Movers and Shakers

Movers and Shakers

Movers and Shakers 11/25/2012

Leslie Dickson and Jennifer Henderson have been appointed to the Anchorage District Court by Gov. Sean Parnell. Dickson has maintained a private law practice in Anchorage for the last two years, primarily focusing on adoptions and representing foster youth. Her early legal career included work with the Office of Public Advocacy on delinquency, children in need of aid, and custody and guardianship issues. She also served in the district attorney’s office in Fairbanks and Anchorage, supervising the misdemeanor unit and prosecuting special assaults. Dickson earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology and her law degree from Northeastern University. Henderson works at the Anchorage law firm of Farley & Graves, PC, where she handles a variety of civil cases including personal injury, wrongful death, maritime, employment, malpractice, and administrative claims. She formerly worked at the Anchorage District Attorney’s Office on cases in the misdemeanor, drug, and violent crimes units. She earned a bachelor’s degree in politics, philosophy, and economics from Claremont McKenna College and her juris doctorate at Yale Law School.  Dr. Kristen Widmer, MD, has joined the medical staff at the the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium S’áxt’ Hít Mt. Edgecumbe Hospital in Sitka. In addition to providing care for families in Sitka, Widmer will provide itinerant care for SEARHC patients living in Hoonah. Widmer earned her medical doctorate degree from the Medical School for International Health, a collaboration between the Columbia University Medical Center in New York City and Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Beer-Sheva, Israel. She also completed a residency in family medicine at the University of New Mexico. She earned her undergraduate degree from the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign. Prior to moving to Sitka, Widmer served as a community health aide trainer with the Norton Sound Health Corp. in Nome. Widmer is accredited as a family physician by the American Board of Family Medicine. E. John Eng, president of Cornerstone General Contractors Inc of Anchorage was elected president of the Associated General Contractors of Alaska for 2013 at the Association’s annual meeting. Eng will serve for the next calendar year along with the executive board composed of Kevin Welker, Kiewit Building Group, Anchorage, vice president; Brian Horschel, Acme Fence Company, Anchorage, secretary; Meg Nordale, Ghemm Company, Fairbanks, treasurer; Joe Spink, Granite Construction, Anchorage, contractor-at-large; Dick Engebretson, Aurora Construction Supply, Fairbanks, associate member; and Tony Johansen, Great Northwest, Fairbanks, immediate past president. Philip Blumstein of Landye Bennett Blumstein LLP in Anchorage was recently selected by his peers for inclusion in the Best Lawyers in America 2013. He has been named a Best Lawyer in America each year since 2006. Blumstein was included in two categories: corporate law and mergers and acquisitions. He was also named last year to the 2011 Super Lawyers list for Alaska. Ketchikan Indian Community announced the appointment of John Brown, Tribal education director at KIC, as the interim general manager while the executive search continues. Three candidates have already been interviewed for the position but no decision has yet been made. Brown has held various management positions with Ketchikan Indian Community throughout the years including housing director and economic development director. Departing general manager Debbie Patton has accepted a position with Douglas County as Deputy Health Administrator based in Roseburg, Ore. She starts her new position on Dec. 1. Wells Fargo has named Darren Franz Alaska regional business banking manager. He will lead a team of 85 Alaska team members serving business customers from Ketchikan to Barrow. Franz has been with Wells Fargo for 20 years. He joined the company as a management trainee and served as a personal banker, business relationship manager and area president in Kodiak for 12 years. Most recently, he served as Northern Alaska area president for more than six years, leading 125 team members in Barrow, Bethel, Delta Junction, Dillingham, Fairbanks, King Salmon, Kodiak, Kotzebue, Nome and North Pole. Lance Johnson has joined the Denali Alaskan Federal Credit Union staff as vice president of internal audit. Johnson has more than 14 years of internal audit experience. Prior to joining Denali Alaskan he was the internal audit and program manager at Texas Instruments in Dallas. Johnson received a bachelor’s degree in accounting from Brigham Young University and a master’s degree in international management from the University of Texas. He is also a member of the Institute of Internal Auditors and the Information Systems Audit and Control Association. In addition, Johnson holds designations as a Certified Internal Auditor and a Certified Information Systems Auditor. Amanda Schou, buyer’s licensee with REMAX Dynamic of the Valley, The Kevin Crozier Team, recently obtained her Graduate, Realtor Institute and Accredited Buyer Representative designations. Realtors with the GRI designation have in-depth training in legal and regulatory issues, technology, professional standards, and the sales process. Accredited Buyer Representative denotes a sales associate who is qualified to provide buyer representation and is familiar with buyer brokerage and buyer agency issues. The ABR designation requires a 12-hour course, active membership in REBAC, and at least five documented transactions during the previous 18-month period where the sales associate acted as a buyer’s representative.

Managing partner sees bright future for Patton Boggs

Patton Boggs LLP, one of the nation’s leading law firms and long a presence in Alaska’s legal community and the state capitol, celebrated its 50th anniversary in October. Ed Newberry, the firm’s managing partner in Washington, D.C., was in Alaska for the occasion, to meet with Patton Boggs clients and help its attorneys and staff celebrate the event. Patton Boggs is well known for its lobbying practice as well as legal work, and the firm’s connections with Alaska go back to the early 1970s when Patton Boggs represented Alyeska Pipeline Service Co. in Washington, D.C. Bill Foster, an attorney with the firm, helped steer legislation through Congress that cleared the way for construction of the Trans Alaska Pipeline System. Patton Boggs has 12 attorneys in the Alaska office, a number that has been stable for several years, and about 550 attorneys nationwide. “We’re among the top 100 law firms in the nation in size, but we’re best known for our work in the government-business-law intersect,” Newberry said in a visit with the Journal. The firm’s focus is on the range of complex problems that arise for businesses dealing with government, either agencies or the Congress. There are offices in Dallas, Denver, New York and New Jersey as well as in Washington, D.C., and Anchorage. There are now three offices in the Middle East with the opening this year of an office in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Two other Middle East offices are in Doha, in Qatar, which opened in 2003, and in Abu Dhabi, which opened in 2008. There is also a project office in Dubai. However, in the Middle East most of the firm’s work is for governments working on financial and commercial contract details of large infrastructure projects. In Alaska, Patton Boggs specializes in work in the energy industry — ExxonMobil Corp. is a major client — as well as a range of legal and lobbying work for Alaska Native corporations, according to Walter Featherly, the firm’s managing partner in Alaska. Featherly has a long history of working with Alaska Native corporations, beginning in Southeast Alaska in 1981. The firm is also a fixture in the state capitol, where Bob Evans, one of the state’s leading lobbyists and a Patton Boggs attorney, is well known. Patton Boggs’ strong connections in the nation’s capitol are a particular asset for Alaska clients, particularly in the post-Ted Stevens age. A new client for the firm is the University of Alaska, where Patton Boggs will represent the university in its work to secure federal research grants. Other clients are Alaska Native corporations who are extensively engaged in government agency contracting, Featherly said. Interestingly, many of the Alaska Native government contracting firms are also engaged with U.S. agencies in the Middle East, and Patton Boggs has been able to support that work with its offices there, Featherly said. “We’ve been able to keep pace with our clients here as they expand their reach,” he said. Newberry said the firm’s connection with the Middle East goes back to the late 1970s when one of the partners with an interest in the region began travelling there to establish connections. This predated the huge run-up in oil prices after the 1979 revolution in Iran and the emergence of the Persian Gulf as a major world major oil and gas provider. The real breakthrough for Patton Boggs came when the ruler of Qatar hired the firm to help it recover a large sum of money that had been embezzled from the government. The effort was successful, and a grateful Qatari government rewarded the firm with permission to open the first office for a U.S. firm in Qatar. Similar permission had been given to a British law firm. The office in Doha, Qatar, opened with Susan Bastress, the first non-Qatari lawyer licensed to practice in that nation, as managing partner. Like a lot of the Washington-based law firms with major government practices, Patton Boggs has had senior government figures among its partners. Ron Brown, later appointed as Commerce Secretary by President Bill Clinton, became a Patton Boggs partner in 1981. In 1989 Brown became chairman of the Democratic National Committee. In 2010, Patton Boggs acquired the Breaux-Lott Leadership Group including its founders, former senators Trent Lott, a Mississippi Republican, and John Breaux, a Louisiana Democrat. Although not a former official himself, Thomas Hale Boggs Jr., one of the firm’s earliest partners, had solid Washington connections. Newberry sees a bright future for firms like Patton Boggs that specialize in solving government problems for clients, particularly in the regulatory arena. Mergers and acquisitions that require Federal Trade Commission approval are just one example. “The size and scope of government activity will continue to grow, no matter who gets elected Nov. 6,” Newberry said.

