GCI wins battle to offer local service in 2 cities

JUNEAU -- In another reversal in a see-saw telecommunications battle that has lasted nearly four years, a Superior Court judge has refused to stay an interconnection order calling for local phone competition in Juneau and Fairbanks. Agreeing with General Communication Inc. that a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision doesn’t overrule the order from the Regulatory Commission of Alaska, Anchorage Judge John Reese rejected a plea by Alaska Communications Systems to halt work immediately on the interconnection."Competition goes forward," GCI senior vice president Dana Tindall said after receiving the judge’s two-sentence ruling Feb. 9."This was just a request for an expedited proceeding," said ACS President Wes Carson, playing down the long-term significance of the ruling.The court still must hear arguments about whether ACS’ "rural exemption" under the pro-competition U.S. Telecommunications Act of 1996, terminated by the RCA last year, can be reinstated. That would force GCI to start the state regulatory process all over again.ACS, which does business in Juneau as PTI Communications, moved for the stay after the U.S. Supreme Court decided on Jan. 22 not to review a federal appeals court ruling in an Iowa case. The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals last July threw out federal regulations placing the burden of proof on the incumbent local service provider to show that competition would imperil universal, affordable access.Because the Supreme Court declined to review the 8th Circuit ruling, ACS contends that the issue is settled and the burden is now on GCI to show that it wouldn’t cause rate hikes for some "high-cost" consumers who are being subsidized. But Reese, stepping in for District Court Judge Sigurd Murphy, who had been handling the case, said the 8th Circuit decision did not compel the stay and was not "persuasive."GCI had insisted that the Alaska Supreme Court has held that the Alaska courts are not bound by the interpretations of federal law by the federal circuit courts.Tindall of GCI said the remaining legal issues could take six months to a year to sort out. In the meantime, GCI intends to be offering local telephone service in Juneau and Fairbanks, she said, first by buying and reselling ACS services and later by leasing "unbundled network elements" from the incumbent to offer new packages to consumers.

Chefs show Alaskans they have heart

Chefs from two popular Anchorage restaurants are showing their hearts for Alaskans whose health requires careful nutrition habits. Glacier BrewHouse and Ristorante Orso, run by the same operator, plan to host a cooking demonstration this month along with Alaska Regional Hospital dietitians for people with heart conditions.On Feb. 21 Glacier BrewHouse chef Scott Hoskinson will lead a free demonstration from 6-7:30 p.m.Ruth Townsend, director of Alaska Regional’s health management center, asked the restaurant operator to consider leading programs for hospital patients. So far, two programs have been held."Our diabetic patients felt like nice restaurants were off limits because they were watching their diet," she said. "We wanted to show them restaurants do not have to be off limits."Townsend, along with the restaurants’ executive chef Farrokh Larijani and marketing director Marion Hurst, coordinated the sessions. The first cooking demonstration, in November, addressed the nutritional requirements of people with diabetes and featured a seafood stew called cioppino, Townsend said.January’s session covered healthy eating in general for people who resolved to make eating changes in 2001. The chef prepared halibut for the participants to sample, Townsend said.For Larijani, the demonstrations are part of the community service his company encourages. He also works with the University of Alaska Anchorage Cuddy Center and the Anchorage School District King Career Center.The demonstrations also benefit the restaurant since participants could be potential patrons who once considered eating at the restaurant taboo, he said. After the January demonstration, five to six participants made reservations in the dining room, he said.Larijani reports that he and his staff are learning from the Alaska Regional dietitians."No. 1, it opens up your eyes to be more sensitive to guests’ needs," he said.The chefs also are learning more about food chemistry and the amount of carbohydrates people need, he said."For me personally, it’s a lesson for my own diet," Larijani said.Diners with special diet needs have an advantage at restaurants where food is made to order rather than pre-cooked, Townsend said.During the demonstrations, Larijani and the chefs have recommended ways to modify menu items to meet the needs of diners who have health concerns, Townsend said. For example, if vegetables are typically sauteed in butter, the chef can steam them instead."We get special requests all the time," Larijani said.The chef encourages diners to carry a laminated index card listing possible food allergies or restrictions. Diners can give the card to the server who can pass it to the chef so he can recommend menu items appropriate to the person’s health condition.The card can be important for people who are serious about their diet, especially people with diabetes, he said.Alaska Regional’s Townsend hopes to plan additional cooking demonstrations for this spring. The sessions might take a break for summer since Ristorante Orso and Glacier BrewHouse are typically busy at that time, she said.According to Townsend, patients have enjoyed the cooking demonstrations. "It’s been a great hit. Everybody loves it."Sessions are limited to 25 participants. Reservations are required and can be made by calling Townsend at 907-264-1823.

Providence adds dining, activity space to extended care center

Work has been completed on an addition and renovation to Providence Extended Care Center in Anchorage. The seven-month construction project added space for resident dining and resident activities. One new feature is the Forget-Me-Not Village Great Room, which was designed to add a homelike element for residents and to be easily accessible from residents’ rooms.The great room features windows with lower sills to allow improved views for wheelchair-using residents, facility officials said. The area also has six dining tables seating four people each as an alternative to the dining room. An entertainment center also is part of the room. An adjacent nursing support area allows ready care.The 224-bed facility is the largest long-term care facility in Alaska.Valley installs new MRIValley Hospital Medical Center in Wasilla began serving patients in January with a new magnetic resonance imaging system. The Phillips Intera MRI replaces the former system, which was purchased a decade ago, hospital officials said.The Wasilla hospital announced plans to acquire the new system last spring, and the MRI was installed in late 2000.MRI scans use computers and magnetic fields to create pictures of the human anatomy similar to X-rays but without radiation, hospital officials said.The hospital also has purchased other imaging equipment for the Wasilla campus, including a new General Electric nuclear medicine unit and new ultrasound equipment. In February, patients will be served by a new Lunar Bone Densitometer, which aids in the diagnosis of osteoporosis and osteoarthritis.State opens new public health facilityAlaska officials have opened the new state public health laboratory and office of the state medical examiner in Anchorage. The Department of Health and Social Services christened the facility in late January.The 37,500-square-foot, $18.4 million facility replaces previous facilities, which were unsuited to tasks performed by the lab workers and the medical examiner. Anchorage-based firms provided design and construction work.Workers at the Alaska Public Health Laboratory will help investigate, control and treat disease outbreaks. The new state-of-the-art facility improves the department’s ability to detect, diagnose and control communicable diseases in Alaska. It also has a biosafety level three suite, which enables infectious disease specialists to safely work with highly contagious diseases like tuberculosis and botulism.The medical examiner’s office supports the justice and public health surveillance by providing forensic pathology services to determine cause of death in suspicious or unattended deaths. The new facility provides a safer and more efficient work environment and will reduce stress on family members of the deceased by providing video-viewing capabilities.New emergency entrance opensValley Hospital in Palmer has completed remodeling and relocated its emergency department. The new area features a larger waiting room and more confidential admitting areas. The new design separates patient services and public corridors so walk-in patients will enter separately from trauma patients arriving via ambulance.The relocated emergency department opened Feb. 13. The new entrance is the same one used to enter the Family Birthing Center and includes a covered drop-off area.

