Sears to open franchise at Juneau mall

JUNEAU -- Sears, Roebuck and Co. will return to Juneau in August with a new 6,000 square-foot franchise store in the Mendenhall Center. Bill Gissel will hold the franchise, which will sell mostly appliances and electronics. "I have been working with Sears for over a year," Gissel said June 13. The limited merchandise combination is called "a dealer store," he said. "It will be super appliances and electronics without the lawn and garden option, which may be added later." Sears had a Juneau catalog store that closed in 1993 as the company restructured. Sears has been exploring expansion back into Southeast Alaska for several years and a dealership opened in Ketchikan in March 2000. Sears will pay the freight for inventory and do all the advertising; Gissel’s responsibility is the mall lease and staff. Gissel said he did not know how many employees the new Sears would hire. Gissel lived in Juneau in the late 1970s and returned in 1987. He began his prior business, Adventure Sports, with his wife, Lynn Mayer, in Wasilla in the mid-1980s.  

New upscale resort offers custom tour packages

A tourism business new to the Kenai Peninsula this summer reports brisk reservations so far and interest from area residents.The upscale Alaska Legends Adventure Resort features 11 rooms and custom tour packages featuring trips and fishing across the Kenai Peninsula."Our reservations have been fairly strong for our first year," said Marnie Nelson, president of facility operator Legends Lodge Inc. "Obviously, we hope to increase reservations in the future."Lodge operators have decided to run Alaska Legends year-round based on response from peninsula residents and other Alaskans, said Nelson, who handles reservations and marketing."We’re getting a lot of calls for corporate retreats and incentive packages," she said.However, the lodge won’t be open during the Christmas season, she said.Also, some Kenai Peninsula residents have queried lodge operators to offer Alaska Legends cuisine prepared by its chef for public dinner service."We contemplating offering dinner one night a week on a limited menu by reservation only," Nelson said.Accessed via a 20-minute drive from Soldotna down Funny River Road, Alaska Legends sits 50 feet from the Kenai River and features 300 feet of river front property."We feel like we’ve put together a really nice product," she said.First guests arrived May 28 at the newly built lodge, she said.Each guest room, including one handicap-accessible room, is decorated differently and features sleigh beds, four-poster beds or log furniture, she said."We wanted people to have a unique feel to their rooms," Nelson said.Lodge operators Nelson and her mother, Linda Heath, who is chief executive for the facility, developed Alaska Legends to be unique to the area."We really want to cater to people and show them what activities are available," Nelson said.Alaska Legends offers custom tours including trips with its own Kenai River guide, but the company also has contracts with other companies for activities like halibut charters or Kenai Fjords tours.One five-night package for $2,695 per person features round-trip air transportation from Anchorage to Kenai, food and beverage service at the lodge, two days of guided Kenai River fishing, a Kenai Fjords tour, clam digging at Ninilchik or Clam Gulch plus a midnight champagne river float trip. Gratuities and a 2 percent borough tax are not included.Guests can alter their tour package, Nelson noted. "We have a lot of guys come up who trade the Kenai Fjords tour out for a halibut charter," she said.Alaska Legends employs eight people including the owners plus a housekeeper, guide and chef, Nelson said.

Kenai Peninsula rebounds

KENAI -- Increased activity in the oil and gas and construction industries in 2001 are contributing to a buoyant Kenai Peninsula economy. Prospects look bright for the future, too. For example, construction continues on the BP Exploration (Alaska) Inc. gas-to-liquids plant, and area officials are pursuing construction of a possible private prison. Further, typical summer visitor activities should spur business in retail, service and other sectors. However, some industry officials expect slower tourism activity in 2001 than in previous years. Also, the Kenai Peninsula Borough unemployment rate is at record lows. In April, the borough unemployment rate of 10.1 percent was the lowest in 13 years, noted Jeanne Camp, economic analyst with the borough Community and Economic Development Division. For the first quarter, the borough recorded a 10.6 percent increase in gross sales to total nearly $348.6 million compared with $315 million for the same period last year. Leading the gains are mining sales, which include the oil and gas industry. They climbed 40.9 percent compared with first quarter 2000. Construction sales followed, jumping 32 percent in first quarter. "I see a 32 percent increase in construction sales as a good sign," Camp said. "If people didn’t have hope, they wouldn’t be investing." Industries reporting declines in first-quarter gross sales were agriculture, forestry, fisheries and manufacturing. Taxable sales in the borough increased 5 percent for the first quarter 2001 compared with first quarter 2000 figures, continuing a steady upward trend. The oil and gas sector spurred its industry taxable sales by 32 percent compared with the first quarter of last year.

