VECO is Exporter of Year

Gov. Tony Knowles has chosen VECO Corp. as Alaska’s Exporter of the Year. The award was presented May 24 during the annual Export Alaska banquet held in Anchorage. The company was honored for services it handles around the world, including work in Russia, China, Kuwait, India, Central Africa and Egypt, according to the governor’s office. "We feel like it’s a real honor," said VECO President Pete Leathard. "It’s important for an engineering construction company to win an award like this. We’re not an exporter of things. We’re really an exporter of knowledge." VECO Corp. employs about 4,500 people including 2,000 who work in foreign countries, state officials said. "VECO is an Alaska-founded and Alaska-owned company that exports project engineering, construction and operations expertise around the world," Knowles said in a statement. VECO Corp. was runner-up for the award last year and in 1999. Williams Alaska Petroleum Inc. was chosen runner-up for the award. The company operates a refinery at North Pole that processes about 215,000 barrels of Alaska crude oil daily. According to state officials, Williams Alaska Petroleum converts 63,000 barrels daily into refined product used in Alaska and foreign markets like Japan and Taiwan. The company also is co-owner of the Anchorage CargoPort at the Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport, which added between 75 and 100 jobs last year, state officials said. Honorable mention was given to Arctic Geoscience Inc. of Anchorage. The earth science and engineering company is involved in various exploratory and development activities in Germany, Kazakstan, the Netherlands and Russia. The Exporter of the Year award is presented annually to companies based on their impact on the Alaska economy, new market development and export growth.  

April's jobless rate drops as summer jobs begin

JUNEAU -- Alaska’s unemployment rate dropped from 6.7 percent in March to 6.1 percent in April as employers geared up for the construction and tourism seasons. That’s an improvement over last year’s April jobless rate of 7.3 percent. About 19,700 Alaskans were out of work last month, a drop of about 2,000 since March, according to the Department of Labor and Workforce Development. Anchorage, Fairbanks and Juneau had jobless rates below the statewide average in April. The Bristol Bay Borough and the Skagway-Hoonah-Angoon Census Area also experienced significant drops in unemployment in April. Retailers, service providers, construction firms and the transportation industry all contributed to job growth. State and local government employment has also increased in the past year, with 1,200 jobs added since last April. There were exceptions to the trend of lower unemployment rates in the Kodiak Island and North Slope boroughs, the Valdez-Cordova Census Area and most parts of Southwest Alaska. The higher rates in Kodiak and parts of Southwest Alaska were attributed to seafood processors gearing back from winter fisheries. The national unemployment rate in April was 4.2 percent.  

This Week in Alaska Business History June 3, 2001

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 3, 1981Banking merger meets skepticismBy Dave CarpenterTimes Juneau BureauJUNEAU -- Proposed legislation to permit a Seattle banking firm to take over the tottering Security National Bank was greeted skeptically today in a House committee and denounced by Alaska bankers as a special-interest deal reeking of "back-door, power politics."The House Rules Committee scheduled another hearing on the proposal Thursday morning. Committee members, in sharp questioning of the president of the Rainier National Bank, indicated reluctance to push the bill amendment through in the waning days of the session unless convinced the Anchorage-based Security National will fail without the immediate acquisition by Rainier.Anchorage TimesJune 4, 1981KENI-TV sale finalizedBy Bill WhiteTimes WriterA Seattle-based media and investment firm this week officially became owner of KENI-TV in Anchorage and KFAR-TV in Fairbanks, according to the head of the company that sold the stations.Further negotiations are under way to complete sales of the five other Midnight Sun properties.Papers finalizing the sale of the Anchorage and Fairbanks television stations, announced last summer, were signed Wednesday in Seattle, said Al Bramstedt Sr., president of Midnight Sun Broadcasters Inc.The sale price was reported to be $4.6 million and was made retroactive to June 1.The new owner is Zaser and Longston Inc., which has had radio, newspaper and real estate holdings in the Pacific Northwest. President of the firm is Jessica Longston.Bramstedt said the TV stations will keep their NBC affiliation.Midnight Sun now owns four radio stations and a TV station in Alaska.Deals to sell these properties are under way, said Bramstedt, who plans to retire after a 47-year career in broadcasting.10 years ago this weekAlaska Journal of CommerceJune 3, 1991Poker Flat feasibility under studyBy the Alaska Journal of CommerceWith passage of new legislation creating an Alaska Aerospace Corp., the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority has issued requests for proposals for financial feasibility and facility studies on upgrading the Poker Flat rocket range near Fairbanks into a commercial launch center for low-altitude polar satellites.AIDEA is now evaluating responses, one of which is from MicroSat, a Virginia-based start-up company that hopes to be one of the companies using Poker Flat. MicroSat teamed up with two Alaska firms and one other out-of-state company to bid on the AIDEA feasibility analysis.Alaska Journal of CommerceJune 3,1991Fire Island backers may change approachBy Margaret BaumanAlaska Journal of CommerceCommonwealth North, which has been promoting a major maritime center at Fire Island, has shifted gears and has begun looking at a regional port concept, which stands to include a port at Point MacKenzie.The board of Commonwealth North, a pro-development group co-founded by Gov. Walter Hickel, passed a resolution last week encouraging its subcommittee on Fire Island to look into the regional port concept in addition to Fire Island, said Richard F. Barnes, president."The question at hand was should they continue to work on the regional idea rather than just Fire Island itself," Barnes said. "The board agreed to do that. We are suggesting it is worth taking a look at."-- Compiled by Ed Bennett.