Warm weather, maintenance knock down Slope's January output

Alaska North Slope petroleum production, hampered by warmer-than-average weather and cutbacks for maintenance, fell an average of 17,000 barrels per day in January. Overall output totaled 1.021 million barrels per day for January, down 1.7 percent from 1.038 million b/d in December, according to Alaska Department of Revenue officials. Last month’s ANS petroleum production also reflected a long-term downward spiral, dipping 40,000 b/d below January 2000 production of 1.061 million b/d.Natural gas liquids output in January averaged 52,615 b/d, up slightly from 52,065 b/d a month earlier. However, the NGLs output showed a long-term decline, dropping nearly 22 percent from 67,031 b/d in January 2000.Crude production fell 1.8 percent in January to 968,457 b/d from 986,000 b/d in December. Average crude output in January also lagged year-ago production of 994,000 b/d.Production at the three smallest North Slope gathering centers rose in January, while Prudhoe Bay, Kuparuk and Lisburne reported lower output.Two days of maintenance work at Prudhoe Bay mid-month hurt average production in the North Slope’s largest field in January. Output of crude oil and NGLs fell about 22,000 b/d to 552,840 b/d from 575,204 b/d in December. It also reflected more than a 50,000 b/d drop from 609,066 b/d in January 2000. Prudhoe Bay is operated by BP Exploration (Alaska) Inc.Average crude production at the Phillips Alaska-operated Kuparuk River field fell in January by nearly 12,000 b/d to 224,688 b/d from 236,476 b/d a month earlier. Production at BP-operated Lisburne also fell slightly in January to 87,857 b/d from 88,579 b/d in December.Phillips’ Alpine field posted average output of 67,211 b/d in January, up more than 12,000 b/d, or 22.5 percent, from 54,848 b/d in December. Though production continued to seesaw throughout January at Alpine, the field set a one-day production record Jan. 30 of 86,926 b/d, after rebounding from a low of 31,123 b/d Jan. 8, state Revenue economist Denise Hawes said Feb. 5. "I know they had shipping pump problems earlier in the month," she added.Average output at BP-operated Milne Point rose slightly in January to 50,885 b/d, compared with 50,104 b/d a month earlier.Endicott, another BP-operated gathering center, reported slightly higher average crude output of 37,591 b/d in January, up from 37,303 b/d in December.

Alaska Regional, Providence increasing security for newborns

This year the state’s two largest hospitals, both in Anchorage, are boosting their security systems monitoring newborns. Alaska Regional Hospital will be operating an electronic infant security system called Hugs by summer. The system is manufactured by Instantel Inc. of Ontario, Canada.Providence Alaska Medical Center began operating its system in mid-February.Alaska Regional is installing the system this year in conjunction with renovations to its maternity unit. The security system should be operating by June, said Kjerstin Lastufka, Alaska Regional’s director of marketing and public relations.Lastufka said a dollar figure for the infant security system was unavailable. The project is part of a $26 million hospital renovation started last fall and due to be finished in 2002. Renovations will relocate and update the lobby, add operating rooms, expand the radiology department and expand the labor and delivery unit with new, larger rooms.Currently, entrances at Alaska Regional’s maternity unit have alarms, she said. Also, unit staff have distinctive identification cards and colored scrubs to differentiate them from someone who may try to abduct an infant.The hospital has not had any such incident involving babies, she said.Providence, too, has not recorded an abduction, but more than two years ago a mother took her own baby out a hospital window, said Jo Danner, clinical manager of maternity services. Windows on the unit are now sealed shut, she said.Providence began considering installing a system like Hugs a year ago, Danner said. Cameras were installed nearly two years ago to monitor the maternity unit’s exits, as well as in the Children’s Hospital on the third floor. Providence officials wanted a more efficient security system with tags to track babies, she said.The Hugs system features a two-way transceiver tag that the baby wears on its wrist with a bracelet. Receiver stations on the 30-bed unit monitor the infant’s location and can lock all exit doors if the baby is taken beyond the system perimeters, said Newton Chase, director of facilities. Alarms also sound if a baby’s Hugs bracelet is cut, Danner said.The system cost $90,000 and was installed by Engineered Fire Systems Inc. of Anchorage, he said. The Hugs system was more expensive yet more effective than others Providence reviewed, he said."What’s important is the feeling it brings," Chase said. "Moms and dads feel safe. We’re going to a much greater degree to keep kids safe."Video cameras will still be in place at the unit, along with others monitoring staff parking at night, he said. "This is a 24-hour operation, and it’s like a small city," said Chase, describing the hospital’s need for security.Security systems for maternity units are increasingly common for U.S. hospitals because incidents have occurred at large and small facilities, she said. Some hospitals outside Alaska limit the number of visitors allowed or issue a swipe card to monitor access to the maternity unit, she said.Babies receive two identification bracelets, coordinating with ones worn by the parents, she said. After the baby’s first bath, the Hugs bracelet is secured, she said.Parents, who had not complained about video camera monitors, also have voiced approval for the new system, according to Danner.Providence is Alaska’s level three neonatal intensive care unit, handling premature births or problem pregnancies from around the state, she noted. Danner sees the new security system as another business advantage for the facility."If I am going to choose (a facility for the birth), it’s going to be some place where the baby will be the most secure," Danner said.

529 Plan great education savings tool

Alaskans have a new and extremely flexible estate-planning tool available. The 529 Plan allows parents, grandparents or any other interested custodian the ability to set up an account for education with the advantage of tax-deferred growth. If the beneficiary’s needs or desires change, the gift can be revoked or the beneficiary can be changed. Few understand the full potential of this powerful investment tool that actually gives investors more control over their estate.College benefitsThe 529 Plan is a method of saving for college, tax-deferred. There are no income limits, and investors may choose options that best suit them. If the money is to be used for higher education, the beneficiary is taxed at the beneficiary’s rate and then only on the investment growth. Couples can open an account with as much as $100,000 or as little as $250.Estate planningFor estate planning purposes a five-year lump sum of $50,000 per child or grandchild ($100,000 for couples) is allowed. These contributions are separate from the investor’s estate, and the investor maintains control of investment decisions and distributions.Those concerned about losing control when gifting need not be afraid; if money is needed at a later date for an emergency, it is still available. Should this occur, a 10 percent penalty is assessed on the distributed gains. This provides a great investment vehicle for investors wanting to gift money from their estate, but who are concerned it may be needed for an emergency or health care later.Custodial accountsThere are some problems with custodial accounts that are not found in the 529 Plan. The tax-sheltered 529 Plan is not subject to the annual income and capital gain tax that a custodial account is. Also, custodial accounts have a greater impairment on students receiving scholarships and loans.If a student is the beneficiary of a custodial account he is penalized by 35 percent of the value of his account in determining eligibility for financial need, but if the investor has used a 529 Plan the student only has a 6 percent offset.Investors are not permitted to change the beneficiary of a custodial account once the account is set up, and the most alarming factor is the minor receives total control of the money when he or she comes of age regardless of intention to obtain higher education. Custodial accounts can be transferred to 529 Plans as well, but the rules differ, and you should talk to your financial adviser on this.There are different 529 Plans available, some of which are more limited than others. Please do your research before investing.Robert Sackerson is an investment executive for Wedbush Morgan Securities. He can be reached at 907-273-2312.