State, federal governments still at odds over Red Dog Mine

The legal dispute between the state of Alaska and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency over air emissions control technology on a new generating unit for the Red Dog Mine is moving slowly in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, with new filings due this month.Meanwhile, Cominco Alaska Inc., operator of the big lead and zinc mine in Northwest Alaska, plans to install another generator this fall and will have enough power at the mine for a planned increase in zinc production next year, according to John Key, Cominco’s manager for Alaska."We’ll meet our goal of a million tons of zinc production next year," Key said.Cominco would like the issue over the air emissions controls resolved so it can turn on the generator unit that is in dispute, he said.The company can power the mine with six diesel generating units and has the seventh as a standby, but would like to have the eighth unit available in case of a breakdown, Key said.Meanwhile, the lawsuit between the state and EPA could set a precedent in implementation of the federal Clean Air Act, said Cameron Leonard, a state attorney involved in the case.Alaska sued the EPA when the federal agency ordered the state not to issue the Department of Environmental Conservation air permit that had been prepared for the new generator. When the state issued the permit anyway, the EPA then ordered Cominco not to install the unit. Cominco appealed both EPA orders.The Clean Air Act provides that disputes between the federal government and states over its implementation go directly to U.S. appeals courts, which is why the case was filed directly in the 9th Circuit court.EPA wanted Cominco to use a new type of pollution-control technology that it said was more effective. The state argued that the system EPA proposed was not only more costly but was untried in arctic conditions.Tom Chapple, head of DEC’s air and water quality division, also said the new technology would, in the long run, risk more pollution to the environment than a standard and proven emissions control system approved in the state permit.At the core of the dispute is how the federal government’s delegation of power to states in administering the Clean Air Act is carried out."The disagreement is whether the EPA can second-guess the states," Leonard said.In the law, Congress gave states the right to run the air quality and permit program if the EPA approved those programs and the air quality goals of the federal program were met.Alaska argues that once EPA has delegated authority to states, as it has to Alaska, the states should have the flexibility to decide on a technology or pollution-control system that meets local conditions as well as the national goals.In the Red Dog dispute, however, the EPA has decided its proposed new technology is a better solution.Chapple said he is concerned about the EPA second-guessing the state, but also that the agency’s favoring of more costly emissions-control systems for diesel generators, if it is upheld, will have a big impact in Alaska as new generators are installed in rural electric utilities.In the most recent court action, the EPA filed additional arguments to support its contention that the type of system Cominco adopted for its generator violated the Clean Air Act.Leonard said the state wrote a response to EPA’s recent filing and is hoping the court will allow it to be considered.All parties in the case were asked to submit briefs by June 19 on whether a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision in a suit over air quality standards has implications for the Red Dog case.In that decision, the nation’s high court decided that costs should not be considered in federal decisions on air quality standards.Meanwhile, there is no deadline by which the 9th Circuit must decide the case. Cominco hopes the decision will come in time for it to begin increasing production later this year with the benefit of added standby power generation capacity.Red Dog is now the world’s largest lead-zinc mine and is a major employer in Northwest Alaska communities.While Cominco is the operator, NANA Regional Corp. is the landowner. NANA receives royalties from zinc production, 70 percent of which are shared with other Alaska Native regional corporations under terms of the 1971 Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act.

Wells Fargo-NBA sale nears completion

The year-and-a-half-long process of converting National Bank of Alaska into Wells Fargo Bank Alaska is nearing completion, with changeover of computer systems scheduled for June 22.On that day, the installation of more than 400 Wells Fargo signs was scheduled to begin, a process bank officials predict will take several weeks. It will mark the end of a long history for NBA, which traces its roots back to Skagway in 1916, when Bank of Alaska was incorporated with $50,000 in capital.By 1919, E.A. Rasmuson had become president of the bank. The connection between the bank and the Rasmuson family continued for another 82 years and two more generations, first under E.A.’s son Elmer and then under Elmer’s son Edward, the current chairman.By the time the merger of National Bank of Alaska with Wells Fargo & Company was announced in December 1999, NBA had grown into a $3 billion financial institution, with 53 branches, 130 ATMs and 1,120 employees.Wells Fargo, meantime, will be returning to Alaska for the first time since 1918, when the federal government took over its delivery business. At the time, the company had 40 offices in Alaska from Skagway to Nome.The famous stage coach and delivery businesses evolved into one of the nation’s largest financial service companies, with $280 billion in assets, 5,400 branches and 120,000 employees.In Alaska, NBA president Richard Strutz estimates that no more than 100 positions have been lost as a result of the merger with Wells Fargo, mostly due to consolidation of the companies’ credit card operations and finance companies.Strutz said estimating actual job losses was difficult, describing it as a "moving target." For instance, he said 35 jobs were being phased out at NBA’s phone bank in Alaska -- but that 80 new jobs were being created, also in Alaska, at a new phone bank for the Wells Fargo mortgage bank.Strutz said he’s heard the negative comments about NBA no longer being an Alaska bank, but he said the number of accounts at the bank has continued to grow since the merger announcement. And he emphasized that the same people will still be running the bank."Wells Fargo has brought no one to Alaska," he said. "It’s the same people our customers have always dealt with."Strutz said that on the positive side, many Alaskans have told him they appreciate being able to do their banking while traveling in any of the 23 Western states where Wells Fargo operates.Strutz said that once the conversion to the Wells Fargo computer system is complete, new services available to NBA customers would include international banking and access to Internet banking on the company’s Web site at (