Too often managers forget that people need to feel appreciated

Maria had worked in the quality assurance department for months. In addition to doing her job well, she voluntarily came in early each day and had coffee ready for the rest of the team. Making coffee wasn’t in her job description, but it was something she wanted to do and it made her feel good to help others. She enjoyed her job and planned to stay as long as possible. Her supervisor, Joan, was the type of person who noticed things and always had a positive word to say. Joan even would brag about her employees in front of her district manager, Mr. Cramer. At dinner, Maria would tell her family that Joan was the reason she liked working there. Joan made her feel good about what she did. She noticed and recognized the little things people did and always had something nice to say to them. Maria knew she could find a better paying job closer to her home, but she planned to stay as long as Joan was her boss. Salonda had quite the opposite experience. An administrative assistant who had worked for a large organization for 22 years, she had shouldered more and more responsibility as her company downsized time and again. She felt as if she had five times as much work. When the company cut a temporary worker who worked with her, it was the last straw. She told her boss she didn’t see how she could keep getting all the work done. Instead of acknowledging her workload or seeking a solution, he casually remarked, "You will figure out a way." The next day Salonda quit. Now she’s a floor clerk at a local homebuilding store. She makes half the money but has twice the fun, and feels her efforts are recognized rather than ignored. The moral of these stories? Money may attract people to the front door, but something else keeps them from going out the back. Although many people claim they are quitting for a better paying job elsewhere, survey after survey shows that a lack of appreciation and recognition is a primary reason why people quit their jobs. In a survey I conducted showed when asked, "What causes you the greatest dissatisfaction at work?" the answer with the most responses was lack of appreciation. Many managers are uncomfortable complimenting others and making employees feel appreciated. In situations like these, a nudge from the top can be very effective. I know a hospital chief executive who gives his managers five tokens at the beginning of each weekly staff meeting. Their instructions are to go out in the hospital and give the tokens to people they catch doing something good. They may not come back to the following week’s staff meeting until they give away all of their coins. Often, managers get so involved with day-to-day business that they forgo the "soft" skills that are so important to people. The tokens served as a reinforcement to start this behavior. Setting up a program to make people feel appreciated is not difficult. A well-administered program builds camaraderie, values and makes people feel good about themselves and their jobs. But the biggest reason for the success of these programs is simple -- they allow people to celebrate success and feel good about who they are and for whom they work. Before you plan your program, find out what motivates your people. Don’t assume you already know. In one organization I worked with, management was absolutely certain that employees would select money as its preferred form of recognition. It turned out that money didn’t matter, but parking did. While executives and certain top employees could park in the lot next to the building, most employees had to park several blocks away. With this information in hand, we built a very effective program around parking. Another key aspect of an effective program is variety. All programs become a little boring after about six months. Add variety to your program to make it new and interesting. Consider friendly competitions between departments, or unusual award items. At Miami-based Creative Staffing, the owner offers employees a menu of rewards, which includes parties, expensive dinners, chauffeured shopping sprees, spa sessions and cooking lessons with Paul Prudhomme. Employees decide what they want, figure out how much their package costs, and determine how much additional business they have to generate to cover those costs. And they really enjoy choosing their own reward! Gregory P. Smith leads the management consulting firm called Chart Your Course in Conyers, Ga.

Some of season's Copper River reds, kings fetch higher-than-negotiated price

The season’s first reds and kings from Copper River returned higher prices to fishermen and saw buyers throughout the Northwest scrambling to be the first to feature the prized fish at their restaurants and retail counters. Red salmon fillets were reportedly flying out of Seattle stores at $12.99 a pound, while kings were bringing an unbelievable $19.99 a pound. Meanwhile, Copper River fishermen received $2.25 a pound for their red salmon and $3.25 for kings, which is up a dime from last year’s starting price. Those were the season’s minimum prices that the United Salmon Association and the Copper River Salmon Producers Association negotiated with two small Cordova buyers Copper River Seafoods and Prime Select Seafoods. CRSPA board member Bob Martinson said larger buyers had not agreed to those minimums; however, they were paying $2.75 for reds and $4.50 during the first opener on May 17 "because they wanted to get some of the early fish." "We’re hoping the majors will realize how cohesive our fleet (of 500 boats) is, and negotiate in good faith with us," he said. Looking ahead, he added that USA and CRSPA are also negotiating the state’s "first ever" chum contract, which would pay fishermen 38 cents a pound with extra one-cent bonuses depending on chum roe content. The mid-May harvest of salmon at Copper River makes a huge contribution to the local and state economy. Last year, there was concern that a push by urban, newly defined "subsistence" users, mostly from elsewhere in the state, would result in a delay of the first fishery until June 1 to allow more reds and kings up the river. A study done by University of Alaska/Sea Grant economists for the city of Cordova showed that delaying the early season fishery would result in a loss in volume of 79 percent of the commercial harvest for kings, or 34,143 fish, and 39 percent for reds, or 504,904 fish. Further, harvesters would lose 85 percent of the value of the kings, or $3.7 million, and 55 percent of the value for reds, or $9.8 million. In all, loss to fishermen, tender men, processing companies and workers, and freight and support services was pegged at more than $13.5 million. This "first tier" profile did not include losses to other local businesses and services. The state Board of Fisheries last December ruled against delaying the start of the Copper River fishery, and upriver "subsistence" users have vowed to fight the decision in court. In testimony before the board, one longtime local decried the expanding number of urban dwellers who descend upon upriver regions like Chitina in new SUV’s hauling trailers laden with four wheelers. "True subsistence users don’t require guides," he said. White House salmon As the worldwide controversy surrounding genetically modified fish and other foods continues, the White House is reportedly planning to serve genetically modified salmon at official functions. The Web site AlterNet reports that the move is intended to head off criticism by environmental and consumer groups that the altered foods are unsafe. "You really can’t tell the difference. It may be genetically altered, but it tastes just the same," White House chef Daniel Arreido told AlterNet, adding that the first family already consumes milk containing bovine growth hormone. The White House reportedly plans to debut pan-seared genetically altered super salmon and Texas-style corn pudding at a state dinner next month for French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin. AlterNet quoted Naomi Jurgen-Stoors, a spokeswoman for the activist group Healthy Planet, which supports mandatory labeling on all products containing genetically modified ingredients, as saying: "Our main problem with GM food, what we call ’franken food,’ is that its long-term impact on humans has never been tested. Now I guess we’ll just have to wait and see what happens to the first family." The idea to serve GM foods is credited to Vice President Dick Cheney. Retirees wanted A bill allowing retired state Department of Fish and Game staff to return to full-time work is awaiting the governor’s signature. Sponsored by Rep. Pete Kott, R-Eagle River, House Bill 242 was prompted by a steady loss of workers to federal and other agencies. The bill would allow retired employees to come back to work while keeping their current retirement benefits. According to Commercial Fisheries Director Doug Mecum, the department is experiencing a serious shortage of experienced fishery scientists and technicians, due in part to regular and early retirement. Mecum said repeated state budget cuts and the lure of better paying federal jobs have cost the division more than 20 employees in the past two years. Eighty percent of those workers have signed on with the Federal Subsistence Board or other National Marine Fisheries Service jobs, particularly those related to Steller sea lion studies. Mecum said some of the jobs pay nearly three times what state jobs pay. Sea lion survey Preliminary survey results indicate economic losses attributed to Steller sea lion conservation measures top $46 million for the Aleutian Island pollock and mackerel fisheries, and more than $17 million for the Gulf of Alaska pollock fishery during the past two years. These losses include wages, fish purchases from catcher vessels and tax revenues. Data from the National Marine Fisheries Service suggests that about 200 harvesting vessels, 20 shore-based processors and 35 at-sea processors may have been directly affected. As a result, Congress provided $30 million in disaster relief funds to help mitigate economic losses incurred among coastal communities throughout the Gulf of Alaska, Bering Sea and Aleutian Island areas. In an effort to quantify the economic losses, the Southwest Alaska Municipal Conference retained Northern Economics, an economic consulting group based in Anchorage. Marcus Hartley presented the early findings at SWAMC’s spring conference in Unalaska in mid-May.

