Business Profile: BBFM Engineers Inc.

Name of the company: BBFM Engineers Inc.Established: 1996Location: 510 L St., Suite 200, AnchorageTelephone: 907-274-2236Major focus of services: BBFM Engineers Inc. handles structural design of buildings and bridges including projects across Alaska. The engineers mainly serve as consultants for architectural firms.History of the company: After working for another firm, four Alaska engineers founded BBFM Engineers in March 1996. The company has grown steadily since then through work on major projects. Today BBFM Engineers employs eight engineers, three drafters and one office manager.One early project, an effort for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, required the evaluation of 38 buildings at Eielson Air Force Base.BBFM Engineers also has designed facilities at the South Pole and a recently completed design will soon be under construction there. The firm also designed prototype elementary schools in Anchorage including Northern Lights ABC, Russian Jack replacement, Muldoon and Trailside. Designs also have been completed for facilities in the Bush. BBFM is providing design work for the new South Anchorage high school. Other school designs includes structural renovations for Bartlett, Chugiak, East, Juneau-Douglas and Service high schools.Other past work includes design for the new 10-story Arctic Slope Regional Corp. Anchorage headquarters, the new office building at 2610 Gambell St., Providence Alaska Medical Center expansions, Century Theatres and Dimond 9 Cinemas.Top accomplishment of the company: BBFM President Dennis Berry cites the firm’s ability to recognize the client’s needs, usually architects, and meet expectations for the project using BBFM’s expertise.Major players: Dennis Berry, president; Forrest Braun, Troy Feller and Colin Maynard, vice presidents.Berry earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in civil engineering structures from Stanford University. Braun, who like Berry was born and raised in Anchorage, earned an architectural engineering degree from the University of Texas. Berry and Braun helped design Sullivan Arena. Feller received a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from the University of Alaska Fairbanks and a master’s degree from the University of Washington. Maynard earned a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a master’s degree in civil engineering from the University of Colorado at Boulder. Feller and Maynard grew up in Anchorage. Berry, Braun and Feller helped design the Alyeska Prince Hotel in Girdwood.-- Nancy Pounds

Evergreen bases Gulfstream in Alaska

In early August, Evergreen International Airlines Inc.’s Gulfstream 3 jet was hauling movie stars and corporate executives around the West Coast.Now the limousine-like aircraft is hauling government officials and contractors from Anchorage to Amchitka Island as part of the cleanup on the remote Aleutian island, occupied for years by the military and the site of atomic testing 30 years ago.Evergreen in August was awarded a $350,000 contract to haul passengers and small cargo through September. Other airlines had been providing charter service to the remote island since April.The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Navy, the U.S. Department of Energy and their contractors will be detonating unexploded ordnance on the island, as well as razing abandoned military sites, removing PCB-contaminated soil, and capping pits of drilling muds left over from nuclear testing on the island in the late 1960s and early 1970s .Evergreen’s 12-passenger jet was previously based out of Seattle, said Greg Thies, Evergreen’s director of marketing.The $12 million airplane cruises at 500 mph and is equipped with leather seats, coffee bar and entertainment center."It’s super first-class," Thies said. "It’s got all the goodies.’’When the contract expires in early September, Evergreen will base the business jet out of Anchorage."This is the first time anyone has put a multimillion aircraft based in Anchorage, solely on speculation,’’ Thies said. "We have faith the economy of Alaska will outperform the Lower 48, and that this is the best place for this expensive asset."We’re bullish on the natural gas pipeline, national missile defense (contracts), and Russian Far East charters,’’ Thies said.Evergreen also will target their business jet charter to companies that service the oil industry on Sakhalin Island, Thies said."We also see a need for Alaska business leaders to fly to the Lower 48, Canada and Russia,’’ Thies said, adding that charters, while more expensive than regular passenger service, are much more convenient for business travelers.The Amchitka award brings to two the number of government contracts Evergreen has won this summer.In July, Evergreen was awarded a federal contract to provide jet service to Adak. The $1.5 million annual subsidy also will allow the airline to provide service to the Russian Far East, the company said.Evergreen began cargo service in July to Adak with its DC-9 cargo jet. Under the terms of the federal contract, Evergreen must acquire a Boeing 727-100 combi or similar airplane to provide passenger and cargo service.Thies said the company is shopping for airplanes and has evaluated several in the past few weeks. But buying an airplane involves much more than just kicking tires, Thies said."It’s got to be the right plane at the right price," Thies said. "It’s not going to be a gold-plated airplane nor is it going to be trash.’’Thies said the company should have a new airplane for Adak within a few weeks. "We will do it," he said.Until Evergreen gets its new plane, Peninsula Airways is providing passenger service, under an interim federal award of about $4,000 weekly. Evergreen will be paid roughly $7,000 for each of its cargo flights, until its new jet is purchased. The airline will then be paid under its $1.5 million annual subsidy.Evergreen says it will provide Adak with two one-stop round trips a week to Anchorage, year-round. The contract, which will be renegotiated after the first year, is the nation’s most costly under the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Essential Air Service program.The Russian Far East flights are expected to begin in early 2002, according to the company.