Business Profile: Nordic-Calista Services No. 1

Name of the company: Nordic-Calista Services No. 1Established: First Alaska work in 1982Location: 4700 Business Park Blvd., Suite 19, AnchorageTelephone: 907-561-7458Major focus of services: Nordic-Calista Services No. 1 provides oil field drilling services on the North Slope.History of the company: Parent company Roll’n Well Servicing of Red Deer, Alberta, Canada, began work in Alaska in the early 1980s. As Roll’n Alaska the company gained a contract with Conoco to install a workover completion rig at Milne Point.In 1984 the company secured a contract with ARCO Alaska Inc. and built a rig in Portland, Ore., which was later barged to Valdez and trucked to Kuparuk. The rig went into service in March 1985. Nordic-Calista rig No. 1 was the first single module self-propelled rig on the North Slope.The company operated that rig through 1996. That year it was converted to a coiled tubing rig -- recording an industry first -- as a result of a joint venture with Dowell-Schlumberger. Also in 1985 the company, then called Roll’n Alaska Inc., formed a joint venture with Calista Corp. and renamed the company Nordic-Calista Services No. 1.In 1991 Nordic-Calista Services built Nordic-Calista rig No. 2 in Canada and later trucked it to Prudhoe Bay. The rig was dispatched to Kuparuk for work at Kuparuk in the mid-1990s.Nordic-Calista Services obtained a contract in 1997 with ARCO and built its third rig the following year. The rig at Kuparuk began operating in December 1998.Nordic-Calista Services employs about 60 people.Top accomplishment of the company: Nordic-Calista Services’ operations manager Phil Snisarenko is most proud of the industry firsts achieved by its rig No. 1. Also, he noted an increased focus on health, safety and the environment, which are now the industry’s No. 1 priority, he said. There is always time to do it right and safely the first time, he noted. "Working conditions have changed tremendously in the last five years," he said. Further, the caliber of workers has risen in recent years.Major player: Phil Snisarenko, operations manager, Nordic-Calista Services No. 1.Snisarenko started in the oil industry as a roughneck in 1964 in Alberta. He later worked in Oklahoma and Texas. He worked in Alaska off and on beginning in 1982 before moving here permanently in 1985 as operations manager.-- Nancy Pounds

Tribal hall will serve Interior

FAIRBANKS -- Tanana Chiefs Conference has broken ground for a $1.06 million tribal hall that will be used for potlatches, meetings, social gatherings and cultural exchanges.The facility, at 9,500 square feet, will be one of the largest single-structure log cabins in the state."It’ll bring back a lot of tradition for people who don’t get to live in their village," said Lori Sears, a Fairbanks assisted living care provider, formerly of Stevens Village.The hall will be located next to the Chena River Convention Center on the bank of the Chena River. It will be 170 feet long and 58 feet wide and constructed of 10-inch three-sided logs, said conference chief administrative officer Al Ketzler Sr.Design Alaska, a Fairbanks architectural firm, designed the log structure. Nenana Lumber and Barney & Berglin Inc., in joint partnership, is the contractor for the building. Jeff Barney, co-owner of Barney & Berglin Inc., estimated the work will be completed by mid-December.The building will be available for tribal members -- those who are on the membership rolls of villages within the Interior and served by the conference, Ketzler said. There won’t be a charge, he said."I’m sure if other tribal members want to use the hall, it will be available," Ketzler said.Sears said the hall would provide an ideal opportunity for Native children to spend time with elders during school breaks."I think it will be a good place for children to learn," she told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.Austin Esmailka Sr. of Kaltag said the new tribal hall will be a good place for both out-of-town and local Native people to gather.

Panel member vows to reverse halibut scheme

ANCHORAGE -- Kevin Duffy, Gov. Tony Knowles’ point man on the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, said he plans to ask for a vote to rescind a controversial April decision to award individual catch shares to halibut charter boats.The governor has criticized the decision, saying it would transfer a public resource to private charter boat operators "without any compelling reason to do so." The federal council regulates commercial fishing off Alaska.At a council meeting in Kodiak on June 11, Duffy announced that at the council’s October meeting in Seattle he will move to reverse the quota vote.The 11-member council is made up of industry and academic people, as well as federal officials and state representatives from Alaska, Washington and Oregon.The council voted 8-3 April 14 to award individual quotas for charter boats as a way to settle the long-running fish feud between the charter fleet and the commercial fleet.Commercial halibut fishermen worried that the charter fleet could continue to grow, catching more fish at their expense. Proponents, who include many charter and commercial fisherman, said the individual quota program would cap the overall amount of fish available to the charter fleet and also give individual charter boat captains their own share. Charter operators could expand by buying more of the transferrable quotas to serve their fishing clients.One council member, Anchorage businessman and sportfishing advocate Bob Penney, decried the quotas as bad public policy that would make charter captains rich and could drive up charter prices.Knowles has asked the U.S. commerce secretary, who has final say on council actions, to reject the quota plan.Duffy said he’s not sure if he will have the votes to win in October. He and Knowles favor a milder plan that would set a generous harvest limit for the charter fleet. That plan would prevent any new boats from coming in and encourage localized plans to balance halibut catches among commercial, charter and sport users.Backers of both the quota and Duffy plans say they would preserve the current legal bag limit of two fish per day for charter anglers. Duffy takes heart in the fact that he offered his plan in April and it failed by a vote of only 7-4, compared to the 8-3 defeat he suffered on the quota plan.Another factor is that the council will look significantly different by October, when two new Knowles appointees are expected to be seated.One of those, Stephanie Madsen of Juneau, supported Duffy’s alternative in her position on a council advisory panel at the April meeting.