Providence chief of staff sees future, hurdles in telemedicine

Alaskans’ work developing telemedicine technology and practices is creating opportunities across borders, but telemedicine faces some hurdles, according to an Alaska expert. Dr. Jerome List, chief of staff for Providence Alaska Medical Center, is involved with telemedicine efforts in Alaska. Providence has worked with health care providers on Sakhalin Island via telemedicine or using telecommunications and the Internet to relay a medical condition or advice."We’ve shown we have the technology. I think the opportunities are endless," he said."Alaska is particularly positioned to work with Far East Russia," List told members of the World Trade Center Alaska on Feb. 7. He spoke during the group’s monthly luncheon at National Bank of Alaska headquarters at C Street and Northern Lights Boulevard.List, who speaks Spanish and Russian fluently, studied at the University of Costa Rica, where he has also practiced medicine, and at the First Medical Institute of Leningrad. Today he also handles otolaryngology/head and neck surgery in private practice at Alaska Ear Nose and Throat Inc. in Anchorage.Maintaining a healthy work force is important to production around the globe, he said. However, healthy workers are less important than a manufactured product, he noted. In 1974 List served as a resident in St. Petersburg working with Russian doctors."They have some talented, bright people," but lack the resources needed for some health care services, he said. Unlike manufacturing in Russia in the 1970s, health care was not given the emphasis it deserved, List said.Telemedicine can operate beyond borders to help solve this problem. Yet some barriers still hinder the service, he noted.One such issue concerns the application of professional health care services from people who are licensed in other states or countries, List said. So far state officials have not ruled on this issue, he said.Expected improvements and competition in telecommunications technology should help telemedicine efforts, List said.Another major barrier for telemedicine is defining payment for physicians, List said. So far models have not been developed, and many doctors have provided their expertise out of enthusiasm for telemedicine, he said."I do a fair number of consultations and triages from the U.S. and abroad, and I haven’t charged a cent," List said.However, it is difficult to persuade some doctors to do telemedicine work without a reimbursement plan in place, he said.Telemedicine procedures also could be affected by the federal Health Information Portability Act, designed to regulate and protect medical records transmitted electronically, he said. The legislation could be implemented in 2002, List said.

Endangered species concerns likely to delay Unalaska project

In addition to jeopardizing Alaska’s big pollock and cod fisheries, lawsuits by environmental groups under the federal Endangered Species Act are also creating problems with public works projects in coastal communities. Former Unalaska Mayor Frank Kelty, now a natural resources analyst on the city’s staff, told state legislators in Juneau on Jan. 30 that his city may have to do a formal environmental impact statement on a much-needed small boat harbor project because of lawsuits by environmental groups over Steller ducks, a threatened species. Doing an EIS rather than a more streamlined environmental assessment will delay the project and add costs. The harbor, badly needed in Unalaska, will provide space for 70 medium- to small-size vessels, Kelty said. Two hundred of the ducks overwinter near Unalaska’s harbor, which is an intensely used marine industrial facility, he said. Unalaska has been the nation’s top fisheries port for more than a decade, Kelty told a luncheon gathering of lawmakers, according to data compiled by the National Marine Fisheries Service. Another city project that could face problems is a planned 500-foot extension to the existing 1,200-foot city dock in Unalaska. The extension is needed to accommodate Coast Guard, National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration and state ferry vessels. Building the extension will require that the city fill in two acres of wetlands. As mitigation, the city may have to adopt an alternative construction design that will cost three times that of the design now planned and which would lose the access to upland shoreline acreage that would be valuable rental space for the municipality, Kelty said. One positive development is that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the agency with jurisdiction over spectacled and Steller eider ducks, has backed away from an earlier proposal to designate 25,000 square miles of lands in Western Alaska critical habitat for the ducks, Kelty said. On Jan. 12, the agency announced it would reduce the proposed critical habitat by 93 percent, instead designating 2,800 square miles as protected habitat.  

This Week in Alaska business History February 18, 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 TimesFeb. 18, 1981Share-the-wealth plan airedBy Dave CarpenterTimes Juneau BureauJUNEAU -- The Hammond administration and former House Speaker Terry Gardiner have begun to push the Legislature to adopt a new share-the-wealth plan that would make every Alaskan a part-owner of the vast Prudhoe Bay oil and gas stores and other state riches.Gardiner, D-Ketchikan, and a top Hammond aide told House lawmakers Tuesday night that their Portfolio of Alaska Citizen Enterprises program -- called PACE -- would transfer Alaska’s wealth to its rightful owner -- residents.And that, they said, will make Alaskans less dependent on government to properly handle the state’s oil billions.Anchorage TimesFeb. 21, 1981Gas line work still set for 1982By Dave CarpenterTimes Juneau BureauJUNEAU -- In-state construction on the Alaska Highway natural gas pipeline still is scheduled to begin in the summer of 1982 with completion targeted for the winter of 1985-1986, a federal pipeline official said Friday.Mo Mathews, deputy federal inspector for the Alaska Natural Gas Transportation System, told the Senate Resources Committee that the key to the fate of the pipeline is "on Wall Street, where the financing plan is." He said he didn’t know how the plan was faring."You know as well as I do the difficulties of financing a multibillion dollar project in a year of 12-20 percent inflation," he told the panel.Construction of the Alaska segment of the line, being handled by the Northwest Alaska Pipeline Co., has been estimated at $7.9 billion.10 years ago this weekAlaska Journal of CommerceFeb. 18, 1991UPS agreement comes at right time for airportBy Ray TysonFor the Journal of CommerceWith international passenger flights in Anchorage down by 20 percent, a new interim agreement allowing United Parcel Service and two Japanese carriers to begin all-cargo operations between the United States and Japan couldn’t have come at a better time.The agreement, effective Feb. 13 to March 2, is boosting weekly refueling stops at Anchorage International Airport by 20 a week and potentially 28 if disagreements between the two countries can be resolved."This is the biggest new injection of business we’ve had in a long time. It’s absolutely needed right now," said Anders Westman, marketing director for the Alaska International Airport System.Under a landmark trade agreement, UPS in October was selected for an all-cargo route into Tokyo’s Narita Airport, while Japan Air Lines and Nippon Air Cargo were given landing rights in Chicago.Alaska Journal of CommerceFeb. 18, 19911991 looks good -- probablyAlaska Journal of CommerceWith millions of dollars in projects planned or under way, employment prospects for Western Alaska appear to be shaping up fairly nicely for 1991. The deciding factors, though, will be the fishing season and summer tourism."Last year was good and there is no reason to believe this year will be any different," said Neal Fried, labor economist with the Alaska Department of Labor. "But we never know what the price of fish will be like, or what the volume will be."One of the largest ongoing projects for Western Alaska is the Red Dog Mine, a partnership of Cominco Alaska Inc. and NANA Regional Corp., which employs more than 300 people, 60 percent of them NANA shareholders, according to Willie Hensley, president of NANA Development Corp.-- Compiled by Ed Bennett.

