Northern Reflections to shutter stores

Operators of women’s clothing retailer Northern Reflections are closing all U.S. locations including five Alaska stores. The move covers closure of the Northern Group stores including a line of men’s clothing locations for a total of 323 U.S. stores. The stores should be closed by July, said Peter Brown, vice president of investor relations and corporate development for the stores’ owner, Venator Group. "They are unprofitable," he said. "The stores are much more profitable in Canada than in the U.S." Venator Group operates 370 Northern Group stores in Canada, and the company aims to improve the division’s financial health before selling the stores, Brown said. "We are in the process of marketing the Canadian company for sale," he said. The Northern Group employs 700 full-time and 2,300 part-time workers, he said. The stores averaged about 1,900 square feet in selling space, he said. Four Alaska Northern Reflections are in Anchorage at the Anchorage 5th Avenue mall, Dimond Center, the Mall at Sears and at Northway Mall. A fifth store is in the Bentley Mall in Fairbanks. The Venator Group also operates another retail presence in Alaska through its Foot Locker and Lady Foot Locker stores. The company runs seven Foot Locker stores in Alaska -- four Anchorage Foot Locker stores, located in the same malls as the Northern Reflections stores plus one each in Fairbanks, Juneau and Wasilla. Venator has three Lady Foot Locker stores in Anchorage at the Anchorage 5th Avenue mall, Dimond Center and the Northway Mall. The New York City-based company is looking to concentrate on its athletic division. According to its 1999 annual report Venator Group had 17 percent of the $14 billion U.S. athletic footwear market. "Venator Group is narrowing its focus to be just purely an athletic company, so we’ll be selling our nonathletic properties," Brown said. Venator also is in the process of selling another retail line, The San Francisco Music Box Co. which has more than 165 locations, and some Burger King restaurants, Brown said. In 1997 Venator Group closed F.W. Woolworth stores and later closed Kinney Shoes including several locations in Alaska.  

New offerings, renovated rooms to greet this summer's visitors

Several new major tourism products are due to premier this summer. Similarly, tourism-related companies are renovating existing facilities.In Anchorage, hotel renovations are under way at the Hotel Captain Cook, the Hilton Anchorage Hotel and the Comfort Inn Ship Creek Anchorage, according to the Alaska Travel Industry Association.For Fairbanks Pike’s Waterfront Lodge plans to start running its riverboat cruises May 24, said general manager Lloyd Huskey. Pike’s Riverboat Cruises will offer one-hour cocktail cruises with entertainment aboard the 49-passenger vessel. "We’re trying to turn this property into a destination," he said.According to the Fairbanks Convention and Visitors Bureau, Greatland River Tours expects to start operating tours aboard the Tanana Chief. Both Greatland and Pike’s represent new competition to the long-established Riverboat Discovery tours.In Juneau, city and borough officials are redesigning a downtown traffic pattern to alleviate congestion, said Juneau Convention and Visitors Bureau President John Mazor. Construction was complete by the time the first major cruise ship arrived May 1.Also, the JCVB is remodeling the cruise ship passenger terminal, which also should be ready in early May, he said. JCVB officials also are installing touch screen kiosks at the terminal and at Centennial Hall providing visitors with maps and information about activities, he said.Other companies are renovating downtown retail locations in preparation for the summer visitor season, he said.Adventure travel is important to the Alaska industry this year. Alaska Wildland Adventures is generating interest from wholesalers for its new Denali Backcountry Safari, said marketing director Eric Downey. The high-end, small group operator is offering a five-day, four-night guided trip to its lodge in Kantishna and to its fly-in lodge called Denali Wilderness Lodge. The company plans to offer the trip once weekly in 2001 but could increase offerings to three times a week next year, he said.Alaska Sightseeing/Cruise West also has added a new 10-night tour package featuring two nights each at the Talkeetna Wilderness Lodge and at the Denali Wilderness Lodge plus a Prince William Sound cruise with kayaking in Whittier and Cordova. Brisk bookings show the tour is popular, said Cruise West communications director Maureen Camandona.