Native association selects Denver company to manage Dimond Center Hotel

Seldovia Native Association Inc. has chosen Richfield of Denver to provide hotel management for the Native village corporation’s Dimond Center Hotel.The three-story, 75,000-square-foot hotel is under construction in Anchorage.Dimond Center Hotel is scheduled to open June 1, said Michael Beal, Seldovia Native Association chief executive. The property should employ 30 full-time workers, he said.Richfield is a subsidiary of SWAN Inc., which provides various hospitality services and employs 2,000 people. Richfield had managed the Regal Alaskan Hotel in Anchorage until that property was converted to the Millennium Anchorage, now managed by Millennium & Copthorne Hotels. The firm’s previous experience in Alaska was a deciding factor in the selection process, Beal said.Dimond Center Hotel will serve as a hub to relay visitors to the Native village corporation’s wilderness lodges in Seldovia and Lake Clark National Park and Preserve, he said.Seldovia Native Association is investing $14 million in the hospitality market, according to a statement from SWAN.The hotel will not be a name brand hotel, but the property will be near a fitness center, bowling alley, movie theater, shopping and restaurants, Beal said.Alaska company offers new tourAlaska-based Premier Alaska Tours will introduce a new custom tour product next year, company officials said.Called Alaska Legends, the escorted tour program is geared to groups of 20 or more and will feature Alaska bush pilots, fishermen, mountain climbers, homesteaders or dog mushers, said Stefanie Gorder, senior vice president of sales and marketing.Premier Alaska Tours is promoting the product to travel professionals, and the tour can be included with a cruise package as a separate land tour.Premier Alaska Tours runs escorted tours in Alaska for national tour operators via its own bus fleet.

Missile site prep work begins at Fort Greely

ANCHORAGE -- A contractor for the Army began clearing land at Fort Greely for an anti-ballistic missile site on Aug. 27.Workers were expected to spend at least a couple days of clearing with a hydro ax, a huge mower that can splinter brush and small trees, then start grading the area to prepare for the missile silos, according to the Army Corps of Engineers. Fort Greely is a mothballed Army port near Delta Junction, about 80 miles southeast of Fairbanks.Contracts haven’t yet been issued for any silos or buildings, according to John Killoran, a spokesman for the Army Corps of Engineers."That whole issue is in Washington," he said, where Congress and the administration will decide what development takes place.If the Army gets the go-ahead, Killoran said, "the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization will then move as fast as they can to get contracts out to do the actual site construction. But no one knows at this point when and if" that will happen.The Pentagon is hoping to start work on that next spring if the money comes through. Killoran said the contract for the site preparation work calls for it to be completed by the middle of December.The ground work is being done through a nearly $5 million contract awarded to Aglaq Construction Enterprises, a subsidiary of Point Hope Native Corp. Brice Inc. of Fairbanks is the subcontractor for much of the work.The contractor will clear the land, build an access road, and dig a couple wells for the future construction of missile silos and associated facilities in an area about a quarter-mile south of Greely’s main post. The fort has been essentially vacant since July.In the first phase, missiles would be stored in up to five silos at Fort Greely, then shipped to Kodiak for test launches for the proposed missile defense system. The military hopes to have the Fort Greely and Kodiak facilities ready for those tests to begin in two years.After that, test launches might be conducted from Fort Greely itself.Eventually, the post could be the main site for a full-blown national missile shield with up to 100 interceptor missiles launched from there in case of an attack. But that is many years and many billions of dollars down the road.