FAA grant funds study of Anchorage's general aviation needs

A $450,000 grant by the Federal Aviation Administration to the state Department of Transportation and Public Facilities to study the patterns and use of general aviation facilities in the greater Anchorage area is under way. "This study will include all general aviation, including (ultralights)," said Patty Sullivan, an FAA airport planner.The study, called the Area General Aviation System Plan, is to identify future needs for general aviation facilities and services in the Anchorage area and is to be finished in 18-24 months, according to FAA and state DOT officials.The two agencies and consultants are seeking input from pilots and aircraft owners, as well as managers and owners of businesses at airports in the Anchorage area.Alternatives will be developed and evaluated to handle future general aviation needs. They will then be put into an implementation plan that will determine how to fulfill the needs, according to Diana Rigg, a transportation planner for the state DOT.The system plan was initiated in early 1998 with a survey of 2,000 area general aviation pilots by DOT.Last November a technical advisory committee was assembled, composed of representatives from DOT, FAA, Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport, Merrill Field, Birchwood Airport, the Municipality of Anchorage, the military, aircraft owners, pilots, airport users and other interested parties, as well as other government agencies.Sullivan, Rigg and Carl Seibe, a state transportation department airports engineer, made presentations at an introductory meeting Jan. 31. Increased aviation activity at all area airports is driving the study, according to Rigg.Airspace use, runway conditions and construction, additional float ponds for seaplanes, increased use at airports like Birchwood and Campbell Creek Airstrip, and additional float tie downs at Lake Hood were discussed.At the meeting, John Sanders, a consultant with Aires Consultants Ltd., a California-based firm specializing in airport and aviation planning studies, laid out the plan for the study."What we hope to do is take your input, along with an inventory of the local facilities and their environmental condition and come up with plan to make improvements to the current infrastructure," Sanders said. Public input by all users is necessary for the study to work, added Sullivan."There is a six-month to a year waiting list for a slip at Lake Hood. If we had two more floatplane facilities in Anchorage, that would not be enough," said Bob Miller, a Cessna 185 floatplane pilot. "They are going to hear more from me."To voice your ideas and needs, contact Diana Rigg, Anchorage area planner, P.O. Box 196900, Anchorage, AK 99519-6900. Her phone is 907-269-0515, fax is 907-269-0521 and e-mail is ([email protected]).

Oregon dealership buys Johnson Chrysler/Jeep for $2.8 million

Lithia Motors Inc. of Medford, Ore., in late January completed the acquisition of its first Alaska dealership, Johnson Chrysler/Jeep dealership in Anchorage. Lithia officials said the company’s net investment in the dealership, which totaled $2.8 million, was paid in cash. The new operators told investors in the public company they expect revenue from the Anchorage dealership could add $35 million annually to Lithia operations. Lithia operates 113 franchises -- or vehicle brands -- in Alaska, California, Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, South Dakota and Washington. The company sells 26 brands of new vehicles at 53 stores and via the Internet. Lithia also sells used vehicles, arranges financing to buy vehicles and provides parts and repair services at its locations. In 1999 Lithia sold 52,485 new and used vehicles, and for the first nine months of 2000 the company sold 64,645 new and used vehicles. According to company officials, Lithia’s current annualized revenue run rate, including all completed acquisitions, exceeds $1.7 billion. "Anchorage, Alaska, represents a new target area for Lithia Motors," said Sid DeBoer, chairman and chief executive. "This is the kind of market where the combination of Lithia’s operational focus and community involvement has been successful in the past. In 1999, Lithia was recognized as being the Northwest’s fastest growing public company, and this store will be a good fit with the other stores we have in that region." The company may consider other acquisitions in Alaska, said investor relations manager Dan Retzlaff. The former owner of Johnson Chrysler/Jeep is no longer with the dealership, but Lithia retained the general manager and other employees, Retzlaff said. New Anchorage eatery eyes March opening Operators of Wayne’s Original Texas Bar-B-Que, now under construction in Midtown, expect to open the restaurant in March. Work on the eatery is about 75 percent complete, said Wayne Bond, president of restaurant operator Kodiak Foods. For a handful of months the restaurant has sold take-out orders from a trailer at its construction site. "We’re doing more business (on an annualized basis) than the average restaurant," he said. Wayne’s Original Texas Bar-B-Que will total 6,800 square feet and will be able to seat 250 people, Bond said. Bond once ran the original Anchorage Taco Bell restaurants and led a Fairbanks location to a top franchise ranking. The restaurant will employ about 45 full- and part-time workers, Bond said.  