Derogatory remark costs executive director his Kenai marketing council job

KENAI -- A month after saying words that couldn’t be erased, the executive director of the Kenai Peninsula Tourism Marketing Council has submitted his resignation. At a special meeting of KPTMC’s board of directors April 26, Faron Owen’s resignation was accepted and board president Bill Wasowicz was named interim executive director until a replacement can be selected. The resignation is the culmination of an incident on March 30, when Owen accompanied two free-lance travel writers in Homer’s Pratt Museum Store. Two museum employees and a visitor to the museum, Homer resident and Alaska Native Lucy Kuhns, reported to museum director Michael Hawfield that Owen was asked by one of the writers if Natives still use ulus. Owen replied, "No, they sell them to buy booze. I can get that for five bucks from a drunken Native." Owen, however, said his response was, "You can buy ivory carvings from drunk Natives in Nome for $5." In response, the board of directors issued Owen a letter of reprimand and ordered him to meet in person with museum staff and Kuhns. A public letter of apology was e-mailed by Owen to the Homer News for publication. Reacting to the incident, Pratt Museum pulled its KPTMC membership. Era Aviation followed suit and CIRI Alaska Tourism Corp. threatened to do so. Others, like the Kenai Convention and Visitors Bureau, began re-evaluating their relationship with KPTMC. Still others called for Owen’s removal, including Bill Popp, the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly’s liaison with KPTMC. Contacted April 27, Owen declined to comment. Wasowicz could not be contacted. Board vice president Chris Degernes labeled Owen’s comment "an inappropriate remark, and I’m not condoning it, but it was totally out of character for Faron." "We have to refocus toward the future," she said. "There’s been a lot of feeding frenzy over an inappropriate remark. Now we must rebuild a relation of trust with the communities, our members, with all the people it potentially affected." In KPTMC’s press release issued April 27, Owen said his resignation was the best course of action for the organization. "I have devoted the last three years of my life to the success of KPTMC, and it deeply disturbs me to see the organization come under fire the way it recently has. It is very upsetting that an inappropriate remark made by me could lead to this, so to protect the credibility of this exceptional organization, I must tender my resignation. "I would encourage both the public as well as the (Kenai Peninsula) Borough Assembly to recognize that the actions of one person should not jeopardize the success of the entire peninsula’s tourism future." Owen’s resignation may open the door for the museum to renew its membership. "It certainly has improved things," Hawfield said. "I think since that was the fundamental problem that we had, taking decisive action was the appropriate thing, and we’ll now be able to reassess where we stand with KPTMC. ... I think it was the right thing to do, and we all just need to move ahead." Mike LeNorman, Era Aviation’s director of sales and marketing, said, "We’ll take a hard look at what level of involvement that we’ll have in the future with the organization." Bill Popp agreed that Owen’s resignation was appropriate. "It was the right thing to do, and I’m glad this is the course of action Faron chose," Popp said. "There’ll be some fences that need to be mended, but I believe this organization has a history that deserves consideration in mending those fences. I think KPTMC’s very important to the future of tourism growth on the Kenai Peninsula, and hopefully we can put this situation behind us and move on." Eric Downey, Alaska Wildland Adventures’ marketing director, said with some "hard work and some good direction, (KPTMC) will be able to recover, although it will take time." "Public reaction shows that Alaskans will not tolerate racial insensitivity," Downey said. "Faron and the board did what needed to be done. I hope the board is now able to reassure the various stakeholders and hire a more culturally sensitive director. KPTMC has a great staff." On behalf of the Kenai Convention and Visitors Bureau, executive director Kathy Tarr said, "We’re relieved he stepped down. I think it will be in the best interests of the organization, and I think that’s what it had to come to. And I wish him the best in whatever he pursues next." Cultural sensitivity has been brought to the forefront by the incident, according to Tarr. "This has given all of us a reason to stop and think about how we answer questions," she said. "Especially when we’re in a professional capacity or representing an organization."  