Business Profile: Opti Staffing Group

Name of the company: Opti Staffing GroupEstablished: March 2000Location: 2550 Denali St., Suite 715, AnchorageTelephone: 907-677-9675Web site: www.optistaffing.comMajor focus of services: Opti Staffing Group provides employment services including temporary, executive search and direct-hire positions. The firm specializes in clerical, administrative and light industry placement. History of the company: Opti Staffing Group opened its doors in March 2000 with what company officials call a new approach to the staffing industry. They focus on working with companies and candidates who realize that individual efforts are what make the difference in overall effectiveness.Opti Staffing Group operates three separate offices with the corporate headquarters located in Anchorage. Additional offices are located in Tacoma, Wash. and Lake Oswego, Ore. In Anchorage the office employs seven full-time staff, and all three offices employ more than 25 placement specialists.Top accomplishment of the company: Company officials believe that by pursuing their mission statement -- "Our success is determined by your success," -- they have created a positive experience for their clients and candidates.Major player: Avonly Lokan, principal officer, Opti Staffing Group.Lokan has more than 12 years of experience in the staffing industry. Working her way through the ranks she has held various positions ranging from general office clerk to corporate assistant, accounting, staffing specialist and branch manager. She came to Anchorage from Seattle in 1996 as a staffing specialist for an employment services firm. Lokan chose to make a commitment to the staffing industry in 1997 when she earned a national designation as certified temporary specialist from the National Associates of Personnel Services. In 1999 she became a certified personnel consultant.Quote: Lokan holds fast that you get out of life what you believe, and her favorite saying is, "Life is good, very good, and so it is." She adds, "When you believe in yourself wholeheartedly, whatever life brings you it will bring you what you believe in."-- Nancy Pounds

Alaskan leads Macedonian peacekeeping camp

An Alaska Army Guardsman will be heading home after serving nearly seven months as commander of Camp Able Sentry, the NATO military camp on the border of Macedonia and Kosovo. While much of the tour was fairly quiet, Col. Richard Blunt is seeing increased military action close to the camp."(We call it) the insurgency," he said when asked about news reports of fighting in his area during a telephone interview. "The ethnic armed Albanian guerrillas -- the closest they have come to us is 22 to 23 kilometers north."What you see is something that is actually a continuation of what is going on in Kosovo," said Blunt, a traditional Guardsman who commands the Regional Training Institute when in Alaska. "The guerrillas are looking to carve out a portion of Macedonia to make it, I believe, an extension of Kosovo."Macedonia was the only republic to break bloodlessly from Yugoslavia. It was the staging point for NATO-led KFOR troops that allowed ethnic Albanians to return to Kosovo after Serb forces were driven out of the province in 1999 and continues to serve as a strategic launch site for KFOR."Able Sentry is an intermediate staging base," explained Blunt. "In that role, our mission is to quickly receive, stage and onward move soldiers, airmen and Marines in support of the Kosovo peacekeeping mission."This is the entry point for all sustainment supplies bound for Kosovo, and the movement of retrograde equipment and personnel leaving the area," he said.Macedonia’s leadership has been caught off-guard by calls for change by ethnic Albanians, the country’s largest minority. The Albanians complain that they had more rights under the old communist regime and now suffer discrimination in jobs and schools. Having a discontented ethnic Albanian population just over the border in Kosovo potentially intensifies the problem."We have troops aligned and ready, but I can’t discuss whether we’ve been involved in action or not," Blunt said.His main concern continues to be the safety of the young men and women under his command, although thus far, he has no information that the groups are targeting the camp or the KFOR troops."We have adjusted force protection on the base and operating off the base," he said. "My No. 1 goal is that everyone here makes it home safely".Blunt is in the midst of transferring command authority to Lt. Col. Bryan Saucerman, a Nebraska Army Guardsman. "I want to make sure that I leave Bryan with enough information and a trained group of soldiers, so he can succeed," he said.Over the last couple weeks of his command, about 8,500 soldiers will be arriving or leaving the camp as the allied forces undergo rotation, adding considerably to his workload.Another project Blunt is working on is setting up the headquarters for the contract work force in the camp, moving it from Kumanovo, a town 22 kilometers away."Between the expatriates and the host country nations, we have about 1,000 contract workers who provide the bulk of support personnel," he said. "By providing workshops and offices here, we will reduce costs and will be better able to provide security for them."Blunt’s tour at Able Sentry has ended up being 200 days, just under seven months. He expects to be back at his Alaska post in mid-June. Although he has learned a lot being stationed in Macedonia for so long, his major memory of the tour is of the people he has served with while there."Every one of these young men and women is doing a great job," he said. "They are helping to stabilize this portion of the world, though it may not be readily apparent to those who aren’t here. When you step back and look at the job they’ve done, it’s remarkable. We (the American people) need to be proud of the job they are doing."

State lags on association's scorecard

Spring has sprung, frosty nights are waning, the grass is greening and school will soon be out. It’s the time of the year for report cards and test scores. And so it is with Alaska’s economic scorecard. The Alaska Science and Technology Foundation recently published the state’s first Alaska Science & Technology Innovation Index, a compilation of some 30 indicators that rank Alaska among the 50 states, also comparing state technology capacity with selected, similar states. ASTF compiled trend data from more than 20 sources to map Alaska’s position in the knowledge economy that is fueling growth and prosperity across the nation. What’s Alaska’s grade? There’s good news and bad news. The good news (or grades of A and B, if you will): Compared with the U.S. average, Alaska has a higher growth rate in technology industry jobs. We rank first in the nation for household Internet access and second in state government use of technology. Patents issued to Alaska innovators are on an upward trend, although lagging the national average. Our students rank well in the SAT, and we have a high percentage of adults with high school degrees. Alaska receives a "C" in per capita income, as salaries and wages have declined from downsizing in the oil, gas, mining and manufacturing sectors during the 1990s. Also average is state government research spending per capita, the percentage of the work force with doctoral degrees in science and engineering, and the percentage of adults with college degrees. We’re exporting more graduates than we’re attracting. Unfortunately, the 49th state is doing poorly in many more indicators than the 10 for which we’ve achieved average or better performance. Whether Alaska is failing or simply struggling to improve a grade of "D," might depend on how one judges the focus and progress of initiatives by government, industry and educators to join the ranks of states that are chasing knowledge-based economic development. Here’s a rundown of where we lag the rest of the country: * Overall job growth is relatively flat. Alaska ranks second in the nation for high unemployment, and we have a high percentage of nonresident workers. * Once ranked in the top five in the United States, Alaska’s per capita income growth has declined to the lowest in the nation, with high-paying manufacturing and oil jobs declining, and lower-paying service and retail sector jobs increasing. * Gross state product has begun to decline, and the state is attracting little (if any) venture capital, resource and development activity, or wealth-creating enterprise. * We’re also falling behind in a key component necessary for a vigorous knowledge-based economy: higher education. On a per capita basis, we’re enrolling significantly fewer science and engineering graduate students than the national average; faculty and student attendance at the University of Alaska declined over the last decade; and out-migration of college students and younger workers is high. * And, compared with the rest of the country, Alaska has a low percentage of high-tech workers. While technology occupations grew 22 percent from 1994-1999 -- the highest growth rate among all occupations except for those in the health care sector, -- the state started from a low base relative to the rest of the work force. ASTF developed Alaska’s technology index by comparing the state in the areas of population and economic infrastructure, innovation activity, financial capacity, and technology infrastructure and human resources. The index is a snapshot of objective data, without recommendations for improvement. ASTF likely wanted it that way, as a tool for discussion and planning unhampered by analytical opinion. The foundation does say, "High-paying jobs in (geographical) growth areas are critically needed to offset the decline in wealth and employment from Alaska’s North Slope. These new jobs require technical innovation, capital, management and trained workers." From the data compiled in this first Alaska Science & Technology Innovation Index, it appears Alaska has some homework to do. ASTF has indicated that it will periodically update the index as an ongoing measure of the state’s technology performance. Whether a boom-euphoria from potential natural gas and Arctic National Wildlife Refuge development will overpower the state’s resolve to diversify into other lucrative industries remains to be seen. The full report is posted on the ASTF Web site at (www.astf.org). Sally J. Suddock is the executive director of the Alaska High-Tech Business Council and IT Careers Consortium.  