Matanuska-Susitna Borough mayor says oft-studied Knik Arm crossing is 'real'

EAGLE RIVER -- Anchorage, Eagle River and the Matanuska-Susitna valleys are linked in a common economic future, Matanuska-Susitna Borough Mayor Timothy Anderson told a meeting of the Chugiak-Eagle River Chamber of Commerce. "Anchorage is running out of usable space and the Mat-Su Borough has tons of land," Anderson said as he and borough manager John Duffy addressed about 50 Chamber members last month. The need to offer industries room to spread out has prompted the municipality to join forces with Mat-Su Borough officials and the cities of Palmer and Wasilla to perform a joint economic study. Results are expected within a year, he said. Duffy said Alaska’s abundant electric power, fiber-optic cable communications and strategic location near Asia are strengths that could be exploited -- by the right businesses. The key is good marketing, he said. The new port facility at Point MacKenzie could draw industry to Southcentral Alaska, although the surrounding land still lacks utilities and a decent road. "We have a site now for industries that people don’t want in residential areas," Duffy said. Already there’s a mobile home manufacturer at the port, shipping prefab housing to the Bush, "and we’re getting some interest from other firms that would like to tie into that." "The plan is to develop an industrial area over there, then Anchorage could move some industries across the Inlet," Anderson said. Timber, wood chipping and manufacturing are possible industries, he said, adding that Williams Alaska Petroleum Inc. has indicated it wants to move its Government Hill fuel tanks to the new port. "We’ve had a lot of interest by business in moving there, but usually when they find out there’s no infrastructure they say, ’call us back when you’ve got utilities there.’ " Central to making Port MacKenzie work is finding a way to transport goods three miles across Knik Arm from Anchorage. Anderson said he talked with Alaska’s Rep. Don Young in Washington, D.C., this spring and learned that $20 million has been allocated for an environmental impact study for the Knik Arm crossing. "It’s real. It’s not just another idea out there," the mayor said. A causeway or bridge project makes economic sense now, because "as the state continues to grow, if there isn’t a new highway, the Glenn will be eight to 10 lanes" in the near future. At present, an 18-mile dirt road beyond the paved Knik-Goose Bay Road is the only access to Point MacKenzie. In the short run, Anderson said, "we need to fix the roads so trucks can get down there efficiently, knock down the grades to 5 percent, and bring in electricity." Eventually, the dock will need to expand out into low water to handle large cargo ships. Shipping finished products from Point MacKenzie to Fairbanks and the Bush likely will involve the Alaska Railroad building a spur south from Houston. Duffy said problems found with the dock will cost about $1 million to fix. Engineers recently discovered that a layer of uncompacted silt beneath the structure could liquefy during an earthquake. "We do have the money (to fix it)," Duffy said. "It was built with federal funds and it has to meet federal standards. It has to remain economically viable after an earthquake." The solution involves putting in a "sand wick" and wicking out the moisture, he said. Besides helping Anchorage move unwelcome industries out of town, Port MacKenzie and other development in the area will help Mat-Su Borough taxpayers, Anderson said. "We have a unique problem up there in that the tax base is mostly residential," and 87 percent of the borough’s budget goes for education. "If a family of four moves into our Valley and buys an average-size home, it actually costs us money. The taxes they pay don’t equate to the cost of providing them services." Not only did property taxes just go up but the borough assembly also is considering a sales tax. Duffy said the borough is considering a "very aggressive" package of incentives to lure industries to Mat-Su. Five-year tax deferments, 50 percent tax write-offs "depending on how many jobs they bring in," fast-track permitting and industry-revenue bonds to let companies get tax-exempt financing are some proposals on the table. One recent disappointment has been the failure of the latest plan to build a ski resort at Hatcher Pass, Anderson said. Popular with local skiers but with virtually no infrastructure, the area has generated many development schemes over the last 20 years, Duffy said. Anderson agreed that the area has potential but said any development will likely be small, "unless we’re ready to step to the plate with this many millions of dollars to make it happen."  

Providence radiology, Salvation Army Clitheroe Center earn accreditation

The Providence Alaska Medical Center radiology department has received a three-year accreditation in ultrasound from the American College of Radiology.The accreditation follows a recent survey. The evaluation was conducted by radiologists who are ACR members with expertise in ultrasound. Evaluations assess quality of work performed and qualifications of personnel. ACR’s Committee on Ultrasound Accreditation evaluates and accredits ultrasound practices around the country. The accreditation process is voluntary.Providence’s radiology department was accredited for obstetrics and general and vascular services including peripheral vascular, cerebrovascular, abdominal vascular and deep abdominal vascular.Providence Imaging Center earned accreditation by the national organization last year.Clitheroe Center gains accreditationThe Salvation Army Clitheroe Center in Anchorage has received the highest level of accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities.The accreditation, which followed a recent survey, is valid for three years and is awarded to treatment programs that demonstrate high clinical standards for rehabilitation.Clitheroe Center is a treatment program for people suffering from substance abuse and associated problems. Services include a detox unit, long-term and intermediate care units, dual-diagnosis programs, a women’s residential program, programs in local correctional facilities, and outpatient family support services and aftercare programs.Providence opens new emergency departmentProvidence Alaska Medical Center is scheduled to open its new emergency department June 26.The facility in Anchorage is part of the hospital’s multiyear $45 million expansion project that adds 100,000 square feet to the facility. Also completed in this part of the project is an expanded day surgery area, new entrance and lobby areas plus two floors of medical office space.The emergency department was last remodeled in 1985, built to handle 30,000 patient visits annually. Currently, the department tallies more than 55,000 patients each year. The new emergency department has been built to handle 75,000 to 80,000 patients annually.In response to patient and physician requests for privacy, the new 39-bed emergency area features 37 private patient rooms.