Pipeline competitors face off

Competing pipeline builders Alaska-based Yukon Pacific Corp. and Foothills Pipe Lines Ltd. of Calgary, Alberta, squared off in Juneau earlier this month. Yukon Pacific has permits and rights of way for a natural gas pipeline from the North Slope to Valdez and for a liquefied natural gas plant near Valdez. Foothills holds rights of way and permits for a gas pipeline from the North Slope through Interior Alaska and Yukon Territory along the Alaska Highway. In several legislative hearings, Jeff Lowenfels, president of Yukon, said that U.S. and Canadian laws enacted in the 1970s, as well as a U.S.-Canada energy treaty from that period, are specific in their requirements for an Alaska Highway pipeline. Costs of building a pipeline to those specifications make it uneconomic, he said. In addition, pipelines from Alberta to the U.S. border are full. "There is no room for Alaska gas," Lowenfels said. That means new pipelines will have to be built, adding to costs. Yukon Pacific has, meanwhile, updated its cost estimates and feels it can land Alaska gas in Japan for $3.50 per million British thermal units, well below the $5 per million Btu now being paid for LNG from the Phillips-Marathon plant near Kenai, and the $5.50 per million Btu being paid for LNG from Indonesia. Lowenfels also said Yukon Pacific’s new cost estimates show it can deliver gas to Southcentral Alaska through a 16-inch spur pipeline from the main pipeline near Glennallen for the same price Enstar Natural Gas Co. pays to buy gas from Cook Inlet producers. Enstar is the regional gas utility for Southcentral Alaska. Rebutting Lowenfels, John Ellwood, vice president of engineering and operations for Foothills, said the existing permits and regulatory approvals for the Alaska Highway route provide considerable flexibility. This has been demonstrated in Canada where southern sections of the pipeline intended to go all the way to Alaska were built and are now in use. These have been modified and expanded over the years, he said. The permits allow for the use of new technologies, which will be incorporated into a new Alaska Highway pipeline, Ellwood said. As for the existing Canadian pipeline being unable to carry Alaska gas, "this is nonsense," Ellwood said. It’s standard practice in the gas pipeline industry to add compression to accommodate additional supplies, he said. When the system reaches the point where additional compression costs rise sharply, additional sections of pipe are installed at certain points along the system. Then the cycle starts over again, he said, with additional compressors added and eventually new lengths of pipe, until what is essentially a new pipeline has been built. Ellwood cited an example of a single pipeline built originally from Alberta to the U.S. Midwest being gradually expanded until it is now six pipelines.  

Family makes beauty salon a place of beauty

Operating a family owned business has its risks, both to the family and to the business. Many people have tried to run a family business; some have succeeded, while many have failed. The owners of Marie’s Beauty Salon & Supply seem to have found a formula for success in a family run operation. Since 1988 this business has been on a track for growth, and the company is healthier than ever. The founder, Maria Neubauer, a licensed cosmetologist and instructor, determined that most salons were not meeting customer needs for beauty supplies and services, so she decided to start a business. Joined by her husband, Joe, daughter Diane Holzschuh and her husband, Phil, they formed a corporation to operate Marie’s with a goal of providing high quality salon services and beauty products, with primary emphasis on customers. They determined that in order to be successful, they had to maintain their focus on the business. Here is their formula: * Focus on customers. This was the primary goal when starting the business, and it continues to be the major priority. The customer comes first at Marie’s. That message comes from the top down. It is communicated regularly to all employees. "We try to exceed expectations," said business manager Diane Holzschuh, "and we expect our employees to have that approach to our customers." * Focus on balance. In a family owned business, it is difficult to get away from either the family or the business problems. It is necessary to maintain balance. Family time is sacred. The owners try to balance business needs with family priorities. * Focus on strengths. Each family member contributes unique strengths to the business. Neubauer and Holzschuh run the day-to-day operation of the business. Neubauer takes responsibility for personnel, ordering and the salon management. Holzschuh’s business and accounting background make her a natural to manage financial and marketing duties. The husbands both have other businesses, but are active in the major decisions for the corporation. Phil Holzschuh’s computer skills help with inventory and accounting systems, while Joe Neubauer contributes marketing skills. Regular family business meetings update all owners on the responsibilities of each. * Focus on employees. Marie’s has an excellent staff, and Holzschuh says that good communication and continuing education play a key role in maintaining good employees. "We like to hire good people and keep them happy," Holzschuh said. The company uses graduates from local beauty schools when possible. They also have bi-weekly staff meetings to communicate information about new services, products and company policy. * Focus on marketing. "We want our marketing effort to be proactive rather than reactive," said Holzschuh. "A regular, planned approach using primarily radio has been successful for us." The company recently began using a marketing firm. According to Holzschuh, the timing was right. "The marketing firm helped us with fresh ideas and creativity," she said. "It also made time available to devote to other business needs." * Focus on banking relationships. Five years ago, when the company wanted to expand, its lender, National Bank of Alaska, used a program of the Small Business Administration to help with the financing. SBA’s loan guaranty program helped the bank overcome factors the bank considered more risky than it wanted to take without the guaranty. The SBA guaranteed loan enabled Marie’s to expand its retail space, add privacy rooms for facial, pedicure and waxing services, and improve lighting throughout the store. "The SBA provided an important tool for the bank in providing the financing for our expansion," said Holzschuh. "We have an excellent relationship with NBA," she said, "and we take full advantage of the services they offer for our business." The company was able to pay off the SBA loan ahead of schedule. Since the expansion in 1996, the company has nearly doubled its sales and has added seven employees. "Compete with yourself" has become a company motto, empowering the owners and employees to focus on making Marie’s the best that it can be, constantly evaluating products, services, staff and facilities, to give the customers the level of service they desire. That’s a good formula for success in a family owned business. Ron Veltkamp is the business development officer for the Small Business Administration’s Alaska District.   

KAKM makes leap to digital TV early, to broadcast four channels

Anchorage’s public television station, KAKM, is gearing up to quadruple its programming, bringing Anchorage fans four separate channels at once.The change, designed to coincide with the advent of high definition television, comes as part of a federally mandated conversion of television broadcasting to digital technology.Commercial stations nationwide must switch to digital broadcasting by May 2002, while public stations are required to convert by May 2003."It’s the first major change in television transmission in 50 years," said Susan Reed, president of KAKM’s owner, Alaska Public Telecommunications Inc.Current broadcasts use analog technology, but Congress aims to free up bandwidth on the broadcast spectrum for other uses like cellular telephone service. Moreover, the conversion brings with it advantages for television."With the same bandwidth now used for one analog TV station, we will be able to offer four channels of programming," Reed said.Known as multicasting, this process will provide KAKM viewers with a 24-hour-per-day children’s channel, two education channels with adult Public Broadcasting Service programs and telecourses from the University of Alaska Anchorage and the Anchorage School District as well as a business channel with continuing medical education courses and other training opportunities.Viewers also will be able to download additional information, some interactive, on their own computers that corresponds with the televised PBS programming. This datacasting will include course materials, software, transcripts, photos and information related to topics covered in the broadcast programming.KAKM is joining Anchorage’s other television stations in sharing a single broadcast tower for DTV, a move that will save each station at least $1 million. But it also means KAKM must complete its conversion on the commercial television timetable, Reed said.The switchover will cost APTI an estimated $6 million, of which half will come from government and private sources. The nonprofit broadcaster hopes to raise the remaining $3 million in a capital campaign that began Feb. 4, Reed said.In addition to space on the broadcast tower, the money will pay for a new automated programming retrieval system at KAKM that can be used to download and store nearly 3,000 hours of video programming. The system also can record and play back seven video programs simultaneously and access stored programs within one minute, paving the way for "video-on-demand" services within a couple years, Reed said."We expect to save $70,000 to $80,000 a year in operating costs with the new digital video disc server," she added. KAKM also will house Alaska’s only public DTV production center and share the facility with public television stations in Fairbanks, Juneau and Bethel, she said.Northrim Bank chief executive Marc Langland and Jim Palmer, head of external affairs at BP Exploration (Alaska) Inc., will co-chair the capital campaign. Former Gov. Walter J. Hickel, his wife, Erma Lee, and Lowell and Tay Thomas will serve as honorary co-chairs, Reed said.BP has already committed $300,000 to the campaign, and the Thomases also contributed a $300,000 gift. Reed said APTI will be seeking other large donors as well as government and foundation grants, but the ability to offer four channels of programming also will mean "lots more opportunities for program underwriters and sponsors."The fund-raising campaign will include direct mail appeals to KAKM’s 10,000 members and to other Alaska leaders. The TV station also will conduct informational tours every weekday during the noon hour throughout the month of February and an open house Feb. 24 from 1-3 p.m. For more information, call 907-563-7070.

