March jobless rate declines

ANCHORAGE -- Alaska’s unemployment rate began a seasonal decline last month, slipping to 6.7 percent from 7.5 percent in February. About 2,500 more Alaskans were employed in March, trimming the number of jobless Alaskans to 21,600, according to a report from the Alaska Department of Labor. During the same period a year ago, the unemployment rate was 8 percent. A slight decrease in unemployment during March is typical as the economy continues its seasonal upswing. Brisk construction activity also contributed to the fairly low unemployment rate, the report said. Several areas, including Anchorage, Fairbanks, Juneau, Sitka and Kodiak Island are below the statewide jobless rate. Sixteen areas had unemployment rates in the double digits, including the Kenai Peninsula Borough and the Denali Borough.  

Southeast to see more passengers on fewer ships this summer

JUNEAU -- Juneau will see more cruise ship passengers but fewer cruise ships this summer than last, according to the Juneau Convention and Visitors Bureau.According to projections, 683,077 passengers and 539 ship visits are expected in Juneau this year. The first large ship of the season, Norwegian Sky, arrives May 1.Last year, about 640,000 passengers arrived on 543 cruise ship stops, according to final numbers. Last year’s preseason projections estimated 632,256 passengers would visit. Cruise lines have been building larger ships, and this year’s numbers reflect that, visitors bureau President John Mazor said.Juneau will see nine new ships this summer. The largest include Celebrity’s Infinity, Holland America’s Zaandam, Carnival’s Carnival Spirit and Royal Caribbean’s Radiance of the Seas. The visitors bureau is expecting 293,176 crew member visits this summer. The last day of the cruise ship season in Juneau is Sept. 25.Advance requests for information from would-be visitors are reflecting the nation’s economy, Mazor said."A lot of people seem to be kicking the tires. It will be interesting to see how many people actually buy. They’re still doing the research ... but not making the purchase as early as they did last year, which is typical given the state of the economy," he said.The visitors bureau is expecting the same number of independent travelers as in years past -- between 100,000 and 110,000. That number hasn’t grown in the past five years, Mazor said.

Cape Lookout Shoals on course for Alaska

The Cape Lookout Shoals, one of a new class of double-hulled tankers, has been steaming through the waters of Cook Inlet on a regular basis since last May. The double-hulled design -- implemented years before it is required by federal law -- is a safeguard that Tesoro Petroleum officials feel is an essential component in their corporate prevention effort. "We wanted to do this, because it is the right thing to do in Alaska," said Tim Plummer, president of Tesoro Maritime Co. The company has the ship on charter to haul crude oil and petroleum products within Alaska and to the West Coast. Tesoro also has six to 12 other tankers on voyage charter hauling crude and products outside of Alaska, at any point in time, according to Plummer. The Cape Lookout Shoals is an American tanker built at Newport News, Va., and christened in 1998. It displaces 46,069 deadweight tons and is capable of carrying 342,000 barrels of oil at a speed of 14 knots, or 16.1 mph. The 600-foot by 105-foot vessel has a draft of 40 feet when fully loaded and is powered by a 9,180 horsepower engine, and propelled by a single screw. The ship is an American Eagle class tanker owned by Seabulk International Inc. and operated by Oil Specialty Tanker Corp. "I went to the christening of the ship and felt that we really needed to get it on charter," said Plummer. "This ship is the right fit for our business in Alaska. With the strong tidal currents and draft restrictions at Nikiski and Drift River, this particular vessel makes sense for our use in Cook Inlet," he said. The Cape Lookout Shoals carries Cook Inlet crude from Drift River and Alaska North Slope crude from Valdez to Nikiski for processing at Tesoro’s refinery. It also transports fuel oil products from Nikiski to customers on the West Coast. "Tesoro’s focus on safety and environmental protection ... is demonstrated by the commitment of having a tanker that meets the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 standards that do not come into effect for another 14 years, in 2015," said Gene Burden, president of Tesoro Alaska Petroleum Co.

Around the World April 29, 2001

STATENikiski to explore home-rule governmentKENAI -- A group of citizens organized to explore forming a Nikiski city government has decided instead to explore forming a home-rule community as might be allowed under a bill now before the Legislature.Jack Brown, who recently announced he will be stepping down from his Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly seat to take a borough job, said a group of about 40 Nikiski residents has been meeting since fall, considering primarily whether Nikiski could incorporate as a home-rule or first-class city."They want more local influence on what goes on around here, but they’re not willing to take the leap of faith to form a city," he said. "There’s too much mistrust of government. The common theme is that people here don’t want another layer of government."The bottom line is that many do not want to pay any more taxes, he said.Gillnets not allowed in Inlet hooligan fishingANCHORAGE -- Spring means hooligan fishing, and the state Department of Fish and Game is reminding people that new rules ban the use of gillnets in Cook Inlet and Resurrection Bay.The new regulation was adopted by the Board of Fisheries last year. It means hooligan can be taken only with dipnets in those waters.The season runs from April 1 through May 31, with no permit required and no catch limit.NationWomen-owned firms get 2.5% of federal contractsWASHINGTON -- Companies owned by women aren’t receiving not nearly enough government contracts, lawmakers say.Women own an estimated 38 percent of all businesses in the United States, but they received 2.5 percent of the $189 billion in federal contracts awarded in fiscal 1999, the most recent year for which data are available. Congress wants to see that number double.According to a recent study by the General Accounting Office, federal contracting with firms headed by women has grown in some agencies, notably the departments of Veterans Affairs, State and NASA.By all accounts, the government-wide numbers won’t change much until there is a sizable increase at the Defense Department, which controls the lion’s share of federal contracting.And at the Pentagon, a decade of military downsizing has slashed the pool of specialists who match businesses with contracts.Supreme Court hears harassment appealMEMPHIS, Tenn. -- The harassment began with a Bible verse left at Sharon Pollard’s work station: "I do not permit a woman to teach or have authority over man. She must be silent.’’Pollard, who put up with years of bad treatment from male co-workers at a DuPont plant, sued the chemical company giant for sexual harassment and won.On April 23, a key facet of the case involving damages was argued before the U.S. Supreme Court. At issue is a $300,000 cap on damages added in 1991 amendments to the Civil Rights Act. The court is being asked to decide whether the cap covers "front pay,’’ or damages a court can allow to replace future earnings an employee would have drawn.Some courts have not applied the cap to such damages, but a panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which includes Tennessee, has ruled that the cap covers front pay.Bush rejects Kyoto treaty, State Department saysWASHINGTON -- The Bush administration rejects the Kyoto global warming treaty "under any circumstances’’ and sees little chance that new talks this summer will produce a suitable substitute, a State Department memo says.Despite comments by a top U.N. official that the administration might be shifting its position, the cable to diplomatic and consular posts also said negotiations to ratify the 1997 treaty do not appear to be leading to agreement.The cable drew strong criticism from environmental groups. Some said the document shows the administration’s negative policies are based on ideology, not science as Bush contended.Honeywell to slash 6,500 jobs worldwideTRENTON, N.J. -- With sales in key markets slumping and first-quarter profits down 92 percent, high-tech manufacturer Honeywell International Inc. announced plans April 20 to cut 6,500 jobs to remain competitive.The 6,500 job cuts, spread across Honeywell’s businesses around the world, represent about 5 percent of its global work force.On April 20, Honeywell reported first-quarter net income of $41 million, or 5 cents per share, down from $506 million, or 63 cents per share, a year earlier.WORLDQantas New Zealand halts operationsWELLINGTON, New Zealand -- The Qantas New Zealand domestic airline was forced out of business after running out of money, stranding thousands of travelers Saturday and leaving hundreds of staff jobless.The airline’s parent company, Tasman Pacific Airlines, was put into bankruptcy proceedings just months after a change of ownership and relaunch as a domestic carrier. The airline halted operations after its last flights April 20.More than 1,100 airline staff and up to 2,000 ground support staff are affected by the closure.Nokia increases slice of phone marketHELSINKI, Finland -- Nokia expanded its lead as the world’s top mobile phone maker in the first three months of the year, the company said April 20 as it reported strong quarterly results despite industry and economic troubles that have hurt rivals.Net income rose to 1 billion euros, or $880 million, for a per share profit of 0.22 euro, or 19 cents, up 15 percent from the same period a year ago.Sales from January to March increased 22 percent to 8 billion euros, or $7 billion.Wal-Mart gives up on German super storesFRANKFURT, Germany -- Wal-Mart, the world’s largest retailer, has scuttled plans to launch 50 new super stores in Germany by 2003, the latest sign that shoppers in Europe’s biggest market are still cool on its all-American approach.With little fanfare, the humbled store operator said Friday it plans to open doors at only two locations this year, leaving it far off the goal set last July by Wal-Mart’s then-top European executive Allan Leighton, who has since resigned."We will concentrate on our existing operations, but we are also interested in continuing our expansion,’’ said Wal-Mart spokeswoman Andrea Hahn, who called last year’s plans "optimistic.’’Compiled from business wire services.