Annual Day of Caring draws 800 volunteers

United Way of Anchorage gathered more than 800 volunteers for its 19th annual Day of Caring in September, a day devoted to giving Anchorage corporations an avenue to give back to their community, Christine Gire, communications manager for the non-profit, said. “Day of Caring is the single largest day of corporate volunteerism in Anchorage,” Gire said. “It’s a day when UWA celebrates the commitment of local business volunteers for rolling up their sleeves and taking on much needed community projects.” Groups from 36 companies and organizations tackled 44 improvement projects throughout the city. “The work ranged from painting a room for a new resident as well as dust removal at the Pioneer Home to prepping the Alaska Botanical Garden for the winter to taking on some landscaping duties for The Arc of Anchorage,” Gire said. Independent Sector, a non-profit advocacy organization, provides statistics that put volunteer work into hard numbers. According to studies done by Independent Sector, corporate volunteers, such as those involved with Day of Caring, are worth an average of $21.69 per hour to both their employer and community. Day of Caring volunteers worked about four hours each, Gire noted. When those numbers are multiplied by the more than 800 volunteers who took part, Day of Caring raised more than $70,000 in volunteer labor in one day for the city of Anchorage. Not only are these events good for the community and good public relations for the corporate participants, Gire said, but they can foster a sense of value between the two. “Many companies want their employees to know they aren’t there just to make a profit, but that together they can make a positive impact within their community,” Gire said. “A feeling of connectedness results from community involvement and for many people that starts with the company they work for.” Immediately after the Day of Caring every year, United Way holds the Day of Caring Food Drive. This year the drive gathered nearly 400,000 pounds of food in one day for the Food Bank of Alaska. Gire said the food bank calculates a meal as 1.3 pounds, meaning the drive contributed an equivalent to more than 300,000 meals. While the upcoming holidays get people thinking about donating to local food banks, Gire said, the need is year-round, and are another great and easy way for corporations to give back to their communities. Sam Kirstein at the Fairbanks Community Food Bank said her organization is serving about 15 percent more people this year, a consequence of economic uncertainties and the soaring cost of energy in the Interior. However, donations, both financial and in food, are holding generally steady, she said. ”People are giving smaller amounts of money this year but there are more people giving,” Kirstein said. Local grocery stores and food-serving institutions donate food to the Food Bank and volunteers there package these into food boxes sufficient to last one person three days, she said. The goal is a 20-pound food box but if donations are down in any one week, the box could be down to 17 pounds. All major food stores and institutions donate including Safeway, Fred Meyer, Wal-Mart and major wholesalers like Food Service of America and vendors that support the Trans Alaska Pipeline System. The military commissary at Fort Wainwright, she said, has now been cleared to make donations after some paperwork was cleared up. Elwood Brehmer can be reached at [email protected]

Movers and Shakers 9/9/2012

Alaska Communications and Boys & Girls–Clubs Alaska recognized six youth heroes as part of the 2012 Summer of Heroes program. Alaska Communications presented each hero with a $1,500 scholarship during a ceremony at the Alaska State Fair in Palmer on Sunday, Aug. 26. This year’s honorees are (from left) Shaylee Rizzo of Kenai, Stacey Garbett of Fairbanks, Regan Fitzgerald of Anchorage (represented by her mother, Laura Fitzgerald), Keefer Brown of Wasilla, Julia Gebert of Anchorage and Courtney Stroh of Kenai. Read the winners’ full biographies at www.alaskacommunications.com/summerofheroes. State Sen. Cathy Giessel is being appointed to the Alaska Arctic Policy Commission. Alaska House Rep. Bob Herron made the announcement during an Arctic Caucus meeting in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada, in June. Giessel is a member of the Arctic Caucus, a subcommittee of the Pacific NorthWest Economic Region. The Arctic Policy Commission was created by the Legislature in 2012 for the purpose of putting Alaska in a leadership role in the development of a nationwide comprehensive Arctic Policy. Giessel is one of three senators who have been appointed to serve on the Commission. Tim Dillon of Seldovia is the new president of the board of directors for Arctic Winter Games Team Alaska. Dillon has been a member of the Team Alaska Board of Directors since 2007. Dillon is the City Manager of Seldovia, and brings more than three decades of experience in the sports and entertainment field. He served as general manager at the 2006 Arctic Winter Games on the Kenai Peninsula, which is still considered one of the most successful events in the 30-year history of the games. Born and raised in the New Jersey area with a master’s degree in administration, Dillon came to Alaska in 1992, and held the role of Athletic Director and Vice Chancellor of University of Alaska Anchorage until 1999. He has chaired or attended to 14 different NCAA committees, including the NCAA council, and is the past president of the Pac West Conference. Carol C. Fraser has been appointed general manager of the Millennium Alaskan Hotel Anchorage. Fraser brings 20 years of hotel management and destination marketing — specializing in Alaska — to Millennium Hotels and Resorts. Prior to Millennium Hotels and Resorts, Fraser served as regional director of sales and marketing for ARAMARK Parks and Destinations, Alaska; was part owner of Aspen Hotels of Alaska before its acquisition; and has been honored with a number of awards and honors — including the highest recognitions from the Alaska Hotel and Lodging Association and the Alaska Travel Industry Association. Fraser has lived in Alaska for 29 years. Donald Stiles was appointed to the Fishermen’s Fund Advisory and Appeals Council. Stiles, of Nome, is a commercial fisherman and high school basketball coach. Stiles is a member of the Norton Sound Economic Development Corp., former chair of the Siu Alaska Corp., and is a former fisheries specialist with Kawarek Inc.’s fisheries department. Stiles also served in the U.S. Marine Corps. Chris Stark was appointed and Mark Vinsel was reappointed to the Board of Forestry. Stark, of Fairbanks, is a biologist specializing in fisheries research at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. He also works with the Bering Sea Fishermen’s Association and owns his own fisheries research consultancy. Stark holds a master’s degree in fisheries science from the University of Alaska Fairbanks and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Montana. Vinsel, of Juneau, has been executive director of the United Fishermen of Alaska since 2004, after serving as the industry advocacy group’s office manager from 2000-04. He served as chairman of the Alaska Commemorative Coin Commission and chairman of the Alaska Fishing Industry Relief Mission. Vinsel earned a bachelor’s degree in design and industry from San Francisco State University.