September-Issue-1 2001

Man behind Medallion: Dick Harding

A few years back, Dick Harding sat in a room full of pilots at an air carriers seminar where the Alaska aviators were asked if any of them had a close personal pilot friend killed on the job."Every hand in the room went up,"said Harding, vice president of Anchorage-based Peninsula Airways Inc.That’s when Harding decided it was time for something to be done, and he designed a safety program for PenAir that will be used as a model for the Five Star Medallion Program."I don’t want to lose any more pilots,"Harding said. "Flying in Alaska should be no more dangerous than driving a bus in Kansas."Harding, 61, has flown more than 30 years in Alaska, logging more than 30,000 hours without an accident."I’ve certainly had some interesting, hair-raising experiences,"Harding said. "I decided I didn’t want our pilots to go through the same thing.’’Alaska aviation accident statistics are sobering: Over a 30-year commercial flying career in Alaska, 11 out of 100 pilots will die in an airplane crash, 100 times the risk faced by an average worker in the United States, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.Between 1990 and 2000, 432 people died in 208 airplane or helicopter crashes in Alaska, an average of 39 deaths a year, according to NIOSH.There were 116 commercial pilots killed in that 11-year period, according to NIOSH.Aviation accident rates in Alaska are the worst in the nation, and historically the risks have been accepted by pilots and their passengers, Harding said."If the pilot comes in safely, so does everyone behind him,"Harding said.Seat-of-the-pants, white-knuckle flying is the stuff that made legends of Bush pilots in Alaska, and bookstores are full of their accounts. But it no longer has a place for pilots in Alaska, Harding said, admitting that he’s beaten the odds over the years, especially in his younger flying days."The risks we took were incredible,"Harding said. "Pilots still go out and push when they don’t need to -- thinking if they’re grounded and don’t make the flight, the company won’t meet payroll.’’"There needs to be a change of attitude of the operators and pilots,"Harding said. "Once that’s changed, there will be safer operations.’’Young pilots, with little flying experience, even less in Alaska, are often turned loose with little more than a check ride and have no idea what they’re up against, Harding said.Even experienced pilots are pressured by passengers to fly when conditions are marginal, at best, Harding said.And sometimes they do, with disastrous results.The Medallion program is expected to adopt PenAir’s system of flight risk assessment, which takes an arbitrary "go, no-go decision" out of pilots’ hands, Harding said."This is the biggest single safety thing to come along since the seat belt,"Harding said of the flight risk assessment. PenAir has had its program in place three years now. The company has shared the program with several carriers, including some in the Lower 48.There are nearly 50 categories of the flight risk assessment, broken into sections concerning airplanes, pilots, weather and airports. A numerical value is placed on the risk -- the greater the risk, the higher the number. A high enough number cancels the flight.For example: A recently divorced pilot, flying on a windy, snowy night to an unfamiliar destination more than an hour away, would have to get management approval for the flight. Add a few more factors, and the flight would be canceled.In addition to factoring in a recent divorce, the risk assessment takes into account recent family illnesses and deaths, personal commitments following the flight, and how long the pilot has been employed with the company.Those factors are considered because pilots need be concentrating on flying airplanes, Harding said.PenAir has about 100 pilots who fly to more than 50 destinations in Alaska, Harding said.The company spends more than $500,000 annually on safety training. More time and money spent on training means fewer accidents and less money the company pays in insurance and claims against the airline, Harding said.He admits the additional safety training comes at a cost to consumers -- PenAir’s tickets are a little more expensive than those of some other carriers.The pay-off is a safer flight, he said. And since the airline began its stepped-up safety policy, Harding says pilots have sought out the company for employment.Some Alaska air taxi operators have no safety program. Harding says that will change once the Medallion program is in place."You’re going to find people looking for a Medallion carrier to fly on,"Harding said. "Corporation and government officials who do a lot of flying and parents of school kids are especially going to want them to fly with the best they can.’’

Massive reconstruction project under way at pipeline terminal

VALDEZ -- A massive reconstruction effort is under way at the trans-Alaska oil pipeline terminal in Valdez.More than 1,000 workers are laboring this summer on the overhaul, which was sparked by the aging of the North Slope oil fields as well as cooling crude. The work began last year and is expected to continue for another two years, Alyeska Pipeline Service Co. officials said.The effort is estimated to cost about $380 million.Next summer may bring an even more intense work schedule, officials said."This is the busiest construction season we’ve had since the terminal construction itself," said Alyeska spokesman Tim Woolston.There are four areas of major construction. The floor grid system will be cleaned and refitted within the holding tanks at the tank farm overlooking Valdez Arm. The fire water pipeline will be relined. Berth 5 will be rebuilt and rewired. And a new office facility will be built.Each storage tank is 250 feet in diameter covering a total of one acre. The roof of each tank has to be cleared of snow by hand in order not to chance a spark.The heat from crude oil had been the source of getting rid of snowfall from tank tops, said Alyeska Operations Adviser Tom Stokes. But with the oil fields of the North Slope becoming more marginal, crude oil temperatures are now around 60 degrees coming into the tank farm. The cooler crude temperatures have led to maintenance problems in the tanks themselves."With the crude getting colder, a lot of wax is dropping out," Stokes told the Valdez Vanguard. "If you leave it, it starts collecting in the piping and as such becoming a hazardous waste."Wax buildup has not only been clogging pipes, but compromising the fire system. Steel floors and the bottom grid have to be cleaned out and the wax scraped off as well as painted."The key is to keep the wax suspended in the crude where it can’t settle," Stokes said.The cooler crude also has caused damage to the top of the storage tanks from the heavy snowfalls in the region and crushed equipment such as mixer motors from accumulated snow falling from the top of the tanks. One of next year’s projects is to build shelters over the mixer motors of the tanks.Most of this summer’s work has focused on tank No. 5. Other tanks for oil and ballast water will be the focus next year, Stokes said.Work also is being done on the fire system pipeline, which stretches eight miles from its water intake along the shoreline and around the terminal complex.

Business Profile: All Alaska Cartage Co.