Tour operators are ready to ride

Tour operators and industry officials, gearing up for the arrival of summer visitors starting this month, expect a challenging season. Included in the forecast: the debut of more than 600 additional hotel rooms statewide plus new offerings from tour operators. Some industry representatives around the state forecast a season roughly on par with 2000, while others anticipate increases in total visitors. Like last year, high gasoline prices may thwart growth to the highway visitor segment. Americans, concerned with a tightening economy, may reduce their travel budget. Major cruise lines report their bottom line could be affected by reduced consumer spending due to a slowing economy. In its first quarter report Princess notes a competitive pricing environment in North America and particularly in Alaska where capacity has climbed, and the company anticipates reduced revenue for other quarters this year compared with 2000. Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.’s quarterly report cites slowdowns in bookings attributed to the U.S. economy, while additional capacity also brings down prices. The company forecasts its revenue may drop 2 percent for the rest of 2001 compared with last year. Tina Lindgren, president of the Alaska Travel Industry Association, believes several factors could shape the summer visitor season. A U.S. trend toward shorter vacations -- the average is 3.5 days -- could daunt travelers to Alaska who perceive the venture as requiring a longer trip, she said. Also, since Alaska competes with Europe rather than other U.S. cities as a destination, favorable foreign currency exchange rates may lure travelers overseas instead, she said.

Even investors want financial advice

Traditionally, investments have been chosen and paid for per transaction. That is, whether you invest by yourself or through a broker, you might pay a commission to buy shares of stock, for example, or a load to buy shares in a mutual fund. In recent years, however, investors have shown a desire to manage their investments in a more unified way. A study released last year by Cerulli Associates, an independent research company specializing in financial services, shows that fee-based brokerage programs -- those that charge an annual fee, usually based on the amount of dedicated assets -- are the fastest growing sector of all fee-based programs, growing at an annual rate of 143.2 percent for the past four years. It’s notable in this day of increased trading avenues -- many of which allow investors to initiate and complete transactions on their own -- that the Cerulli study also concluded that an essential component of any fee-based program is the access it gives an investor to the advice of a financial adviser. Why guidance is important It’s no wonder that investors are seeking guidance with their financial decisions. Last year’s market performance -- a record-setting decline of 39 percent by the technology-heavy NASDAQ composite index and a 9 percent drop in the broader S&P 500 index -- and this year’s continuing market volatility have left many investors not knowing what to do next. At the same time, despite the downturn, years of favorable market conditions have left many people with substantial assets to manage. As a person’s assets increase and his or her financial life becomes more complex, the desire for the advice and guidance of a financial adviser frequently becomes greater. The need for solutions that simplify an investor’s life also become more urgent as financial decisions become more complicated. That’s part of the appeal of fee-based services. How fee-based services function for investors Fee-based services are not all alike. Discretionary services offer professional portfolio management and investment services for individual or institutional investors. A money manager personally oversees the account, usually for an annual fee that represents a percentage of invested assets. A discretionary service appeals to investors of sufficient means who have little time or interest in managing their own financial affairs and want to leave this responsibility to an experienced money manager. With nondiscretionary services, decision-making is in the hands of the investor who has the guidance of an experienced financial adviser. The financial adviser serves as a source of personalized market information, offers investment and asset allocation guidance and suggests planning strategies, but the investor may also come up with investment ideas of his or her own, and perhaps even personally execute them at times. Nondiscretionary services appeal to people who value a hands-on approach to investing and managing their assets. Fee-based pricing makes these services even more attractive to investors. Many investors believe that a fee-based approach more naturally aligns a financial adviser’s goals with their own -- the growth of your assets. Managing your finances in an integrated fashion also allows you, with the guidance of your financial adviser, to make decisions that take your entire financial picture into account, rather than take unrelated scattershot actions that could work against each other. An integrated approach Services with fee-based pricing appeal to a wide range of investors. Some investors are attracted by the simplicity of handling many aspects of their financial life within one program, while others want to sever the link between transactions and fees. It may be time for you to consider a more integrated approach to building wealth and achieving your financial goals -- and today you have more choice and flexibility in how you work toward that end. Teresa Kimmel is a financial adviser in the Anchorage office of Merrill Lynch. She can be reached at 907-564-6625.  