Kenai Peninsula berry grower cultivates a 'masterpiece'

KENAI — Brian Olson said he will spend the rest of his life further cultivating what he said is the country’s new “super berry” — and he is thrilled. The berries are, “hardy, the fruit’s great and I’m really excited for it because I think it can be a new commercial crop in this state that people can actually commercially grow,” he said. The berry Olson is excited about grows from the Japanese haskap plant, and because of its resiliency, he said it will be a significant contribution in a state that is not predominately known for its crop productions. “People will recognize it and they’ll know it and they’ll love it and there will be a lot of products out there for them to purchase,” he said. He has cultivated a genetically unique product that he said is unlike any other berry. “A strawberry has a strawberry taste; a raspberry has a raspberry taste; a blueberry has a blueberry taste — this berry is multi-flavored,” he said. He said it hits all his taste buds. “When you put it in your mouth you roll it around; you get the sweets, you get the sours, you get the tang, you get some zest,” he said. The 57-year-old Soldotna resident and co-owner of Alaska Berries said the haskap has already been proven an Alaska hardy plant that can weather the state’s winters. “We know it’s beyond the experimental part — it’s successful,” he said. There are other berries grown in Alaska that are suitable for the state’s short and harsh growing season, but none, he said, rival the haskap for its health benefits. The haskap berries trump blueberries, another “super berry,” in levels of antioxidants, phenols, Vitamin A and C, anthocyanins and bioflavinoids, he said. And they harvest early, he said. The heavy rains in late August often shorten growing seasons, but the berries on the haskap plant are best picked in early to mid August before the rains. An earlier harvesting also saves the berries from the swarms of wasps that plague the later-flowering berry crops, he said. On average a one-year-old plant produces a handful of berries, he said. By year five, he said it can produce four to five pounds, and by maturity, 10 to 12 pounds. Brian Olson shows off a haskap berry on one of the bushes he is cultivating near Kenai. Olson describes the berry’s taste as “a blend of the flavors of blueberries, raspberries and strawberries.”(Photos/M. Scott Moon/Peninsula Clarion) Each plant has a 50-year life expectancy, he said, nearly doubling that of other berries he grows on his farm. Cultivating its resiliency was simple, he said — they came that way from Japan. The plant’s native land in Hokkaido, Japan, is similar to the environment of Southcentral Alaska. He said much of the work developing his new strains was in honing the berries’ taste, size, output and ease of being plucked. “I’m just a farmer and I was just taking the seeds from the best of the best, planting those and then seeing what kind of crops I could come up with,” he said. Janice Chumley, a cooperative extension service IPM research technician for the University of Alaska Fairbanks, said she has worked with Olson over the years as he grew his berry farm, and she said Olson has put a lot of effort into his haskap plants. “I think that the breeding that he’s done — it’s a good deal,” Chumley said. “They’re lovely looking plants, they produce well, they’re winter hardy — what’s not to like?” She also said they have innate defenses to pests, which is why Olson has not had to use pesticides on the haskap plants. Currently Olson is working on a trademark for his new strains, and when he completes the paperwork in 2014 he said he will probably continue releasing new varieties every couple of years. “If I live long enough there might be 10 varieties that are named, patented, trademarked that’ll be sold just like when you see plants for sale at nurseries,” he said. As a farmer, he said this discovery will shape the rest of his life. He said it is his masterpiece. “I’m never going to be finished,” he said. “I’m going to continue researching these plants until the day I die.”