Name of the company: All Alaska Cartage Co. Established: 1998 Location: 4041 W. International Airport Road, Anchorage Telephone: 907-243-8557 Major focus of services: All Alaska Cartage Co. provides in-town delivery service via its truck fleet for freight forwarders and others within Anchorage, Fairbanks or Juneau. The company also provides logistics and warehouse services. History of the company: All Alaska Cartage was formed in February 1998 to handle Anchorage deliveries for Danzas AEI Corp., an international air cargo and logistics company. "They were our first customer, and they’re still our biggest customer," said All Alaska Cartage President Kelly Keyes. From that first major contract, All Alaska Cartage gained speed with the addition of a contract with a Michigan logistics company to deliver pharmaceuticals in Anchorage. All Alaska Cartage also added clients like NAC Link, a service of Northern Air Cargo Inc., as well as other freight forwarders. In August 2000 All Alaska Cartage expanded to Fairbanks to handle Danzas deliveries there. Last October All Alaska Cartage added a similar service in Juneau. The company also serves a contract to handle Western Parcel Express deliveries in Fairbanks and Juneau. Starting with a fleet of three trucks in Anchorage, the company has expanded to now tally five trucks in Anchorage, three in Fairbanks and two in Juneau. The delivery firm started in 1998 with five employees, but has now grown to total 15 full- and part-time employees in Alaska. Top accomplishment of the company: Company president Keyes cites growth as All Alaska Cartage’s leading achievement. "We’ve grown tremendously in three years and all through our start with Danzas. I think our company has been as successful as it has because of the dedication of our employees." Major player: Kelly Keyes, president, All Alaska Cartage Co. Keyes earned a bachelor’s degree in animal science from Utah State University in Logan. He has lived in Alaska nine years and has worked for Northern Consolidators as a dispatcher, operations manager and in sales. -- Nancy Pounds

Anchorage consumer prices leap in six months

ANCHORAGE -- Anchorage residents paid more for items ranging from groceries to housing in the first half of this year, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.The agency said Aug. 16 that housing rose 2.5 percent during the six-month period. Fuels and utilities rose 9.4 percent largely because of a more than 20 percent increase in natural gas service prices.Groceries were up 1.8 percent for the period and 4.3 percent from a year ago. Medical care rose 2.1 percent during the first six months of 2001 and was 4.1 percent higher than a year ago. Clothing rose 1.5 percent so far this year and showed a 9.9 percent increase compared with last year. Gasoline prices were up less than 1 percent for the first six months of this year, but were 11.2 percent higher than a year ago.Prices for education have inched up this year, but declined by 1.2 percent from a year ago.

Performance awards make absenteeism obsolete at Nucor Steel

Nucor Steel, with 7,000 nonunion employees and nearly $4.5 billion in sales, is one of the few remaining steel companies in the United States. To remain competitive in its industry, it focuses on two clear goals: building steel manufacturing facilities economically and operating the facilities productively. To achieve these goals, Nucor has streamlined and decentralized management and allows each plant to operate as independent business units. Only four layers of management exist: chairman, vice chairman and president; vice president-general manager; department managers; supervisor/professional; and hourly employees. Only 22 employees -- eight managers and 14 administrative employees -- work in the corporate headquarters. Senior executives do not have company cars, dining rooms, executive parking spaces or corporate jets. Everyone from the janitors to the chief executive has the same basic but generous benefits plan. Nucor’s employee relations philosophy is simple and effective: * Employees should have the opportunity to earn according to their productivity. * If employees do their job well today, they should have a job tomorrow. They haven’t laid off employees in 28 years. * Employees have a right to be treated fairly. The company listens to employees through crew meetings, department meetings, shop dinners and employee surveys. * Employees must have an avenue of appeal if they believe they have been treated unfairly. This complaint procedure allows employees to carry their complaints to the president of the company. Nucor backs up its philosophy with a unique pay-for-performance compensation system. Salaried employees receive 0 to 25 percent of their salary based on the return on assets of their plant. Hourly employees earn money based on their individual productivity. While employees are paid a lower than industry average hourly rate, they qualify for an exceptional performance bonus if they exceed hourly quotas. For example, the steel industry average says an individual should be able to straighten 10 tons of steel an hour. Nucor’s goal is to straighten 8 tons an hour. Employees get an additional 5 percent bonus for every ton over 8 tons they can straighten. They typically average 35 to 40 tons an hour. However, if they are late to work, they lose their bonus for the day. And if they miss a day of work during the week, they lose their bonus for the entire week. Department managers also have base salaries that are lower than what other plants pay, but they qualify for an annual bonus based on their plant’s ROA that varies from 0 to 82 percent of their salary. They get an additional bonus based on the weekly production of their crews of 100-200 percent of base salary. Senior officers have one compensation system. They do not get profit sharing, pensions, bonuses or retirement plans, and their base salaries are also set below industry averages. They receive one annual bonus based on the return of shareholders’ equity above certain minimum earnings. Paid 60 percent in stock and 40 percent in cash, the bonus ranges from 0 percent to several hundred percent of salary. This unique way of rewarding productivity keeps Nucor’s productivity high and its absenteeism at a low 1 to 1.5 percent a year. Employees see a direct correlation between what they do and their paychecks -- a major incentive, and a key strength of the program. In fact, this program prompts such high performance that employees were refusing to take time off. The company began forcing them to take time off by giving employees four extra days off a year. Even so, only half their employees use their four extra days! Gregory P. Smith leads the management consulting firm called Chart Your Course in Conyers, Ga.  