Ubik Corp. to purchase Wasilla radio station

ANCHORAGE -- Ubik Corp. is adding a Wasilla radio station, which would give the company three stations to operate in the Anchorage market.Ubik announced April 27 it has an agreement to buy KMBQ-FM in Wasilla.The current owner, John Klapperich, will continue at the station as an employee, according to Aaron Wallender, Ubik’s president.Ubik owns KNIK-FM and operates KZND-FM, both in Anchorage. The company also manages sales for KYES-TV.

This Week in Alaska Business History May 6, 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 6, 1981Area building business is booming, suppliers sayby Mary Pat MurphyTimes WriterAnchorage and Matanuska-Susitna area building supply companies say their business is up as much as 50 percent this year because of an up-swing in the housing and construction industries after a two-year slump.James Campbell, president of Spenard Builders Supply Inc., said business statewide is "in excess of 50 percent over last year at this time." The company had statewide sales of about $80 million in 1980, Campbell said.Business is up in Anchorage, Wasilla, Eagle River and Fairbanks, he said, but the increases haven’t shown up on the Kenai Peninsula."We’re showing increases real fast," said Scotty Lamkin, sales and marketing manager for United Building Supply, another major retail supplier of building materials. He said United’s business is up statewide including on the Kenai Peninsula.Anchorage TimesMay 6, 1981Anchorage utility company bought by telephone firmAn Anchorage-based utility consulting and engineering firm has been purchased by a Concord, Calif.-headquartered telephone company for about $2 million.RAI Public Utilities Inc. now is a wholly-owned subsidiary of CP National, which a spokesman said will become the 16th largest telephone company in the United States among some 1,500 independents with the pending acquisition of Great Southwest Telephone Co.... RAI offers consulting services, primarily in telecommunications, including toll settlements, telephone separation and revenue requirements, engineering and technical services, and accounting.10 years ago this weekAlaska Journal of CommerceMay 6, 1991State may reconsider KuparukBy Ray TysonFor the Alaska Journal of CommerceBased on new information provided by ARCO Alaska Inc., the state now appears willing to reconsider some of the acreage ARCO and its partners want to keep in order to expand the Kuparuk River oil field on the North Slope.About half of the 316,000-acre Kuparuk River Unit is outside the current producing area and will return to the state for releasing Dec. 1, unless ARCO can convince the Alaska Department of Natural resources the acreage will enhance the field.DNR is growing impatient with ARCO, the field operator, pointing out that many of the leases held by oil companies outside the producing area are more than 25 years old and have yet to be explored adequately.Alaska Journal of CommerceMay 6, 1991Cold Bay looks to bigger dock for boostBy Margaret BaumanAlaska Journal of CommercePlanners of Aleutians East Borough hope to have design work finished by late summer on an expanded dock at Cold Bay, but are still seeking public and private support for the $3.5 million project.The dock project is one of several under way for the Aleutians, all aimed at improving the economic viability of the Aleutian Chain.The economic potential of the expanded dock is good, said Lamar J. Cotton, borough administrator, who sees development of the Aleutians as having great impact far beyond the island communities, in terms of more long-term jobs in the fishing industry.The dock was designed and built for off-loading fuel. It consists of an 1,800-foot-long, single-lane causeway, with a dock face of 400 feet. Large vessels can come in to use the dock, as the water is approximately 124 feet deep at mean tide. Several fuel storage tanks are located on properties adjacent to the dock.-- Compiled by Ed Bennett.

