Around the World April 8, 2001

STATEACS drops calling planANCHORAGE -- Alaska Communications Systems is scrapping its "Infinite Minutes" in-state long-distance calling plan because of "misuse" and "burdensome regulatory conditions" that made it less profitable, the company said.The Anchorage-based telecom company will now charge residential customers 14-cents a minute for in-state long distance, instead of a $20 monthly flat rate for unlimited calls.ACS said it is revising its residential "Infinite Minutes" interstate long-distance plan, which also costs $20 a month for unlimited calls. It will be replaced gradually with a tiered program, the company said March 30.NATIONBush raps Japan, China, EU for trade barrierWASHINGTON -- Japan, the 15-nation European Union and China are highlighted by the Bush administration in a report on the worst trade barriers faced by American companies.The administration will decide in late April whether to pursue cases against any of the countries listed in the 471-page report.The administration’s list of complaints covered 52 separate nations, from Argentina to Zimbabwe, and three trading blocs: the European Union, the Arab League and the Gulf Cooperation Council.As in past years, Japan came in for the most criticism, judging by the 58 pages the report devoted to it. Complaints about the EU filled 36 pages, followed by China with 28 pages. South Korea, with 22 pages, also received considerable attention.California short on snow for power plantsSACRAMENTO, Calif. -- New measurements show the snowpack in the Sierra Nevada is so low, California’s hydroelectric production could fall more than a third below normal this summer.It’s not what state officials already struggling with tight power supplies and worried about blackouts wanted to hear.California draws about a fourth of its power from in-state hydroelectric plants, which rely on melting snow to fill reservoirs for summer when precipitation is scarce. The dry winter and resulting low snowpack mean power production could drop more than a third below normal, said Maury Roos, the state’s chief hydrologist.California already expected little hydroelectric power from the drought-stricken Pacific Northwest to help power grid operators keep the lights on.Despite the low snow levels, Roos said groundwater levels are healthy, so there is no reason to declare a drought anywhere but in the Klamath Range of northwestern California, which is "desperately dry.’’Carters protest change in Canada’s lumber importsALBANY, Ga. -- The state’s forestry community, including former President Carter, is calling for changes in Canadian lumber imports, which it blames for falling prices and sawmill closures.Landowners, loggers, sawmill operators and congressmen, along with Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, planned a protest in Macon on Saturday as a lumber agreement between the United States and Canada was set to expire. The Carters sell timber from their land in southwest Georgia.The participants say no agreement or a simple continuation of the present one would be deadly for the U.S. lumber industry. They blame Canadian imports for a 33 percent drop in lumber prices since January 2000.The 5-year-old agreement outlined how much softwood Canada’s four major lumber-producing provinces may export to the United States duty-free.WORLDTreaty still ’alive’KIRUNA, Sweden -- Two days after President Bush rejected the Kyoto global warming treaty, European environment ministers said Saturday the agreement is still "alive’’ and that they will go forward with ratification plans -- with or without the United States.The ministers, who gathered here for a three-day meeting, condemned the U.S. president’s rejection of mandatory reductions of carbon dioxide emissions called for under the 1997 climate treaty. Bush said Thursday that the compulsory reductions were too harmful to the American economy, but said he would continue to pursue other measures to address climate change.Negotiated in Kyoto, Japan, the treaty calls for countries to agree to legally binding targets for curbing heat-trapping greenhouse gases, mainly carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels.The U.S. Senate has not yet ratified it, nor has any industrial country.Compiled from business wire services.

Interior secretary visits ANWR village

KAKTOVIK -- Interior Secretary Gale Norton received a warm welcome March 31 from residents living in the only village within the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge -- a visit that proponents hope will strengthen efforts to drill for oil in the refuge. The delegation from Washington, which consisted of two Democratic senators and a top White House counselor, was led by Sen. Frank Murkowski, R-Alaska, chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and a strong proponent of drilling in the refuge’s coastal plain. The senators joining him were Sen. Jeff Bingaman, the top committee Democrat who has stated he is opposed to drilling in the protected refuge in Alaska’s northeast corner, and Minnesota Sen. Mark Dayton. Three Republican senators had planned to take the trip but canceled for personal reasons. They are Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, George Allen of Virginia and Wayne Allard of Colorado. A top White House counselor, Mary Matalin, also took the trip, which included a tour of the aging Prudhoe Bay oil field that has historically provided 20 to 25 percent of the country’s oil needs. However, production has dropped to about half of what it was in 1989, while at the same time the nation’s import of oil has increased from 37 percent in 1973 to 56 percent now. Murkowski estimates that by 2005 imports will reach 60 percent. Bingaman has said he’s opposed to drilling in the refuge and is more interested in the natural gas reserves at Prudhoe Bay, estimated at a recoverable 35 trillion cubic feet. Natural gas extracted from the earth during oil drilling now is reinjected and could be recovered and brought to market via a pipeline to the Lower 48. About three-quarters of the 260 residents of Kaktovik, a village on a barrier island in the refuge, support drilling in ANWR because they hope the money from oil will improve village life, said Mayor Lon Sonsalla. Residents would like a nurse or doctor to live in the village. Instead of barging diesel fuel up from Seattle, they’d like natural gas, he said. "People are comfortable that it (drilling) could be done and done right," Sonsalla said. Norton thanked about 50 villagers who gathered in the Kaktovic community center to welcome her. "It is important that we involve you all and hear your opinions," said Norton, who supports opening up ANWR if Congress agrees to lift refuge protection and drilling could be done in an environmentally sound way. She said any energy policy the Bush administration would agree to would take care of the environment, meet the energy needs of the country and "also ensure the land you love so much is protected." That was the concern of the majority of about 200 protesters who gathered in Fairbanks, where the interior secretary was having dinner with members of the Washington delegation March 31. Dayton, a former Minnesota economic development and energy commissioner, had said he was opposed to opening up ANWR during his campaign last year. During the trip to the refuge, he told the villagers he wanted to learn more about the issue. "I came here with an open mind," he said. "I have filled that space with good information." Bingaman also said he was trying to learn as much as he could by visiting the isolated village. The group also visited Alpine, a Phillips Alaska project touted for its environmentally-friendly "small footprint" from the use of horizontal drilling techniques. Production at Alpine began last November. Bingaman said toward the end of the trip that he had a lot of information to digest but expected that he would still be opposed to drilling in the refuge. He said he was impressed with the technological advances that have been made to reduce risk to the environment. But he said his position remained pretty much the same as before. "I objected because I was reluctant to go back on a decision to set the property aside (for protection)," he said. Senate Democrats remain opposed to drilling in the refuge and have vowed to block legislation that lifts the refuge’s protection. But drilling is a key element in President Bush’s energy strategy, although the president indicated March 29 that he may not be able to persuade Congress to open ANWR to oil and gas development. Proponents say the refuge could hold as much as 16 billion barrels of recoverable oil, more than Prudhoe Bay. At the heart of the issue for environmentalists is the 130,000 Porcupine caribou herd that migrates from western Canada to calving grounds on the refuge’s coastal plain. "They will visit the Prudhoe Bay oil fields with no exposure to findings on the impacts of drilling on the environment that dozens of independent scientists and other academic experts could and should provide," said Adam Kolton, Arctic campaign director of the Alaska Wilderness League. The 7,000 to 10,000 Gwich’in Natives of northeastern Alaska and northwestern Canada are opposed to oil development because they say it will disrupt caribou calving in the refuge.  