TOTE invests in Alaska's future with new ships

An order for two new ships and construction at the Totem Ocean Trailer Express facilities at the ports of Anchorage and Tacoma are triggering changes and improvements in the marine shipping industry."They begin cutting steel for our new ships next month in San Diego," said Bill Deaver, Alaska general manager for TOTE. "These new vessels will offer more trailer capacity and are designed for larger trailers, so we need to expand and modify our current facilities."TOTE, a SaltChuk Resources company based in Seattle, has ordered two new "Orca" class ships for service in Alaska. The first is expected to be delivered by the summer of 2002, and the second six months later, according to company officials.TOTE has three ships, the S.S. Greatland, the S.S. Westward Venture and the S.S. Northern Lights, with sailings between Anchorage and Tacoma three times a week. They were built in the 1970s and have sailed primarily in Alaska waters.The new vessels will be christened the M/V Midnight Sun and the M/V North Star, and are designed to operate in the Alaska trade for more than 25 years.The company said it is spending $310 million for the new ships, which will accommodate new 53 foot roll-on, roll-off containers and will carry up to 200 autos -- an increase from the current "Ponce" class vessels, which hold 40-50 foot trailers and 120 autos.In shipping terms the cargo volume carried on the newer vessels, measured in freight equivalent units, or FEU, has increased dramatically. The new ships will hold 600 FEU and the current vessels have a capacity of 380 FEU."The new ships will provide tremendous flexibility for the shipping public coming into Alaska," Deaver said.And who will that shipping public be?"We are gearing up with the anticipation of a new gas line, which will see increased construction materials, and the possible construction of new multimillion dollar modules that could be built by VECO or Natchiq right here at the Port of Anchorage," said Deaver.To further the needs of Alaska consumers and the construction industry, Tote ordered the ships both for larger, more efficient loads delivered within a 66 hour transit time in each direction and for the option of offering a sailing a day, five days a week if needed."TOTE will always operate a minimum of three vessels to Alaska due to cargo surge needs, and as insurance for possible mechanical issues," according to Deaver. "The Gulf of Alaska waters are fierce during the winter months, and TOTE takes its role of meeting the needs of Alaska’s shipping public seriously."Should the market not materialize to a degree requiring all five vessels, TOTE will redeploy one or two of the older vessels to "warm water service," according to Deaver. "(That’s) pending what happens with the proposed gas line, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge or a missile defense system."TOTE’s commitment to a clean environment garnered it the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner’s Pollution Prevention Award 2000, and the States/British Columbia Oil Spill Task Force Legacy Award 2000 for the design of the new "Orca" class vessels. Both the awards applauded their use of double-walled fuel tanks and their use of a diesel electric propulsion system.The 840-foot long, 118-foot wide ships will operate at 24 knots with an operating draft of 26 to 28 feet. They will be powered by six diesel engines that will turn six Alstom generators, for a total of 50,730 kilowatts developed by 69,973 horsepower that will drive twin 20-foot screws.The hull arrangement will be strengthened for protection against ice, will have two rudders and quarters for 35 persons.The company said the ship’s design is a product of input from all the users -- clients, longshoremen and shipboard personnel, along with TOTE’s operations, sales, pricing and finance departments.A covered bow to shield main deck loads, a tandem "crossed" ramp system for safer loading and unloading and heated car decks are some of the details included in new ship’s design.To ease the use of 53-foot containers, an additional trestle will be installed at the Port of Anchorage. "We are welding pilings for new trestles right now," Deaver said.The current yard for storage and movement of vans is designed for the 40-foot trailer. Deaver said the yard is being reconfigured for increased volumes and a more efficient use of the land, a change that has resulted in Tidewater Road being blocked off. Access to both CSX and TOTE is now from Terminal Road. TOTE will also move their gate house and will reconfigure their maintenance facility.A port users group formed three years ago as well as the businesses that use the port have been suggesting these changes for years, due to concerns about the safety of the public pitted against heavy truck traffic during loading and offloading of ships.The Port of Anchorage’s master plan includes construction of passenger and cargo intermodal rail access. It also calls for a future road to the north for tidelands expansion that would provide more room for the construction of oil industry modules.Deaver said TOTE has Alaska’s business future in mind. The company’s new ships will mirror what the industry is doing; he said trucks are already using the 53-foot trailers hauling loads coming to Alaska over the Alaska Highway."The 53-foot trailer will be the retailer’s choice for the box of the future. It holds more, has intermodal capabilities, and can be used with third party equipment," Deaver said. "Think of our port facility as a truck terminal that happens to use vessels to transport our trailers, versus tractors."

