Inlet salmon may bear brand

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

Insurance offices wed

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

In a down economy, good customer management is best defense

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

Business Profile: Reid Middleton

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

Alaska Airlines adds flights for Copper River salmon 'circus'

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

Calista plans for striking it rich

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

This Week in Alaska Business History May 27, 2001

Editor’s note: "This Week in Alaska Business History" revisits events that shaped our past."Those who cannotremember the past arecondemned to repeat it."-- George Santayana, 1863-195220 years ago this weekAnchorage TimesMay 27, 1981Sales pitch launches tourism pushBy Bill WhiteTimes WriterAbout 25 local businessmen heard a pitch today to join a 6-year-old business-state tourism program.The program aims to link about $700,000 in funds from private business with $2.3 million in state money in a media campaign to lure tourists to Alaska.The businesses attending the meeting this morning at the Sheffield House included hotels, tour groups, car rental agencies and airlines.Al Parrish, past president of the Alaska Visitors Association Marketing Council, which runs the campaign told those present, "Your involvement and others like you in the state of Alaska is a key to the success in these programs."The campaign for the year starting July 1 kicked off today. It will be followed by similar meetings in Seattle Thursday and in Kenai and Fairbanks next week.Anchorage TimesMay 28, 1981Anchorage loses ’richest’ city titleTimes Washington BureauWASHINGTON -- If you’re into keeping up with the Joneses, brace yourself. Your cousins in Reno, Nev., and in southwest Connecticut are collectively richer.Anchorage has lost its berth as the metropolitan area with the higher per capita personal income in the nation.The U.S. Commerce Department reports that in 1979, the most recent year for which figures are available, Reno topped the list with a rate of $12,317 -- 41 percent above the national average.In second place was the Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk-Danbury area of Connecticut, with average income of $12,666 per person. That area has become the new home to the headquarters of many large corporations relocating from New York City.The Anchorage area dropped to third in per capita income with $12,200 -- 39 percent above the national average.In 1978, Anchorage had the highest per capita personal income, $11,416, 48 percent above the national average.10 years ago this weekAlaska Journal of CommerceMay 27, 1991Alaska-Soviet connection: gradual progressBy Don ByronAlaska Journal of CommerceIs doing business with the Soviets a headache, or is it a pain in the neck?For many would-be international operators, the answer has been painful: It’s both. But some Alaskans have managed quite well in a number of small ways."There are four basic business problems" in dealing with the Soviets, said Mark Butler, managing director of Soviet Services, a small firm with offices in Anchorage and Khabarovsk, U.S.S.R. "First is communication, then transportation. Number three is understanding how things work there. And the fourth is logistics -- what do you do when you get there?"Alaska Journal of CommerceMay 27, 1991Spill law chases tanker operatorsBy Ray TysonAlaska Journal of CommerceA tough oil spill law stemming from the Exxon Valdez disaster, coupled with declining crude production, has led to an exodus of Cook Inlet ocean tanker operators during the past two years.Among companies pulling up stakes are ARCO Alaska, British Petroleum, Texaco, Chinese Petroleum and most recently Chevron, which will close its Nikiski refinery next month rather than risk a major oil spill that could wipe out years of thin profit.A number of refined-product shippers also abandoned the Inlet, said Joe Saunter, an ecologist for the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation’s oil contingency program.-- Compiled by Ed Bennett.