Ketchikan voters reject $5 head tax on cruise ship passengers

KETCHIKAN -- Residents of this Southeast Alaska city have voted down a $5 head tax on visiting cruise ship passengers. According to unofficial results, 64 percent of the city’s voters cast a "no" ballot March 27, while 36 percent voted in favor a passenger fee."I think the campaign that we ran was pivotal," said Patti Mackey, a member of the anti-fee group Team Ketchikan."We tried to present as much factual information as possible, and I think we clearly showed the community that tourism is paying its fair share," Mackey told the Ketchikan Daily News.With more than 600,000 cruise ship passengers expected to visit Ketchikan this summer, the fee would have raised about $3 million.Up to 50 percent of the money would have gone toward vocational education. The rest would have been used for improvements to visitor-related industry infrastructure, partly in hopes of easing congested downtown traffic during the summer months.Opponents of the head tax fee, however, questioned whether the cash could be used to help fund vocational education. The group also feared the possibility of cruise lines cutting port time or bypassing Ketchikan altogether."I think the biggest factor was fear," said John Cote, a member of the pro-fee group Concerned Citizens for Responsible Tourism. "People are afraid the ships are going to go away. I think that was it in a nutshell."In the weeks leading up to the vote, several cruise line officials had said they would have to look at other options if the Ketchikan head tax was imposed. That would include making port calls at Prince Rupert, British Columbia.The Canadian city, about 90 miles south of Ketchikan, is aggressively courting cruise ship business.

Good mentors can start new hires off well, help keep employees

A mentor, basically, is someone who serves as a counselor or guide. Being asked to serve as a mentor is an honor. It indicates that the company has faith in the person’s abilities and trusts him or her to have a positive impact on the situation. Many companies have discovered that the use of a mentor for new employees not only helps employees settle into their job and company environment, but also contributes to a lower turnover rate. The use of a mentor may be an informal, short-term situation or a more formal, long-term assignment. In an informal mentoring program, the mentor usually helps the new employee for a limited period of time. Advice from the mentor may include the most basic of information about everyday routines including tips about "dos and don’ts" not found in the employee manual to helping the employee learn job responsibilities. A mentor available to answer routine questions also saves time for the supervisor or manager. In addition, new employees often feel more comfortable asking questions of a peer instead of a supervisor. In a program of this type, mentors often are volunteers. Forcing someone who does not want to serve as a mentor to do so can quickly create problems. Obviously, someone with a negative attitude, who might encourage a new employee to gripe and complain, should not serve as a mentor. A more formal version of mentoring occurs when an organization appoints an employee with extensive knowledge and experience to serve as a mentor to a new professional the company feels has excellent potential for growth. The mentor’s role usually lasts for an extended period of time and possibly may not end until the person mentored reaches the level of the mentor. Whether informal or formal, both parties need to understand the parameters. These may be more important in a long-term, formal mentoring situation, but can also influence the success of short-term, informal mentoring. * The mentor’s role is to teach and advise the new employee. The mentor does not interfere with the supervisor’s or manager’s decisions. The new employee, while expected to seek the mentor’s advice particularly on critical issues, is not bound to accept that advice. * Confidentiality is important. Both parties need to feel confident that discussions remain between them -- and are not immediately relayed to a supervisor or manager. * Certain areas may be considered off-limits. The mentor needs to outline these areas at the beginning. * Decide in advance how you will communicate. Will you have regularly scheduled meetings? Will discussion be face-to-face, over the telephone or even via e-mail communication? Both parties need to make their preferences known at the beginning and reach an acceptable compromise if the preferences are different. * Discuss time limits. If the mentoring period has a time limit the mentor should state that at the beginning. * Discuss time commitments. Again, this may be more critical for the long-term, formal mentoring. The mentor must expect to give the new employee adequate time, but the newcomer should not expect excessive amounts of time. Setting a schedule at the beginning -- for example, meet once a week the first month, then once a month after that -- avoids irritating misunderstandings later. * Openness and respect: Both the mentor and the person being mentored need to be open and honest, yet respect the other. A mentor who withholds important information or comments does not contribute to the other person’s success. However, such comments should be delivered with tact and courtesy -- and, even if somewhat hurtful, received with an open mind. * Professional relationship: The relationship between the mentor and his or her protege is a professional one, not a personal one. This is particularly important for the new employee to understand. Gregory P. Smith leads the management consulting firm called Chart Your Course in Conyers, Ga.  

Pipeline could strain industry

The outlook for Alaska’s construction industry is bright, but if the present levels of federal and state construction spending continue for several years, the industry could be overheated if the $10 billion natural gas pipeline project gets the go-ahead.Conceptual engineering work on the pipeline will be under way this spring, North Slope gas producers involved in the project say.If pipeline construction starts in 2004 or 2005, as is anticipated, it could lead to shortages of certain types of labor skills, according to Dick Cattanach, executive director of the Associated General Contractors’ Alaska chapter.Alaska’s construction industry work force has been averaging about 12,000 workers in recent years, with summer peaks up to 17,000. A gas pipeline project could add another 10,000 workers, Cattanach said. Gas pipeline construction will occur mainly in the winter, he said. A lot of pipeline welders will be required, and these will come mainly from the Lower 48 because there aren’t many Alaskans trained in this very specialized kind of welding.For Alaska workers, the demand will involve mainly civil construction skills like operating engineers and teamsters, Cattanach said.Since these are generally the same people who also work on highway and transportation projects, labor availability and cost for those projects could be affected.However, this could be mitigated by the fact that pipeline work will peak in the winter and Alaska road work is mostly done in the summer.Then again, Cattanach pointed out, most construction workers are used to taking part of the year off. "After working long hours through the winter, many might prefer taking the summer off, particularly if it’s during fishing season," he said.Other construction crafts will be less affected, such as carpenters, electricians and plumbers who work on buildings, he said.