Providence earns diabetes association honor

A program at the Providence Diabetes and Nutrition Center has been recognized by the American Diabetes Association. The association handed out the certificate to the center’s self-management education program, honoring quality education services for patients.The center is at Providence Alaska Medical Center in Anchorage.The American Diabetes Association started its education recognition program in 1986.The program is a voluntary process to show that education programs have met national standards for diabetes self-management.Support group features speakerThe Mat-Su Breast Cancer Support Group will host its monthly meeting May 8 in Wasilla.Featured speaker will be Glenna Edwards from Prostheses, Etc. in the Palmer-Wasilla area.The meeting runs from 7-9 p.m. in Valley Hospital Medical Center Classroom C.For more information, call 907-376-8689 or e-mail ([email protected]).Workshop offers tips for hiking parentsThe Providence Alaska Medical Center’s Center for Child Development plans to lead a workshop May 2 called "Babes in the Woods: Hiking and Backpacking with Babies."Parents can glean advice on hiking with children in Alaska.The event runs from 6-7:30 p.m. at the hospital’s Center for Child Development in Anchorage. The cost is $10. For more information, call 907-261-3075.

Address churn can trip up e-mail marketers; avoid these pitfalls

I recently got into an argument with my Webmaster. I could not understand why 25 percent of the addresses on my e-mail newsletter distribution file came back as undeliverable. I take particular pain to ensure that my database is kept current and accurate and yet a quarter of the names were out of date. How could that be? It seems that e-mail address churn is now a growing phenomenon and where its impact will be most sorely felt is in the area of business-to-business e-mail marketing. According to Debbie Weil, in her online article "Where E-mail Addresses Go Bad," e-mail address churn is estimated by industry experts to be running at a 20-40 percent rate annually. It is, says Weil, "a constant factor undermining the success of e-mail marketing campaigns." The industry statistics confirm that judgment. Weil’s article references a recent study of U.S. consumers that found that 41 percent had changed e-mail addresses at least once in the past two years, with 15 percent changing twice or more. According to John Coe, president of Database Marketing Associates Inc., more that 75 percent of the 300 business cards he collected in the past year as a speaker for the Direct Marketing Association recorded changes in personal information. The Pew Internet Project notes that 37 percent of experienced online users provide fake e-mail addresses when registering at sites in order to avoid spam. It now seems obvious that bad e-mail addresses are tied to a number of recurring events, from job loss to a growing trend on the consumer’s part to have multiple e-mail addresses, with each discrete address reserved for a particular need depending upon the degree of privacy associated with that need. The growing incidences of spam mail is also causing frustrated consumers to keep a generic e-mail address for all the junk mail and reserve a separate address for the truly important stuff. For the e-mail marketer, this multiaddress trend is a major hassle. But there are a couple of steps that can be taken to ensure that your database is kept alive and well. * Never send out an e-mail marketing communication unless you have been specifically given permission by the recipient to do so. * Always give the recipient, or at least one who has changed his/her mind, the opportunity to unsubscribe or to opt out. And make the process easy a simple click on the "unsubscribe" button and technology completes the process. * Mail to your list on a constant basis, preferably monthly. This will weed out the bad addresses in small batches rather than cause major attrition resulting from annual mailings. * Always be seeking new names to add to your database. It’s the old conveyor belt strategy. As they fall off one end, pile them on at the other. * And remember that the recipient will only choose to stay on your mailing list if what you send is compelling and readable. The majority of the e-mail newsletters and marketing communications that I receive are dull, boring and nothing more than idle dross. In that circumstance, it’s easy to hit the delete or unsubscribe buttons. Alf Nucifora is an Atlanta-based marketing consultant.  

Coast Guard duties, funds, promotions in bill OK'd in House

FAIRBANKS -- Legislation approved by the U.S. House earlier this month would require all commercial vessels entering territorial waters to serve notice to the U.S. Coast Guard at least 24 hours in advance.Territorial waters extend 12 miles offshore.Currently, many large commercial vessels must give 24-hour notice before landing in ports, but none has to provide notification before crossing the boundary.If the bill becomes law, then both territorial and port notification would be required, said Justin Harclerode, a spokesman for the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, chairs that panel, which has jurisdiction over Coast Guard issues.The measure also touches on a variety of other Coast Guard rules and programs. It would boost the amount of money available for oil spill cleanups, make it easier for the Coast Guard to get surplus ships, offer a new promotion program for officers and would give people serving at confined, remote locations for long periods some extra time off.Unlike the 24-hour port notification, the territorial notification would apply to all commercial vessels, Harclerode said."There’s nothing in the bill that specifies tonnage or anything like that," he told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. "All it says is ’any commercial vessel.’ "Several types of commercial vessels now are exempt from the port notification, including vessels of 300 gross tons or less, ships on scheduled service, barges and boats that haven’t left the "Captain of the Port zone."The proposed law would apply to foreign and domestic vessels.Lt. Matt Jones, with the Coast Guard’s Marine Safety Detachment, said Kodiak currently receives 24-hour port notices on a daily basis, mostly from domestic boats.Anchorage and Dutch Harbor receive far more notices from foreign vessels, he said.The bill was prompted by the break-up of a Japanese ship carrying wood chips while anchored near the Pacific Northwest coast, Harclerode said. The proposed change would allow the Coast Guard to "check any vessel if they are going to be that close to U.S. shores," he said.The proposed law states that a ship giving 24-hour notice would have to provide its name, destination, time of boundary crossing, a description of any dangerous cargo or hazardous conditions aboard and any other information requested.Permission to enter could be denied if no notification is given or if the ship doesn’t comply with safety, security or environmental laws.In other provisions, the bill also would double the amount of money the Coast Guard could draw from the federal Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund, an account established after the 1989 Exxon Valdez tanker grounding in Prince William Sound.The bill would increase the draw amount to $100 million, up from $50 million."That’s a precautionary measure," Harclerode said. "It’s not like any one particular incident spurred this provision. As years go by, the cost of cleaning up these spills goes up, and they wanted to raise the amount that could be borrowed from the trust fund."The bill also would authorize the Coast Guard to accept seven 170-foot patrol boats from the Navy. Harclerode said he didn’t know whether any might be assigned to Alaska.Coast Guard personnel also would see a few benefits from the bill.People assigned to isolated duty stations could be eligible for compensatory time off. Such time would be offered "when conditions of duty result in confinement because of isolation or in long periods of continuous duty."’Another provision of the proposed law would let a selection board put "officers of particular merit" at the top of the list of officers up for promotions. The idea is to try to get the Coast Guard’s best and brightest to stay with the service, Young said in a news release.The legislation, which passed the House unanimously, now goes to the Senate for its consideration.