Around the World May 27, 2001

STATEKenai council OKs letter, not hog farm resolution KENAI -- The Kenai City Council got a little hog shy at its meeting May 16.Faced with a resolution in support of Soldotna businessman Dick Metteer’s plan to build hog farms in Alaska and, potentially, the Kenai Peninsula, the council balked and instead decided to back a letter of support from the mayor.The resolution before the council supported Metteer’s acquisition of $396,500 in funding to complete a business plan to build an operation that could produce 660,000 heads of hog a year.Two members of the public urged the council members to look into the impact of hog operations before supporting Metteer.Residents want Slope gas to come to PeninsulaKENAI -- Central peninsula residents spoke almost as one about efforts to bringing North Slope natural gas to market at a May 17 hearing in Kenai before the governor’s Alaska Highway Natural Gas Policy Council.All who testified said at least some of the gas should come to Cook Inlet, and many even endorsed the route down the highway as the best way to get most of the product to market.There was no open opposition from the council members, many of whom agreed that Southcentral Alaska needs to be kept in mind as the project proceeds.The council is charged with promoting the Alaska Highway route, which would follow the trans-Alaska oil pipeline from Prudhoe Bay to Fairbanks, where it would turn down the Alaska Highway to the Canadian province of Alberta to join existing gas transmission lines into the Lower 48.EPA fines worry state’s cannery operatorsANCHORAGE -- Federal regulators are cracking down on canneries by imposing a slew of hefty fines.The Environmental Protection Agency has proposed fining five cannery operators a total of $682,000 for alleged pollution violations in recent summers. The companies are negotiating settlements, but as Alaska surges into another summer of prodigious salmon harvests, the cannery operators are worried. They fear more fines are coming, or that other measures could force them to shut down or pay the expense of barging fish waste to remote dump sites.NationManpower sees hiring near recession lowsGLENDALE, Wis. -- Hiring by U.S. private and public employers could approach levels last seen during the 1990-91 recession, according to a quarterly employment survey May 21 by Manpower Inc.Only 27 percent of employers say they plan to add staff during the third quarter of this year, compared with 35 percent during the year-ago period, according to the Employment Outlook Survey by the Milwaukee-based temporary staffing agency."Companies across all industries are continuing to show clear caution in hiring,’’ said Jeff Joerres, Manpower’s chairman, president and chief executive officer. "The projected hiring strength in the present economy has declined for the second consecutive quarter and now seems to be approaching the 1990-91 levels in our survey history.’’When adjusted for seasonal variations, hiring projections are about half that expected just six months ago, Joerres added.The Manpower report said 9 percent of the 16,000 employers it surveyed expect to cut jobs, and 64 percent see no change or are undecided. That compared with 5 percent saying a year ago they planned to cut jobs and 60 percent expecting to stay the same or undecided.One gas exec doesn’t want to open ANWR soonDENVER -- Not all oil and gas executives would like to see Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge opened for drilling.Peter Dea, the chief executive of Barrett Resources Corp., a Denver-based natural gas producer, says President Bush may have gone too far, too soon in proposing to open a portion of pristine Alaska wilderness for oil drilling."I would be hopeful that we would not need to open up existing wilderness areas to exploration,’’ Dea said in an interview with The Associated Press, making clear that his opinion was "probably in the minority’’ for the industry.Dea said the federal government first needs to make it easier to get permits for projects on lands already open for drilling. The Alaskan refuge should be considered only after the country "make(s) headway on conservation, fuel efficiency and (considers) some other areas that haven’t been opened up, such as offshore California and offshore Florida.’’Trade deficit jumps 16% in March, report saysWASHINGTON -- Americans’ appetite for imported cars, clothes and toys sent the U.S. trade deficit surging by a record amount in March, only one month after a narrowing deficit had lifted forecasts for overall economic growth.The Commerce Department said May 18 that the trade imbalance jumped by 16.1 percent in March, to $31.2 billion. The $4.3 billion jump was the biggest one-month increase on record.Crowley buys its stock to avoid going publicOAKLAND, Calif. -- Going public is unthinkable at Crowley Maritime Corp., a venerable marine transport."We will do whatever we need to do to stop us from being forced to go public," chief executive Thomas Crowley Jr. told shareholders May 17.Until mid-May, the Oakland-based company was in danger of crossing a line that federal regulators use to determine whether a company must open its books to the world by filing detailed quarterly reports with the Securities and Exchange Commission.Regulators require the filings for companies with at least 500 shareholders and as, of April 13, Crowley Maritime had 480 shareholders. Crowley Maritime decided to thin its stockholder ranks by making a $1,540-per-share offer to all investors with 10 or fewer shares in the company. The offer represented a premium above the most recent asking price of $1,000 for the stock, according to the company’s tender offer.Compiled from business wire services.