This Week in Alaska Business History April 8, 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 TimesApril 8, 1981McMillian: Line pact is imminentThe Associated PressSALT LAKE CITY -- An agreement is imminent with Alaska gas producers on the financing of the Alaska Highway natural gas pipeline, says the president of Northwest Alaskan Pipeline Co.John McMillian said the deal should be completed within 60 days and then sent to major New York financial houses.Northwest Alaskan heads an 11-company consortium that is sponsoring the Alaska segment of the pipeline, scheduled for completion in 1985-86 at an estimated cost of up to $21 billion.McMillian told a Canada-U.S. conference on oil and gas production the big three gas producers on the Alaska North Slope -- Exxon, Atlantic Richfield and Standard Oil of Ohio -- have made a "substantial offer to help finance the project."Anchorage TimesApril 10, 1981State to fight Interior’s plans to speed leasingBy Betty MillsTime Washington BureauWASHINGTON -- The Reagan administration had its first major clash with Alaska environmentalists and Gov. Jay Hammond today with a proposal to boost the pace of oil and gas drilling off the coast of Alaska.Interior Secretary James G. Watt said at a news conference today that he will propose a new, accelerated five-year plan for oil and gas leases on the outer continental shelf off Alaska.The schedule, obtained from the department after Watt met with the press, calls for 16 sales off Alaska between 1982 and 1986. That is six more than the plan set forth by former Interior Secretary Cecil D. Andrus one year ago.The plan also moves up the dates of sale in four of the high potential oil basins off Alaska, including the environmentally sensitive areas of the North Aleutians and the Chukchi Sea.... Hammond said he "strongly disagrees" with the new schedule and vowed that the state will continue to fight the federal government in court and through administrative channels.10 years ago this weekAlaska Journal of CommerceApril 8, 1991Heinze ’disturbed’ by McIntyre delayBy Ray TysonFor the Journal of CommerceARCO Alaska’s decision to postpone crude oil production from the Point McIntyre field caught nearly everyone by surprise, including the state’s top resource official and former president of the company, Harold Heinze, who appears to be in no mood for surprises or delays in light of dwindling state oil revenues."Point McIntyre isn’t another Prudhoe Bay or anything like that, but it’s those kinds of additional revenue steams we need," said Heinze, commissioner of the state Department of Natural Resources.Heinze, who served as president of ARCO Alaska in the mid-1980s, said he was "surprised," "disturbed" and a "little dismayed" by ARCO’s March 26 announcement delaying Point McIntyre production until 1993. The largest U.S. oil discovery in more than a decade, the 300 million barrel field is expected to generate $1.2 billion in state royalties and taxes.Alaska Journal of CommerceApril 8, 1991Boatel Alaska wants to get back on topBoatel Alaska, once the number one remote-site catering firm in Alaska, is aiming for the top again, with the appointment of Brian D. McJunkin as general manager of Alaska operations.McJunkin, who had been a management consultant for West Hudson & Co., with offices in several states, joined Boatel Alaska on March 22, said Goran N. Svalling, director of business development for Sodexho, an international firm, based in France, which specializes in catering and support services at remote sites.-- Compiled by Ed Bennett.

Air ambulance says Special Olympics flight just part of its job

When a Special Olympics athlete fell ill during the recent World Winter Games in Anchorage, her family decided to return her to Norway where she could get prescribed medical help. A statewide air ambulance service handled the call and had the skier back in Norway the next day. LifeFlight, the air ambulance medical evacuation service for Alaska Regional Hospital, made the flight from Alaska as part of its everyday duties. "After the decision was made we had her home in Torp, Norway, in 18 hours," said Brian McKay, coordinator for the LifeFlight program. LifeFlight recently contracted with FS Air Service Inc. for the use of a Merlin IIIB twin engine turboprop for its statewide medevac contract. "This is a much better aircraft for our use. We can actually sit up at the same level as the patient," McKay said. Cruising at 270 knots indicated (310 mph airspeed), the Merlin has the range to make Adak nonstop and Seattle with one-stop service from Anchorage. "We did all the modifications on this aircraft for the two lifeports that cost us about $80,000," said Scott Anderson, director of operations for FS Air. The aircraft is equipped to carry two medical patients on the lifeports or stretchers and is essentially a flying emergency room. In fact, FS Air has two of the Fairchild aircraft. The other one is in use on contract with Aeromed, a company owned by the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corp. in Bethel. The fact that the two air ambulance companies are working with the same air transportation company for their lift doesn’t seem to bother LifeFlight coordinator McKay. "This is a win-win situation for both of us. In fact, we use the same dispatcher through Alaska Regional Hospital’s emergency room," McKay said. Having two air ambulance companies under the same hangar roof was not the company’s intention, according to Sandi Saltz, president of FS Air. "Alaska Regional Hospital approached us with a need, and we worked with Aeromed to achieve a professional balance." "During the past few years FS Air has changed its focus to meet the challenges of the complex Alaska market," Saltz said. "We have moved away from high risk flying. Our main emphasis now lies within medevac services and reemphasizing air freight and corporate charter." FS Air currently has contracts with United Parcel Service and FedEx for intra-Alaska contracts, in addition to LifeFlight and Aeromed. Their fleet consists of two Lear jets, two Fairchild Metro III’s, two Fairchild Merlin IIIBs, a Casa 212 and a Piper Navajo. According to Saltz, the company has grown from 30 employees in 1998, when she took over the company after her husband, Floyd, was killed, to 53 currently. "We have been working really hard to change the reputation and the culture of our company," said FS Air general manager Bob Cannon. "We are putting our pilots through simulator training and using a risk assessment program on our flights."  

Journal debuts Web site with business in mind

The Journal has rolled out a newly upgraded Web site at (www.alaskajournal.com). The site contains many new features designed with the businessperson in mind, including:* The latest Alaska business news from the Journal;* Financial news from The Associated Press;* The many contributing columnists who write for the Journal each week;* A calendar of business meetings around the state, searchable by date;* The latest Alaska North Slope crude oil price and Alaska Permanent Fund market value;* Current weather conditions at cities around the state; and* An extensive stocks section that includes stocks of local interest, stock search, and current Dow Jones and NASDAQ stock charts."We designed our Web site to be a resource for our readers," said Journal General Manager Craig Johnson. "Our goal was to provide information the Alaska business community needs in a convenient format."In addition to viewing the site on their Web browsers, visitors are able to choose delivery by e-mail when the site is updated every Monday, or they can download the latest issue of the Journal into their Palm handheld devices.The site includes a searchable archive system for easy retrieval of stories, which is still being expanded. Other features will be added in coming months.The site was built by Morris Digital Works, a subsidiary of Morris Communications, owner of the Journal; and Journal Webmaster Patrick Sattler. The project was supervised by Managing Editor Ed Bennett, who also serves as online editor for the Web site.

N.Y. investment firm may give Anchorage fish plant new life

ANCHORAGE -- A New York investment firm has agreed to buy a 51 percent interest in a struggling South Anchorage fish processing factory, Alaska Seafood International says. If the $5 million deal closes as hoped, then the plant could be running in time for this summer’s salmon season, said Jeff Bush, an economic development official with the state.The new investor, Sunrise Capital Partners, specializes in buying bankrupt or financially strapped companies in hopes of turning them around.ASI is not bankrupt but it has been essentially dormant since last summer. That came after financing problems erupted with the company’s backers in Taiwan.Since then, ASI executives and state officials have scrambled not only to improve relations with the Taiwanese but to find another investor who could give the fish plant fresh cash and a fresh start.A recent financial restructuring made the state, via the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority, a 25.4 percent owner in ASI.The state already owns the 202,000-square-foot factory building near the Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport. It was built in the late 1990s with a $50 million legislative appropriation.To take the quarter interest in ASI, the state invested $2.5 million and forgave or deferred $8 million in rent on the building.That investment would stay in place, but with the Sunrise deal the state’s ownership would drop to 16 percent or lower if Sunrise later puts in more money, said Bush, who is acting as ASI’s board chairman.Sunrise would invest not only $5 million but provide a line of credit to run ASI, which needs millions of pounds of raw fish and other materials to operate at full capacity.