Business interests modest, growing

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

Evergreen expands with cargo flights to Adak, Russian Far East

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

Cross Timbers Oil changes name to XTO Energy

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

Home builders, sellers see hot market

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

Zinc prices, oil-field margins challenge NANA

It will be a challenging year for NANA Regional Corp., the Kotzebue-based Alaska Native regional corporation in Northwest Alaska.NANA is well diversified in its business activities, which now range from zinc mining to industrial support services, engineering and hotel operations.But with zinc prices in the doldrums and margins thin in the petroleum services field, it will be a challenge to meet NANA’s growth objectives in revenues and profitability during 2002, according to Helvi Sandvik, president of NANA Development Corp., the regional corporation’s business subsidiary.NANA made $5 million in profits last year and has goals of 15 percent growth in total revenues and 10 percent growth in profits for the current year.It’s been a tough road, though. Recent turmoil in the stock market, which affects performance of NANA’s investment portfolio, hasn’t helped. Halfway through the financial year, which ends Sept. 30, "we’re behind our projections," Sandvik said.Still, long-term prospects in almost all of NANA’s businesses are excellent. The Red Dog lead and zinc mine, on NANA-owned land 90 miles north of Kotzebue, is now the world’s largest zinc mine by a factor of two, and more zinc is being developed in the area by Cominco Alaska Inc., the mine operator and NANA’s partner at Red Dog.

After two-year absence, cruise ships return to Kodiak with six stops this season

KODIAK -- Cruise ships will make half a dozen stops in Kodiak this summer after a two-year absence.Several tour vessels will stop in Kodiak, allowing their passengers eight- to 12-hour layovers.The S.S. Universe Explorer will make three stops, according to Pam Foreman of the Kodiak Island Convention and Visitors Bureau. The Universe Explorer is part of World Explorer Cruises, which plans to bring up to 700 passengers per visit.The Spirit of Oceanus will make one stop in Kodiak, bringing perhaps 100 passengers. That ship will be on a "repositioning" cruise from the Far East, returning to Southeast Alaska for the winter months.The M/V Clipper Odyssey, with 120 passengers, is conducting the "1899 Harriman Expedition Retraced," sponsored by the Alumnae Association and Clark Science Center of Smith College. This ship is scheduled to arrive Aug. 6.The Regal Princess of Princess Cruise Lines will be the largest ship to call on Kodiak. Scheduled to arrive Sept. 29, the ship will carry up to 1,600 passengers and a crew of 800. That ship also will be on a repositioning cruise, returning to Russia and the Far East from Southeast Alaska.

Knowles pushes pipeline to oil, gas commission

ANCHORAGE -- Gov. Tony Knowles told members of the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission that the time is right to develop Alaska’s natural gas resources and build a gas pipeline to the Lower 48.Alaska’s natural gas would go a long way toward satisfying the county’s energy needs in coming decades, Knowles told a gathering May 14 of representatives from oil- and gas-producing states."What we have been waiting on is commercial viability. I think it is here," said Knowles, the commission’s current chairman.Building a 1,800-mile gas pipeline along the Alaska Highway into Canada and on to the Lower 48 would create thousands of jobs, he said."It will be a great shot in the arm of the economy," Knowles said.America will continue to remain dependent on fossil fuels for several decades before it transitions to renewable forms of energy, Knowles said. In the meantime, North Slope resources could provide an energy bridge.The North Slope has 35 trillion cubic feet of recoverable natural gas and experts believe there is a further 65 trillion cubic feet yet to be discovered, Knowles said.The governor noted that the country is facing an energy crisis. At the same time the atmosphere in Washington has shifted with the Bush administration toward one more in line with IOGCC goals, Knowles said.

Hickel Investment reopens, remodels, runs Eagle River cinema

The building owner of Valley River Cinemas has reopened the six-screen theater after another operator closed its doors 10 months ago. Hickel Investment Co. is operating it as an independent theater in Eagle River through a subsidiary, Alaska Cinemas Inc. Last year Regal Cinemas Inc. shuttered the Eagle River movie house. Screens were lit beginning May 12 with first-run movies, company officials said. Adult tickets cost $7.75 or $4.75 for bargain price, said theater general manager Lee Michaelson. Besides Michaelson, the company employs two full-time and 19 part-time employees, although staff totals will fluctuate, he said. The new operator remodeled the theater, moving the concession area from the middle of the lobby to the side for a cafeteria style concession stand. Other alterations include new carpet, remodeled ceiling and neon light accents, he said. Hickel Investment Co. also upgraded the theater’s projection and sound system, Michaelson said. The new system features the Digital Theater System and digital CD quality sound. Despite a tight deadline, renovations were mostly complete for the soft opening, company officials said. "The theater was 95 percent finished and operational when the doors opened (May 12)," said Joe Babka, Hickel Investment Co. real estate manager. Michaelson has been working for the past several months with national consultants and film buyers Trans Lux Cinema Consulting, who distribute movies. The movie house operator held a grand opening May 19 billed as a Hollywood-style awards event.  