Around the World May 6, 2001

STATEDEC says North Pole refinery spills too much FAIRBANKS -- The North Pole refinery owned by Williams Alaska Petroleum Inc. has had too many spills in its more than two decades of operation, according to the Department of Environmental Conservation.In its first comprehensive look at the refinery’s spills, the state says the refinery has had 258 spills of jet fuel, gas and crude totaling 243,306 gallons, the equivalent of about 11 railroad tanker cars.The number of spills has averaged just under 11 per year since the refinery opened in 1977, though from 1990 to 1999 the refinery averaged just more than 14 per year, according to the report.It said pipe corrosion or mechanical failure are the top reasons for spills.Sheffield in line for Anchorage port jobANCHORAGE -- Former Gov. Bill Sheffield is in the running to become director of the Port of Anchorage. That comes just months after he resigned as president of the Alaska Railroad. Anchorage Mayor George Wuerch said he plans to interview at least one other person but won’t make a decision until after meeting with Sheffield next week.Sheffield ran the railroad from 1997 until his resignation in January. He said he left mostly because of a difficult final 15 months that included three derailments of fuel cars.Sheffield served as Alaska governor from 1982 to 1986.Phelps leaves forest group to work for MurkowskiPETERSBURG -- The Alaska Forest Association’s executive director, Jack Phelps, is moving to Washington to go to work for Sen. Frank Murkowski, R-Alaska.Phelps replaces David Garman as Murkowski’s chief of staff. Garman is moving to the Department of Energy.Phelps has been in Alaska for 17 years, working on resources for the Legislature before taking the forest association job.He says he’ll miss working with the timber industry, despite the fact that its been under serious siege for the last few years.The forest association hasn’t named a replacement for Phelps, who leaves the job May 8.Swanberg Dredge joins historic registerANCHORAGE -- The Swanberg Dredge at Mile 1 of the Nome-Council Highway has been added to the National Register of Historic Places.The Swanberg Dredge initially was called the Johnson-Pohl Dredge. The Gold Beach Dredging Co., owned in part by veteran Alaska gold miner Walter Johnson, bought the dredge in San Francisco and shipped it to Nome in 1946.Inflation made the fixed price of gold, $35 an ounce, too low to cover postwar labor and operating costs. The Swanberg Dredge operated on the Seward Peninsula for just one season. It stands where it stopped working.NationBoeing has 747 freighter with long range in worksSEATTLE -- The Boeing Co. will begin work on a longer range 747 freighter, now that International Lease Finance Corp. is ordering five of the planes for $1 billion, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer said April 30.Jeff Peace, Boeing’s 747-400 program manager, said the extra range would eliminate the cost of such intermediate stops as Tokyo’s Narita airport on routes between Anchorage and Asia.An announcement that the Los Angeles-based leasing company will be the launch customer for the jumbo freighter could be made at any time, with deliveries to begin in October 2002.Veneman to review Forest Service regulationsWASHINGTON -- Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman has agreed to review Clinton-era regulations that directed forest managers to put ecosystem health above all other concerns. The rules, issued in November, limited logging, skiing, hiking and other activities in national forests if forest managers believe those activities might permanently harm the ecosystem.Mint to pack nicotine punch for smokersRICHMOND, Va. -- Another curiously strong mint-flavored product will soon hit the market, but this one delivers more than a breath-freshening burst of flavor.Ariva, a lozenge consisting mostly of powdered tobacco, provides a jolt of nicotine when smokers can’t smoke -- on airplanes, in movie theaters or smoke-free offices.Star Scientific Inc., a small tobacco company based in Chester, plans to test consumer reaction to the product in Richmond and Dallas beginning in late summer or early fall. A box of 20 lozenges will sell for about $3 -- roughly the price of a pack of 20 cigarettes.WORLDCheney: Nation needs more oil, natural gasTORONTO -- Vice President Dick Cheney says the whole nation could face blackouts like those that have hit California unless it finds more oil, natural gas, coal and nuclear energy."The aim here is efficiency, not austerity,’’ Cheney told editors and publishers April 30 at The Associated Press annual meeting. The nation cannot "simply conserve or ration our way out of the situation we’re in.’’He said conservation, while perhaps "a sign of personal virtue,’’ does not make for sound or comprehensive policy.Without going into specifics, Cheney promised "a mix of new legislation, some executive action as well as private initiatives’’ to cope with rising energy prices and growing demand.He reiterated that the administration intends to push for drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge despite strong congressional opposition and rejected the notion of price controls, tapping the Strategic Petroleum Reserve or creating new bureaucracies.Court says don’t call it ’Bud’ in GermanyFRANKFURT, Germany -- U.S. brewer Anheuser-Busch suffered a setback in bringing the Bud brand name to Germany when a court ruled April 27 that the familiar abbreviation is too easily confused with Bit, the diminutive variation of the popular German beer Bitburger."It’s very difficult, Bud, Bit, Bit or Bud,’’ said Wolfgang Krueger, spokesman for the Federal Court of Justice, which ruled on St. Louis-based Anheuser-Busch’s request to market its Budweiser beer under two new brand names in Germany.Compiled from buisness wire services.