Movers & Shakers February 18, 2001

Gov. Tony Knowles has appointed Walter Majoros director of the Division of Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities. The governor also appointed David Maltman administrator of the Developmental Disability Program within the state Department of Health and Social Services. Majoros has been involved in various aspects of mental health treatment for more than 20 years. Majoros has been executive director of the Alaska Mental Health Board since 1996. Maltman has served as executive director of the Governor’s Council on Disabilities and Special Education since 1991. Dr. Maria Wallington has joined Providence Alaska Medical Center in the new position of medical ethicist. Wallington assists patients, families, physicians and staff with ethical choices concerning clinical issues. Before obtaining her degree in medical ethics, Wallington practiced pediatric cardiology in Anchorage for two decades with Dr. David Brauner.James H. Juliussen has become a partner in the law firm of Davis Wright Tremaine LLP in Anchorage. Juliussen’s primary practice areas are employment and labor law and related litigation.The Alaskan Chapter of the American Society for Industrial Security has chosen Joseph Young chairman of its board of directors for 2001. Young is business manager for the Alaska Peace Officers Association. Madeline Schatz, a dangerous goods/cargo security specialist with the Federal Aviation Administration Civil Aviation Security Division, will serve as vice chairwoman. Charlene Derry, manager for the Office of International Aviation, FAA, is secretary, and Bill Rodasky, safety and security manager at the Hilton Anchorage Hotel, will serve as treasurer.Rick Thornton has been promoted to vice president of purchasing at Spenard Builders Supply. Thornton will be responsible for the overall operation of advertising, pricing, merchandising and purchasing departments. Thornton has been with SBS for more than 12 years, most recently as director of purchasing.Ramone Baccus McCoy has been sworn in as the Glennallen field office manager for the Bureau of Land Management. McCoy most recently served as assistant field office manager in Malta, Mont. McCoy previously worked with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Anchorage and at the Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge in Bethel.Terry Lee, Judith Diane McKee, Meghan Moore and Connie Nebesky have been appointed to officer positions at Northrim Bank. Lee, as electronic services officer, is responsible for supervising staff in Northrim’s electronic banking department. Lee joined the bank in 1995 and has more than 12 years of banking experience. McKee was chosen merchant services officer and is responsible for the product management functions of the merchant services department. McKee, who joined Northrim in 1999, has seven years experience in banking. Moore will serve as assistant compliance officer. Moore assists the bank’s compliance officer in the management of the bank’s Community Reinvestment Act program and loan regulatory compliance program. Moore joined Northrim in 1999. As training officer, Nebesky is responsible for overseeing the bank’s employee training program. Nebesky has 11 years of financial industry experience and joined Northrim in 1999.James McMullian has joined Alaska Sales and Service as general sales manager. McMullian has been in the car sales business for nearly 30 years in the Lower 48, most recently moving to Alaska from Gulf Breeze, Fla.The Alaska Public Offices Commission has appointed Brooke Miles executive director of the agency effective March 3. Miles has served as the APOC Juneau regional office manager, legislative liaison and lobbying law administrator for the past 18 years.Suzanne Rudolph has joined Providence Alaska Foundation as its Children’s Miracle Network director. Rudolph most recently was sales and marketing director for Alaska DigiTel. Rudolph has 10 years experience in sales, marketing and public relations.

Phillips sure of Inlet gas

Phillips Alaska Inc. says it is confident more natural gas can be discovered in Cook Inlet and that problems in meeting winter peaks in local heating and electrical demand can be met through gas storage. Scott Jepson, Phillips’ asset manager for Cook Inlet, told the Alaska Support Industry Alliance in Anchorage on Feb. 9 that his company is now discussing a gas storage project with Enstar Natural Gas Co., the regional gas utility.Unlike many areas of the Lower 48, Alaska does not have gas storage facilities because the Cook Inlet gas fields are large enough to meet peak winter demands.But as these fields mature and decline in production, they will soon no longer be able to meet winter peaks. Estimates now are that problems in daily "deliverability" of gas could begin as early as 2004.In other states gas is stored during low demand summer months and used during winter. Such a capability could easily be established here, Jepson told the Alliance.But exploration for gas is also just beginning in Southcentral Alaska, he said. New tools are available to the industry, like 3-D seismic, and exploration companies can now spot different indicators for gas and oil on seismic, Jepson said. These offer no guarantees of commercial discoveries, but they increase the chances of success, he said.Also, gas prices in Southcentral Alaska are increasing."The new gas contracts Enstar has signed provide a price that is high enough to stimulate new exploration," Jepson said.Southcentral Alaska has enjoyed very low gas prices for years because of the large fields’ lack of demand. Until the 1990s, gas in the Inlet was being sold for 30 cents per thousand cubic feet. Over the same period gas prices reached $2.50 and $3 per thousand cubic feet in the Lower 48, he said.Most major producing basins go through phases of development with major discoveries made early and then years, sometimes decades, go by before new companies come in with new ideas, Jepson told the Alliance.In the Inlet, gas was discovered in the 1960s while the industry searched for oil."All the big structures in the Inlet have been drilled," but there are many structures yet to be explored and undoubtedly smaller fields yet to be discovered, he said.For example, Phillips and Anadarko Petroleum are now developing the small Moquawkie gas field discovered on the west side of the Inlet in 1998. The field will begin producing gas for Enstar in early 2002, Jepson said.Smaller, independent companies like Anadarko, Forest Oil and Aurora are now exploring the Inlet, indicating the second phase of exploration is under way, he said."These are new players. More companies coming in will drill more wells," leading to more discoveries, Jepson said.Phillips itself is exploring with a new test well in partnership with Forest, planned north of Anchor Point on the southern Kenai Peninsula, Jepson said.However, one Cook Inlet oil exploration play now appears a dead end. Phillips plans no further work on its Tyonek Deep oil prospect near the Tyonek gas platform, Jepson said after speaking to the Alliance. The oil reservoir appears to be uneconomic at this time, he said.Tyonek Deep is part of the Sunfish prospect in the Inlet for which there were once high hopes. ARCO Alaska Inc., which Phillips acquired last year, made an Inlet oil discovery that at first appeared large.Subsequent drilling proved disappointing, however. Even before acquiring ARCO, Phillips continued work on a part of the Sunfish reservoir near the Tyonek platform, which it renamed Tyonek Deep. But even that was not viable to develop, Jepson indicated.