Cruise industry must now comply with extensive discharge regs

JUNEAU -- Cruise ships, which just a year ago operated under few pollution regulations, now must comply with new federal, state and industry standards.The passage of a cruise ship bill by the Legislature on June 9 has added a new layer of reporting requirements, wastewater testing and sampling schedules, marine discharge limits and fees on top of federal regulation passed by Congress in December.It also builds upon the work of the Alaska Cruise Ship Initiative, a voluntary program that includes groundbreaking wastewater testing and brings together federal and state regulators, cruise ship executives and citizen activists.Beyond all of that, individual cruise lines have their own policies for limiting smoke emissions and wastewater discharges, and they have made separate investments in cutting-edge pollution technology."The thing that makes it easier is a lot of these pieces mesh nicely," said John Hansen, president of the North West CruiseShip Association, the umbrella group for nine major lines that do business in Alaska. In looking at the federal and state requirements, "I don’t see any conflicts," he said.The bottom line for cruise ships now looks like this:* No raw sewage can be dumped in Alaska waters, under federal or state law.* Treated sewage and graywater from sinks, showers, laundries and galleys can’t be dumped close to shore without treatment techniques that are proven in advance.* Graywater discharges will be held to the current fecal coliform limit for treated sewage no later than 2003, under state law, and possibly sooner if the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency decides to act.* Ship logbooks on discharges will be open to federal and state regulators.* Wastewater samples will be taken by the U.S. Coast Guard and the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, and DEC won’t be limited by what federal officials do.* The state will assess a $1 fee per passenger to pay for monitoring, testing and inspection programs, including effluent regulations that will be developed by DEC in negotiations with the industry and other interested parties.The part of the state law authorizing DEC to write regulations was effective immediately upon passage, and DEC Commissioner Michele Brown is preparing for the process, which is expected to take several months.The Cruise Ship Initiative has laid the groundwork for the rule-making process, she said. "You’ve already gotten working relationships established. Except at the end of the day, instead of saying ’pretty please,’ you’ll have regulations. ... They’re not necessarily consensus regulations. It’s just that they’re developed in a much more collaborative way."Other aspects of the law are effective July 1. The $1 fee is due thereafter, and is expected to raise about $400,000 this year, Brown said. That will pay for two new positions in DEC and various contracts. Next year’s proceeds from the fee are estimated to be more than $700,000.Cruise companies also must register with the state for the first time, although Brown said she won’t penalize anyone this time if they miss the July 1 deadline by a few days. Also technically due then are a list of "interim protective measures" that companies will take regarding the discharge of graywater and their plans for off-loading solid and hazardous wastes.DEC is authorized to board ships and take water samples. Cruise companies also must report to the state any violations of discharge limits, and must share with the state any reports to federal regulators about wastewater testing.Industry spokesman Hansen said the companies in his association, which are operating 22 large cruise ships in Alaska, will make at least $40 million in technological adjustments to reduce air and water pollution. While most of that was coming anyway, the new federal and state laws have accelerated the pace, he said.

Nonprofits need plans too

When you hear the term "nonprofit" organization, do you envision people who do good things for the community but don’t make money? Well, you’d be half right. Fortunately Alaska has many talented nonprofit professionals who do vital work in the community. We depend on them for our social services, performing arts, environmental projects, health care and education. But you’d also be half wrong. Nonprofit organizations can and do "make money." They have to. That money is not a profit, but it’s an important part of their cash picture and essential to keeping the organizations healthy, strong and able to deliver their services. Nonprofits can’t rely solely on grants and donations to meet all their money needs. In fact, groups like the symphony, opera and museum have been making money through ticket sales for as long as they’ve been around. They couldn’t survive without it. For others, though, the step into what’s known as "earned income" is an alien one, and one that can be intimidating. A good way to reduce the fear of venturing into unknown territory is to have a map. And when that adventure involves making money, the map should be a business plan. Most nonprofit professionals and board members have considerable experience in strategic planning -- conducting research, analyzing strengths and weaknesses and forming goals and objectives for guidance in fulfilling their missions. But a business plan -- that’s something else. Yet all nonprofits really need one. Unlike the strategic plan that articulates the broad vision of what the organization wants to accomplish, the business plan provides a clear, detailed road map for use by management every day. For instance, if an organization charges for anything -- from the price of a ticket to a fee for services, from selling goods to serving food in a cafe -- it’s vital to assure that the pricing is appropriate, both for the value of the goods or services delivered and for the cost of delivering them. That requires doing a realistic assessment of costs and developing fees high enough to offset a pre-determined portion of those costs. It also requires setting such fees low enough to attract and serve your intended customers. Meeting both objectives requires a thoughtful balancing act. The business plan is specific. It details financial projections, whether from grants, donations, government support or earned-income projects, and it sets revenue targets. The plan also defines markets, identifies and manages risk and establishes criteria for measuring outcomes. In short, it focuses on the bottom line, which equals financial stability. Achieving that bottom line -- achieving a group’s financial goals -- is important to donors and others who give their time, talent and cash to support the organization. It’s important because success there makes possible success with the other bottom line, service to the community. And that all-important community service is where each nonprofit organization truly defines itself. It’s the place where all the lines and number columns come together and enable each group to succeed in its overall mission. In the for-profit world, businesses primarily focus on a bottom line measured in dollars and cents. But our colleagues in the nonprofit world have two interdependent bottom lines. One assures financial stability, the other a healthier, more vibrant community. They can’t have one without the other. The challenge for nonprofit managers is in some ways more complex than it is for profit-oriented business executives. It’s important for the nonprofits to keep the two bottom lines in balance and make sure one doesn’t overpower the other. A well-conceived business plan provides a map and one part of the balance; passion for the mission and a vision for the future take care of the rest. Nancy Schoephoester is manager of philanthropy and community services for Phillips Alaska Inc.