Food scientist tests waters for value-added seafood products

An Alaska food scientist is gearing up to start a pilot project this summer to produce value-added Alaska seafood products. The goal is to wow overseas markets and increase economic returns for Alaska fishermen and processors."I’m determined that we’re going to build up demand," said Gail Marshall, president of Phoenix Food Consulting Ltd. of Anchorage. "I believe it can be done. My goal is to get more value from our fish."Marshall came to work in Alaska in February 1998 as vice president of research and development for Alaska Seafood International. However, she has monitored the Alaska fishing industry since the 1970s as she worked in the food producing and fisheries industries. Marshall left the troubled fish plant last June but decided to stay in Alaska and immediately started her own firm, Phoenix Food Consulting."I have an undying passion for this industry," she said.Now Marshall is preparing a grant proposal she plans to submit to the National Marine Fisheries Service in early May. She also hopes to secure state funding. The 18-month project aims to boost economic development and increase markets by developing new products from Alaska pink and chum salmon, exploring year-round secondary processing and considering new markets.New products could include stand up, microwavable pouches of salmon chowders, soups, rice and noodle dishes. Marshall also will study establishing a new co-op among several villages to produce and market finished products. "My goal is fairly simple this year. I hope to get one to two canneries to put in a pilot line and see if there is a market in Britain or South Korea," she said.Manufacturing value-added seafood products in the state could give Alaska an extra boost in global markets and add jobs, she said.Marshall’s expertise backs up her plans. She earned a bachelor’s degree in food science, a master’s degree in fisheries biology and a doctorate in food science, all from Louisiana State University.She has worked for the Louisiana Cooperative Extension Service and Department where she helped companies solve processing problems by boosting shelf life and product quality for finfish, crawfish, crab and oysters.Marshall has conducted research and development plus product development for food producers that include ConAgra Poultry Co. in Arkansas. In Alaska four of her products developed for Alaska processors have won first place awards in the Symphonies of Salmon and Seafood.Marshall also has written technical articles on Alaska salmon for the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute."Gail’s work is important because she is bringing her expertise and experience from working with other seafood producers to Alaska," said ASMI executive director Barbara Belknap. "She overcame problems they had been facing and doesn’t seem ready to take no for an answer."We’re also fortunate because she could work anywhere in the world with her qualifications, but she has chosen to stay in Alaska. In a short period of time, she has developed a commitment to helping our fishing communities in a way that has not been done for a long time -- through improved technology."Marshall also works with members of the World Trade Center Alaska. Three years ago the group began a new initiative to develop joint ventures between European companies and Alaska seafood producers, said executive director Robin Richardson.Today the organization nurtures relationships daily with overseas firms via an electronic messaging group, and members have said the effort has led to transactions, she said.According to Richardson, Marshall joined the group six months ago, gleaning information on current world markets as well as providing expertise as a food technician. Marshall also spoke in April at a World Trade Center Alaska forum in Homer.Marshall’s experience is important and unique to the industry in Alaska "because she is an expert in food and on fish and how fish is made into food," Richardson said. "We need more people like her."Marshall is working with the World Trade Center Alaska and Sourdough Productions to organize the first Alaska Seafood Forum March 5-6, 2002 at the Egan Civic & Convention Center in Anchorage. The event, scheduled in conjunction with the annual Alaska Foodservice and Hospitality Expo, will feature technology and processes to support Alaska seafood processing businesses.At the forum Marshall intends to demonstrate high-tech food processing techniques to Alaska fishermen. "One of the best jobs I ever had was working for the extension service in Louisiana," she said, remembering work with crawfish processors to increase their economic benefits. "I loved helping people do better at what they do."Phoenix Food Consulting’s work ranges from fish handling on boats, shelf life and microbiology studies to product development. Marshall works with suppliers, fishermen and processors.Although new ideas and technology won’t produce significant economic payouts overnight, Marshall is convinced technology and value-added products are important."I believe so strongly that with what we have I know we can get more money to fishermen and to processors," she said.Marshall has noted that Alaskans are concerned about the future of the industry."While it always seems that the time is right for such efforts, it seems that it has become more important now than ever," she said. "People are very concerned about how fishing limits, restrictions and catch quotas will affect a way of life that has supported them and their families for generations."We have to and can work smart. We must develop products that are practical and cost effective. We must help grow economic opportunities for many communities in Alaska."

Business Profile: The Alaska Club

Name of the company: The Alaska ClubEstablished: 1986Locations: 5201 E. Tudor Road, Anchorage. The fitness center also operates five other locations in Anchorage, one each in Eagle River and Wasilla and two locations in Fairbanks.Telephone: 907-337-9550Web site: www.thealaskaclub.comMajor focus of services: The Alaska Club is a health club with 10 locations featuring swimming pool, gymnasium, racquetball and tennis courts, food service, aerobics studios, Nautilus and free weight rooms and other services. History of the company: In 1986 Tom Behan and Andrew Eker acquired the first location on East Tudor Road owned by the Teamsters and once operated as the organization’s recreation center.Alaska Club operators bought the Anchorage Racquet Club at Bragraw Street in 1989. In 1994 one other facility was added through the acquisition of the Fairbanks Athletic Club location.In 1997 the company purchased the Alaska Athletic Club’s locations in downtown and Midtown Anchorage plus one in Fairbanks. Also that year the Alaska Club opened a center in South Anchorage.In 1998 the company bought two World’s Gym locations, one in West Anchorage and another in Eagle River. Last June Alaska Club operators acquired a center in Wasilla.The Alaska Club is owned by a limited liability corporation with Alaska investors. The company employs about 450 full- and part-time workers.Top accomplishment of the company: Alaska Club President Andrew Eker is most proud of formation of the multiple location company. He also is pleased by the way four top company executives work together, including Behan, who continues to handle investor relations, plus John Marchetti, vice president of administration and marketing and Robert Brewster, vice president of operations.Major player: Andrew Eker, president, The Alaska Club.Eker earned a degree in construction management from the University of Washington. He moved to Alaska in 1963 to work for a construction company. Later as a member of the Alaska Racquet Club, Eker learned of the possible of the sale Teamsters’ recreation center, and together with Behan, organized investors for the deal despite an economic downturn in the late 1980s. Eker’s construction education and experience has helped lead improvements at Alaska Club facilities.Quote: "We think we have improved the community by having family oriented opportunities for fitness."-- Nancy Pounds