Inlet salmon may bear brand

KENAI -- It’s been done for 15 years in Cordova and going on five years in Western Alaska. Now, fishermen in Cook Inlet are considering creating a brand name for their salmon to help set them apart from the crowd.The Copper River brand name has been so successful that it has been extended to sockeye and soon to silvers. The dark side is that some unscrupulous marketers have appropriated the Copper River moniker for fish not caught there.To battle that, fishermen and processors are developing a certification program for Copper River salmon. That is an important step for Cook Inlet fishermen who want to follow suit, says Seattle-based consultant Chris Mitchell of Seafood Market Developers.Mitchell spoke to a dozen commercial fishermen in the basement of the Cook Inlet Aquaculture Association building in Kenai May 15 about "branding" the salmon they catch.Mitchell, along with partner Knute Nordness, was asked to meet with fishermen at the request of Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Dale Bagley."The success of Cordova fishermen has got others thinking they can do it, too," Nordness said. "You say ’Copper River’ over and over again and it catches on. They are very effective."Copper River kings have a cachet among restaurants, fishmongers and consumers in the Lower 48 who want the first -- and what they think is the best -- fish of the year.Nordness said Copper River kings sell for $20 a pound in the Seattle neighborhood he lives in."People don’t buy Copper River kings because they need them, they buy them to have friends over so they can say, ’this is a Copper River king,’ " he said.Mitchell said Copper River fishermen capitalize on their salmon being the earliest run of the year and the fish’s high oil content. Something unique about Cook Inlet salmon must be emphasized to help promote them.Paul Dale of Snug Harbor Seafoods said some distributors and consumers have come to resent the high price of Copper River fish. He suggested following the footsteps of Avis, a national rental car company that once promoted itself as "Not number one, but a very affordable number two."Another idea was emphasizing the fact that the red salmon run in Cook Inlet is among the latest in the state, so consumers should get one before the season ends.Commercial fisherman Karl Kircher said Cook Inlet and Kenai Peninsula salmon are already known worldwide among sport fishermen. He suggested using that as part of a branding program."Two hundred thousand sport fishermen can’t be wrong," he said. "Maybe we can walk on their backs and sell these salmon to that person who can’t fish the Russian River."

Insurance offices wed

Two Alaska-owned commercial insurance brokers will combine offices June 1. Brady & Co. Inc. joins with Anderson-Brunton Insurance Brokers Inc., both based in Anchorage, company officials announced in mid-May.After the deal Brady & Co. will employ 65 people and handle about $200 million in insurance premiums for business, government and nonprofit clients in Alaska.The new arrangement won’t result in any staff reductions, said Charlie Anderson, president of Anderson-Brunton. Anderson will become president and chief operating officer of Brady & Co., replacing Fred Chadwick who retired earlier this year.Twelve employees from Anderson-Brunton will join Brady & Co. as a result of the arrangement, which has been in the works since March, company officials said."It came together so fast because all aspects were very positive," Anderson said."Both of us have grown together and always had a mutual respect for the other’s company," said Carl Brady Jr., chairman and chief executive. "This is a natural alliance of industry friends and allows us to provide customers continued excellence in services."Consolidations, like the one between Brady & Co. and Anderson-Brunton, are taking place across the industry, Brady said."Together we are stronger than we are independently," he said.Brady & Co. provides risk management services including commercial property and liability, group benefits coverage and construction surety bonding.Anderson-Brunton started in Anchorage in 1992. Charlie Anderson, who had managed the Anchorage office of national insurance firm Marsh and McLenna, bought an interest in the local operations and formed Anderson-Brunton.Brady & Co. began operations in 1994 when Brady purchased the business of Rollins Hudig Hall of Alaska Inc.

In a down economy, good customer management is best defense

Businesses small and large can no longer ignore the need to gird themselves for tough times. After all of the knee-jerk protective measures have been taken, such as restricting travel, slashing ad budgets and delaying approved capital expenditures, smart marketers will revisit the fundamentals that tend to be forgotten by lemming marketers on their panic pilgrimage to the cliffs. One such basic is Customer Relationship Management, or CRM, which is the process of better managing and optimizing the value of the existing client/customer relationships, while approaching prospect solicitation with a more rational and compelling message and value proposition. The Peppers and Rogers Group is one of the pre-eminent management consulting firms specializing in customer-focused business issues. They are the organization that first popularized the term "one-to-one marketing." They believe there are three primary reasons why focusing on CRM makes good sense in a downturn: * Managing customer relationships represents a "cheap growth" option, since it generates more efficiency and less waste; * Investments in CRM process changes or implementation can be made incrementally in small bites with the possibility of each incremental investment generating immediate cash flow benefit; and * Locking in valuable customer relationships is a strategic capability that will determine the competitive performance of a company in both good and bad times. CRM is ’cheap growth’ It’s axiomatic in marketing that not all customers are created with equal profit potential. Therefore, the smart company will grow its business by managing its customer relationships in order to make each individual customer as profitable as possible. To do this requires "a firm to have a reasonably good idea of the value and growth potential of different individual customers, whether it uses a sophisticated statistical model of lifetime value or a rougher, down-and-dirty ranking mechanism," according to Peppers and Rogers. If you know your customers and prospects and how they vary by value -- their revenue and/or profit potential -- it makes sense to concentrate on those who are more likely to generate the most profit. As Peppers and Rogers notes, "In any customer base there will almost certainly exist some customers who tend to cost more to serve than they are likely to return in profit." While a non-CRM user is powerless to address that unfortunate reality, companies that segment and market according to a CRM strategy can grow their business cheaply by simply serving fewer unprofitable customers, all of whom can be efficiently identified and targeted for benign neglect. Implement incrementally Be prepared to launch even the most comprehensive CRM initiative with a series of bite-sized steps and try to ascertain the results before committing to spend. Like its counterpart, direct marketing, CRM lends itself to pre-testing. Be willing to experiment with small customer test batches, learn from the results and extrapolate accordingly. Note Peppers and Rogers, "Rather than an all-or-nothing proposition, CRM is something that any business can do incrementally and it can implement it in ways that generate provable, measurable financial benefits." CRM as a strategic capability Ultimately, CRM allows the marketer to stay very close to the customer, to respond quickly to ever changing needs and behavior. The better the marketer knows the customer, the more efficiently and effectively it can customize its relationship with that customer for a mutually satisfying experience. What this means, in essence, is increasing the "share of customer" with each individual customer. At its simplest level, this means more cross-selling, up-selling and customer service and, in many instances, seeking out more opportunities to collaborate with the customer via a customized, individual approach. In the case of Dell Computer Corp., a Web-based service was developed that allowed enterprise customers to order pre-configured Dell products and services within company-specific purchasing guidelines. What Dell was doing was helping its customers manage their total cost of ownership of Dell products. Dell did this by inserting itself in the middle of its customers’ own cost equations, making its services highly valuable to any business customer focused on cost. Not surprisingly, most business-to-business customers are eager to negotiate arrangements such as Dell’s when the economy turns down and reducing cost becomes the key demand of the day. Where the traditional marketer is forced to negotiate on price, a CRM-enabled organization can give the customer exactly what it wants by adding services rather than reducing prices. Alf Nucifora is an Atlanta-based marketing consultant.  