Lackluster salmon season predicted for Kodiak

KODIAK -- The state is predicting a lackluster salmon season this summer with lower projections forecast for Kodiak. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game is forecasting a 2.1 million sockeye salmon harvest for Kodiak, far less than the 3.5 million sockeye projected last year.The fleet caught 2.9 million sockeye last summer."Last year we had some lower than expected (sockeye) harvests, so that influenced our forecast (for 2001)," said Kevin Brennan, the fish management biologist for Fish and Game in Kodiak.The department is forecasting a 12 million pink salmon harvest, a slight increase over last year’s preseason estimate of 10.2 million. But the fleet harvested 9.9 million pinks, slightly less than the Fish and Game projection. The 12 million forecast includes wild and hatchery returns, Brennan said."We’re projecting a wild stock return of 6 to 10 million (pink salmon) and a hatchery return of 3 to 5 million," Brennan said.The only bright spot last year in the state was the chum salmon return. Last summer, 1.2 million chum salmon returned to the Kodiak area, almost double the Fish and Game projection of 700,000 chums.

Bill would ease gun requirement when Alaskans fly via Canada

Pilots flying their aircraft from Alaska into Canada and on to the Lower 48 are required by state law to carry firearms for survival, but may get help from the Legislature that will absolve aircraft operators from carrying guns after Canada toughened its gun laws. Currently, Alaska statutes require any aircraft flying more than a 50 mile radius from its originating airport to carry survival gear that includes firearms. Rep. John Harris, R-Valdez, introduced House Bill 127 on March 15 that will exempt pilots from state gun requirements while on flights between Alaska and Canada and may relax the statute for in-state flights as well.Canada recently passed new laws requiring those seeking to transport guns across its borders to register the weapons with authorities and obtain a license for themselves that requires either a two-day training course in Canada or payment of a $50 (Canadian) registration fee each time they bring in a gun."Carrying a gun on a wilderness flight may be good insurance, but having to pay an extra $50 every time you carry that gun into Canada may tend to price that insurance out of the market," said Harris, himself an airplane owner and pilot.The bill also frees Alaska pilots from having to carry gillnets on wilderness flights, though they must still carry enough food for two weeks, an ax, knife, first aid kit, mosquito headnets and blankets or sleeping bags."If you crash in a place where you can shoot and kill an animal, or catch fish with one of those gillnets, you’ve got it made and should stay put," said Emitt Soldin, a retired bush pilot."Flying has changed since the ’60s when flights in the Bush were more dangerous," said Dee Hanson, executive director of the Alaska Airmen’s Association. "If you go down and rescue can’t find you in a day, that’s pretty unusual. We are going to monitor this without recommendations."The legislation is currently awaiting review by the Senate Transportation Committee.

State ups IT infrastructure, education

Perhaps coming later, rather than sooner, to the information technology economy, Alaska has some catching up to do with other regions that have "discovered" the power of high-tech. In the IT industry, it’s never too late to capitalize on the development and innovation of new hardware advances, software applications, and Internet-driven services. From small towns in Kansas to major metropolises like Taiwan, Tokyo or Chicago, the digital economy is breeding wealth, employment, and new cultures from unlimited imagination and intellectual property. Alaska, for decades focused on its resources, visitor industry assets and strategic military and global geographic position, is as suitable a location as anywhere to carve niches in the so-called New Economy. With reliable telecommunications and bandwidth, Alaska is on equal footing with the most successful high-tech centers of innovation. And beneath the economic headlines statewide, progress is being made to improve one of the major components of an IT infrastructure -- the educational assets the state will need to build and attract investment and wealth. By definition, a knowledge economy needs a highly educated, well-trained work force. At the University of Alaska, initiatives have begun to expand and enhance upper-level degree programs in electrical engineering and computer sciences. A new program in the UA president’s office is developing innovative corporate training programs that are custom-designed for industry. The Anchorage and Matanuska-Susitna Workforce Investment Board has procured a $2.4 million federal grant to train up to 500 IT workers over the next several years -- both new entrants into the industry and incumbent IT workers who need to improve and expand their skills to remain current in an environment of rapid change. Coordinating the training is the Matanuska-Susitna College, which will deploy not only a new, two-year computer associate degree, but a series of short-term, specialized training programs, as well. Public school districts statewide -- principally through programs being developed by vocational and technical educators -- are stimulating students to the possibilities open to them in the IT industry and giving them the tools to pursue these careers. The Alaska Science & Technology Foundation has supported a series of initiatives related to growing Alaska’s knowledge workers. Among these is a program to train and enable "Internet assistants" in villages to bridge the rural digital divide; another program to wire Alaska’s schools; and another pilot effort to create after-school, hands-on computer activities. The foundation is also supporting a program through the Alaska High-Tech Business Council to provide $10,000 "fellowships" for 50 new entrants into the IT industry, in partnership with IT employers who will match the fellowship stipends with salaries, benefits, work experience and a commitment to hire. But perhaps the most important trend to upgrade Alaska’s work force is the arrival of industries themselves at the education and work force development table. Over the past 18 months, industry consortia are aggressively engaging state and local government, educators and their colleagues in partnerships that are designed to improve educational outcomes so that tomorrow’s workers are prepared for promising careers in Alaska. The Alaska Process Industry Careers Consortium was the first, initiated by the oil and gas and utility industries. It was followed closely by the Health Industry Consortium, led by the Alaska State Hospital and Nursing Home Association; and the Information Technology Careers Consortium, formed by the Alaska High-Tech Business Council. By late 2000 and early 2001, several other industry groups also were forming consortia in the construction, transportation, visitor and forest product industries. From what we in the IT industry have observed in other states, this industry-driven consortium work force development approach may well be unique in its scope in the United States. Here in Alaska, our industries may not share the same economic development concerns; but in the work force environment, the consortia share several common issues, philosophies and visions. Common to all of Alaska’s major industries is the shortage of skilled and professional workers. Common to all of the consortia is a new commitment to get beyond criticism of educational institutions’ "shortcomings" and instead proactively assist and partner with educators in meeting the needs of business and commerce. And shared by all the consortia is the recognition that to build our industries, create diversified economic activity and create Alaska-owned wealth, our work force must be cultivated and grown at home. When we achieve this goal, our education and work force base infrastructure will be in place to attract the new capital, new businesses, prestigious educators and talented new workers that are essential in the high-tech industry -- and crucial to other industries that are dependent on the new information and Internet technologies for their growth. Sally J. Suddock is the executive director of the Alaska High-Tech Business Council and IT Careers Consortium.