High prices and reality TV start another Nome gold rush

NOME — For what seems like the 40th day in a row, wind-blown rain pelts the streets and buildings of Nome while large surf pounds beaches that normally see only modest waves. On a calmer day, an army of floating contraptions would be scattered across the swath of sea fronting Nome. Tethered to each craft, divers would normally be plying the ocean floor for gold. On this blustery Saturday in mid-August, however, the divers are all on land and the hodge-podge flotilla of vessels are nearly stacked on top of each other in Nome’s harbor as they wait out the storm. Several weeks of rainy and windy weather has foiled many camping trips and outdoor projects on Alaska’s Seward Peninsula. Perhaps none are as frustrated, however, as the large contingent of men in Nome who are counting on calm waters so they can seek their paychecks from the seabed. This summer has drawn to Nome an unusually large number of miners who operate ocean-going dredges of varying shapes, sizes and seaworthiness. The vessels range from small platforms just big enough to hold a dredge pump to crafts that look like houseboats. Some are pleasure boats repurposed for mining while many others appear to owe their existence to a trip to the scrapyard. But they all have one thing in common: they are designed to allow a diver to essentially vacuum gold off the floor of the Bering Sea. The new arrivals to Nome have invested heavily to get themselves and their dredges here to take a stab at striking it rich. Every day of bad weather is a missed chance to recoup those expenses—building a dredge is measured in the tens of thousands of dollars—not to mention making any sort of profit. A mass of miners The number of dredges working off of Nome’s beaches has steadily increased over the past few years as gold prices took a steep climb and have remained well above the $1,000-per-ounce mark amid worldwide financial turmoil. As of Aug. 18, Nome Harbormaster Joy Baker reported a total of 81 ocean-going dredges in the City of Nome’s port. But gold prices alone did not spur the modern-day rush Nome has seen this year. The deluge of dredgers in 2012 can be traced to one of the best current mediums of advertising — reality television. Whether they have prospected for years or had only previously searched for gold in a jewelry store, nearly every newly arrived miner cites the Discovery Channel program Bering Sea Gold as the spark that set them on a course for Nome. The reality series chronicling the exploits of dredge operations in Nome began airing in January to an audience of more than 3.5 million viewers. Almost immediately the calls and e-mails asking how to get in on the rush began pouring into the city and visitor’s bureau offices. The program’s winter airing gave the newest crop of gold-seekers time to plot a new adventure in the north. It also gave the City of Nome and other entities the opportunity to gird themselves for the influx. “We prepared heavily for the miners’ arrival,” said Nome’s City Manager Josie Bahnke. Working with state and federal agencies, the city developed plans to try and avoid conflicts at the port, minimize impacts on city services, and provide miners with information on everything from permits and regulations to the location of grocery stores and accommodations. Perhaps one of the largest factors in easing the impacts of a crush of new arrivals — many of whom stepped off the jet with not much more than a tent and a sense of adventure — was the creation of a camp on the outskirts of town. Nome Gold Alaska Corp. developed the campsite on its land just to the west of Nome, providing sanitation and trash services. The camp echoes Nome’s beginnings when at the turn of the last century a flood of gold-seekers descended on the Bering Sea beaches, erected a tent city and chased fortune. “The camp has worked out well,” Bahnke said. The organized site has served a vital need. Even if many of the miners had wanted to rent a house or apartment, lodging has been squeezed tight in Nome for months. Nome has been bustling with construction activity on a new hospital, an elder-care facility, and road and airport work, all of which putting accommodations at a premium, if they are available at all. Living the dream...in a tent One of the inhabitants of this latest version of Nome’s tent city is 24-year-old Dale Wyant. After seeing Bering Sea Gold he decided to give Nome a try for himself. “I sold my house and spent all my money,” he said. The proceeds from selling the house went into a dredge and travel to Nome. Still dressed in his blue work coveralls, Wyant chatted about his adventure as he and dozens of fellow miners — newcomers and veterans, alike — were enjoying the dry confines of Nome’s Old St. Joe’s Hall Aug. 18. Gold-buyer General Refining Corp. was hosting an appreciation dinner for a packed house. Like many of the miners new to town this year, Wyant came with some skills already in his pocket. “I’ve always had a gold dredge,” he said. Even though his previous dredging experience was land-based, Wyant’s transition to the Bering Sea has gone well. He arrived in Nome on July 1 a few weeks ahead of his dredge and equipment. In that downtime, he worked on a fellow miner’s dredge and learned how to dive. Others who have come to Nome this year have extensive diving backgrounds. Ted Danger — yes, that is his real name — hails from San Francisco but has spent years diving for lucrative sea cucumbers off Kodiak Island. While the sea cucumbers may be more of a sure bet for income, Danger said he couldn’t resist the lure of gold. “There’s more potential here,” he said. He said he and his partner, Zack Hammond, have had a good season so far with the dredge Mrs. Rumpelstiltskin. Not all who have plied the waters this summer have hit paydirt. As the summer draws down, postings have appeared on message boards around Nome listing dredges and equipment for sale as some pack up and head for home. Others are pressing on, however, still hoping to see that first payday. Such is the case for Mark Wideman, who voyaged with his 19-year-old son from the surf and sun of Kauai, Hawaii, to the less-than-tropical beaches of Nome. With signs of fall starting to creep into view, Wideman has yet to get a full day of dredging in this season. “I can’t claim anything (gold) yet, but that’s OK. It will happen when it happens,” he said. “We just need more nozzle-time now.” Wideman’s roadblocks have mostly been mechanical in nature. Dredge construction took much longer than anticipated and his first days out on the water were mostly spent tweaking systems and parts to get it to work properly. Despite all this, he has maintained a hang-loose attitude so far. “I’m here for the experience. I need adventure,” he said. “I didn’t come here to stress.” Nome bustles...for better and worse The influx of so many new people in town has not come without pressure on the city’s infrastructure and services. Nowhere is this more evident than at the Port of Nome. It’s approaching 4 p.m. on a Saturday afternoon and Harbormaster Baker is still trying to get out of the office for the weekend. It likely won’t be long before she’s back at her desk. “It’s been crowded at the harbor,” she said, offering what may be the understatement of the summer. When the weather whips up the waves, as it was this Saturday afternoon, the port becomes a very popular place with dredges, fishing boats and other vessels retreating to the harbor for safety. More than half of the 150 vessels at the port are dredges. “When the weather is decent and more than half the dredges are out working, it’s not bad,” Baker said. But decent weather has been scarce the past few weeks, meaning there is little to no room at the inn. Many dredges are stacked tightly next to each other at anchor, and some have been moving farther and farther up the port-adjacent Snake River to find a spot to park. Baker said there are designs already in place for expanding the port, but like with all big projects it’s a question of resources. “It’s all about funding,” she said. The main impacts Baker has seen at the port this year are not necessarily specific to miners, but are those that come with having more traffic and use in general. “Anytime you get a whole bunch of vessels in a small facility, there are the dribbles and the spills,” she said. “That has increased this year, and we’re trying to keep a handle on it.” In addition to the port, City Manager Bahnke said the uptick in population this summer in Nome has made itself felt in other departments. “At the beginning of the season, cabs were dropping people off at City Hall because they just didn’t know where to go or how to get permits,” she said. In addition to playing the role of welcoming committee, Bahnke said the boom has resulted in more patrons at the museum and library, and a small bump in search and rescue activity. “The building inspector has seen a lot of impact,” she said. “That may seem funny, but there have been questions over whether people are squatting in town or questions over tents on the beach.” Bahnke is quick to point out that the influx of people, and the resulting impacts, are not all due to miners. In addition to the prospectors, a large contingent of construction works have also been in Nome for a wide range of building and repair projects. Nome Police Chief John Papasodora echoed the same sentiments, noting upticks in calls and certain offenses like DUIs this summer. He said the increased activity for his department can be seen as a result of more people in general, regardless of what they came to Nome to do. “We are not seeing specialized activity for mining,” Papasodora said, crediting Baker’s work at the port and the state Department of Natural Resources hiring a Nome citizen to act as a local agent. On the upside for the city, Bahnke said she is anticipating strong numbers when the sales tax revenues from June and July are reported in the coming weeks. She noted that, in general, having more activity in Nome is a positive. “There has been a lot of increased interest from around the state and world about Nome, and that’s a good thing,” she said. Nome Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Barb Nickels agrees. She noted that much of the apprehension experienced in Nome prior to the mining season has been for naught. “Despite the fear that everyone had, it’s been a very nice summer of meeting people from all over through the visitor center and the chamber—people who have spent their money in town,” she said. Nickels said that businesses selling hardware and the safety gear required for the vessels appear to have benefitted along with those catering to the general needs like food and supplies. “The city’s tax coffers are growing. Many local merchants are doing well,” she said. Those merchants are likely taking stock of what sold well this year just as the city and port are examining what may need to be tweaked to make for a smooth season next year. From all indications, a large number of the new miners will return as veterans next year with a whole new crop of gold-seekers in tow. “With the amount I have invested, I need to come back next year,” said the eager, first-season miner Wyant. “But I will not be living in a tent; I will tell you that.”

After origins in pipeline days, AVTEC goes gourmet

SEWARD — Not all classrooms use books. Some have knives and heat. That’s everyday life at the culinary program at AVTEC, Alaska’s Institute of Technology, and is what encouraged 18-year-old Jenna Mahoney of Homer to enroll. Mahoney learned about the program while at a state technical competition, and it happened to fit her interests. She said she might like to start her own catering business someday and professional training was important now, especially when that training can be learned through her scholarship. AVTEC culinary students spend about a year or more going through the entire range of food preparation. They must learn the basic skills from how to use a knife to nutrition, purchasing, and eventually learning gourmet preparations. The program is made up of two elements: the culinary and the baking programs. This gives the option of two directions for advanced certification. AVTEC uses trained and experienced chefs for its instructors. Two new instructors have just joined the program. Chip Dunlap will take over the advanced classes and Jamie Hall will take over the introductory courses. The baking and pastry operations are taught by the department head, Elizabeth Johnston. Students can go either direction, which each take eleven months. However, students who tack on baking and pastries to the end of a culinary program can earn that advanced pastry arts certificate in six weeks. The halfway mark is the point at which the students decide if they want to pursue culinary arts or advanced pastries. At the end, the students run their own restaurant on the AVTEC campus that’s open to the public for eight weeks. They do it all, from creating the menu to pricing to service and reservations. “It’s kind of showing off what they’ve learned,” Johnston said. Students who enter the program live in Seward for almost a year or longer while earning their advanced certificates. Johnston said this program is actually one of the shorter ones in terms of the culinary arts. Many associate’s degrees in cooking can take two years. Johnston said the institute has an agreement with the University of Alaska Anchorage, which also has a culinary arts program. She said AVTEC students can register at UAA with highly discounted rates and can apply their credits to avoid having to repeat classes. “They can get their associates in one year instead of two by going through us first,” she said. The program has two starts a year with an average of 17 students at each start. Johnston said it’s normal to lose a quarter of these by the program’s end. Like an educational program, most students are concerned with what happens after completion. Johnston said they go to work in a number of places, many of which are in-state. Some students are currently in Wasilla restaurants. Others work in kitchens on the North Slope or in the ferry system. Johnston said one graduate even worked aboard a research vessel in Antarctica. The cooking program was one of AVTEC’s earliest programs, but it started off very differently. Cooks were trained there for jobs on the pipeline and Johnston described it as “scrambled eggs 101.” In the early 1990s, people started looking for skilled chefs rather than standard cafeteria fare and so the program got a lot more gourmet to meet this demand. This included American Culinary Federation certification to compete with top cooking schools. Now students learn everything, such as advanced buffet foods, fruit-carving, sausage-making, cheese-making, hors d’oeuvres and other fancy delicacies. The pastry side consists of basic breads and muffins to sugar-blowing and chocolate-tempering. The site itself has just gotten some renovations. The bakery was gutted and new equipment was brought in. This meant new deck ovens with steam injectors and specialized for hearth breads. “They’re really in the new century of equipment,” Johnston said. The students are making good use of this equipment. Tuzday Witt of Fairbanks has always had a passion for food. The 24-year-old said she’s always loved cooking but was never able to make certain dishes at home. She will finish the culinary program and plans to continue straight into the baking part. “I want my food to taste better than at restaurants,” she said. People of all ages and career stages travel to Seward for the culinary program. AJ Barkis recently turned 68 and thought this would be a new challenge for him. Barkis spent 20 years in the Navy and then practiced law in Washington for many years. Barkis said professional cooking was always on his bucket list. He even looked into cooking during his Navy years. He said that after comparing culinary programs in Washington and Oregon, this was the one with the most “bang for the buck.” “Now I’m doing what I love,” he said. Barkis has taken notice of many eateries around the state. Now that he’s retired from law, he’s considering joining in this business somehow with anything from a small shop to a cart or kiosk.