Business Profile: Reid Middleton

Name of the company: Reid Middleton Established: Anchorage office opened in 1991 Location: 4300 B St., Suite 403, Anchorage Telephone: 907-562-3439 Major focus of services: Reid Middleton in Alaska specializes in providing structural engineering expertise, typically as a subcontractor to architects. History of the company: Reid Middleton was founded in Edmonds, Wash., in 1953, as James H. Reid & Associates before incorporating in 1960 as Reid, Middleton & Associates Inc. Today the company is based in Everett, Wash. The company opened an Anchorage office in January 1991. The Reid Middleton area office employs seven people. Past projects: Reid Middleton staff in Alaska have helped design the Challenger Learning Center of Alaska in Kenai and the Campbell Creek Science Center in Anchorage. Current projects: In Alaska Reid Middleton is working on the design for the University of Alaska Anchorage Consortium Library expansion project. It should be completed this fall with construction beginning next year. The firm also helped design a four-story building for Alyeska Pipeline Service Co. expected to be built this summer in Valdez. Another current design project is the marine center in Homer for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Due to start construction in 2002, the facility incorporates office and visitor center-type display space. Top accomplishment of the company: Anchorage office leaders are proud of their staff and the firm’s perseverance in business. The engineers relish projects with interesting architecture. "I think a fun project for us is when we get the opportunity to work with the architecture," said Ken Andersen, incoming Alaska regional manager. "For us we really go out of our way to work with the architecture," said Ron Dailey, principal. Major players: Ken Andersen, Alaska regional manager, and Ron Dailey, principal, Reid Middleton. Andersen, who was born in Alaska and attended high school here, worked in the state for 15 years. He helped design the Alaska Native Heritage Center. He joined Reid Middleton three years ago and has worked in Seattle for seven years. He takes the lead of the Anchorage office in June, filling in for Ron Dailey who begins a one-year sabbatical this summer. Daily will return as a principal with the firm. Dailey, who came to Alaska in 1984 and arrived in Anchorage in 1986, ran his own firm for eight years in the mid-1980s. In the mid-1990s he merged his company with Reid Middleton. -- Nancy Pounds  

Alaska Airlines adds flights for Copper River salmon 'circus'

A season opener for Copper River salmon in Prince William Sound on May 17 triggered extra charter flights by Alaska Airlines to cover lift for the anticipated catch. "It was a real circus around here with the media hype," said Keola Pang-Ching, director of cargo for Alaska Airlines, from his Seattle office on May 17. "Everyone in Seattle has been anticipating the arrival of the first Copper River salmon of the season." "We figured 30,000 pounds per chartered aircraft," added Pang-Ching. Cordova normally would receive two flights by Alaska Airlines daily during the summer months. The airline lifted 285,095 pounds or 72 percent more than last year with a total of nine all-cargo flights. A media blitz by local Seattle restaurants and grocery markets, all vying for the "first" fish, had TV crews bird-dogging Flight 88 at Sea-Tac Airport, a direct flight from Anchorage to Seattle, according to Pang-Ching. "The flight left Cordova at 10 a.m. and arrived shortly after 2 p.m. with two flats at 300 pounds each of fish, and we were surrounded by TV cameras," Pang-Ching said. The first two flats of fish were flown by helicopter, chartered by Larry’s Market and Queen Anne Thriftway in Seattle, from the beach at the mouth of the Copper River and on to Anchorage. Once in Anchorage, the boxes of fish were driven by van to Flight 88 in Anchorage and on to Seattle. Pang-Ching added that all of Seattle was queued for the fish, and that even grocery bags were imprinted advertising the arrival of Copper River red and king salmon. In Anchorage all forwarders were poised for the opener, and one forwarder was even organizing trucks for the local market. "We have been really busy setting up a network to get some of the fish here," said Phil P.J. Cranmer of Perishables International Inc. "We have a little bit of everyone carrying fish for us to markets in the Lower 48." "The hype is incredible, but we love the business," added Pang-Ching. "(Seattle restaurant) Saltee’s on Alkai flew their chef, restaurant manager and a couple who won a dinner on them, to Copper River for a fresh off the grill dinner of Copper River salmon. Now that’s really classy."  

Calista plans for striking it rich

Calista Corp.’s business activities are returning modest profits and jobs to shareholders, but the corporation’s long-range strengths are its huge 6 million acre land base and prospects for natural resource development. In fact, Calista owns what could someday be one of the world’s largest gold mines. Although low metals prices and big technical and logistics problems challenge the project, the Native corporation and its mining company partners continue to work on development of the Donlin Creek project, according to June McAtee, Calista’s vice president for land and natural resources. McAtee, a geologist, is also a Calista shareholder. Donlin Creek is 300 miles west of Anchorage and 12 miles from the village of Crooked Creek, on the upper Kuskokwim River. It has a gold resource of about 13 million ounces. If it becomes a mine, Donlin Creek would be the largest gold mine developed in Alaska by far and among the top l0 percent of gold mines, in size, in the world, according to Jeff Foley, senior exploration geologist for Calista. In comparison, the Fort Knox gold mine near Fairbanks and the Pogo gold discovery near Delta each contain about 5 million ounces of gold. What also illustrates the significance of the resource, Foley said, is that throughout Alaska’s history there have been about 60 million ounces of gold discovered in Interior Alaska, including Donlin Creek’s 13 million ounces. That means Donlin Creek by itself represents just more than 20 percent of all the gold discovered to date in the region. More gold could be found on Calista’s lands, too. "It’s unusual to find a standalone gold deposit of this size without others being found in the same region," Foley said. "It’s our job, as the major landowner in the area, to foster the exploration needed to find these other resources," he said. Calista geologists recognized the significance of Donlin Creek, McAtee said. Because of the general resource potential, Calista and nearby Native village corporations had selected lands in the area in the 1970s after passage of the 1971 Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act by Congress. In 1987 Bruce Hickok and Rob Retherford, then Calista geologists, conducted a small augering program to test the extent of lode gold mineralization in the area. Placer gold miners have long been active in the area. McAtee said the work by Hickok and Retherford showed the lode mineralization was widespread at Donlin Creek. "Donlin is not an obvious gold deposit. Except for Quartz-Stibnite veins in the area noted by the U.S. Geological Survey, there was not a lot of evidence that a large body of gold mineralization was present," she said. Foley said that many buried deposits of minerals are missed. Finding those require more intensive kinds of exploration, he said. After Hickok and Retherford found the mineralization, however, Calista began working to promote the project to mining companies. WestGold, a company active in Alaska in the 1980s, leased and drilled the property in 1988 and 1989, and in 1994, Teck Resources, a company now involved at the Pogo discovery, near Delta, leased the property. For various reasons both dropped the prospect. In 1995 Placer Dome, a major U.S. gold mining company, became interested. Placer saw the potential for a big mine and has spent $33 million since 1995 and has defined a 13 million ounce resource, Foley said. But despite that investment, Placer has now decided to concentrate on its producing gold mines because of low gold prices. The company has brought in another company, NovaGold Resources Inc., as an operating partner. NovaGold has an option to acquire up to 70 percent of Donlin Creek and will continue exploration at the project this summer, including drilling, with a planned budget of about $1 million, Foley said. This is about the same level of exploration activity Placer has maintained over the last couple of years, but in previous years the company has spent much more, he said. NovaGold is a smaller company than Placer and has other Alaska gold holdings. The company will concentrate on defining a higher-grade gold resource at the south end of the property. Once a mine is developed, it can hopefully be expanded, Foley said.