Around the World February 18, 2001

STATE Anti-salmon ad pulledANCHORAGE -- Quaker Oats has pulled a national television commercial in which a little girl declares she doesn’t like Alaska food and Alaska salmon.The girl instead says she likes a company product called Pasta Roni.Alaska elected officials didn’t find the commercial humorous and called the company."We take our salmon very seriously," said Gov. Tony Knowles. "We’ve spent millions of dollars and years of hard work to protect the sterling reputation and integrity of our salmon and other fish. We’re pleased that Quaker Oats decided to pull the national ad."NATIONBookseller posts lossNEW YORK -- Online bookseller barnesandnoble.com reported a greater-than-expected fourth-quarter loss and announced that it would lay off 350 employees, or roughly 16 percent of its work force.For the quarter ending Dec. 31, Barnesandnoble.com had a net loss of $138.1 million, or 91 cents a share, compared with a loss of $38.4 million, or 27 cents a share during the same period last year.Revenues grew 37 percent in the fourth quarter to $104.6 million, compared with $76.2 million a year earlier.For the year ended Dec. 31, the company had a net loss of $275.7 million, or $1.87 per share, compared with $102.4 million, or 77 cents a share, in 1999.Revenues rose 65 percent to $320.1 million from $193.7 million.Phillips to buy ToscoNew York -- Phillips Petroleum Co. has agreed to buy Tosco Corp. in a $7 billion stock transaction.Managers said Phillips will benefit from integrating Tosco with Phillips’ business in exploration and production, gas gathering and chemicals joint ventures.Phillips will issue 0.8 Phillips shares for each Tosco share and assume approximately $2 billion in Tosco debts. The deal has been approved by both boards, subject to regulatory and shareholder approvals. It is expected to close by the end of the third quarter. Phillips’ board also has authorized a $1 billion share buyback program.Phillips expects the acquisition to produce annual pretax synergies of $250 million, improved net cash flow and a year-end 2001 debt-to-capital ratio of about 37 percent.Phillips runs three U.S. refineries, more than 6,000 retail and aviation outlets in 28 states and 6,000 miles of pipeline. It will acquire Tosco’s eight U.S. refineries and 6,400 retail outlets in 32 states, becoming the nation’s second largest refiner and its third largest marketer.Phillips has 12,400 employees and $20.6 billion of assets, and had $21.2 billion in 2000 revenues.Cisco misses targetSAN JOSE, Calif. -- Cisco Systems Inc. missed Wall Street’s earnings expectations for the first time in 3 1/2 years despite a nearly 50 percent gain in quarterly profits, blaming the slip on the softening U.S. economy.The world’s top supplier of equipment for the Internet and other computer networks earned $874 million, or 12 cents per share, in its second quarter ended Jan. 27. In the same three-month period a year ago, Cisco earned $816 million, or 11 cents per share.Excluding one-time factors such as acquisitions expenses and research and development costs, Cisco earned $1.33 billion, or 18 cents a share. Analysts were expecting 19 cents per share. Cisco, widely seen as a barometer for the technology industry and the Internet economy, finished regular trading at $35.94, up $1.38, on the Nasdaq Stock Market.Another stamp hike likelyWASHINGTON -- Just a month after higher stamp prices took effect the U.S. Postal Service, facing massive losses, is considering another rate boost that could result in higher prices early next year.The post office is reportedly facing losses of up to $2 billion this year despite the price increase that took effect Jan. 7, which included raising a first-class stamp a penny to 34 cents.While approving that increase, the independent Postal Rate Commission rejected or scaled back several other requested price hikes, cutting expected income by some $1 billion. At the same time, mail volume has dropped because of the poor economy, further reducing anticipated income.WORLDOil demand slowsLONDON -- The growth of world oil demand has slowed faster than expected in pace with a cooling global economy, but has yet to push prices lower, a respected industry survey said Feb. 12.World oil demand growth has fallen by 140,000 barrels per day to 1.5 million barrels per day, the Paris-based International Energy Agency said in its monthly report.It predicted continuing volatility in oil markets because of moves by OPEC to cut production to keep prices high, and the consequent reduction in oil inventories.High prices and mild weather in Europe and Asia are part of the story, but "the global economy is slowing, curbing demand,’’ the report said.Compiled from business wire services.

Alaska Command chief sees new units in state's military future

Alaska has a key role to play in support of national defense, and recent developments may enhance that, Lt. Gen. Norton Schwartz, commander of the Alaska Command, told state legislators in Juneau on Jan. 29. Schwartz also urged lawmakers to be understanding of the need for future base closings even as they support continued operations of Alaska military installations. There are things Alaskans can do to strengthen arguments for maintaining bases here, he added. An important new development enhancing the mission of Alaska’s military is the location of a C-17 airlift group in the state, Schwartz told a joint meeting of the House and Senate Military and Veterans’ Affairs Committees. "One of the challenges we’ve had is that while we have a major asset with airspace for training, the costs of transportation in moving people and equipment here is a liability. Having a C-17 unit here, which can help efficiently move units from the Lower 48 and Pacific region here to train, will be a big help," the general said. In addition, the U.S. Army’s consideration of moving a medium-force brigade to Alaska could mean, because of the C-17s also stationed here, an ability to quickly project force to virtually any region in the western Pacific, he said. Also, if the current disposition of forces in the Asia and western Pacific regions are realigned, it’s likely that some of them will wind up being repositioned in Alaska, Schwartz said. The general urged Alaskans to be supportive of the need to close redundant military installations, because the operations and maintenance costs take money away from the facilities, personnel and equipment that are retained. "Ten years ago we had 2.1 million people in uniform. Today we have 1.4 million. We’re one-third smaller, yet we’ve had no significant decrease in our infrastructure. We have airbases, but no aircraft," Schwartz said. In the next round of base closings, "Alaska cannot be immune. But we will make a compelling case for the mission of the bases that are here," he said. One thing that would help Alaska in the next round of closings would be for training access and strategic importance to be given as much weight as cost in the formulas used in consideration of base closings, Schwartz said. When the base closings process began 10 years ago the major focus was on cost of underutilized facilities. In future rounds there will likely be a broader perspective, and Alaskans could encourage training and strategic value be factored into the formula used by the base closings commission, he said. Overall, Schwartz was upbeat about the military’s future in the state. There is about $1 billion annually in military payroll paid in the state. One in five Alaskans have some connection to the military, through a family member, friend or neighbor. In Anchorage the ratio is tighter, one in three, he said. Training exercises also bring a lot into the economy. Cope Thunder, the air exercise near Fairbanks held four times a year, brings $2 million into the region, the general said. Southeast Alaska communities also benefit. The maritime part of the annual Northern Edge exercise was based in Sitka last year and brought $500,000 into the community, Schwartz told legislators. Ketchikan will play that support role in this year’s Northern Edge, and will enjoy a similar economic benefit, he said.  