This Week in Alaska Business History August 26, 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 TimesAug. 26, 1981ERA adds new twin-engine choppers to fleetBy Deb DavidERA Helicopters Inc., an Anchorage-based company that largely serves the oil industry, is spending $8.2 million on 10 twin-engine helicopters this year.The BO-105CBS’s, which can carry six people plus cargo, cost $820,000 each. Three or four will be flying around Alaska next spring, ERA president Carl Brady said.The rest, including five that are being shipped between September and February, are going to ERA’s Lake Charles, La., office. They will assist in Gulf of Mexico oil drilling operations."We will use them (the Alaska-bound helicopters) wherever we can put them to work," Brady said. "The bulk of our work is oil related."ERA, which has 56 helicopters in Alaska and 52 in Louisiana, also has an option to order 10 more of the helicopters next spring.Anchorage TimesAug. 26, 1981Firm may pay $5 million for broken oil pactBy Dave CarpenterTimes WriterCoastal Corp. has tentatively agreed to pay the state about $5 million in damages for reneging last month on its contract for about 20,000 barrels a day of Alaska royalty oil, state officials said.Faced with deteriorating market conditions, Coastal subsidiary Alaska Petroleum Corp. on July 27 backed out of the agreement it made with the state last December. The firm gave Natural Resources Commissioner John Katz just three days’ notice of its intentions. The action left the state in what officials called a "morass" because of the lack of storage space for the crude.Sohio this month agreed to buy the oil through February 1982 at a reduced price. The figure agreed upon by Coastal and state officials would compensate the state for the difference.Assistant Attorney General Robert Maynard said Tuesday the agreement in principal still needs fine-tuning, signatures and court approval to become final.10 years ago this weekAlaska Journal of CommerceAug. 26, 1991CFAB will repay ’79 state investmentBy Tim BradnerAlaska Journal of CommerceThe Alaska Commercial Fishing and Agriculture Bank will begin a phased buyout of stock held by the state of Alaska this year, part of a plan to return a $30.8 million equity investment made by the state in 1979, according to CFAB’s president, Ed Crane.CFAB deals mostly in financing purchases of limited entry permits and boats by commercial fishermen. The state made the investment to help start the bank. Although it was not a loan, state legislation required the investment to be repaid by 2000.In an interview, Crane also said the bank was concerned, but not overly worried, about this year’s poor salmon season, which could affect repayments on loans by fishermen and about $11.5 million in CFAB loans tied up in the bankruptcy of Chugach Alaska, which owns fish processing plants and a major sawmill in Seward.Alaska Journal of CommerceAug. 26, 1991Reclamation on private land: You’ll think of somethingBy Margaret BaumanAlaska Journal of CommercePrivate land owners will have to figure out for themselves, initially, how to comply with Alaska’s new mining reclamation law, while the state sets regulations for mines on public lands.The law, which goes into effect Oct. 15, requires reclamation for all lands mined, including gravel pits, but initially will affect only public lands, says a top state mining official."We still have to determine what the state’s power is on private lands," said Judd Peterson, acting director of the state Division of Mining."We’re putting more of a burden on the private landowner to figure out how to comply with the law, rather than for us to administer the statute," said Peterson, chief of permitting and field operations.-- Compiled by Ed Bennett.

Investing in safety

Kent Adams has spent 25 years trying to reduce the number of aviation-related accidents and deaths in Alaska, a state that averages a plane crash every other day and a fatality every 10 days.Those staggering statistics have remained constant throughout his career."It’s frustrating,"said Adams, the Federal Aviation Administration’s assistant division manager of flight standards in Anchorage. "Pilots are still flying good airplanes into the ground and killing a bunch of people.’’In aviation lingo, it’s called "controlled flight into terrain,"a crash which is often the result of a pilot taking too many chances in bad weather in order to log the flight.Increased regulations, better avionics and safer airports can’t replace a pilot’s good judgment, Adams said.Studying the problem hasn’t helped either. At least six government-funded studies have been done during Adams’ tenure at the FAA, including one in the mail now that asks pilots and airlines what can be done about the excessive air carrier accident rate."The fundamental problem is decision-making,"Adams said. "There is no regulatory solution. It’s human decision."We still need a better and more effective way to address those issues,"he said.Adams, who is near retirement, finally has hope for a new plan designed to educate pilots on safe flying practices in Alaska, where being an air taxi pilot has surpassed logging and commercial fishing as the most dangerous job in the state, according to airport officials.The Five Star Medallion Program is a volunteer accreditation by Alaska air carriers that includes, among other things, a company safety program, simulator training, risk assessment checklists, increased mechanic and ground service training and independent safety audits.Airlines that participate in the program will be given a star for each step of the program it completes. After a carrier has accumulated five stars, it must wait a year to be certified as having Medallion status. The carrier will undergo annual independent audits to retain the status.Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, has included $3 million in next year’s transportation appropriations bill to fund the program."The (Five Star) Medallion Program is basically education,"Stevens told the Journal. "It’s like a seal on Grade A beef. If you don’t know them, and they’re not in the Medallion program, then don’t get on."It’s astounding the number of older pilots we have that are 55 to 60 years old," Stevens said, adding that a big part of the program should be based on mentoring."It’s a way to pass on the know-how,"Stevens said.Air crashes are not always the pilot’s fault, Stevens said."Pilots get a bad rap,"Stevens said. "It’s so easy to say that a crash is due to pilot error.’’The 2002 appropriations bill also contains $11 million for runway lighting projects at 73 airports in rural Alaska. Federal funding for airport improvements jumped from $88 million in 2000, to nearly $142 million this year.But dollar for dollar, Stevens said, funding for the Medallion program will be some of the best money spent on what he called the "most stringent, professional standard of its kind.’’The Alaska Air Carriers Association will administer the program, which should start in October, said Karen Casanovas, executive director.The money will go toward rent, overhead and personnel. Casanovas said an executive director and four staff members will be hired.The Medallion employees will provide safety training to air carriers and help them establish safety programs, she said.The program is intended to be self-supporting after it is established with the $3 million grant from the federal government, she said.The programs goals, Casanovas said, are to lower the accident rate by half over the next decade, increase the reliability of air transportation in rural Alaska, and reduce insurance rates for carriers.