Akiak gets $4M power upgrade from rural energy program

Every remote Alaskan community knows reliable power is vital. The tiny city of Akiak knows what it’s like to experience a power failure, but a gift from the Alaska Energy Authority may help ensure it won’t have to again. Akiak is a city of about 350 people in the Bethel Census Area. It is a predominantly Alaska Native community with a strong Yup’ik population that relies on subsistence and fishing. According to the 2010 Census, there are 90 occupied housing units in the community. AEA has just sent four new power generators to Akiak. Each one can produce 210 kilowatts at a time and can run parallel to help ensure reliability. AEA Program Manager Kris Noonan said the community requires around 200 kW during the winter peak so the system can meet regular usage and any unexpected peaks or single generator problems. A single generator can tackle the regular needs and a second will automatically go online during spikes. Having four means a backup for each. A 44-foot long, 88,000-pound module houses the engines. This module is made from noncombustible steel construction and contains a fire suppression system. Noonan said the total project cost a little more than $4 million in a combination of Denali Commission and state funding. The module represents about half the cost with more of the funds going to fuel lines and a heat recovery system. AEA is working on a completely new electrical distribution system as part of the project. Akiak’s upgrade is part of AEA’s Rural Power System Upgrade program that began in 2000. Noonan said they’re about halfway through their list of rural communities with power needs. Noonan said Akiak has had numerous outages and that the current equipment is very old and worn out. “Akiak needed help keeping the power on, especially in winter,” he said. Ivan M. Ivan, Akiak’s city administrator and tribal chief said the new generators are just what the city needs. He said the last upgrade was a heat exchange system in 1990 and the power plant that has supplied the city’s energy is not a stable source. Ivan remembered the struggles during a blackout lasting nearly two days last February and said trips to the nearby city of Kwethluk were required. Ivan said that the city wasn’t prepared to handle the older systems when they were installed, and the system itself was old and inefficient. Ivan said Akiak has doubled its use of heating fuel in the last three years, sometimes going through 500 gallons of fuel in four days. Diesel prices can run more than $6 per gallon around there, although Ivan said the vendor helps the city out with customer rates. “Every revenue we had went to the purchase of fuel,” Ivan said. Ivan said the bottom line is that the new generators will save fuel costs. Brian Gray of Alaska Energy and Engineering designed the system. He said engine selection is the most important thing to find engines with the right fuel efficiency. Gray said the marine configuration for these engines produces twice the amount of usable heat by capturing exhaust. He said it will offset 18,00 gallons of heating fuel per year. The system is comes complete with an automated day and night cycle. The generators can be monitored remotely from Anchorage. This allows AEA to run diagnostics before sending out technicians in case of a problem. “This is so modern I cant believe it,” Ivan said “It’s like being in the movies.” Akiak will be responsible for the system’s upkeep through its own operators. AEA worked with the city to put a business plan together. AEA showed off the module during an open house in Anchorage on June 13 before it was shipped to Akiak. Ivan expressed his appreciation to the state legislature and AEA for recognizing the city’s need.

Alaska delegation cheers decision to hold off F-16 move

The U.S. Air Force is holding its proposed action to transfer the F-16 squadron from Eielson Air Force base in Fairbanks to Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Anchorage. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta has directed that the Air Force not take action until Congress has completed action on the fiscal year 2013 authorization and appropriations bills. This was especially good news for Sen. Mark Begich, who is on the Armed Services Committee and has been leading the charge against the move. Begich has stated that the Air Force has not been transparent about how the move would save costs. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz sent Begich a letter today that confirms the decision. In the letter, Schwartz states that the Secretary recognized that the House-passed and Senate Armed Services Committee-reported versions of the FY 2013 National Defense Authorization Act would reject or defer the squadron transfer. In compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act, a housing study will be completed before a final decision is made about the proposed transfer. Begich has said that Anchorage’s capacity to house the personnel is a real issue. Begich has led numerous efforts to halt the transfer, including introducing legislation with Sen. Lisa Murkowski to bar the transfer, authoring legislation to put a one-year moratorium on the move and holding up the promotion of a three-star general. Begich said he will now release the hold for Lt. Gen. Herbert “Hawk” Carlisle. “This is some of the best news I’ve had the chance to deliver to Alaskans: that the Air Force has recognized its proposal to move the 18th Aggressor Squadron was not well-vetted and analyzed, and that there is certainly no support in Congress for such action,” Begich said in a release. “Eielson plays a vital role in the nation’s defense and I’m committed to defending that role.” Begcih said downsizing Eielson will adversely affect the Pacific rim presence as part of the military’s global strategy. “I believe Air Force officials have recognized they have not completed their homework for such a major move,” Begich said. “And they have hit continual roadblocks in Congress as multiple communities have faced this type of restructuring. I continue to believe moving the F-16s from Eielson is a misguided idea, and I’m thrilled the Air Force is backing off this bad idea until we pass defense bills.” Murkowski and Congressman Don Young have also criticized the proposed move and worked on legislation to fight it. “Along with many Alaskans, I am pleased to learn that the Pentagon is delaying the decision to move the F-16 Aggressors from Eielson Air Force Base to J-BER. But while today’s announcement provides us with breathing room, we need to use this time and opportunity to make today’s victory a permanent one for Alaska and the nation’s defense,” Murkowski said in a release. Murkowski said the move wouldn’t have saved the money the Air Force claimed. She also questioned the move’s compatibility with the military’s focus on the Asia-Pacific region. “I think today’s news is vindicating in that we’ve all been heard. The Pentagon knows there are flaws in its reasoning. They see that they need to listen to Congress on this. And they see the wisdom and resolve of Alaska’s military community statewide,” she said. In May, Young passed a bipartisan amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013 that would ensure further cost and benefit clarity for such military moves. “I welcome today’s announcement by the Air Force and I am pleased they have decided to suspend their plans to move Eielson’s 18th Aggressor Squadron. As I have long maintained, the Air Force had a responsibility to present all the facts and prove to Alaskans that moving these F-16s was the right thing to do both for the nation and for Alaska,” Young said in a release. “As every Alaskan knows, the military and Alaska have a strong and mutually beneficial relationship. Moving forward, I intend on continuing to work with the Air Force, the rest of the Delegation, the Governor, and local officials to come up with a long-term energy plan for Fairbanks and the surrounding region. Eielson Air Force Base is too important to our national defense for us to continue to neglect the high cost of energy – especially when it seems to be the driving force behind these proposed force moves,” he said.