This Week in Alaska Business History May 27, 2001

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 TimesMay 27, 1981Sales pitch launches tourism pushBy Bill WhiteTimes WriterAbout 25 local businessmen heard a pitch today to join a 6-year-old business-state tourism program.The program aims to link about $700,000 in funds from private business with $2.3 million in state money in a media campaign to lure tourists to Alaska.The businesses attending the meeting this morning at the Sheffield House included hotels, tour groups, car rental agencies and airlines.Al Parrish, past president of the Alaska Visitors Association Marketing Council, which runs the campaign told those present, "Your involvement and others like you in the state of Alaska is a key to the success in these programs."The campaign for the year starting July 1 kicked off today. It will be followed by similar meetings in Seattle Thursday and in Kenai and Fairbanks next week.Anchorage TimesMay 28, 1981Anchorage loses ’richest’ city titleTimes Washington BureauWASHINGTON -- If you’re into keeping up with the Joneses, brace yourself. Your cousins in Reno, Nev., and in southwest Connecticut are collectively richer.Anchorage has lost its berth as the metropolitan area with the higher per capita personal income in the nation.The U.S. Commerce Department reports that in 1979, the most recent year for which figures are available, Reno topped the list with a rate of $12,317 -- 41 percent above the national average.In second place was the Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk-Danbury area of Connecticut, with average income of $12,666 per person. That area has become the new home to the headquarters of many large corporations relocating from New York City.The Anchorage area dropped to third in per capita income with $12,200 -- 39 percent above the national average.In 1978, Anchorage had the highest per capita personal income, $11,416, 48 percent above the national average.10 years ago this weekAlaska Journal of CommerceMay 27, 1991Alaska-Soviet connection: gradual progressBy Don ByronAlaska Journal of CommerceIs doing business with the Soviets a headache, or is it a pain in the neck?For many would-be international operators, the answer has been painful: It’s both. But some Alaskans have managed quite well in a number of small ways."There are four basic business problems" in dealing with the Soviets, said Mark Butler, managing director of Soviet Services, a small firm with offices in Anchorage and Khabarovsk, U.S.S.R. "First is communication, then transportation. Number three is understanding how things work there. And the fourth is logistics -- what do you do when you get there?"Alaska Journal of CommerceMay 27, 1991Spill law chases tanker operatorsBy Ray TysonAlaska Journal of CommerceA tough oil spill law stemming from the Exxon Valdez disaster, coupled with declining crude production, has led to an exodus of Cook Inlet ocean tanker operators during the past two years.Among companies pulling up stakes are ARCO Alaska, British Petroleum, Texaco, Chinese Petroleum and most recently Chevron, which will close its Nikiski refinery next month rather than risk a major oil spill that could wipe out years of thin profit.A number of refined-product shippers also abandoned the Inlet, said Joe Saunter, an ecologist for the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation’s oil contingency program.-- Compiled by Ed Bennett.

Business interests modest, growing

In terms of its commercial operations, Calista Corp., the Southwest Alaska Native regional corporation, is modestly successful.Calista’s net income in 2000 was $874,000 on revenues of $13.6 million. Revenues were up 24.8 percent, from $10.9 million in 1999, with $802,000 of the gain coming from increased natural resource revenue shared from other regional corporations, according to the corporation’s 2000 annual report.Sharing of resource revenues among the regional corporations is required by the 1971 Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act. Investment gains from securities and interest earnings also contributed to revenue growth.Calista’s total assets grew to $62 million, an increase of $34 million, from $28 million in assets in 1999. Most of the increase came from a land exchange with the federal government.Calista and three village corporations exchanged 265,000 acres of surface and subsurface land for $39.4 million in federal property rights. Calista’s share of this was $29.7 million.The corporation has a number of business activities. Ilikista Ventures holds 40 percent ownership in four Alaska title companies, Pacific Northwest Title of Alaska, Fairbanks Title Agency Inc., Title Insurance Agency of Juneau Inc. and Pacific Northwest Title Co. of Kenai.During 2000, Calista’s share of profits in these dropped from $169,000 in 1999 to $135,000 in 2000 because of a slowdown in real estate markets.One bright spot for Calista is its 20 percent ownership in Nordic-Calista Services, which operates drilling rigs on the North Slope. Calista’s share of net income from this investment increased from $850,000 in 1999 to $987,000 in 2000 due to increasing oil activity on the North Slope.Alaska Newspapers Inc., of which Calista owns 88 percent, publishes seven weekly newspapers in Alaska as well as special publications. Revenues for ANI increased from $2.6 million in 1999 to $3.08 million in 2000, but increased costs due to acquisition of new equipment and ANI’s diversification into commercial printing resulted in a net loss in 2000 of $623,000, up from a $510,000 loss in 1999.The future looks better for ANI, however. New printing equipment allows the company to print its own newspapers, and a line of small commercial presses will allow the company to expand contract printing services. The printing business achieved $93,000 in profit in its second year, according to the annual report, which helped offset losses from the newspapers.Two ventures aimed at improving commercial services and fuel supplies in Western and Northwest Alaska have had mixed results. Wave Wholesale LLC, a wholesaler for food and general goods of which Calista owns 13 percent, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.Calista took an $800,000 write down of its investment. In its March newsletter to shareholders, Calista’s management said Wave Wholesale expanded too rapidly in the three years it has operated. The company is now shedding assets under a reorganization plan.Wave Wholesale will retain ownership of Northland Transportation Freight Co. and a retail store in Unalakleet, but has closed Northwest Motorsports, a Kotzebue retail store. The company will focus on selling groceries and general merchandise to rural retailers, its manager, Jerry Dunn, said in the Calista newsletter.However, another venture aimed at improving fuel services, Wave Fuel & Transportation LLC, has been modestly profitable. Wave Fuels is a wholesale fuel distributor in the Calista region and in Northwest Alaska. Calista owns 12 percent. Other owners include NANA Regional Corp. and village corporations.During 2000, Wave Fuels delivered 4.9 million gallons of fuel to 80 retail customers in Western and Northwest Alaska."Although it does not have a significant impact on Calista’s bottom line, it has helped to reduce the cost of fuel in the Calista region," the annual report said.