In Bush, barges have growing shipping niche

Besides breakup, one of the most anticipated events in Bush communities is the arrival of the first barge of spring. Increased air cargo service to rural Alaska has caused the excitement to ebb over the years, but whole communities still come out to watch as new automobiles, household goods, gravel, lumber, llamas and Limburger cheese are off-loaded at the village dock. And while there are speedier ways to ship nowadays, bargemen say their industry is growing and won’t be going anywhere anytime soon. "I’ll get nervous about barges being replaced in Alaska when they disappear from the Mississippi and Columbia rivers,"said Larry Shelver, who ran barges on the Yukon River and its tributaries for nearly 30 years. In the early 1960s, Shelver worked on the last of the sternwheelers on the Yukon. "I used to look at the old-timers kind of askance,"Shelver said. "Now I am one.’’ Shelver, who now serves as president of Yukon Fuel Co., estimates that more than 300,000 tons of goods are shipped annually on river barges in Western Alaska, while airplanes ship about a third of that. Quite a feat, considering the shipping season is only 150 days long, at most.

Inspection is key to sale

A buyer has the right to conduct various inspections on the home he or she hopes to buy. The inspections can range from the generalized home inspection to the more specific roof inspections, heating system inspections, septic and well inspections, and must be conducted within an agreed-upon time frame. While the buyer typically pays for the home inspection, the seller is often asked in the Offer to Purchase to conduct and pay for having a system inspected, cleaned and/or serviced. This request is sometimes considered equal to offering less than the full asking price and some seller’s agents will direct their sellers to accept a different offer that doesn’t have that requirement. Sometimes the seller gets a better deal and sometimes he or she doesn’t -- but the buyers need to know they are getting a properly working system. After a home inspection is completed, the buyer asks the seller to make appropriate repairs, if any. Addenda requesting repairs are often seen by buyers as a second chance to negotiate, but the buyer needs to keep in mind that these addenda do not include cosmetic items like carpet and wallpaper. Some loan programs require that a buyer get the home inspection and will even reimburse the buyer for it. The buyer gives a copy of the inspection to his or her lender. The lender then gives a copy to the appraiser and the appraiser will determine whether repairs beyond what was already negotiated between buyer and seller will be required. A home inspection can cost from $225 to $650. I’m not sure a $650 inspection is worth the money, since most inspectors guarantee their work only up to the cost of their inspection. I’m aware of only one or two companies that will stand behind their work beyond the cost of the inspection. The best inspectors, like everything else, are those with years of hands-on experience in Anchorage. Their reports and their verbal comments will reflect their level of expertise and will usually be somewhat matter of fact. Beware of those who love to embellish, badly, on everything they know. They can scare you right out of buying a house. Until the law is changed -- currently in the works -- inspectors are not required to pass any tests or get any special license. Just keep in mind that the seller has the right to accept or deny an inspector and that there are often one or two with whom the sellers will refuse to work. For starters, a home inspector will look at anything that has to do with water: a leaking roof, a "hot roof," proper ventilation, the grade of the dirt around the exterior base of the home, moisture behind the tiles in the bathroom or a sump pump that isn’t draining. Also checked are leaks under the sink, toilets, dishwashers, water heaters and those outlets that shut off the electricity in case you drop an appliance into water. They will check anything that can directly or indirectly cause a fire, an explosion or produce poisonous gases. This means unscrewing the breaker box and testing the outlets in the home to verify proper wiring and grounding. There are some specific items that they will defer to an expert. For instance, they will test for dangerous levels of carbon monoxide gas or that a zone valve is working on a heating system, but they won’t remove the heat exchanger to verify whether it has cracks. To be certain whether the gas forced-air system has cracks in the heat exchanger, it needs to be physically removed and inspected. Several companies will do that inspection for less than $50, but beware, if they find a crack, they won’t put the system back together -- someone is going to have to pay for a new exchanger first. The same goes for estimating the remaining life span of a roof. They will tell you whether a roof has been leaking, or how much insulation is in the attic, or whether it’s properly ventilated. And a home inspector will even tell you the general estimated life span of your type of roof, but they will not take a stand on how many years your specific roof has left. This is important for some financing programs, which require that a roof have at least three years of effective life left on it. Finally, it is best to get written confirmation -- work orders, receipts and warranties -- that the work has been completed. You’ll certainly want it for your records but you’ll also need it for the final draft of the appraisal and final loan commitment from your lender. Ken Jelinek is an associate broker with Re/Max Properties of Anchorage.