Native organizations lifting Interior economies

Native organizations are giving the Interior major lift, according to a new study conducted by Doyon Ltd., Tanana Chiefs Conference, Fairbanks Native Association and the Interior Regional Housing Authority. An economic impact report reveals that Interior Native organizations are a significant contributor for the region, accounting for nearly half a billion dollars in economic impact and the fifth-highest employment. About 70 Native organizations were surveyed, including 42 tribal governments, 25 village corporations and some regional nonprofits. Of those, 26 are for-profit organizations and the rest nonprofits. Using 2010 data, the survey found that Interior Native organizations spent $178 million in the region with 46 percent of that on goods and services from Alaskan businesses. Indirect spending brought the total economic impact to $307 million. Dividends from villages and regional corporations to shareholders added $3.7 million to regional household incomes. These organizations paid $3.8 million in property taxes to the Fairbanks North Star Borough general fund and $5.5 million in local property taxes. Employment was a large factor. Native organizations provided 2,725 direct jobs in the Interior, making them the fifth-largest employers in the region following the military, federal government, the University of Alaska and the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District. Of those jobs, 1,238 were in Fairbanks and 1,487 in Interior villages. An additional 848 indirect jobs resulted from Native organization spending. Together this accounted for more than 7 percent of civilian wages in the region. These jobs paid $101 million in wages and benefits to direct employees. Indirect payrolls added another $46 million. Statewide, these organizations employed 3,704 and paid $145 million in direct wages and benefits. Doyon President and CEO Aaron Schutt said about 40 percent of those surveyed returned data, which is enough to model the overall impact of the Interior. This includes 10 to 12 village corporations and perhaps up to 20 of the tribal governments. The participating Native organizations cover a broad range of businesses. Doyon is a for-profit Alaska Native regional corporation with an umbrella that covers government contracting, oil field services, tourism, natural resource management and construction. The Interior Regional Housing Authority works in low-income housing development with around 31 tribes. “It was certainly a good sample enough to do some modeling of the overall impacts,” he said. Schutt was pleased with the report. He said it shows Native organizations’ sizable impact and commitment to the Interior and state. He said it also indicates that these organizations are growing. He said the impact is especially strong in Fairbanks and that as the region has struggled with downsizing and high energy costs, the Native organizations are a source of good news and strength in the community. Irene Catalone, CEO for the Interior Regional Housing Authority, agrees. She said that Native organizations provide a strong backbone for the Interior. One part of the study that particularly stuck out to her was that the Native organizations’ current employment numbers for the Interior matched those from the entire state several years ago. She said this shows their strong employment role, especially because these companies hire all Alaskans and not just Natives. “I think that’s remarkable,” she said. The report indicated a few notable points to Schutt as well. One such factor is the $3.5 million in statewide charitable contributions from Native organizations. $2.5 million of that was in Fairbanks. He said this is a significant amount when considering that the majority of the organizations are nonprofit. In comparison, he said companies like BP and ConocoPhillips annually give between $5 million and $7 million. “That’s jut a glimpse of how we support education, social programs, other charitable giving, particularly here in the Interior,” he said. Schutt said something that wasn’t in the report is that multiplier effects from direct spending that turns into indirect spending for the total economic impact is quite a bit less than major municipalities around the country. Fairbanks has a smaller multiplier than Anchorage and rural communities have almost none. Schutt said this is a policy point where data on more dollars staying in the communities can be helpful. Schutt said this is the third such study to be done, however, comparing these results to the previous surveys’ is not exactly “apples to apples” because data from larger business presences like Arctic Slope Regional Corp., Chugach Alaska Corp. and Bristol Bay Native Corp. was gathered but not included in the report as in previous years. “We asked them for that data. And we got a lot of responses this time and that time. The difference is what we’re reporting,” he said. He said that although the data doesn’t offer a good basis for comparison, logic dictates that because Interior-based organizations are growing, their economic impact should be growing proportionately. The reason behind the study is to give the Native corporations an idea of what they are doing for the Interior and the state. Schutt said most only have data on their own specific companies but not about the others. The data is used to help local legislators and chambers of commerce make decisions, as well as internal and shareholder use. He said legislators have previously cited the data. “It’s a very useful tool for us,” he said He gave an example of how legislators used Native corporation information when going to bat for them on the Frontier basins oil and gas tax credits. “We want the general public to know the information. We certainly want influential policymakers to know the information,” he said.

Skagway post office short on workers, long on mail

JUNEAU (AP) — With four authorized post office positions, but only one filled, the historic community of Skagway is facing a backlog in its mail delivery. The population swells every summer with tourists and temporary workers in the town that was the gateway for the Klondike Gold Rush, but the U.S. Postal Service continues to have problems finding people who want to move the mail. "Last week we began sending a couple of employees from Juneau to Skagway to help out with the workload there and we'll continue to do that until we can get some permanent replacements," spokesman Ernie Swanson told the Juneau Empire, City Manager Tom Smith on Saturday went to pick up his mail and spotted 20 people in line to pick up packages. "It was a fairly significant wait," he said. U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski also visited and wrote a letter to Postmaster General Michael Donohue with her observations. "Skagway has no pharmacy, so all medications are shipped to the community through the mail," she wrote. Medications have not been delivered in a timely manner, she said. Customers told her mail had stayed in the building for as long as three weeks and it can take 20 days to get priority mail. The USPS first tried to fill Skagway vacancies in-house. "We have been unable to find employees inside the postal service that are interested in going to work there, so we have been advertising on the outside," Swanson said. That too has proved to be a challenge. Skagway a year ago had the lowest unemployment rate in Alaska, with only two dozen unemployed residents of a workforce of 861. "We're having problems getting qualified, interested parties to either apply or take the test," Swanson said. Murkowski on Tuesday set up an email address to hear from Skagway residents about their post office concerns. Swanson said the post office will keep sending Juneau staff to help out. "It may take a bit of time," he said.