Evergreen expands with cargo flights to Adak, Russian Far East

Evergreen International Airlines Inc. is making good on its idea of bringing a DC-9 jet to Alaska for cargo service statewide and to the Russian Far East. The company will also add an additional aircraft for Adak and Russian Far East passenger markets later."We are happy to announce that we will start a combination of passenger and cargo service here in Alaska, and hopefully passenger service to Adak and the Russian Far East sometime in the future," said Ron Pye, director of passenger sales for Evergreen in Alaska."As soon as we have the necessary paperwork from the U.S. Department of Transportation, we will offer service to the Russian Far East market to service the oil business on Sakhalin Island."Evergreen officials said that they are actively seeking charters from the oil industry to Sakhalin Island.The DC-9 cargo jet arrived May 20. It is capable of carrying 34,000 pounds, almost two tons more than the Boeing 737-200s used by Alaska Airlines.Don Brugman, Evergreen’s senior director of sales for Alaska, said that Evergreen is not new to Alaska, as they have flights currently operating from Seattle to Southeast Alaska for U.S. Postal Service contracts. Also, the carrier had earlier helped Wien Air Alaska with its passenger lift from rural Alaska in the ’80s.Evergreen’s Greg Thies, marketing and sales director for the helicopter division at Merrill Field, mentioned in December that the airline division of the company was interested in filling a demand created when Reeve Aleutian Airways Inc. announced that it was suspending scheduled flights to the Aleutians and the Russian Far East."It’s no secret we have been talking this up all over the place. I guess that the cat is out of the bag," Thies said.U.S. Department of Transportation filings for Essential Air Service to Adak indicate that Peninsula Airways would be awarded a long-term contract for the passenger service to and from Adak. But the order also requested proposals from other interested airlines.Currently PenAir is flying to Cold Bay and operating flights from Dutch Harbor to Cold Bay to pick up passengers that are Adak bound."This offered only weekly passenger service with a twin engine 19-passenger turbo prop and no cargo. We are hoping to do a direct shot to Adak with the cargo and later passenger service with a combi jet," Thies said.Brugman said Evergreen has hired a sales staff to handle cargo, passenger and Russian Far East traffic. "The other position, which is not yet filled, will be a Russian-speaking sales person," he said.Evergreen has filed an order for service with DOT for jet service to Adak, but Brugman did not know the status of filings for the Russian Far East traffic at press time."We have bounced a lot of options around for aircraft types," said Thies, "but it looks like we have settled on a Boeing 727-100 combi that will carry passengers and freight."Reeve Aleutian Airways operated two Boeing 727-100 combis that serviced Adak and other Aleutian destinations for the military, flights to Petropavlosk and to Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk.

Cross Timbers Oil changes name to XTO Energy

FORT WORTH, Texas -- Cross Timbers Oil Co. is changing its name to XTO Energy Inc., officials announced May 15 at the company’s annual meeting. Among the company’s properties are oil platforms in Alaska’s Cook Inlet.The new name will start June 1. The company will continue to be listed on the New York Stock Exchange under the current symbol, "XTO."The Fort Worth-based company’s natural gas production is expected to grow 20 percent this year and 20 percent next year, which would lead the industry, said Bob R. Simpson, chairman and chief executive."XTO Energy embodies our high-impact and successful strategy, our innovative and dedicated organization and our energized outlook for the future," said Steffen E. Palko, vice chairman and president.Cross Timbers Oil is a domestic natural gas producer involved in the acquisition, exploration and development of oil and gas properties.Cross Timbers, which completed its initial public offering in 1993, has properties in Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, New Mexico, Arkansas, Wyoming and Louisiana, as well as Alaska.

Home builders, sellers see hot market

Anchorage home builders expect a strong year in 2001 despite challenges from labor shortages. Prospective buyers in the market are facing an uphill battle in finding a home, although interest rates are favorable, some real estate representatives noted.And home prices in Anchorage continue to climb, perhaps up 6 percent, industry experts said. Home prices should surge another 2 percent to 4 percent in 2001 although prices won’t increase more than 10 percent, said Susan Crosson, real estate appraiser and managing partner of appraising and consulting firm Crosson & Koropp."Prices have been increasing fairly rapidly over the past couple months," she said.Crosson also noted that supply and demand for residential real estate should be fairly stable in Anchorage this year.For the future, demand for homes might be affected by construction of a proposed natural gas pipeline, she said. Supply will see an impact in future years from a declining land supply in Anchorage, she said.The real estate appraiser and several other industry leaders spoke May 15 during a media briefing organized by the Anchorage Home Builders Association.AHBA predicts 1,100 new homes will be built in Anchorage this year, up 34 percent from 2000 when 820 homes were finished.One of the major challenges facing home builders is a shortage of workers.Chuck Spinelli, president of Spinell Homes, noted that builders plan to erect 998 units of multifamily housing this year. Less than half of those have been pre-sold although 544 are still for sale, he said. However, with the sales completed well ahead of construction and a shortage of construction workers, builders may find it challenging to complete all the units before snowfall when homeowners would want to move in, he said.Prospective home buyers in the Anchorage market this year can easily grow discouraged, said Ron Pollock, a broker at Prudential Jack White Real Estate. People shopping for a home can encounter few choices, and if they do find a property they like they have to move quickly to submit a bid, he said. Potential buyers don’t have the luxury of considering placing an offer for seven to 10 days, particularly on resale homes, he said.New listings can register two to five offers by competing buyers, he said.One reason for the tight market is a low supply."We are not gaining any inventory in the overall marketplace," Pollock said.Pollock also offered statistics depicting the market.For the first four months of 2001, the Anchorage market had 1,200 listings, compared with 1,045 last year and 1,283 in 1999.Also, from January to April in 2001, Anchorage recorded 741 closings compared with 610 closings last year.The average sale price of homes has climbed, too. The average sale price for the first four months of 1999 was $183,392. Last year the average sale price was $180,447 for the same period. From January to April 2001 the average sale price tallied $198,056.Time on the market dipped for early 2001 to total 69 days, down from 86 days on the market recorded for the period last year.Richard Mantyla, a mortgage loan originator at Residential Mortgage LLC, said low loan interest rates are spurring the market. Also, Alaskans are optimistic about the future, he said."If enough people think it is going to get better, it will," he said.One residential real estate driving factor he has noticed is that oil industry companies have been transferring employees to Anchorage and many of them are shopping for homes.Mantyla has seen prospective buyers disappointed because they were outbid by others on three to four homes.Further, people are moving from Anchorage to the Palmer-Wasilla area, where home prices are lower, he said.Some homeowners are upgrading, buying a home but keeping their previous residence as a rental home, Mantyla said.

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