When stucturing a business, a number of options are available

What is the best organizational structure for my business? There seems to be some of confusion over available alternatives. This article identifies the primary business options and highlights some of the major differences between them. The first entity is the simplest. A sole proprietorship is an individual who decides to go into business, perhaps under their own name, or with a separate d/b/a (doing business as). The business and individual are fundamentally indistinguishable for liability and tax purposes.Whenever two or more individuals join forces to conduct business as co-owners for profit, their business relationship is that of a partnership. A joint venture is a partnership for a specific period and purpose.A partnership has no limit on the number of partners. The partnership is a separate legal entity, but the profits or losses of the partnership are passed through to the individual partners in accordance with the partnership agreement.A partner is generally jointly liable with all of the other partners for the debts and obligations of the partnership. For certain types of partnership wrongdoing, partners may be jointly and severally liable.A limited partnership is a special type of partnership that has two distinct membership categories: general partners and limited partners. In a limited partnership, the general partner functions with the same rights, powers and liabilities as partner in a partnership without limited partners.A limited partner does not participate in the control of the business and is not liable for obligations of the limited partnership except to the extent of their financial commitment to the limited partnership.In essence, the limited partner is along for the ride with no real managerial authority or liability. The limited partnership exists as a separate entity and is required to file a tax return, but its profits and losses are passed through to the partners.Corporations are also recognized as separate legal entities, but unlike partnerships, ownership in corporations is represented by shares of stock issued by the corporation. Management of corporations is by a shareholder-elected board of directors, which may or may not include shareholders. Officers of the corporation may or may not be shareholders or directors.A major advantage of the corporate business form is the liability shield to shareholders of the corporation. Unlike partnerships where liability is shared jointly by the partners, in corporations, absent extraordinary conduct on the part of a shareholder, director or officer, liability rests solely with the corporation.Corporations can have one or many shareholders with single or multiple classes of stock. Stock may be owned by individuals or even business entities. Corporations pay state and federal taxes in accordance with designated corporate tax rates.Subchapter S corporations exist with the same framework as general corporations. The principal differences are in the treatment of the earnings of the corporation. While corporations pay taxes on earnings, a subchapter S corporation directly passes the losses and earnings of the corporation through to the shareholders just like a partnership.There are ownership restrictions for subchapter S corporations, but, in general, for businesses with less than 75 shareholders, a subchapter S tax election is often viewed as a favorable choice for tax reporting, but which does not alter the fundamental liability protection offered by the corporate entity.Another subspecies corporate entity is a professional corporation. This entity functions similarly to the standard corporation and has the option to make a subchapter S election. It is different, however, in that membership is limited to professionals in the business the professional corporation practices, such as law, medicine, etc.A limited liability company blends the organizational and tax structure of a partnership, with the limited liability protection offered by a corporation. It is a creature of state law.A limited liability company exists as an independent legal entity, does not have stock like a corporation, but, instead, has ownership interests similar to a partnership. For tax purposes, its members are partners.Insofar as the LLC deals with the public, however, it is treated like a corporation, and the LLC shields, with certain exceptions, its members from personal liability for LLC debts and obligations.Finally, Alaska now recognizes an additional limited liability entity known as a limited liability partnership. Limited liability partnerships appear to be most amenable to multijurisdictional professional practice entities. For most Alaska-based businesses, a limited liability company is a preferable business form.As with all legal matters, this general discussion is simply a statement of basic propositions. In the law, there are exceptions to every general rule and the foregoing is no exception. Nevertheless, as one contemplates business organizational options, it is important to have an understanding of what the options are.Meeting with your legal adviser, you can decide which business form best fits your business plans, structure, liability concerns and personal desires.Jim Gorski is a member of the law firm of Hughes Thorsness Powell Huddleston & Bauman LLC. He can be reached via e-mail at ([email protected]).

Lynden moves Russian cargo hub from Anchorage to Seoul

Alaska may have lost its foot in the door to the Russian Far East as one local international air freight company changes its consolidation point from Anchorage to Seoul, due to a loss of commercial service in the past year by Reeve Aleutian Airways and Aeroflot. On Feb. 5 a charter flight by an Antonov 12 aircraft from Seoul, South Korea, to Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk carrying 24,250 pounds of Sakhalin Energy cargo arrived on schedule through the joint efforts of Lynden International, Sakhaviatrans Aviation Co. in Sakhalin and Lynden’s AmRusTrans RFE.The Antonov is a medium-size twin turboprop aircraft capable of carrying 10-11 metric tons (22,046 to 24,250 pounds) of cargo."It is true we are losing business while there is no good way to get from here to there, and face it -- companies will choose the easiest, cheapest most direct route for shipping," said Jeff Berliner, international trade specialist for the Alaska Department of Community and Economic Development’s Division of International Trade and Market Development."We developed a contingency plan, should Reeve ever quit flying to the RFE and they did -- so we put together a flight from Inchon," said Dennis Mitchell, international manager for Lynden International.Since the initial flight from Seoul in February, Lynden has shipped goods on half a dozen other flights and has a marine shipment headed from Singapore to Yuzhno this month, according to Mitchell.The first flight came after four months’ work to receive special authorization to set up regular cargo flights between the two destinations. The flights were operated with a Russian crew, and a final approval by the Russian Far East aviation authority came with the proviso that one of its flight specialists experienced with Seoul airport procedures be on board for the flights.The routing for the direct flight from Seoul to Yuzhno over North Korea also needed a special permit from North Korea due to its no-fly zone. The permit cuts an hour off the normal five-hour flight that avoided the area."It makes more sense to move cargo from Seoul to Yuzhno, and we believe that we will be getting more material from Singapore to Yuzhno," said Mitchell in Anchorage. "Singapore is an oilman’s delight, you can get anything you need there.""This particular type aircraft had never flown any route to Korea," added Eric Vercesi, manager of Lynden International, RFE. "We also needed permits from Russia’s Ministry of Transportation in Moscow. These were easier to get because we were dealing with a local aircraft and crew."Lynden chose South Korea as the key point for the route because it provides an ideal hub for both ocean and air cargo into Sakhalin. Due to the large numbers of cargo aircraft that fly to and from Seoul, Lynden officials feel that it is a good place to consolidate, said Rick Pollock, Lynden Air Freight regional vice president for Alaska and RFE."This (Anchorage) is no longer the ideal spot for our operation in the Russian Far East," added Mitchell.Lynden hopes to make the flights weekly once the cargo volumes increase during the construction months of the summer.Reeve’s departure cut off the only means of flying in heavy-weight cargo for the region’s industries and projects, such as Sakhalin Energy’s Molikpaq drilling project.But state officials still hold out hope that a commercial carrier will operate between Alaska and the Russian Far East."This will not do us irreparable harm," said trade specialist Berliner. "But only if we can repair the routes. It has only been four months since Reeve discontinued service, and that is not very long in the business world."Berliner added that he does not know of any contracts or relationships that are at risk because of the lack of service between the two regions, and if anything it is creating a level playing field for other business outside of Alaska who want to do business in the RFE."The only thing that we can say now is that we (Alaskan businesses) have lost an edge," Berliner said.