This Week in Alaska Business History April 29, 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 TimesMarch 29, 1981Knik crossing plans to be airedBy Dave CarpenterTimes Juneau BureauJUNEAU -- Anchorage and Matanuska-Susitna Borough residents will have an opportunity to express their opinions Saturday on the long-discussed Knik Arm crossing at the first legislative hearings on the proposal in at least three years.... Representatives of the state Department of Transportation and Public Facilities and a consulting firm will be on hand to discuss technical aspects of the proposal.Committee Chairwoman Bette Cato, D-Valdez, said today the hearings should pave the way for legislative consideration of the crossing."There’s been a tremendous amount of interest in this year," said the rookie legislator.Anchorage TimesMarch 29, 1981Valley briefed on petrochemical studyBy Al CampbellFor the TimesWASILLA -- The leader of the team studying the potential for a petrochemical plant for Alaska told residents here Tuesday he is certain the plant would "meet or beat" all existing federal and state environmental regulations.Pete Lehman, head of the Dow-Shell Group study team, also said the chemical group would not require any variance from those regulations.Dow-Shell Group, a consortium of nine companies, is considering development of a petrochemical industry in Alaska. Preliminary plans call for a gas liquid plant somewhere near tidewater in Southcentral.Lehman and a panel of pro-development people spoke to about 100 people here Tuesday. The crowd appeared about evenly divided between pro- and anti-development factions.10 years ago this weekAlaska Journal of CommerceMarch 29, 1991Where’s the local talentFinding Alaskans for Alaska jobs isn’t always easyBy Margaret BaumanAlaska Journal of CommerceA search for a management executive for an Anchorage post proved so frustrating for one international businessman that he wondered aloud whether Alaska has the right stuff to fill such jobs.The answer is yes or no.As the Alaska economy slowly improves, management and skilled crafts workers of all types are returning to the state, employment recruiters say. Still, hundreds who left during the economic slump of the mid-1980s now have permanent employment elsewhere."People who can’t find employment quickly tend to leave," observed Tom Jensen, director of public affairs for Alascom.A survey just completed by the state Department of Labor shows the labor supply seems to be deeper this year than it has been, says Neal Fried, labor economist. "That’s what we expected because of the recession in the rest of the country."Alaska Journal of CommerceMarch 29, 1991’91 Season may be another record-breakerBy the Alaska Journal of CommerceIt’s going to be another banner tourism year in Alaska, a sharp reversal of how things looked early this spring, when it looked as if the summer would be a disaster for the tour industry and businesses that depend on them.Visitors this summer could be up 6-8 percent over last year -- perhaps more -- tour industry sources predict. State tourism officials won’t make predictions, but "based on what we see happening, we’re confident it will be a good year," said Pete Carlson, of the State Division of Tourism in Juneau.... With 8 percent growth, Alaska’s visitors could reach 640,000 this summer, up from 590,000 last season, which was itself a major improvement from the 560,000 summer visitors in 1989.-- Compiled by Ed Bennett.

Firms to assess gas line

Gas producers on Alaska’s North Slope announced the last of a series of contract awards April 16 to assess the feasibility of constructing a pipeline system to deliver natural gas from Alaska’s North Slope to Canada and the Lower 48 states.Joe Marushack, Phillips Alaska Inc. gas manager, who announced some of the contracts at a luncheon meeting of the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce, said the producers have concluded that the Lower 48 market is the best bet at this time for marketing Alaska North Slope gas but have not decided on the route for the pipeline.Two possibilities are being considered -- east from Prudhoe Bay to the Mackenzie River delta in Canada and then south through the Northwest Territories to Alberta, or south from Prudhoe through Alaska and then east through the Yukon Territory along the Alaska-Canada Highway to Alberta.Marushack said the producers -- BP, ExxonMobil Production Co. and Phillips Alaska Inc. -- aim to study the feasibility of building a pipeline system that can transport 4 billion cubic feet per day of natural gas, which is roughly 4-5 percent of the U.S. market."It’s also important that we have expansion capability either through additional space in the pipeline or through additional compression," Marushack said.The contractors are expected to take the lion’s share of the $80 million budgeted by the producers for the review project this year. Conceptual engineering contracts announced April 16 went to three joint ventures, representing nine different contractors.The contract winners were:* VECO Corp. of Anchorage with Fluor Corp. in Sugar Land, Texas, and Calgary, Alberta, to provide engineering, conceptual design and evaluation for route possibilities from the North Slope to central Alberta and for engineering and evaluating a natural gas liquids plant that may be built along the pipeline route at a location to be determined during the feasibility phase;* Natchiq Inc. of Anchorage with Parsons Engineering in Arcadia, Calif., to design what could become the world’s largest gas treatment plant for the North Slope; and* Calgary, Alberta-based AlasCan Group to provide engineering and conceptual design and evaluation of new pipeline infrastructure from Alberta to U.S. markets. AlasCan includes Kellogg Brown & Root of Houston, Texas; COLT Engineering in Calgary, Alberta; Michael Baker Jr. Inc. in Anchorage; and NANA/COLT Engineering LLC of Anchorage and Natchiq.The producers also awarded contracts April 12 to:* American Reclamation Group LLC of Anchorage, Scott Land & Lease of Calgary, and Wilbanks Resources Corp. of Denver, to assess land issues on the possible pipeline routes; and* URS Corp. of Anchorage and AMEC Earth and Environmental Corp. of Calgary to evaluate comparable environmental issues.Marushack said 90 company employees also will work on the feasibility project. The review is expected to be complete late this year or in early 2002.VECO President Pete Leathard said the contract awards represent a "major breakthrough in the history of Alaska business." He added, "Prudhoe Bay and the Alyeska Pipeline were built by Lower 49 companies. Today, we in Alaska are being recognized for our ability to fully participate in the development of Alaska’s future."

Permanent Fund loses $2 billion in stock market's plummet

The Alaska Permanent Fund took a hit when the stock market dived earlier this year, cutting the fund’s unrealized gains in its portfolio by about 50 percent.Overall, it’s about a $2 billion loss for the big state savings account, says state Revenue Commissioner Wil Condon."The falling stock market hit the permanent fund hard this year," Condon said April 11, when the state’s spring revenue forecast was released. "About half of the fund is invested in stocks and, like any long-term fund holding stocks, it’s been a losing year on Wall Street," he said.The $2 billion drop in the fund’s overall value, a combination of its corpus and the Earnings Reserve Fund, which holds accumulated surpluses, results from investment losses and the need to withdraw money to pay for the annual permanent fund dividend, Condon said.The loss of market value, which are unrealized gains from past increases in the stock portfolio, will have no immediate effect.But because stocks are lower in value the fund’s estimated cash earnings for the year, which are partly based on sales of stock, will be sharply down.At the time the spring revenue forecast was released, earnings for fiscal 2001, the budget year ending June 30, were estimated at $1.549 billion.That’s down from $2.26 billion last year, which was unusually high because of the unprecedented run-up in the stock market."This year’s Wall Street problems will cut into the dividend, but not very much because the dividend is based on the average of earnings for the past five years," Condon said. The amount of the dividend will be announced in September.The April 11 forecast showed estimated dividend payout of $1.149 billion this year, compared with $1.172 billion paid out in 2000.However, what is of more concern is that the combined payout of $1.149 billion in dividends and $685 million deposited into the corpus of the fund to cover inflation, when combined, total $1.834 billion.That’s $285 million more than the fund’s estimated cash earnings of $1.549 billion this year. The cash deficit will be taken out of the fund’s earnings reserve account. That, plus the loss of market value, will reduce the reserve account from $2.97 billion last July 1, the start of the fiscal year, to an estimated $2.67 billion on June 30, the end of the fiscal year.The fund’s overall value, including the corpus, unrealized capital gains and earnings reserve, is estimated to total $26.5 billion next June 30, down from $28.1 billion a year before, last July 1.Condon said what has been bad for the permanent fund, however, has been good for the state General Fund and the main account of the Constitutional Budget Reserve, which are invested entirely in bonds."The falling interest rates have been good news for the bond market," Condon said. The constitutional reserve main account is expected to earn 10.3 percent this year, with the general fund forecast to earn an 8.7 percent return.