Lawyers claim breach of contract over Infinite Minutes change

Two Anchorage lawyers have filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of subscribers to Alaska Communications Systems Inc.’s Infinite Minutes long-distance calling plan.Filed by the Law Office of Paul Adelman and Ingaldson Maasen, the suit is pending before state Superior Court.The suit makes claims for breach of contract, violations of the Alaska Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Act among other claims, according to a statement from Adelman.According to the lawyers, the suit alleges that ACS violated the terms of the Infinite Minutes plan when it imposed a 600-minute per month cap that took affect April 27.The suit also contends "that ACS didn’t intend to offer unlimited calling under the plan and knew or should have known that the plan wasn’t financially viable."Also, lawyers said the suit charges that ACS concealed material and relevant information abut the plan from subscribers.Tom Jensen, ACS public affairs director, said the suit lacks merit."It’s the type of thing where they’re looking for a deep pockets company whereby several attorneys can make some pretty good money for themselves while they claim they represent the little guy," he said.He described the Infinite Minutes program as an innovative marketing program ACS dispatched to compete in the Anchorage market. "Unfortunately, after several months it proved that it was unprofitable for various reasons, and ACS modified the program," Jensen said.According to Jensen, ACS contacted its 30,000 Infinite Minutes customers and 90 percent of them chose to remain ACS customers participating in a replacement calling plan.

Phillips, BP discover new Kuparuk satellite field, to begin production in 2003

ANCHORAGE -- Phillips Alaska Inc. and BP Exploration (Alaska) Inc. have announced the discovery of a new oil field west of the Kuparuk field.The Palm discovery is estimated to contain 35 million barrels of recoverable reserves."It’s small next to the big numbers, but it’s a very nice facility," said Mike Richter, vice president of exploration and land development for Phillips Alaska on May 18.Kuparuk, which began production in 1981, is the second-largest field on the North Slope. It began with estimated recoverable reserves of 2.8 billion barrels of oil. About 1.8 billion barrels have been drawn from Kuparuk so far.The Palm No. 1 well, about three miles west of the Kuparuk field, tested at a rate of 2,500 barrels of oil per day. The discovery will help extend the life of Kuparuk, Richter said."This is another example of successful satellite drilling in the Kuparuk area," he said.Last year, Phillips and BP announced the discovery of the Meltwater field, also near Kuparuk. Meltwater is estimated to contain about 50 million barrels of recoverable reserves and is expected to begin production by the end of the year.Production from the Palm discovery is expected to begin in 2003, Richter said.Phillips expects the Palm field will help the company keep its Alaska production at 375,000 to 400,000 barrels of oil per day for the next several years.Phillips Alaska, which operates the Kuparuk field, holds a 55 percent interest. BP Exploration holds 39 percent. Unocal, ExxonMobil and Chevron each hold minor interests.

Willis publisher of Kodiak paper

KODIAK -- The daughter of the former owners of the Kodiak Daily Mirror has been named its new publisher.Amy Willis, who has worked at various times for the paper since high school, when her parents owned the company, was named publisher in mid-May.Willis had been interim publisher since September.Willis moved to Kodiak with her parents, Duane and Nancy Freeman, in 1972. They purchased the Kodiak Daily Mirror in 1982 and owned the paper until it was sold to the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner in 1998.Willis earned an associates degree from Columbia Basin College in Pasco, Wash., in 1988, and a journalism degree with an advertising emphasis from the University of Alaska Anchorage in 1992.