Legislators move to limit route, look at ownership

JUNEAU -- State legislators in Juneau want to investigate possible advantages of state ownership or financing for a planned $10 billion North Slope natural gas pipeline project. They also hope to influence the decision on a pipeline route by passing a state law eliminating one option being considered by an industry group planning the project. The Senate Resources Committee approved Senate Bill 164 on March 28. It would prohibit a state right of way lease for a pipeline along a so-called "northern" route east from Prudhoe Bay to the Mackenzie River delta in Canada. "Individually, legislators have opposed the ’over-the-top’ route because it does not maximize benefits to the state," said Sen. John Torgerson, R-Kasilof, sponsor of the bill. "Passage of this bill shows that the Legislature finds this route is not in the state’s best interests." State administration officials, however, questioned legal aspects of this approach. Bill Britt, with the State Pipeline Coordinators’ office, said there were possible separation-of-powers issues in the bill. Britt feels the northern route is not in the state’s interest but that legislation is not needed. "Existing procedures will lead us to the same result," he said. The legislation would amend the state pipeline Right-of-Way Leasing Act to preclude the commissioner of natural resources from approving a pipeline right of way across state lands along the route proposed east of Prudhoe Bay. On April 2, the House Oil and Gas Committee put similar language in a bill in that committee, House Bill 83. Jack Griffin, a state attorney, told the Senate committee that the bill could impinge on the commissioner’s discretion in an administrative action. There are other ways to accomplish the same purpose, Griffin said, like amending the general law is such a way that a northern route would be impossible. For example, the Legislature could amend the law so that a right of way across submerged lands could not be granted, Griffin said. Part of the proposed right of way for the northern route would be offshore, north of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. On March 28 the committee also approved Senate Bill 158, asking the state commissioner of natural resources to engage expert consultants to study possible state ownership or financing for a gas pipeline. The report would detail any benefits of state ownership or financing, including additional revenues, employment, opportunities for new industries or access to clean energy. It would be completed by Jan. 31, 2002, under the proposed Senate bill. Possible state involvement in financing or equity participation has picked up a following inside and outside the Legislature. Rep. Jim Whitaker, R-Fairbanks, made a presentation to the House Oil and Gas Committee on March 28 citing figures that public ownership would increase state and local revenues from a gas pipeline project from $680 million a year to $1.3 billion a year. The example involved a pipeline shipping 6 billion cubic feet a day, a scenario used by the Alaska Gasline Port Authority, a municipal group, in studies it has done of possible public financing. The port authority was formed three years ago by municipal governments in Valdez, Fairbanks and the North Slope to promote a liquefied natural gas export project with favorable financing terms available through public entity financing. Since North Slope producers began planning an overland route to the Lower 48, the port authority’s focus has shifted to helping finance portions of that project within Alaska and a possible spur pipeline to a proposed LNG plant at Valdez. Ken Thompson, a former Atlantic Richfield Co. executive now retired and living in Alaska, has also urged the Legislature to consider owning part of the pipeline. The state would gain information about the pipeline’s operating expenses to use in evaluating tax and royalty charges claimed by the producers and to be able to participate in discussions on pipeline construction and future expansion. In previous hearings of the Senate Resources Committee, Thompson suggested a 12.5 percent state share, equal to the state royalty ownership of gas, might be appropriate for a section of pipeline from the North Slope to Interior Alaska. In that way the state would ship its own royalty gas just as the gas producers ship their own gas to maximize profits. Also, if a downturn in U.S. markets ever caused the producers to cut back on gas shipments the state would still be in a position to supply its own royalty gas to customers within the state, either for residential or industrial use, Thompson said.  

Alaska Power & Telephone purchases Anchorage's Summit Alaska

Southeast Alaska’s Alaska Power & Telephone Co. has acquired an ownership stake in the construction company Summit Alaska of Anchorage. "We have direct ownership of 40 percent of Summit," said Howard Garner, Alaska Power & Telephone’s executive vice president and chief financial officer. Alaska Power & Telephone also has invested in Summit Alaska’s gravel pit operations, he said. The gravel pit operation, called Alaska Rock, manufactures asphalt products for its companies and others. The transaction was completed March 8, Garner said. "As a public utility we want to keep it very separate," he said. "We do look at this as an investment." Garner will serve as executive vice president and chief financial officer for Summit Alaska. Alan See, Alaska Power & Telephone executive vice president, will serve as president and chief executive for Summit. "He will spend 80 percent of his time at Summit in Anchorage," Garner said. Summit’s Tim Schwanke will continue as senior vice president and Jane Sauer as executive vice president. Alaska Power & Telephone was founded in Skagway in 1957 and now provides electric and telecommunications services to more than 35 communities from the northeastern Interior to Prince of Wales Island in Southeast Alaska. In 1990 the utility served eight communities but has expanded since then. Expansion work included acquiring telecommunications systems in Haines, Metlakatla, Petersburg and Wrangell, as well as acquiring the electric system in Haines. Alaska Power & Telephone also built two hydroelectric power stations, Black Bear hydroelectric project on Prince of Wales Island and Goat Lake hydroelectric project in Skagway. The utility’s previous construction efforts led to the Summit Alaska investment. "For us this represents an investment opportunity that complements our long-term business plan in construction," Garner said. Last year a new company purchased the assets of Summit Paving and Construction Inc. of Anchorage upon the retirement of Summit’s owners, Jerry and Doris DesJarlais. Summit Alaska Inc., led by president Muriel A. Taylor, handled Summit Paving and Construction’s operations. Alaska Power & Telephone bought out Taylor’s shares, Garner said. Summit Alaska operates three divisions to handle existing functions. Summit Roads performs highway construction projects. SiteWorks handles urban renewal projects in Anchorage. Alaska Rock, previously Summit Paving’s sister company CSI Inc., which owns rights to extract gravel, manufactures asphalt products for its companies and others. In 2000 Summit Alaska completed contracts totaling more than $30 million. Major projects included road and highway upgrades at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport, Elmendorf Air Force Base, Fort Richardson and the Parks Highway.