Alaska's entrepreneurs seek 'angels'

Who are angel investors? They are wealthy individuals who forgo the stock market with at least some of their assets and seek high returns through private investments in companies with real growth potential.The term angel was originally attributed to the affluent backers of Broadway plays. Angels are a very important source of funds for young companies, generally providing a company’s initial funding before they are bankable or can attract venture capital. Private investors focus on young companies with exciting ideas that would go unfounded otherwise. Angel investors are essentially providing venture capital for young high-risk companies.A little known fact is that angel investors across the country invest more dollars than all the venture capital funds combined. Some of our greatest companies started with a wealthy committed individual being willing to take on someone’s crazy idea and help make it happen.Typically, angels invest in companies seeking between $50,000 and $1 million. They expect their return on equity to exceed the stock markets’ returns, a reward commensurate with the risk they are taking investing in start-up businesses, which statistically have a 90 percent failure rate.To be a successful angel investor, risking one’s own hard-earned money in another’s venture, which is illiquid and unproven, takes practice.What differentiates angel investors from venture capitalists?* Angels are part-time investors; venture capitalists, full-time investors.* Angels invest their own money; venture capitalists invest on behalf of others.* Venture capitalists have more money to invest in higher amounts than private investors.* Angels invest initially, at the high-risk start-up stage; venture capitalists invest later in the company’s growth cycle.* Angels are hands-on, and often serve on the board of the start-up company, providing intellectual capital as well as fiscal capital.* Angels have the satisfaction of seeing their positive impact on a company and being involved in the creation of new products and services.* Angels are less diversified than venture capitalists, usually selecting industries in which the investor has personal experience and/or a strong interest.What does angel investing involve?* Finding opportunities, usually informally through word of mouth, friends and business networking or capital matching networks like Alaska InvestNet.* Investigating the opportunity and doing due diligence, which usually takes months.* Valuing the opportunity and setting a price. The reward has to be big enough to compensate for the high risk involved in the project.* Negotiating investment terms in order to structure the deal.* Tracking or monitoring the investments; and* Selling or exiting strategically.Why is angel investing especially important in Alaska? Right now, Alaska is one of only a few states that does not have an active venture capital fund at work.In the last year, in an effort to spur their economies, Hawaii, Montana and Idaho all got their first venture funds activated and working at home. Why is this important? Because the presence of risk capital encourages and grooms the start-up companies to become investor-ready, and then hit the marketplace not only faster but with higher quality business plans.Therefore Alaska’s angels play an even more vital role, providing some of the only risk capital available in the state to jump-start our young companies. Key to the ongoing financial health of a business, angel equity allows a company to complete the seed and start-up stage.Angels in Alaska have the satisfaction of filling a much-needed niche; without this capital, many of our small entrepreneurial companies would not exist. And we have several well-positioned entrepreneurs eagerly looking for seed capital right now.There has always been a strong element of the Alaska culture and economy that is based on private investors’ ability to price a decision to share the risk and reward of growing young companies; witness the people who grubstaked the miners in the Gold Rush.In fact, we are finding that Alaska’s angels are more active in the outlying areas of the state where there is often a mining history with its attendant culture of risk and reward. Hitting pay dirt takes a lot of due diligence, time and energy, but eventually the investment in our own resources, be they natural or human, has always paid off.Alaska InvestNet is planning a series of events and statewide seminars this fall designed to introduce Alaska’s angel investors to Alaska’s entrepreneurs.Deborah Marshall is director of Alaska InvestNet in Juneau. She can be reached via e-mail at ([email protected]).