American Marine adding big hyperbaric chamber

One company with an Anchorage office expects arrival this summer of a new, larger hyperbaric chamber. The treatment, once used chiefly for diving or high-altitude emergencies, now is prescribed to treat other ailments. American Marine Corp. has ordered a new 16-person hyperbaric chamber that is due to arrive in Anchorage this summer, said Jim Thompson, supervisor of hyperbarics. The company already operates two six-person chambers, he said. Thompson said he is looking for property near Providence Alaska Medical Center to house the new unit, which he hopes to begin operating later this year. He did not list the cost for the new unit. Alaska Regional Hospital in Anchorage also operates a hyperbaric unit. The unit, in the Comprehensive Wound Healing Center, features two single-place chambers, said Registered Nurse Laurel Christians, program director for the center. Alaska Regional operates the only hospital-based hyperbaric program in Alaska, Christians said. The hospital installed and began operating its hyperbaric chambers in late 1999 as part of the wound healing center, she said. Her experience in home health care revealed a need for such treatments, which some people traveled outside Alaska to get, she said. For example, an elderly patient with chronic wounds or those wounds not showing signs of healing could be treated at the wound center, she said. Wounds fall in five major categories: wounds related to diabetes; venous ulcers; arterial ulcers or wounds; pressure ulcers and miscellaneous wounds that could include surgical wounds slow to heal, she said. "Hyperbarics is one of the modalities we use to heal a wound up," Christians said. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy provides 100 percent pure oxygen in a pressurized chamber, unlike the 21 percent oxygen in the air people usually breathe. The therapy increases the amount of oxygen delivered to body tissues by blood. Treatments usually last two hours, she said. The hyperbaric facility at Alaska Regional typically treats five people daily, she said. The treatment requires a prescription from a physician trained in hyperbaric treatment, she said. The wound healing center differs from others in that staff provide a complete evaluation of the patient and work with different departments at the hospital, she said. Most insurers cover 12 hyperbaric treatments approved by Medicare, she said. The approved conditions are air or gas embolism; carbon monoxide poisoning and smoke inhalation; gas gangrene; crush injuries; decompression sickness; certain soft tissue infections; enhancement of healing in selected problem wounds; exceptional blood loss anemia; osteomyelitis; radiation tissue damage; compromised skin grafts; and thermal burns. Alaska Regional does not use hyperbaric as a treatment for stroke or for cosmetic purposes, she said. American Marine, a commercial dive service company based in Hawaii, also has offices in California and Alaska. The company has been operating its Anchorage hyperbaric unit for nine years, Thompson said. "When we first started out we were not open to the public but just handled emergencies," he said. Last year American Marine began using its hyperbaric chambers to treat afflictions besides decompression sickness and other emergencies, he said. According to Thompson, the company decided to make the change because the American Medical Association approved treatment protocols for several conditions to be treated by hyperbarics. American Marine has ordered a new chamber with an eye to the future, he said. "It’s a rapidly growing industry, and people are looking for an alternative treatment from pharmaceuticals and alternative drugs," Thompson said. The company treats stroke patients although the AMA has not approved protocols yet, he said. In Alaska American Marine does not perform hyperbaric treatments for cosmetic or anti-aging therapy, he said. American Marine uses hyperbaric treatments for conditions not covered by insurance companies, he said. These conditions can include halting osteoporosis, treating symptoms of multiple sclerosis and hepatitis C among others, he said. Treatment costs can range from several hundred to several thousand dollars, he said. American Marine employs 20 certified hyperbaric technologists, and Thompson, who is also certified, is an instructor who trains others at the Anchorage facility.