Business Profile: EDC Inc.

Name of the company: EDC Inc. Established: 1980 Location: 213 W. Fireweed Lane, Anchorage Telephone: 907-276-7933 Major focus of services: EDC Inc. provides mechanical and electrical engineering services. History of the company: Tom Longstaff founded the company as Longstaff Engineering in 1980. He later added a partner, Bill McDonald, renaming the firm Longstaff McDonald Engineering. In 1994 John Faschan joined the company, and the name was changed to EDC Inc. Engineering Design and Consulting. Major past projects have included designs for a containment building at the Red Dog mine port, a tank farm at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport and a wastewater treatment plant expansion in Kodiak. Other projects have included several wastewater utility and fuel systems projects in rural Alaska. One challenging project required planning for a nondirectional beacon power system using wind turbines built in the Brooks Range for the Federal Aviation Administration. Currently, EDC employees are working on plans for a new school in Chevak. One trait that sets the firm apart is employees’ experience working in the Bush. Another distinction is that EDC principals participate directly in project designs. EDC employs five people. Top accomplishment of the company: EDC President John Faschan is proud of the firm’s "ability to meet schedules and client demands." EDC vice president Kevin Hansen added, "We tend to come up with innovative things now and then." Major players: John Faschan, president, and Kevin Hansen, vice president, EDC Inc. Faschan earned a degree in electrical engineering from Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J. He came to Alaska to work for Raytheon where he spent five years before joining EDC in 1994. Hansen earned a degree in mechanical engineering from California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo. Hansen was transferred to Alaska with the U.S. Army in 1974. He completed his military service in 1978 and worked for an engineering company for 13 years. He started work at EDC in 1995. -- Nancy Pounds  

Airports lose state funds

Six municipal airports around the state have been axed from state Department of Transportation and Public Facilities funding for federal matching grants that would have paid for general airport improvements. Airport managers say this may trigger rising costs to users.Juneau, Kenai, Ketchikan, Merrill Field, Palmer and Soldotna airports are no longer receiving matching funding from the state, said Paul Bowers, director of statewide leasing for the department. According to Bowers, Commissioner Joe Perkins made the decision final last July.Perkins could not be reached for comment because he was traveling on business in China, according to DOT officials."It’s up to the airports to fend for themselves," Bowers said. "If you look at all the projects around the state that we match that adds up to millions of dollars.""Merrill Field grant matches typically amount to around $50,000," said Dave Lundeby, airport manager at Merrill Field.The Merrill Field 20-year master plan calls for spending $50,000 -- their portion of the match -- each year for 20 years for new construction and improvements, according to Mike Byington, assistant airport manager at Merrill Field.Lundeby said six of the 14 airports around the state that are not state owned received a letter informing them of the decision. Don’t you think it is a little funny they picked the nonstate airports in Alaska that are near urban areas not to fund," Byington said.The funding from the state amounts to a 3.125 percent match, with the airports or their cities chipping in another 3.125 percent to receive airport improvement projects grant funding from the Federal Aviation Administration, according to DOT’s Bowers."We would like to see it changed back to the way it was," said Rebecca Chronkite, airport manager at Kenai Municipal Airport. "The city of Kenai supports the efforts by other airports also excluded by DOT to have the funding reinstated.""We haven’t heard anything from other municipal reps, or the legislators that were given packets with our position," said Merrill’s Byington.Byington and Lundeby contacted several legislators for help on behalf of the six airports. According to Byington, Anchorage Republican Sens. Dave Donley and Loren Leman, and Randy Phillips, R-Eagle River, along with Reps. Eldon Mulder, R-Anchorage, and Pete Kott, R-Eagle River, were all given a position paper and asked for their help.Phillips and Donley had not heard of the funding change, and were not aware of the DOT decision, they told the Journal.The other legislators listed by Byington did not return calls from the Journal by press time.If the airports have to match the full amount for the FAA grants, user fees, such as aircraft tie-downs, leases and fuel flowage fees, will increase to fund the match, according to airport officials at Merrill Field and Kenai."We hope it doesn’t come to that," Byington said. "There has not been an across the board increase at Merrill Field since the mid-1980s."