Long-term relationship will benefit Alaska trade with South Korea

When Alaskans talk about international trade, they usually talk about Japan, and for good reason. For as long as people have been keeping track, Japan has been Alaska’s largest export market, and during the past 50 years there has also been significant Japanese investment in the state’s export industries. Today, at $1.3 billion, Japan is the destination for a little more than half of the state’s total worldwide exports. Less discussed, but still very important is South Korea, the state’s second largest market. In 2000, exports to South Korea totaled $449 million. This represents just more than 18 percent of the state’s total exports and is a slight decline from 1999, when exports to that country reached $487 million, an all-time high.  Alaska and South Korea have enjoyed close commercial and cultural ties for many years. The South Korean government established a Consulate General office in Anchorage in 1980. In 1985, Alaska reciprocated when it became the first American state to open a trade office in South Korea. Since then, more than 20 other states have followed Alaska’s lead. Alaska’s long-term commitment has not gone unnoticed by South Korea’s business community; there is a strong foundation of mutual respect and trust from which trade and investment have flourished. In 1985 when the state office opened, Alaska exports to South Korea totaled $90 million. Today, these exports are five times larger, reflecting South Korea’s economic growth and expanded trade ties with Alaska. As noted, in 2000, exports to South Korea decreased slightly from the previous year. This was due mainly to a decline in oil sales to the country. Other export sectors, however, experienced impressive gains. Exports of fertilizers, for example, rose 88 percent from the previous year. Seafood sales reached an all-time high of $133 million in 2000. Seafood species exported to South Korea include pollock, pollock roe and cod. South Korea represents an important growth market for Alaska seafood products. The Division of International Trade and Market Development has been working with South Korean importers and Alaska seafood sellers to pursue a promising niche market -- high-end hotels and restaurants. These are eating and drinking establishments whose clientele demand the best and can afford the best. The division has organized several in-bound and out-bound trade missions focused on this niche market and has conducted a number of successful hotel promotions that have featured Alaska seafood as well as other food and beverage products. Already these efforts are paying off. A number of hotels that previously did not use Alaska seafood are now including it on their menus on a regular basis. Several million dollars in new seafood sales have been generated as a result of these projects. Alaska’s only coal exports are to South Korea. Since 1985, coal from Usibelli Mine outside of Fairbanks has been transported by rail to Seward, where it is loaded onto ships and carried across the Pacific to fire electric plants for South Korea Electric Power Company. In 2000, more than 700,000 tons of coal was shipped to South Korea, valued at $16 million, an 8 percent increase from 1999. Besides trade, there is other business from South Korea that is important to Alaska. A good example is commercial aviation. Two South Korean air carriers, Korean Air and Asiana Airlines, are long-time, valuable customers of Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport. Korean Air conducts both passenger and cargo operations at the airport and averages about 60 landings per week. Based on revenues paid, Korean Air is the airport’s No. 1 customer. There are many cultural links between South Korea and Alaska. An estimated 10,000 South Koreans call Alaska their home, making a significant contribution to the vitality and diversity of the state. Anchorage enjoys a sister relationship with Inchon, site of the country’s new international airport that opened at the end of March. While the South Korean government closed its Consulate General office in 1999 in the wake of the Asian economic crisis, they have maintained a presence in Alaska by appointing local attorney William Bittner to serve as their honorary consul. South Korea is also a member of the Northern Forum organization whose secretariat office is in Anchorage. There is ongoing activity to further Alaska’s ties with South Korea. On June 28, South Korean Consul General Byung-Rok Moon, based in Seattle, will speak at a luncheon meeting of the Alaska World Affairs Council. The following day, a delegation of business and government leaders, led by Debby Sedwick, commissioner of the Department of Community and Economic Development, will head to Seoul. The delegation will participate in opening ceremonies for a major food and beverage promotion and have meetings with companies and agencies important to Alaska’s trade and tourism with South Korea. Later in the year, the Division of International Trade and Market Development will conduct a seminar on doing business with South Korea for local exporters. Looking ahead, the future appears bright for building upon existing trade relations with South Korea and expanding export volumes. Success with these efforts will lead to an even stronger, mutually beneficial, relationship. Greg Wolf is director of the state Division of International Trade & Market Development.

$78 million project will straighten 70 curves, shorten travel times

The Alaska Railroad is out to prove that the shortest -- and safest -- distance between two points is a straighter line. The state-owned railroad began construction this spring on a $78 million project that will straighten some 70 curves on the Anchorage to Wasilla portion of the line. Road crossings along the track also will be improved for increased safety, according to the railroad. Most of the funding for the project comes from the Federal Railroad Administration, with the railroad matching about 20 percent of the overall cost, said Wendy Lindskoog, the railroad’s director of external affairs. Construction will be done in three phases: Anchorage to Eagle River Bridge; Eagle River to Knik River; and Knik to Wasilla. The railroad, along with Anchorage-based Wilder Construction Co., began work in April on the first phase of the project, a 10.5-mile stretch from the north end of the Anchorage Rail Yard to the Eagle River Bridge. Work includes realignment of the existing mainline track and construction of a second track. Twenty-eight curves will be straightened, and the track will be moved 3,000 feet further away from a runway at Elmendorf Air Force Base. Jason Graham, project engineer for Wilder Construction, said his company will employ up to 35 people this summer. Railworks Inc. of Salt Lake City will be laying track for the project. Anchorage-based Arctic Electric Inc. will be replacing an underground fiber-optic cable that runs along the tracks. Sam Provost, a lineman with Arctic Electric, said his company will have up to eight workers on the project. When all three phases are completed in 2003, railroad officials say the travel time between Anchorage and Wasilla will drop from 90 minutes to just under an hour. Trains should be able to maintain speeds of about 50 mph instead of slowing to 20-25 mph, Lindskoog said, which could clear the way to possible commuter service between the two cities. Most of the curves along the line will be reduced from 10 degrees to 2 degrees, Lindskoog said. The shorter travel times and reduced track curvature will reduce wear and tear on the trains and cut personnel costs, according to the railroad. "Curves do two things: They slow down trains and they are hard on the equipment,’’ said Stephanie Wheeler, a railroad spokeswoman. Most importantly, she said, a straighter track greatly reduces the risk of derailment. The Anchorage to Wasilla track is the most meandering leg of the 470-mile railroad and has had the highest number of derailments over the years, according to Ernie Piper, the railroad’s assistant vice president of safety. During construction of the railroad from 1914 to 1923, workers didn’t have the machinery or the technology available today to go through obstacles, Wheeler said. "They had to go where the curves took them,’’ Wheeler said. Other improvements along the line include building roads over or under the tracks, instead of at-grade, or level with the road. In some areas, 35-foot rail sections will be replaced by 80-foot sections. "That will help reduce that ’clickity-clack’ sound,’’ Lindskoog said. Foliage will be planted along some residential areas in Eagle River to create buffer zones to further lessen train noise, she added.  