Halibut to tell scientists their secrets when first tags transmit data in mid-June

Defining "critical habitat" is a complex task these days, as fishery managers are required to take an entire marine ecosystem into account when making management decisions. Next month, information from tagged halibut could bring researchers increased understanding, at least for the big flats in the Gulf of Alaska. As part of a project to assess critical marine habitat in the gulf, the U.S. Geological Survey’s Alaska Biological Science Center is conducting an experiment on halibut using satellite pop-up tags. The $77,000 project, funded by the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council, began last fall when 10 large halibut were captured in Resurrection Bay and taken to the Alaska SeaLife Center in Seward, where the special tags were attached. The 3-inch, cigar-shaped tags, attached to the halibuts’ backs by a tungsten wire, resemble fishing lures. But that’s where any resemblance stops. Inside the tags are digital memory cards, along with sensors that can record water pressure, light and temperature for up to three years. In this case, however, the devices on five of the halibut are programmed to corrode their tungsten wires with acid on June 15 and float to the surface, where they will begin transmitting their stored information to passing satellites. The remainder of the tags are scheduled to detach from the fish in mid-November. According to project director Jennifer Nielson, researchers will then use the information to figure out where the halibut have been swimming all winter. The tags have been used on tuna and marlin nearer the equator, but this is the first test ever conducted so far north. The data that the tags yield will tell something about halibut behavior, especially their migratory patterns. If the prototype project proves to be successful, the satellite tags will eventually be applied to other fish species like ling cod and king salmon. Free streamers Longliners can take advantage of free streamer lines, thanks to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s goal of helping fishermen avoid accidental takes of seabirds. While supplies last, paired streamer lines are available for free in Seward at Resurrection Bay Seafoods and Seward Fisheries, the Auction Block in Homer, Kodiak Marine Supply, the Department of Fish and Game in Sitka and from the Petersburg Vessel Owners Association. On a related note, the Washington Sea Grant Program is preparing research results from a two-year study evaluating the effectiveness of seabird avoidance measures, as well as recommendations for changes to the current seabird regulations. The presentation will be made to the North Pacific Fishery Management Council at its October 2001 meeting, according to Jim Balsiger, director of the National Marine Fisheries Service in Alaska. Help stop hoaxes Eleven search and rescue hoaxes in Alaska last year cost taxpayers an estimated $134,500, or an average of $12,300 per episode. That was part of an estimated $18 million in false alarms nationwide. The Coast Guard takes every mayday call seriously, and hoaxes could cause some devastating problems if a real emergency were occurring elsewhere. To try to stem the tide of prank calls, the Coast Guard is urging coastal states to pass their own laws to supplement federal rules that punish prank callers. Such legislation is pending in Rhode Island and Massachusetts. In New Jersey, creating "false public alarms" is illegal and punishable by up to five years in prison. The Coast Guard says Connecticut has penalties for maritime hoaxers, and Ohio also makes such calls illegal. "The situation is getting worse," said Commander Jim McPherson, a Coast Guard spokesman stationed in Washington, D.C. "It’s for the same reason people pull fire alarms and make false 911 calls," he said, but instead of trucks, "we send out jets and boats." The Coast Guard investigates an average of four suspected hoaxes a day nationally, with summer the busiest season. According to Sue Jorgensen, Alaska Fishing Vessel Safety Coordinator, very few of the pranksters are caught and even fewer are punished. The biggest problem is that many prank calls are done by juveniles, and such cases are rarely prosecuted in federal court. For example, New England’s top Coast Guard official cited a case on Cape Cod last April. "Two youths, ages 14-15, made a 45-minute hoax call costing taxpayers $14,500," said Rear Admiral George Naccara. Despite having signed confessions, the Coast Guard’s enforcement options were limited by the lack of a state law, he said. The hoaxers were given community service. About three in 10 distress calls in Rhode Island and Massachusetts are hoaxes, according to the Coast Guard. Without state penalties, it’s often hard for the Coast Guard to even threaten punishment.


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