New program brings Fairbanks students and unions together

Fairbanks students have a new way to get into the workforce. The school district has teamed up with the University of Alaska Fairbanks Community and Technical College to bring secondary students Partnerships to Pathways, a state-funded program that ensures collaboration and training for these students to further education in postsecondary classes or get started in work or apprenticeships immediately after high school. These partnerships with the district expand to various workforce entities and labor unions to get students involved in work early. Karen Gaborik, assistant superintendant for secondary schools, said this has been a good opportunity for the community and has brought the district into looking at postsecondary options for students while getting counselors and principals involved. “Everyone has the broader picture,” she said. She said the best partnership has been with UAF CTC and the school district. A big part of this effort is developing mutual advisory committees between the technical college and district to give a “K-16 perspective.” Another focus is to develop process technology and health occupation pathways that start in high school. The Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development put in $43,400 to fund the program. The idea is to develop partnerships between the state, schools and labor organizations to get students ready for work. The program also helps ensure that high school guidance counselors understand the program and can better advise students about the Career Technical Education program, or CTE. Peggy Carlson, executive director for the curriculum and instruction for the school district, said the program has been a great success so far. She said the community understands the importance of getting students into a working environment and many have helped out. The CTE program began after workforce development studies indicated the state cannot meet its workforce demands, particularly in trades areas. The state determined that better methods of preparing students for work were needed. This led to recognition for cooperative needs between the Labor and Education departments. This led to Alaska Career and Technical Education Plan, or CTE, of which Pathways to Partnerships is a part. CTE also builds from the “Alaska Gasline Inducement Act Training Strategic Plan” by the Alaska Workforce Development Board in 2008 and the “Alaska Education Plan” adopted by the Board of Education and Early Development in 2009. The CTE plan addresses the individual students’ needs for career preparedness with certain goals in mind. Carlson said four labor organizations have joined the program, those of electrical, plumbers, operating engineers and carpenters. Each union has a goal of two students per year and one of those categories is way ahead. Students Michael Reynolds of Ben Eielson High School and Ryan Graham Taylor of Lathrop High School have even been accepted into apprenticeships for the Alaska Joint Electrical Apprenticeship and Training Trust. “This is an amazing program. It gives students like myself an opportunity that would otherwise never be available. I’m excited and thankful to be accepted into this program,” Reynolds said in a release. “I didn’t know this is what I wanted to do until this year,” said Graham Taylor. “I met a guy at my mom’s work and he had been in the IBEW for over 40 years and talked about his excellent retirement and career, and this got me looking at unions. I’m thankful for the opportunity. I don’t have to look for a job now! I don’t know what to say, I’m happy, very happy! Basketball was the only reason I was going to go to college, and I’m happy about this.” Gaborik said students must fulfill a list of requirement for apprenticeship eligibility, such as a high grade point average, teacher references and completing certain courses like algebra. She said the result is a big advantage t the students because it gives them a leg up in these competitive apprenticeships that adults are also seeking. The second CTE goal of strengthening the curriculum is moving along the public comments for the drafts are being reviewed with an adoption expected this month. The drafts include new courses and study programs for health science. CTE also seeks to disseminate programs and options to staff and students. Administrators recently met and counselors were given instruction in the plan to aid this effort. The biggest barrier to the project during the last quarter was determined to be the short time frame in which the school district had to get approval for supplies and material purchases. The district is continuing to work with the Alaska Workforce Investment Board for approvals. All grant funds are expected to be expended if approval is given. A letter from UAF CTC Interim Dean Michele Stalder dated April 9 states that $5,277 has been used for two faculty members for participating on the program advisory committee and assisting with development and site visits. Another $24,128 went to CTC career advisors and a financial aid coordinator. The year-to-date match/cost-share is $32,202. Gaborik said there’s room for advancements as the programs continue. The district would like to expand apprenticeships as well as outreaches to students and parents. She said they would also like to strengthen partnerships with the Fairbanks Pipeline Training Center and Alaska Works Partnership.

Alaskan Brewing wins big at 'Olympics of Beer'

What’s better than frosty cold beer? Award-winning frosty cold beer. With three new World Beer Cup medals to hang around its neck, Juneau’s very own Alaskan Brewing Co. is the place for award-winning beer. With nearly 4,000 beers judged from 54 different countries in 95 categories, the 2012 World Beer Cup, its organizers said, was world’s largest commercial beer competition to date. This marked the ninth meeting of the bi-annual event. “It’s called ‘The Olympics of Beer Competition’ for good reason,” Brewer’s Association President Charlie Papazian stated in a press release. “A brewer who wins a World Beer Cup gold knows that their winning beer represents the best of that beer style in the world.” Alaskan Brewing’s Alaskan Amber Ale won a silver medal in the Irish Red Ale category. Alaskan Stout won bronze in the oatmeal stout category and the Alaskan India Pale Ale took third in the American-style Strong Pale Ale category. “It’s an honor to win at the World Beer Cup, in the presence of so many great brewers from around the world,” Curtis Holmes, plant manager of Alaskan Brewing stated in a release. “To represent Alaska and come home with three medals was just amazing, especially given the number of entries in the competition this year.” The awards were announced at the Craft Brewers Conference in San Diego, Calif. on May 5. Judges from 27 countries, comprised of professional brewers and industry experts, determined winners by blind taste evaluations. “The judging criteria are exacting,” according to a Brewers Association press release. Second or third place in some categories may not be awarded, “if the panel decides that the entries do not merit recognition.” Alaskan Brewing won a bronze in the barely wine category in 2008 and 2010. The brewery’s Alaskan Summer Ale brought home gold in 2008 out of 39 entries in the golden or blonde ale category. Alaskan received another top honor in 2010 with its 1998 Alaskan Smoked Porter in the aged beer category. Alaskan Brewing started with its award-winning Alaskan Amber Ale in 1986. It has since added Pale, White, IPA, Stout, Smoked Porter, Winter Ale, Summer Ale and a variety of limited edition beers in the Alaskan Pilot Series. The Alaskan Birch Bock is the brewery’s current Pilot Series beer — a Doppelbock-style ale brewed with Alaska birch syrup. Alaskan Brewing competed against breweries from Canada, Mexico, Germany and Singapore to name a few. Nearly 4,000 beers from 54 countries were judged in the competition. Haiti entered one beer, an award winner.  