ACS defends copper line policy, sites competitive disadvantage

ANCHORAGE -- Alaska Communications Systems Inc. leaders on April 18 responded to complaints over the company’s refusal to install new copper phone lines in some neighborhoods throughout the state.The four-hour hearing at the Regulatory Commission of Alaska’s Anchorage office was the first public opportunity ACS had to explain its new policy -- one that has outraged some residents from Fairbanks to Homer who claim it has left them without adequate phone and Internet service.Wes Carson, president of Anchorage-based ACS, said his company can not afford to lay new copper phone lines in every instance when its competitors could then lease the wires at a fraction of the start-up costs and lure away customers.The Regulatory Commission considers ACS the "dominant carrier," requiring the phone company to build and maintain phone lines where it operates.ACS is evaluating whether it will install lines in new subdivisions on a case-by-case basis. It also is asking developers to sign agreements requiring them to pick up part of the tab, Carson said.Some developers are not signing. They claim ACS is asking them to pay too much. Others say it is the phone company’s responsibility to pay for the cable, not the builder’s.In cases where ACS is not laying copper lines, it is using a wireless system known as Telular.Wireless is cheaper than copper to install and offers the same basic phone service, but Internet speeds are much slower, according to ACS.The Regulatory Commission is investigating whether wireless is a viable alternative to copper cable. The agency has not said when it will decide on that and related issues.While the April 18 hearing focused on allegations that ACS refused to install new wires, some people also accused the company of not expanding phone lines in existing neighborhoods.Several people told the Regulatory Commission they want to see ACS do a better job of working with customers, beginning with returning their calls.Fairbanks businessman Paul Welton said it has taken more than two years to get a phone line to his property, where he plans to build an apartment complex. Perhaps most frustrating in his quest for service was trying to open a dialogue with ACS."There is something criminal about the way they’re doing business when you don’t get a call back," he said.Carson said ACS is improving its customer service and will use the feedback to make sure ACS representatives are responsive.Carson said the controversy over new phone lines in Anchorage stems in part from the deregulation of the local telephone market in 1997.Two years ago, ACS bought the Anchorage Telephone Utility, as well as phone companies in Fairbanks, Juneau and more than 70 other Alaska communities.Today, ACS remains Anchorage’s largest local phone company, Carson said, but the local market has drastically changed, with General Communication Inc. and AT&T Alascom claiming 37 percent of the customers.The Regulatory Commission continues to treat ACS like a monopoly, he said.Carson said Anchorage customers are paying the same phone rates they paid eight years ago, although the cost of living has increased.Carson told the Regulatory Commission the complex rate structure, both for customers and competitors, must be overhauled if his company is to have a chance at making money in Anchorage.In Fairbanks and other parts of the state, he said, rates must also be raised because it costs more to build new lines in rural areas.The problem is only going to get worse, he said. GCI is moving ahead with plans to offer local phone service in Fairbanks and Juneau in the coming months.

Venture capital hype is still all wrong

The hype was wrong on the way up, and the hype is still wrong. What we hear now is that because of the bust of the dot-coms there is no money for funding new ventures. First of all, let’s get rid of the myths from the first time around. Yes, the Internet is new. Yes, it has had a huge impact on the way we do business. No, it did not change the fundamentals of business. That is where the hype on the way up started. That is where people started to substitute mind sharing for revenue streams and monetizing eyeballs for cost control.We have seen this all before. We saw it when railroads changed the way we did business. We saw it as electrification, radio, highways and television changed the way we did business. Yet none of them changed the fundamentals of business, and neither did the Internet.So now the pendulum swings the other way. Just when we are supposed to be learning that ignoring the fundamentals is what these spectacular dot-com crashes are all about, we start believing the hype about the funding drought. What a terrible time to start a business we hear, especially if it’s a technology company.It’s simply not true.Here are some real facts. As I write this, the day after tax day, I see that the total amount of U.S. venture capital deals funded today is in excess of $88.6 million. That’s just today. The total amount of deals done so far this month is more than $1.9 billion, and so far this year $13.7 billion.Who got funded? Kenamea, a software company closed $32 million. PrincetoneCom, an electronic billing and payment services company, raised $20 million. Antenna Software closed $17 million in second round financing, and USBX, a provider of mergers and acquisition support to small and medium-size businesses, closed $8 million in series B financing. Other companies funded today included Air2Lan, Cyneta Networks, Four51, RunMoney, and Itelco -- not quite the drought we were all led to believe.Is it as easy to raise funds today as it has been? No, of course not. Many of the venture capitalists believed the hype, too. Are they being more careful? Of course they are, but that doesn’t mean that venture money has dried up. It does mean that those high pre-money valuations are being ratcheted down to more realistic levels and you are going to have to demonstrate a thorough understanding of business fundamentals.If you are trying to raise venture funds to start-up, expand or spin off a new enterprise, there are some fundamental business rules you must follow. Here’s rule No. 1: When writing a business plan for an investor, do not write it for you, write it for the investor. Most entrepreneurs tend to focus on their product or service and they wax lyrical for pages and pages about the features of their product, as if we all still believed that if you build a better mousetrap the world will beat a path to your door. Well, it won’t.Although your product or service may be of mild interest, the sophisticated investor wants to hear about your customer. Who is your customer? How many of them are there? What is their problem -- their pain, if you need the trendy buzzword. How are you going to solve your customer’s problem? Is your solution a one-time fix, or is it a regular dose that the customer will keep on buying? Finally, why will your customers be willing to spend their hard-earned money to pay well for your solution?If you approach your funding plans from this perspective, rather than the product or service perspective, you will find much greater success in raising venture capital. Then, as you are writing your funding plan, try to predict what your investor’s fears and concerns are, and address each one as best you can.For example, when describing your industry, do not drown your investor in a mind-numbing deluge of facts, but ask yourself, "What might the investor be wary of in my industry?" If there might be concerns about negative trends in the industry, address these concerns and show the investor how you plan to overcome them.If you want to be successful in raising venture capital pay attention to the fundamentals, disregard the hype and demonstrate how you will help fulfill the objectives of your investor.Bruce Borup is an assistant professor of entrepreneurship at Alaska Pacific University. He can be reached via e-mail at ([email protected]).