Stevens wants to ease cargo rules here

Sen. Ted Stevens wants to liberalize the rules governing the transfer of cargo between planes at the airport that bears his name.The Alaska Republican has introduced a provision in next fiscal year’s transportation appropriations bill that would allow cargo companies to make interline transfers freely at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport.If passed into law, Anchorage International would be the only airport in the United States allowed to transfer international cargo among all carriers."This provision will ensure that Anchorage stays at the top of the cargo world for years to come," Stevens said in a press release.Currently, international air cargo transferred in Anchorage that requires a change of airlines between foreign carriers is considered a break in flight and is not allowed. International cargo transferred between foreign and domestic carriers is allowed, with some restrictions.Those rules have discouraged some airlines in alliance partnerships from building cargo bases in Anchorage, according to Stevens and airline officials.New air cargo rules would "be a great plus for Alaska and air carriers,"said Ken Lythgoe, general manager of the Williams Lynx Alaska Cargo Port at Anchorage International."Anybody can swap and switch,"Lythgoe said. "It will be the best efficiency for the money."Mike McKinley, manager of Northwest Airlines Cargo in Anchorage, said allowing cargo to move freely between air cargo companies will be a boost economically for Anchorage and will allow companies to perform operations much more efficiently."It makes the hub here in Anchorage more viable,"McKinley said. "It makes sense. Most of the planes are stopping here anyway.’’Anchorage ranks just behind Memphis, Tenn., as the busiest cargo airport in the United States, according to industry reports.Anchorage International Airport officials have said airports in the Lower 48, Russia and especially Canada want a part of Anchorage’s business, expected to more than double over the next two decades.Canadian shippers and airports are lobbying their government to liberalize shipping laws there.

Juneau-based bank nets profit

Juneau-based Alaska Pacific Bancshares Inc. reported net income of $101,000 for the second quarter, compared with $81,000 for the same period last year.The company operates Alaska Pacific Bank.Total assets increased to $145.8 million as of June 30, up from $130.3 million reported at the end of second quarter 2000.Net loans were $111.2 million for second quarter 2001, and deposits totaled $117.2 million.Also, the Alaska Pacific Bancshares board of directors approved the closure of two branches in fourth quarter 2001. The branches to be closed are in Wrangell and the Auke Bay office in Juneau. The move is expected to bring financial efficiencies, according to the bank.

Americans are eating more seafood, and Johns Hopkins says it's good for them

Americans ate more seafood again last year, with consumption reaching 15.6 pounds per person. That’s an increase of 2.3 percent from the year before, and ties the record set in 1989. Of that, 10.5 pounds were fresh or frozen fish or shellfish, 4.8 pounds were canned seafood and 0.3 pounds were smoked or cured items.According to federal figures, Americans ate 4.3 billion pounds of fish and shellfish in 2000, and seafood now represents 20 percent of menu entrees at the nation’s top 200 restaurant chains. What is the American seafood favorite? Shrimp reached a record 3.2 pounds per person last year. Eat fish, live longerSeafood.com reports that the September issue of the Johns Hopkins Medical Letter, "Health After 50," reports on a study of 600 Okinawan residents who are 100 or older. They all shared a number of lifestyle factors that seem to be important to longevity, and among them is a large amount of fish in the diet.Other foods that seem to contribute to a longer life are vegetables and soy products, all part of a low calorie diet. The study group also is physically active, drinks alcohol moderately and has "strong belief systems and social networks," the Johns Hopkins Medical Letter said.Okinawans have 80 percent fewer heart attacks than Americans and 75 percent fewer cancers, including breast cancer and cancer of the ovaries in women and prostate cancer in men. Okinawa has the highest proportion of centenarians in the world -- for every population segment of 100,000 persons in Okinawa, more than 33 are 100 or older.Costco caperMary Edminster of the Homer-based F/V Restless went ballistic when she saw that Costco in Anchorage did not have fresh Alaska salmon on its shelves at the height of the season. Costco was, however, featuring farmed Atlantic salmon from other countries including Chile and Canada.In early August, Edminster wrote letters to every paper in Alaska, urging people to tell Costco to start supporting Alaska salmon. As an update, in a letter last week to the United Fishermen of Alaska, Edminster said fresh Alaska salmon is now being sold at all three of Costco’s Alaska stores. Chris Ostander, manager for the Northwestern states, gave Edminster his word that "as long as Costco can get fresh salmon, they will be carrying it, and they will carry it until October."That raises the question: Why Costco won’t continue carrying fresh/frozen wild salmon all year round? Instead, will Costco’s seafood cases be carrying foreign farmed salmon?Edminster is rallying all citizens and businesses to stand behind Alaska’s wild salmon industry, because it continues to lose so much market share to farmed fish. "This is a God-given product, raised in its natural environment. It can’t get any better than that," she said. How’s that for a marketing slogan!Kodiak-based free-lance writer Laine Welch can be reached via e-mail at ([email protected]).

