economic lifeblood, he said.Knowles wrote to the union April 15 asking longshoremen to continue loading ships bound for Alaska even if they strike or stage a work slowdown. Knowles said that he recognizes the union’s right to withhold labor in the absence of a contract but that to exempt Alaska from any work stoppage would be "a bold statement of partnership with my state."The union hasn’t responded yet but plans to reply, Stallone said.Union longshoremen on the West Coast handle 60 percent of commodity freight to Alaska, Knowles said. But Alaska is just a small portion of the overall domestic and international cargo moving through West Coast ports such as Long Beach, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle and Tacoma.It’s the union’s prerogative whether or not to grant Alaska a waiver."It’s not a slam dunk," Peake said.

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