State officials attempt a second round of bidding for fast ferries

JUNEAU -- A Sitka-to-Juneau day boat could begin operations in January 2004, under a revised timetable by the Alaska Department of Transportation for the design and construction of fast ferries.A new request was issued June 14 for proposals to build the first two of at least four high-speed catamarans, the first vehicle and passenger vessels of the type ever to be made in the United States.In April, DOT rejected the only complete bid it received for the Sitka-based vessel, originally scheduled for operation in summer 2003. The $35.99 million bid by Nichols Brothers Boat Builders of Washington state was declared "nonresponsive" to the state’s original request for proposals, for reasons that were never disclosed.But DOT has revised its request for proposals and bidding requirements, after consulting with the original five bidders, said Bob Doll, Southeast region director for the agency.The changes won’t affect plans for the 32-knot ships to carry 250 passengers and the equivalent of 35 sport utility vehicles, Doll said. But bidders will have more opportunity to refine their design-build proposals as they go through the process, he said.The new request for proposals calls for a contract to build two fast ferries, with an option for two more. The contract would be awarded in late December. Already two of the original bidders have asked for the new RFP, Doll said.The second fast ferry would be assigned to Cordova. The Legislature secured $10 million in federal funds toward paying for it, but did not authorize additional ships through the use of a debt-incurring mechanism based on future federal highway funds. Doll said that in the 2002 legislative session DOT will be back with that proposal, as well as a request for the balance in federal funds needed for the Cordova vessel.Legislators, particularly in the Senate, voiced several concerns about the fast ferry technology and the wisdom of the proposed financing scheme."Public acceptance of the concept has increased significantly, and I hope the Legislature recognizes that," Doll said.The optional fast ferries in the contract would be based in Ketchikan, making runs to a new terminal south of Petersburg on South Mitkof Island, and in Juneau, making runs to Petersburg.No decision has been made on a fast ferry for the Upper Lynn Canal serving Juneau, Haines and Skagway, pending a report being prepared by The McDowell Group, a Juneau research and consulting firm.

Net battle brews in Ketchikan

KETCHIKAN -- A Ketchikan Superior Court judge has denied an injunction to keep Ketchikan Public Utilities from continuing to offer Internet service.The ruling, issued June 12 by Judge Trevor Stephens, allows KPU to provide Internet service while awaiting an upcoming trial that pits the utility against a local provider Ketchikan Internet Services. KIS requested the injunction when it filed an antitrust lawsuit against KPU in early March.The Ketchikan-based company alleges the city-owned public utility is violating its charter by offering Internet service and is attempting to monopolize the market with predatory pricing, according to the lawsuit.KIS has not shown that the city is engaging in predatory pricing, Stephens wrote in his ruling.

June-Issue-1 2001

Business passes Alaska Highway test

Victoria Parham is a military wife and a professional, but she faced the traditional tough choice that working women face when their husband’s career required frequent moves.Parham developed a unique solution, her own "virtual" business, so she could take her business, clients and work with her when she moves.The acid test of the concept was working five hours a day in the back seat of an SUV for 22 days last year as she and her family drove from Maryland to her husband’s new assignment at Fort Richardson.Parham could have flown to Alaska to make the transition smoother, but she wanted to give her virtual business concept the ultimate test, to see if she could do it on the road, literally.Every day, relying on a laptop, cell phone and a wireless modem, Parham was able to work, holding on-line interactive meetings and teleconferences with clients and other "team" members, other virtual-support workers scattered around the United States.En route, Parham recalls teleconferencing with a team and client and revising documents in real-time while her husband navigated traffic in Minneapolis.Further west the family drove through areas where forest fires burned. Planes carrying water roared overhead and firecrews were along the road as Parham talked on a cell phone and tapped at her laptop.Clients were intrigued with her experiment. Sometimes she panned the scenery with her video equipment, she said.Parham was a senior administrative assistant with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ value engineering unit in Georgia in 1994 when she decided to form her own business.At first it was basic secretarial services offered from a traditional office. Electronic communication was then in its infancy. In 1997, after a couple of moves and a lot of research, she decided to take her business completely virtual.Parham’s Virtual Support Services primarily does administrative support for mobile workforce professionals and executives who travel frequently and rely on e-mail and other electronic communication for support. A senior NBC executive is among her clients."I do their reports and put together their presentations," Parham said. "Once a client sent me a draft of a PowerPoint presentation as he boarded a flight to South Africa. When he got there, 16 hours later, he downloaded the revised presentation and went to his meeting."She also does Web design, virtual meeting hosting, and coordinates telephone interpretation services in over 140 languages.Clients fax or e-mail notes or drafts, and Parham edits and turns them into polished documents. With her "virtual" team, sometime including people in Europe, they consult with the client, revising documents and drafts in real-time.Parham and her family live on base at Fort Richardson. She maintains a home office and, because of the time difference between Alaska and the East Coast, is usually up at 4 a.m. with her headset on and laptop open.After a lot of moves, she and her husband hope to settle in Alaska. They’re now looking to buy a house, she said.Her business is changing, too. She wants to help local firms realize the advantages of virtual business and has been making presentations on what she does at the University of Alaska’s Small Business Development Center Womens’ Networking Breakfast and to firms, state agencies, and business groups like the Anchorage Economic Development Corp."I want to encourage the business community as well as government agencies to embrace the technology. In an effort to build business relationships we must diversify our market. Technology will allow us to do that, and more," she said.Not surprisingly, she finds the local business community a little behind the times, though not much, in the virtual business area. "But that’s OK, because there are now people here to help -- like me."


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