Small-boat salmon fisheries the next to bear scrutiny of federal observers

Alaska has the strictest and largest fishery observer program in the world, primarily on large vessels that haul aboard huge catches of groundfish or crab. Observers work on board fishing boats throughout the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska, collecting the samples and data that give a sketch of what’s really going on out there. The information is used to provide state and federal fishery scientists and policy makers with the status and health of the various stocks, so they can manage the fisheries wisely and effectively. Federal law requires the government to collect data on all activities that affect marine mammals. It’s common knowledge that Alaska’s groundfish fisheries are bearing the brunt of such data collection, as they’re the ones accused of taking too much food out of the mouths of endangered sea lions. But as predicted, small-boat salmon fisheries in parts of Alaska will be the next to bear the scrutiny of observers, as the feds ramp up programs on how set and drift gillnets "interact" with marine mammals. "Our bottom line is to make stock assessments and to come up with an estimate of fishing mortalities and injuries," said Amy Van Atten, a project director for the National Marine Fisheries Service. "We’ll look at how much fishing is going on, where in the water column, and how long the nets are soaked and picked," she said. "We’ll also look at everything that’s caught in the net, and collect samples to see what the large predators are feeding on." Salmon fishery observations have been spotty at best in Alaska in the past 10 years. Some coverage began in Prince William Sound in 1990-91, but the program "kind of got lost," Van Atten said. A "reconnaissance study" was expanded in 1995 to observe set and gillnet and some small purse seine fisheries in regions of Kodiak, Bristol Bay, Cook Inlet, Southeast and Yakutat, she said. These are regarded by NMFS as "Category Two" fisheries, meaning they are known to have a moderate level of interaction with marine mammals. Interestingly, trawlers are listed as a "Category Three," which denotes little or no interaction. In 1999/2000, a small salmon observer program was conducted in Cook Inlet, and next up is Kodiak in 2002. NMFS recently postponed a pilot program from starting there this summer in order to allow the affected fishermen to become more involved in its design and implementation. The program is expected to deploy up to 15 observers to cover about 30 days of fishing. The delay will also give Van Atten more time to survey the region and give her "more confidence about what I can expect observers to realistically achieve, and what results I can obtain," she said. Van Atten said she knows there will be continued resistance to the salmon observer program. "But it’s a federally mandated program and we have our jobs to do. We have to ensure that marine mammals are not being killed while a fishery is ongoing," she said. Van Atten said she understands the salmon fishermen’s fears that they could be next to feel the squeeze of restrictions designed to protect sea lions. She offered this consolation to Kodiak salmon harvesters: "I don’t expect there to be a problem, as I believe there is a relatively small take of marine mammals. Sea lions have never been reported taken in a gillnet in Kodiak. There have been reports of harbor porpoises, harbor seals and sea otters. What the data will do is provide evidence to appease everyone’s mind -- the scientists, managers and fishermen. This is not a high profile program that’s intended to expose the fisheries to environmentalists." Van Atten said if there are interactions with marine mammals in Kodiak, it won’t shut down the salmon fisheries. "If there’s a problem, recommendations will be brought forth by industry and fishermen on how to reduce interactions," she said. "We’ll work cooperatively on how to adjust fishing techniques." NMFS will meet with Kodiak salmon fishermen starting this month to begin plans for implementing the observer program next summer. Halibut road show The Board of Fish is sending out a scouting committee to Sitka, Kodiak, Cordova and Homer this month to hear comments about proposed subsistence regulations for halibut. Last October federal fish managers adopted options that defined eligibility, gear and daily limits. Gear could include up to 30 hooks on a longline per angler, with daily limits of up to 20 halibut per day. At the same time, the feds tasked the board with coming up with more recommendations. The full Fish Board will meet May 7 to 8 to formally adopt recommendations on halibut subsistence regulations for specific areas of the state. The recommendations will be presented to the North Pacific Fishery Management Council at its June 2001 meeting in Kodiak. Sea lion studies Some of the most far-reaching research on Steller sea lions is taking place close to home. The Alaska SeaLife Center in Seward has a coveted federal permit to study Stellers in captivity, and researchers are undertaking some of the largest and most comprehensive programs ever attempted. Since so much of the controversy surrounding sea lions involves their diet, the center’s core research project involves long-term feeding trials on three captive Stellers. The program also has pioneered the use of using remote-controlled video cameras to monitor sea lions every day in the wild, in this case on a rookery 35 miles away. PETA protest "Fishing Hurts," and, "Seafood Is Murder on Fish" are two of the messages that People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals brought to the International Boston Seafood Show. Spokesperson Dawn Carr claims PETA advocates eradicating all forms of fishing, as well as the consumption of seafood. Carr said she believes that fish feel pain, have "neurochemical systems" like humans and sensitive nerve endings in their lips and mouths. Carr was recently quoted in The Wall Street Journal as equating serving seafood at the National Aquarium to "eating poodle burgers at a dog show."  

Calendar April 8, 2001

Confabs WOMEN$fund, a program of YWCA of Anchorage, is holding a networking Business Circle from 6-8 p.m. April 9 at the Older Persons Action Group building, 323 W. Third Ave. Reservations are required. Katy Hoffman will present "Beauty and the Booth: Create Spectacular Booth Displays that Attract Customers." WOMEN$fund is offering a free bilingual orientation from 6-8 p.m. April 9 at the Gateway Learning Center, 801 Karluk St. WOMEN$fund also is offering a free regular orientation from 6-8 p.m. April 10 at the YWCA office, 245 W. Fifth Ave. An orientation, the two-hour overview of the requirements, benefits and goals of WOMEN$fund classes and programs, is a prerequisite for enrollment to all courses. For additional details, call 907-274-1524 or e-mail ([email protected]). The Anchorage Chamber of Commerce Business Connection Breakfast is planned for 7 a.m. April 10 at the Holiday Inn Downtown, 239 W. Fourth Ave. Jim Henderson of the Anchorage Convention & Visitors Bureau will lead the Tourism Showcase activities. Participants present a minute-long synopsis of their business or service. The cost is $12 for members and $14 for others. For reservations or more information, call 907-272-2401 or visit (www.anchoragechamber.org). The Matanuska-Susitna Borough Small Business Development Center is offering a seminar entitled "Introduction to QuickBooks" from 9 a.m. to noon April 10 at the SBDC office, 201 N. Lucille St., Suite 2-A, Wasilla. The fee is $10. Registration is required. For more information, call 907-373-7232. The Greater Fairbanks Chamber of Commerce is holding its general membership luncheon at noon April 10 at the Westmark Fairbanks. Jim Holt, superintendent of the Fairbanks North Star Borough, will discuss the school exit exam. The luncheon cost is $11.25. For more information, call 907-452-1105. The Greater Soldotna Chamber of Commerce is holding its weekly meeting at noon April 10 at the Riverside House, 44611 Sterling Highway. Tammie Anderson, program coordinator of BP Teachers of Excellence, and Norma Holmgaard, Kenai Peninsula Borough School District Improving America’s Schools Act of 1994 coordinator, are the scheduled speakers. For more information, call 907-262-9814. The Greater Wasilla Chamber of Commerce is holding its weekly luncheon program at noon April 10 at the Mat-Su Resort, 1850 Bogard Road. Mike Burns, Alaska president and chief executive of KeyBank, will present an update on the bank and an overview of the Alaska economy. Program fees are $3 for members and $5 for others. An optional lunch is available. For more information, call 907-376-1299. The Prince of Wales Chamber of Commerce is holding its monthly luncheon at noon April 10 at Shelter Cove Lodge in Craig. Gina Shirey from the Alaska Department of Community and Economic Development will discuss the pros and cons of becoming a borough. For more information, call 907-826-3870. The Anchorage Small Business Development Center in partnership with the Internal Revenue Service and the Department of Labor are conducting a free seminar on employer payroll taxes from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. April 11 at the Department of Labor, 3301 Eagle St., Room 101. Emphasis is placed on properly preparing employer tax forms and federal deposits. Registration is required. For more information, call 907-274-7232. The Greater Palmer Chamber of Commerce is holding its weekly meeting at noon April 11 at the Palmer Moose Lodge, 1136 S. Cobb St. Judy Brady, executive director of the Alaska Oil & Gas Association, will focus on the "Economic Impact of Oil and Gas Industry in Matanuska-Susitna." The cost is $9. For additional information, call 907-745-2880. The Kenai Chamber of Commerce is holding its weekly meeting at noon April 11 at the Old Town Village Restaurant, 1000 Mission Ave. A speaker from the Department of Education is scheduled. The luncheon cost is $10.50. For more information, call 907-283-7989. A Women’s Network Entrepreneur Training Roundtable is scheduled from 12:30 to 2 p.m. April 11 at the Federal Building cafeteria in Anchorage. The Small Business Administration and WOMEN$fund networking is for women business owners. Presentations, discussions, introductions and demonstrations are also part of the roundtables held every second Wednesday of the month. For more information, contact Dianna Storo at 907-271-4022. The Alaskan Apple Users Group is holding its regular monthly meeting at 7 p.m. April 11 at the Phillips Alaska Inc. building, Seventh Avenue and G Street. The meeting will showcase an Internet delivered radio production company from Anchorage, provide information on personal firewalls and security, and present a demonstration on a new Mac operating system. For more information, call 907-566-0956 or visit (www.akappleug.org). The Resource Development Council for Alaska Inc. is presenting a program at 7:30 a.m. April 12 at the Petroleum Club of Anchorage, 3301 C St. Eric Haas, president of HMH Consulting, will speak on the focus "Air Quality Issues in Alaska: Challenges and Opportunities Facing Alaska Industry." Breakfast for members cost $12 and $15 for others. Reservations are required. For more information, call 907-276-0700. The Kenai Peninsula Small Business Development Center is sponsoring a seminar entitled "Retail Essentials" from 1-4 p.m. April 12 at the Soldotna Red Diamond Center, 43335 Kalifornsky Beach Road. The cost is $15. For more information, call 907-262-7497. The International Association of Administrative Professionals’ Billikin Chapter is meeting at 5:30 p.m. April 12 at the Regal Alaskan Hotel. Sandy Allen of Alaska Executive Search will speak about humor and empowerment in the workplace. For reservations, contact Carol Fuller at 907-345-5411. WOMEN$fund is offering a WOMEN$fund loan program overview from 6-8 p.m. April 12 at the YWCA office, 245 W. Fifth Ave. The cost is $5. For more information, call 907-274-1531. A course entitled "Advanced QuickBooks Pro" is scheduled from 9 a.m. to noon April 14 at the same location. The cost is $60. For additional details, call 907-274-1524. The Municipality of Anchorage is sponsoring the eighth annual Crime Prevention and Safety Fair from noon to 5 p.m. April 14 at the Dimond Center. The event is aimed at providing teen-age awareness about crime prevention and safety issues. For additional information, contact Mary Fairbanks at 907-677-7110. The Alaska World Affairs Council is presenting a program by Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, at noon April 16 in the Hilton Anchorage Hotel. "A Congressional Update on U.S. Foreign Policy" is the program’s topic. Program lunch fees are $17 for members and $20 for others. For more information, call 907-276-8038.  