Wasilla's Animal Food Warehouse opens 2nd store in Anchorage

A Wasilla-based pet food supplier has opened a store in South Anchorage to serve customers outside the Matanuska-Susitna area. The one-story Animal Food Warehouse on Brayton Drive between Dimond Boulevard and Dowling Road totals 10,000 square feet and opened earlier this summer. "We’re a pet specialty store selling pet and livestock feed and supplies," said Tim Sonnentag, who owns the store with Larry Tallman. Last September the owners acquired the property for the new store and took possession of the newly built facility in June, Sonnentag said. Animal Food Warehouse in Anchorage employs six full-time workers. "We sell for every animal" from wild and pet birds to horses, cows, pigs and chickens, he said. "We don’t sell animals, we just sell the feed for them." The addition of an Anchorage store stemmed mainly from customers who drove north to the Wasilla store and asked store operators about another location, Sonnentag said. "There seemed to be a real need," he said. Operators of Animal Food Warehouse also run a wholesale company for their products, Sunny Day Distributing LLC. In Wasilla, Animal Food Warehouse is at Mile 37.7 on the Parks Highway. Although the Wasilla location measures 20,000 square feet, most of that space is warehouse space for the distribution company, he said. The Wasilla retail store is smaller than the new Anchorage store, Sonnentag noted. Sonnentag started the wholesale company 14 years ago, following up with the opening of the retail business nine years ago. So far sales at the new store are exceeding Sonnentag’s expectations. "Customers are actually thanking us for coming to town," he said. In Anchorage, Animal Food Warehouse -- like Alaska Mill, Feed & Garden Center, M-Bar-D Feed & Tack Shop and Rae’s Harness Shop -- ships orders across the state. The mail order business is important to Rae’s Harness Shop, in business for 30 years, according to general manager Carl Black. Chief exports include pet food shipped to rural Alaska communities and dog mushing supplies manufactured by store operators and shipped to Europe, he said. His business has held steady despite the addition of the new pet supply store, Black said. The owner of the new business is upbeat about his prospects. "Overall the prognosis is very good for the future," Sonnentag said. "The economy looks good. People are loving their pets more and more every day and that’s an atmosphere we thrive in."  

Native corporation to do Greely work

FAIRBANKS -- The Department of Defense awarded a contract worth nearly $5 million on Aug. 17 to a Point Hope Native corporation to prepare Fort Greely to become a national missile defense test site.The award is the most concrete step so far in the proposal to transform the shuttered base outside Delta Junction into the eventual core of the Pentagon’s desired missile shield.The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers awarded the site preparation contract to Aglaq Construction Enterprises, a subsidiary of Tikigaq Native Corp. of the northwest Alaska village of Point Hope.Aglaq has offices in Point Hope, 600 miles northwest of Fairbanks, and Anchorage. The company will subcontract with a Fairbanks firm, Brice Inc.The contract calls for the company to clear trees to allow for the future installation of interceptor missile silos, build a main access road, drill two water wells and conduct other work, including soil excavation and grading. The contract calls for the site work to be completed by mid-December.The Pentagon hopes to subsequently construct up to five missile silos at Fort Greely as part of an expanded Pacific "test bed" for the proposed national missile defense system.Proposed funding for that work awaits congressional approval."We’re looking to do possible silo construction and other stuff next April at Fort Greely," Lt. Col. Rick Lehner, spokesman for the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization in Washington D.C., told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.The Pentagon’s plan is to store the interceptor missiles at Fort Greely, then ship them to the Kodiak Launch Complex for the test launches. The hope is to have the Fort Greely and Kodiak facilities ready for those tests to begin in two years."There is no present intent to test fire interceptor missiles from Fort Greely," according to a notice placed in the federal register earlier this month. "Any potential future decision to test fire at Fort Greely would only occur after a thorough environmental and safety analysis was performed.""In the event of a missile attack on the United States, the test bed at Fort Greely could potentially be used for ballistic missile defense," the Department of Defense notice added.Fort Greely is the Pentagon’s choice for the full-blown missile defense system should the test bed phase be completed and if it is ever deployed. That could mean up to 100 interceptor missiles eventually based at Fort Greely and launched from there in case of an attack.Initially basing the smaller-scale test bed at Fort Greely, even though the test launches are to be conducted in Kodiak, allows the military to test the infrastructure and work on design for an eventual larger system, the Department of Defense said.The goal behind the national missile defense system is to counter accidental launches, terrorism, or attacks from "rogue nations," rather than an all-out nuclear assault from Russia or China.The proposed missile shield has drawn fire from critics abroad and in the United States. Missile test results so far have been mixed and critics note that the technology is far from proven.Detractors also say that the proposal could spark a new arms race by violating the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty with the then-Soviet Union. The treaty prohibits deployment of such national missile shields.The Corps of Engineers awarded the site preparation contract to Aglaq Construction Enterprises through a Small Business Act program for awarding contracts to Native-owned firms.The corps evaluated all firms that qualify under the act and determined that Aglaq was the best choice.

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