Port director meets with mayor, retires

Port of Anchorage Director Don Dietz announced his retirement April 6, according to Dennis Fradley, media spokesman for Anchorage Mayor George Wuerch. Dietz announced his retirement after a closed door meeting with the mayor.Dietz, the director at the Port of Anchorage since 1992, was formerly with Anchorage Telephone Utility before joining the Municipality in January 1988.In March, Dietz recommended a tariff increase to the Anchorage Assembly after a study by Ogden Beeman & Associates, a professional port tariff consulting firm. The Anchorage Port Commission supported the firm’s findings for an increase in the tariff. According to Dietz the tonnage at the port has doubled since 1986.Dietz suggested a tariff adjustment that would translate to about three cents on one cubic yard of cement or one cent on a 20-gallon tank of gasoline, according to a Municipality of Anchorage press release."A penny a gallon when you ship 800 million gallons a year adds up to a lot of money," said Jeff Cook, president of the Williams North Pole Refinery.Williams ships between 33,000 and 35,000 barrels of jet fuel to the Port of Anchorage daily via Alaska Railroad tankers.Williams and Tesoro both pay tariffs to the Port of Anchorage for fuel storage and flowage across the dock."This is a highly competitive market, with a very slim profit margin," added Cook. "If you doubt this, ask Alaska Airlines what a penny a gallon would mean to their operational cost -- something in the neighborhood of $3.5 million a year. That’s a hefty increase for anyone."The Journal has learned that CSX and Totem Ocean Trailer Express officials, who did not want to go on the record, and other port users complained to the mayor that the terms and definitions included in the tariff increase were not available to them before the presentation to the Assembly.The Assembly has not taken action on the request and has rescheduled a vote for late May, according to Fradley.Dietz counters that the proposed tariffs had been part of the Port Commision’s agenda and had been scheduled for hearings months in advance."Due to some errors in reporting by Tote and CSX we audited the figures from 1999. I think it was a little tough for them to accept the numbers and the reality of change," Dietz said. "I saw the support from the mayor’s office change once some of the big players started meeting with him."Rich Berg, assistant port director and port engineer, is the designated replacement for the director, although an appointment has not been made officially by Wuerch. Dietz’s retirement became effective on April 20.Dietz complimented the Port of Anchorage staff upon his departure and sees a strong future for the facility with the use of intermodal connections.

Wage, gas bills bog down

With state legislators moving toward a May 8 adjournment, some bills are moving and others seem stuck. Legislation to raise the state’s minimum wage was introduced early this year by both Gov. Tony Knowles and Rep. Pete Kott, R-Eagle River. Neither bill has moved from the House Labor and Commerce Committee and as the 2001 session approaches its end, action this year seems increasingly doubtful. "Alaska’s minimum wage is currently the lowest on the West Coast and has been unchanged for three years," Knowles said April 18. "There is no excuse for denying Alaska’s prosperity to those who work in the service industry for minimum wage," he said. Other issues that seem to be bogged down are bills to extend the termination date of the state’s Stranded Gas Act and to allow other kinds of natural gas projects to come under its provisions. The Stranded Gas Act "sunsets," or terminates, this summer. The law allows firms developing large liquefied natural gas projects to negotiate special tax arrangements with the State of Alaska. Both the governor and Rep. Joe Green, R-Anchorage, have introduced separate bills to modify the act and allow conventional gas pipelines and gas-to-liquids projects to be included. The bills are bottled up in the House Oil and Gas Committee, chaired by Rep. Scott Ogan, R-Palmer. Ogan said he would like to review the basic concepts of the Stranded Gas Act before expanding or extending it. Bills that are moving include legislation to allow a private prison to be built near Kenai, adjacent to the state-operated correctional facility at Wildwood. The state House passed the proposal, sponsored by Rep. Mike Chenault, R-Nikiski. It is now in the Senate. The bill would allow the Kenai Peninsula Borough to contract with a company to build a medium-security facility capable of holding 800 people, with the state contracting to use the prison for inmates now housed in facilities in the Lower 48. The Legislature expects the costs of building and operating a private prison to be 18 percent to 20 percent less than costs for a similar state-run prison, according to Rep. Eldon Mulder, R-Anchorage, co-chairman of the House Finance Committee. The borough intends to negotiate a contract with Corrections Group North, a joint venture of the Kenai Native Association that owns land on which the prison would be built, Cornell Corrections, and a contracting joint-venture of Livingstone Sloane Inc. Neeser/VECO. The sole-source nature of the contract has attracted some criticism in the Legislature, however. Several oil and gas-related bills are advancing toward possible passage this year. Committees in the state House approved two Senate-passed bills amending the state’s right of way leasing law. One measure clarifies current law to allow the state to be reimbursed for costs relating to projects before the application permit process begins. It was approved April 18 by the House Resources Committee and is now in the Finance Committee. A second measure clarifies current law as to when new information is needed to update a previously filed application. It was approved April 18 by the House Oil and Gas Committee. It is now in the Resources Committee. The House Oil and Gas Committee also approved a Senate bill requesting the state Department of Natural Resources to study possible state ownership or partial ownership of a natural gas pipeline, or creating a public corporation to own part of a gas pipeline, with shares held by Alaska citizens. The bill, sponsored by Sen. John Torgerson, R-Kasilof, is now in the House Finance Committee. A bill increasing state taxes on alcohol by approximately 10 cents per drink was passed out of the House Labor and Commerce Committee and is now in the House Finance Committee. Its sponsor is Rep. Lisa Murkowski, R-Anchorage.  

Dolphins, sea lions, whales -- as Navy recruits -- played role in nation's defense