How communities tax oil OK'd

JUNEAU -- The Alaska Supreme Court has resolved a 2-decades-old legal argument over how communities tax the oil industry. The decision sided with the North Slope Borough and the city of Valdez. Ketchikan had challenged the method the two communities have used since 1978 that allows them to combine local property with oil company property in determining local taxes. Ketchikan later dropped the case, but an individual, Donald Bullock, kept it alive. He claimed it was unfair to the rest of the state, because local taxes are deductible when it comes to paying state taxes. Bullock contends this meant a larger part of the tax should go to state government. Alaska’s highest court, however, allowed the practice to stand.  

Land-short Anchorage has some thinking big

Construction in Alaska has pretty much focused on nuts-and-bolts needs in recent years -- roads, airports, schools, harbors and docks.It doesn’t mean, however, that Alaskans have stopped thinking, and tinkering, with ideas for much larger projects.Land has become so scarce in the Anchorage bowl, for example, that serious thought is being given to a bridge crossing Knik Arm for the first time in years.It would provide a shorter connection with the Matanuska-Susitna Borough, make new land available for community expansion and cut 50 miles off a drive to Fairbanks.Because of cost and challenges posed by tides and ice, most have thought it a pipe-dream. But Alaska engineers now have some new ideas about how a safe and sturdy bridge could be built less expensively.Also, Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, is now chairman of the House Transportation Committee and is in a position to bring some federal funds to the project.Young has expressed interest in making the Knik Arm crossing a federal demonstration project, so that an appropriation could come outside the state’s normal entitlement of federal transportation funding, and without a requirement for state matching funds.Dennis Nottingham of Peratrovich, Nottingham and Drage, an Anchorage-based engineering company that has won awards for innovative civil engineering designs, thinks it’s time for a new look at how the crossing could be built."We want to bring new technology and new ideas to this but the design concept is not much different than the Yukon River bridge built 26 years ago for the trans-Alaska oil pipeline," Nottingham said.It’s no coincidence that Nottingham helped design that structure when he was with the state highways department."That bridge cost $30 million and at the time was the biggest project ever done by the state of Alaska. It was designed in three months by Alaskan engineers," he said.The Yukon River bridge won national engineering awards but, interestingly, the ideas in its design are just now being incorporated into accepted bridge design codes, Nottingham said.Based on his firm’s experience in designing bridges to withstand heavy currents and ice floes on the North Slope and elsewhere in the state, Nottingham thinks the Knik Arm bridge could be built for $300 million, excluding the highway approaches on both the Anchorage and Matanuska-Susitna sides, which would add about $20 million.He proposes a 2.2-mile bridge crossing from Cairn Point, on Knik Arm, across water depths of 20 feet. An alternate route, from Goose Bay, would span shallower water but would require a longer 4.5-mile bridge and would be more costly, about $500 million, Nottingham said.The bridge would be 12,000 feet long, have four traffic lanes and a bike trail, and would be approximately 100 feet above the water. Once permits are acquired, it would take three years to build, Nottingham said. All of the steel girder components could be fabricated in Anchorage, he said.The bridge itself could be built with continuous spans of steel box girders resting on steel piers filled with concrete, which are designed to break ice. The design is similar to bridges built on the North Slope, which must withstand heavy currents and ice pressures, as well as the Yukon River bridge built for the pipeline.The bridge built in 1975 across the Yukon has steel spans of 410 feet. The Knik Arm bridge would involve spans of 500 to 600 feet, Nottingham said.A similar design is being proposed for an expansion of the Red Dog port on the Chukchi Sea coast in northwest Alaska, which is proposed as essentially a bridge structure out to deeper water.Nottingham’s experience in building bridges led to an imaginative approach to another major transportation project that has been discussed for years, a light-rail northern access system to the Denali National Park and Preserve in Interior Alaska.Several years ago Nottingham was asked to look at how a tourist railroad could be built into the area with minimum impact.He developed an idea for a low-speed train operating along an elevated steel rail, built on steel pilings. The train would operate at low speeds, about 35 mph, and on rubber tires to reduce noise.Steel bridge spans 150 feet long could be installed in the winter with minimal environmental impact, as similar work is done on the North Slope.Coach units 600 to 700 feet long could carry 1,000 passengers to view unspoiled landscape, wildlife and tremendous views of Mount McKinley’s north face."Each coach could deliver up to three round trips per day. With a peak expected passenger load of 9,000 per day, three trains would be required," Nottingham said.Initial capital cost is estimated at $450 million, but if round trip prices were set from $100 to $200 per person, the system could earn $100 million to $200 million per year if it carried a million passengers a year.

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