Bill would allow AIDEA to consider funding Southeast gas project

JUNEAU -- The House passed a bill April 25 that would let the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority consider selling $76 million in bonds to finance a project to supply natural gas to Southeast Alaska.Alaska Intrastate Gas Co. is proposing to bring liquefied natural gas from Canada to 17 communities from Ketchikan to Yakutat, plus Valdez, Cordova and Kodiak.Paul Rusanowski of Alaska Intrastate said gas from Alberta or northeast British Columbia would come by rail or pipeline to Prince Rupert, then be barged or shipped to Southeast. Gas would be stored in holding tanks in the communities and distributed through pipeline networks as needed.The company wants AIDEA to sell bonds to pay for the first phase of the project -- providing gas to Juneau, Ketchikan and Sitka. Rusanowski said the bond debt would be repaid by rate-payers. Other financing would probably be used to extend the network to the remaining communities, he said.The bill was sponsored by the House Finance Committee. Co-chairman Bill Williams, R-Saxman, said it is a preliminary step toward what he hopes will be a relatively cheap and environmentally friendly fuel source for Southeast.If the project succeeds, Rusanowski projects savings on heat and hot water of 15 to 40 percent over fuel oil, 60 percent over propane and 69 percent over electricity.Passage of House Bill 236 does not mean the project will be built. AIDEA must determine whether the project is financially feasible and has community support before backing it. AIDEA Executive Director Bob Poe said that process will take several months."There’s just a lot of due diligence we have to do," Poe said.He said most people would agree it would be good if Southeast Alaska could see the benefits of natural gas, but the proposal involves building a lot of infrastructure to serve relatively small, isolated markets."I have to be honest," Poe said. "I don’t know right now whether this will be financially feasible or not."Some House members expressed concern that they were approving the project before AIDEA goes through that step."We have other AIDEA monuments in this state and I would hate for this to become a third monument," said state Rep. Joe Green, R-Anchorage.Rep. John Davies, D-Fairbanks, said he also was uncomfortable with giving prior approval, but said the Finance Committee is requesting AIDEA keep the committee informed of its findings.Alaska law requires the Legislature to approve AIDEA projects of more than $10 million.Poe said that approval can come either before or after AIDEA has done its feasibility study, but Alaska Intrastate requested it be done before in this case and was able to get legislative support for the approach.The bill passed 38-0 and now goes to the Senate.

Officials anticipate ferry delay

KETCHIKAN -- The Alaska Marine Highway System has announced changes in its schedule in anticipation of delays in the repair of the state ferry Columbia. An engine room fire June 6 destroyed the Columbia’s electrical control panels on a sailing from Juneau to Sitka. The damage left the ship dead in the water about 30 miles southwest of Juneau in Chatham Strait. All 434 passengers were evacuated to the ferry Taku. Marine highway officials decided to combine electrical repairs with other work scheduled for the Columbia over the winter, including the gutting and renovation of staterooms on the 418-foot vessel. Alaska Ship and Dry Dock’s Ketchikan Shipyard is making the $10.5 million in repairs. Work on the Columbia is scheduled to be completed by May 26. But George Capacci, general manager of AMHS, said he expects delays because of extensive work remaining on the Columbia. "I hope they get it done and prove me wrong," Capacci told the Ketchikan Daily News. "They have a lot of challenges and they are working to overcome that, but I have to make a contingency plan." Doug Ward, director of shipyard development for Alaska Ship and Dry Dock, said that barring any change orders, work on the Columbia should be completed by May 26. "We are still planning to deliver the Columbia on the contract’s delivery date," Ward said. The marine highway’s contingency plan calls for the Malaspina to be shifted from Lynn Canal routes between Juneau, Haines and Skagway to the Columbia’s Bellingham, Wash., route for two weeks beginning May 30. The LeConte will be shifted from trips to Pelican to fill in on the Lynn Canal route.  

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.

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