Sea lions and other marine mammals garner so many sensational headlines, it’s interesting to look at some other, more positive and fascinating stories. For example, U.S. Navy dolphins have been in the news after participating in recent Northern Edge military exercises in Sitka. In fact, for more than 40 years, marine mammals have made significant contributions in service to our country. According to military reports, the Navy’s Marine Mammal Program began in 1960 with two goals: To study the underwater sonar capabilities of dolphins to learn how to design more efficient methods of detecting objects underwater, and to improve the speed of their boats and submarines by researching how dolphins are able to swim so fast and dive so deep.In 1965, the program began its first military project called Sea Lab II. Working in the waters off La Jolla, Calif., a bottle-nosed dolphin named Tuffy completed the first successful open ocean military exercise. He repeatedly dove 200 feet to the Sea Lab II installation, carrying mail and tools to Navy personnel. He was also trained to guide lost divers to safety.In addition to this research, the Navy also trained dolphins, beluga whales and sea lions to perform various underwater tasks, including delivering equipment to divers, locating and retrieving lost objects, guarding boats and submarines, and doing underwater surveillance using a camera held in their mouths.During the 1980s, the Navy had more than 100 dolphins, as well as numerous sea lions and beluga whales, and an operating budget of $8 million. Specific tasks the animals were trained to perform included detecting and marking underwater mines, and detecting and defending against enemy swimmers.This procedure was used in both the Vietnam War and the Persian Gulf War to protect Navy vessels from enemy swimmers seeking to plant explosives. The dolphins would swim slowly, patrolling the area with their sonar, and alert armed trainer guards if they located a swimmer.They were also trained to "tag" enemy swimmers with a marker so that Navy personnel could apprehend them. During the Vietnam War, rumors circulated about a "swimmer nullification program" in which dolphins were also trained to shoot at enemy swimmers with a device similar to the tagging device. The Navy denies that any such program existed or that any dolphin has ever been trained to attack a human.In the 1990s the Navy sent six dolphins to the Persian Gulf, where they patrolled the harbor in Bahrain to protect U.S. ships from enemy swimmers and mines. They also escorted Kuwaiti oil tankers through potentially dangerous waters.With the success of the dolphin program, the Navy began working with sea lions, training them to recover military hardware or weaponry fired and dropped in the ocean. The sea lions could dive and recover objects at depths of up to 650 feet. The Navy also began exploring the use of beluga whales, which could operate at much colder temperatures and deeper depths than either dolphins or sea lions.In the late 1980s, the Navy’s budget for the marine mammal program was drastically reduced, and all but one of its training centers were closed down. Of the 103 dolphins remaining in the program, the Navy decided it needed only 70 to maintain its downsized operations.This raised the question of what to do with the remaining dolphins. Some were safely released back into the wild. Other dolphin troops were offered free to marine parks. However, interest was low because many marine parks by this time had developed successful in-house breeding programs.The Navy got only four requests, but pledged to care for the unclaimed dolphins until their deaths. Today, U.S. as well as Ukrainian dolphins trained by the Soviet Navy for military operations, are being used for therapy with autistic and emotionally disturbed children. Bush slows lawsuitsA provision in the budget submitted by President George W. Bush for funding the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service would end the practice of citizen-initiated lawsuits to require the department to list endangered species. Currently, the service is engaged in 75 lawsuits covering more than 400 species. According to the Interior Department, the service has received 86 more notices of intent to sue regarding another 640 species.The ability to sue to enforce environmental laws is quite common in environmental legislation and was included in the Endangered Species Act in 1973. The budget provision proposed by Bush would not eliminate the right to sue, but would prevent the Interior Department from spending any money to enforce court orders. This would make the suits meaningless.The impact of the rider, which requires congressional approval to become law, would be that the interior secretary would have sole discretion as to whether to list a species as endangered.Fish oil helps babiesEating oily fish during pregnancy could improve the sight and intelligence of unborn babies. Research at the University of Dundee in Scotland has shown that the polyunsaturated fats found in oily fish such as sardines and mackerel are highly concentrated in the human brain. These "long chain" fatty acids are key building blocks in the brain and one in particular, called DHA, is also important in the development of normal vision.The scientists found that mothers who ate oily fish during pregnancy increased the concentration of DHA both in their own blood and in that of their children. Tests on infants whose mothers had high concentrations of DHA in their blood showed they had sharper vision and absorbed information faster than children of women with low DHA."The key finding was that the concentration of DHA in the blood samples from both the mother and her infant were significantly higher in women who ate oily fish during pregnancy," said researcher Dr. Peter Williams.The research suggests that breast feeding may put children at an intellectual advantage, as breast milk naturally contains fatty acids that have only recently been introduced into bottled formulas. Six-year-olds who had been bottle-fed milk enriched with long-chain polyunsaturated fats also performed better in problem-solving tests, giving faster and more accurate responses than other children.Kodiak-based free-lance writer Laine Welch can be reached via e-mail at ([email protected]).

Alaska Airlines parent company posts $33 million quarterly loss

SEATTLE -- Alaska Air Group on April 19 reported a heavier than expected loss for the first quarter, in part due to adding new aircraft to its Horizon Air commuter airline.The Seattle airline group, which includes Alaska Airlines and Horizon, lost $33.1 million or $1.25 per share for the first quarter. Analysts polled by Thomson Financial/First Call were expecting a loss of $1.04 a share.In the same period last year, the company lost $9.2 million or 35 cents a share excluding a one-time charge associated with the sale of frequent flyer miles. Including that charge, the company posted a loss of $66.1 million or $2.50 a share.Operating revenues increased 5.4 percent, to $516 million, up from $489.7 million in the same quarter last year."These results are disappointing, but not unexpected," said John F. Kelly, chairman and chief executive.He said Horizon’s new aircraft, combined with a decline in business travel, accounted for some of the loss.Horizon is taking delivery of 15 new Bombardier Q400 turboprops this year to replace older and smaller aircraft, and holds options on 15 more of the 70-passenger planes, at a cost of about $18.5 million each.Shares in Alaska Air Group were up 15 cents, to $27.25, in early trading on the New York Stock Exchange on the day of the announcement.

Knowles seeks INS exemption

JUNEAU -- Gov. Tony Knowles wants the federal Immigration and Naturalization Service to reverse a policy denying visa-free transit rights for international passengers moving through Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport.In letters to Secretary of State Colin Powell and INS Commissioner Kevin Rooney, the governor asked for an exemption to the recent order that bars the visa-free transit through Anchorage."The economic effect on my state will be nothing less than disastrous, moving not just Peoples Republic of China and Russian passenger transits, but entire air passenger service operations and quite probably air cargo operations from American soil to foreign soil," Knowles wrote.The INS and Department of State announced changes recently severely restricting a program allowing international passengers to stop at many U.S. airports while en route to a final foreign destination without requiring a visa.The problem is particularly acute at Miami, where the INS had more than 1,100 foreign nationals refuse to reboard transit flights in the past year.Only two passengers in the past 10 years have refused to reboard a flight while transiting through Anchorage, INS records indicate.Two carriers using Anchorage Airport -- Cathay Pacific and Korean Air -- cater largely to Russians, Indians, and Chinese.The policy as it applies to Anchorage won’t advance any of the agency’s goals, Knowles said."It will, however, burden Alaska by killing landing fees, fuel flowage fees and duty-free sales of not only the PRC (People’s Republic of China) nationals, but also the Canadians, Koreans, Japanese and Americans on flights that stand to be diverted from Anchorage."According to an analysis by the University of Alaska’s Institute for Social and Economic Research, Korean Air and Cathay Pacific generate $5.2 million in direct revenue each year to the Anchorage Airport.If they were forced to avoid Anchorage because of the rule, then it could cost the city 1,000 jobs and 12 percent of the airport’s annual budget.

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