Fisheries specialist leaves organic salmon label legacy

Industry advocate Kate Troll has left her job as fisheries specialist with the state Department of Community and Regional Affairs. During her three years on the job, Troll led the charge to make sure wild seafood would be included in new national organic standards. "Kate not only kept the door open, but went through the door on that one," a co-worker said. Troll also was involved from the beginning with the Marine Stewardship Council’s eco-labeling program, which last year certified Alaska salmon as coming from a healthy fishery. "We made sure our sustainable management of Alaska salmon was duly recognized. It’s nice to see some of the processors stepping up and putting that label on their products," Troll said. Troll also helped launch a popular program that provides marketing grants for new salmon products. Prior to her job with the state, Kate was director of the Southeast Seiners Association and United Fishermen of Alaska. Her replacement is Glenn Haight. Demerits force suspension Bristol Bay driftnetter Trygve Gabrielson of Walla Walla, Wash., won’t be out salmon fishing with the rest of the fleet this summer. Gabrielson is the first commercial fisherman to have his limited entry permit suspended for accumulating too many demerit points. Under a 1998 law, harvesters who receive more than 12 points over a three-year period lose their permits for one year. Gabrielson was charged with fishing during a closed period in Egegik and fishing before and after legal fishing periods. Sixteen demerit points results in suspension for two years, and more than 18 points results in three years on the beach. Fish caucus returns Watch for the resurrection of a legislative Fish Caucus, according to several policy-makers in Juneau. The group will comprise an informal mix of lawmakers and seafood industry representatives who will meet to discuss commercial fishing bills and issues. Rep. Fred Dyson, R-Eagle River, said the idea has been met "with a significant amount of enthusiasm," according to the weekly fish watch publication "Laws for the Sea." Sen. Alan Austerman of Kodiak and Rep. John Harris of Valdez also plan to participate. Enforcement funding Slashed budgets have forced the Fish and Wildlife Protection Division to use a "rob Peter to pay Paul" approach to both sport and commercial fisheries enforcement personnel and patrols. Agency director Joel Hard told the House Finance Committee that Bristol Bay takes 20 percent of total enforcement personnel for one month, while many other major fisheries are going on as well. "This example is not the exception throughout the year, it’s the rule," Hard said. Fish and Wildlife Protection has a statewide staff of 237 to patrol Alaska’s 36,000-mile coastline, plus lakes and rivers. Shellfish sells Americans love mussels, and per capita consumption has increased 250 percent in the past five years, from 880,000 pounds to 2.2 million pounds per month. WorldCatch reports that Terry Callery of Great Eastern Mussel Farms of Tenants Harbor, Maine, the largest mussel producer in the United States, says that American consumers are just learning what most of the world already knows -- that mussels are inexpensive, versatile and delicious. He says, "Mussels have grown beyond what has been an ethnic (in Belgium, Latin and Asian countries) appeal and are now a mainstream item in the U.S. supermarkets." The industry’s marketing efforts are a major reason for the popularity surge in consumption. "There is no question as to the availability of the product grown under controlled conditions. We only harvest what we can sell, and we always have what we need to sell," he said. "Because of this market stability, retailers can confidently advertise mussels to get people to the seafood counter." The growing popularity of mussels echoes the gain made by other aquaculture-based seafoods. Since 1987, due to the increase in aquaculture production, the per capita consumption of salmon is up 285 percent, shrimp is up 31 percent and catfish is up 96 percent.

Staffing insight for non-profits

Nonprofit organizations have become an important part of Alaska’s economy, and many nonprofit board members and staffers are working hard to build expertise and improve their professionalism. Taking a professional approach to doing one’s job is as important in the nonprofit sector as it is in private businesses. In some ways, it’s even more important, because resources are usually scarce and lost opportunities can interfere with accomplishing a group’s mission. Alaska is blessed with a nonprofit community that contributes to its quality of life in many different ways -- by helping those less fortunate, by providing educational opportunities to those who need them, by bringing alive the arts and culture, and by protecting the environment. But our nonprofit organizations face a big challenge today: finding ways to attract and retain good staff and volunteers. At a recent workshop sponsored jointly by the United Way of Anchorage and Phillips Alaska, participants gained valuable insights on how to meet this challenge. The workshop was one of a series designed to build leadership and management skills within Alaska’s nonprofit organizations. Workshop speakers emphasized that training staff in "best practices" leads to better management and more satisfied employees. Building a great nonprofit staff requires creating jobs with meaning that allow people to really make a difference. Nonprofit managers can seldom compete for employees on the basis of salary, so they need to find other ways to make their organizations desirable places to work. There are many possibilities, but two valuable ones are helping staff to acquire new skills and delegating power to them. These two strategies are tried and true approaches; they work. Recruiting and holding onto good board members is equally vital. People are no longer willing to devote hours each month to boring and ritualistic board meetings where their only role is just to listen and endorse staff reports. Board members increasingly want their time to matter and expect to be engaged in the most important decisions affecting the future of the organization. Among the issues they face are: dealing with information overload, using technology more effectively, increasing fund raising from individuals, becoming more entrepreneurial, finding ways to collaborate or consolidate with other organizations, and, of course, recruiting and keeping a diverse and effective staff for their organization. A key element in succeeding with this last issue is to build a strong relationship with their executive director. To do this, they must carefully select this person, conduct annual evaluations and offer fair compensation. On this point, Alaska nonprofit board members should be aware of a recent salary survey conducted by the United Way of Anchorage that shows that female executive directors are being paid significantly less than men for jobs of similar scope and responsibility. These results should send a message to all boards that pay equity must be at the top of their agenda if they are going to maintain a productive staff. Together, our boards and staff are doing the hard work of meeting important community needs. They deserve the best tools and skills we can provide. It is vitally important that we develop today the people who will lead our nonprofits tomorrow. We do that by setting annual goals for recruiting new board members, committee chairs and officers -- and through ongoing training and education of staff. Nancy Schoephoester is manager of philanthropy and community services for Phillips Alaska Inc.

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