Alaska man plans year on uninhabited island

ANCHORAGE (AP) — Charles Baird is going off the grid for a year. The 40-year-old oil company employee and filmmaker from Anchorage will move to the mostly uninhabited Latouche Island in Alaska's Prince William Sound at the end of May, completing a dream he's been contemplating for 17 years. Baird will build a 12x12 shed to shelter him from the elements, and he plans to hunt and fish and fend off an occasional black bear during his sojourn to the Alaska wilderness. He'll be incommunicado, only allowing himself to send short messages out via a satellite uplink and no way to receive any in. He won't even know who won the November presidential election for six months. He calls his experiment more modern-day homesteading than a survival game, but he's heading into the adventure well-armed. "I may see some hunters and fishermen come by but otherwise I will be on my own, just me and my dog," he said. Latouche Island is a narrow strip of land (12 miles long, 3 miles wide) located about 100 miles southwest of the port city of Valdez. Like many islands in Prince William Sound, people digging into the beach there can still find oil from the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill. The now abandoned Latouche city site once was home to 4,000 people, thanks to copper mining. The mine closed in 1930, and now the island is dotted with occasional seasonal cabins and not much else. The island is mostly used for subsistence hunting. Kate and Andy McLaughlin live in Chenega Bay, a village six miles away on Evans Island, and own a cabin on Latouche. Kate McLaughlin doesn't know Baird, but has heard his story many times. In fact, she's written a book about people coming to Alaska to live the remote lifestyle and is in the process of trying to find a publisher. "We've seen several people of his ilk try to come out and say, 'We're going to build a cabin, we're going to live out here and do it,'" she said. "It's tough." Some abandoned supplies from those people making earlier attempts can still be found strewn on the beach. The challenges of Latouche Island are numerous, and foremost is the weather. "You're fighting the cold or the mold," McLaughlin said of the seemingly constant precipitation, snow and rain. Baird said the island has anywhere from 80-120 inches of snow in a typical winter, along with 70 inches of rain a year. The McLaughlins' two-story cabin on the beach had snow up to the roof this winter. "It's wet, things don't dry out," said Dave Janka, who owns Auklet Charter Services in Cordova. "You get lots of snow." Much like Cordova, he called Latouche Island "paradise with rain." "Heavy weather is going to be a constant companion," said RJ Kopchak, a Cordova businessman and former commercial fisherman. "That's what happens there." Another problem? Black bears. There's a large bear population on the island, and McLaughlin says they "love to get into trouble." Baird said he'll be safe from the bears. He'll carry a .44 with him at all times, has a shotgun "and a few other weapons, as well." The dog will also alert him to any predators. There are building restrictions on the uninhabited island, Baird said, so he will have to construct his makeshift cabin without digging into the ground for a foundation. He plans to have lumber delivered to build his cabin, which will be located about a third of a mile from the beach, about 150 feet up a hill. He'll have plentiful fishing opportunities. "The nice thing about the ocean is twice a day you've got a dinner table set out for you," Janka said. The challenges don't faze Baird, who is ex-military, except perhaps for one. "Probably the biggest challenge is the isolation," he said, adding it was an issue for some of his classmates in an Air Force Academy survival training course. Some "did experience hallucinations and even group delusions, just minor things. But it is kind of a concern, being alone that long," he said. He said he's worked with psychologists at Harvard and the University of Chicago, talking through the things he can expect, like nightmares. "I think I'll be OK, I've done a lot of work on my own, and I'll also have a dog, which probably will help keep things stabilized," he said. He also plans to keep busy by reading, taking a couple thousand books on an electronic reader. He'll keep it charged with wind and solar systems he's taking with him. Baird is planning to keep a diary, which could be turned into a book. He's also thinking of writing an instructional book of how to live in the remote wilderness. Then there's also the filming, day in and day out, of his experiences alone on the Alaska island. Once he returns to civilization, he'll edit the video and try to sell it as a documentary series. Baird is not the first to make or film such an odyssey. Dick Proenneke lived alone in a remote cabin and kept journals published as the classic Alaska memoir "One Man's Wilderness." He moved to his cabin in 1968 at the age of 52. Proenneke lived alone until 1998 in what is now Lake Clark National Park and Preserve. He also filmed his adventures, which have been turned into DVDs and were aired on PBS. He died in 2003.  

Pa. man motorcycling to Alaska for child illness

  SCHWENKSVILLE, Pa. (AP) — Though the trip won't be easy, Ted Danforth hopes his 12,000-mile, solo motorcycle ride to Alaska will make life a little easier for the 300,000 children in the U.S. diagnosed with juvenile arthritis. Danforth, who is no stranger to adventure, is hoping to raise $25,000 for arthritis research while getting the chance to travel the country and see the state of Alaska for the first time. While his family has been affected by arthritis ("I've been sworn to secrecy as to who it is," Danforth said in a recent interview), he said he is lucky no one he is related to has been afflicted with juvenile arthritis, commonly referred to as JA. Juvenile arthritis is a blanket term referring to different chronic autoimmune and inflammatory illnesses afflicting children age 16 or younger, according to the Arthritis Foundation, which is handling the donations for Danforth's ride. Children with JA experience pain and inflammation in their joints, intestinal tract, skin, and even their eyes could be affected, according to the Arthritis Foundation. There is currently no known cause for most types of juvenile arthritis. Some children may experience symptoms for a few years or the rest of their life. "I can't help think about what it would be like to be a parent and see your child go through this — each day bringing new challenges to all of those activities that we take for granted," said Danforth, a father of 25 years, in a press release. If there is one thing Danforth doesn't do is take life for granted. The former owner of Hidden River Outfitters operates HRO Adventures Inc. and previously kayaked the waters around Maine. He has also ridden on a motorcycle through Patagonia, but this upcoming ride, which will start on June 10, won't be a "rich man's trip," like that one, said Danforth. He's expecting the solo ride to take him 21 days or more and he plans to cover between 800 and 1,000 miles a day for the first few days on his BMW dual-sport 1200 cc motorcycle. "The first six or seven days, I'll just be trying to get there" (to Alaska), he said. If he's up to it, he'll even ride all the way back. He plans to camp for most of the trip but may take advantage of several offers he's received from other motorcycle riders, outdoorsmen and those who support his cause of raising money for arthritis research. The most interesting accommodations offer he has received so far has been from a brothel museum, which was active in the Gold Rush days. But he'll be camping "about half the time. The disadvantage to camping is you have to pack and unpack," which is time consuming and can be unpleasant if the weather turns ugly. The problems Danforth expects to face on his trip will likely present themselves along desolate stretches of highway in the northernmost state as he rides 500 miles on a dirt road to Prudhoe Bay, his final destination. He's done "everything I could do" to plan for contingencies such as mechanical problems with his bike and bad weather, even practicing changing the tires on his motorcycle. The tires will only last 6,000 to 8,000 miles, so Danforth knows he will have to change them at least once on his trip, which is why he made sure to ship an extra set north in preparation. "The roads are so rough it's not unusual to get a flat" in the north, he said. "It's not fun if it falls over," Danforth said of dealing with the 650-pound motorcycle, especially since he may not see anyone for days on his trip. "Though if there's a problem, it's not going to be the motorcycle, it's going to be the rider," he said jokingly. Or a possible lack of gas. Once he reaches Alaska, it could be more than 200 miles between gas stations. Luckily he accounted for that since his bike, when full, can travel 350 miles. But his biggest concern isn't anything to do with his own abilities or the travel. "My biggest concern is kind of silly, but my biggest concern is Grizzly bears. I do not like bears," he said. Confidence and spirit boosts should be plenty on his journey, despite the obstacles, as he carries the signatures of arthritis stricken children on his bike. Danforth recently visited Camp Victory, a camp for children with chronic health problems in Millville, Pa., which offers a special camp for kids suffering from Juvenile Arthritis. Around 125 children signed his bike as a symbol of those Danforth aims to help with his fundraising ride, and those signatures will remind him that despite the troubles he may find himself in on the road, "they will be small compared to those faced every day by the 50 million adults and 300,000 kids affected by arthritis."

More women are making — and enjoying — beer

A brew and a bro — it’s the classic pairing, right? Not necessarily. From the rise of female brew masters to the growth of women’s tasting groups, women are becoming much more than a pint-sized part of the brewing world. The emergence of women as both beer-lovers and brewers happened as the craft beer scene grew overall by leaps and bounds, and that’s no coincidence, says Lisa Morrison, Oregon-based writer, blogger and author of “Craft Beers of the Pacific Northwest.” “I think that women are finally discovering, thanks to craft beer, that beer has flavor,” she says. “When we start getting into the artisan stuff you start realizing that there’s an entire rainbow of flavors that you can enjoy. And because of that you can pair that with all kinds of different food flavors,” Morrison says. “Women love food. We love cooking. We love tasting food. We love sampling different things. So when you put all that together, the cooking with beer, the pairing food with beer, the whole wide-ranging genre of beer styles and beer flavors — it’s something that women can get really excited about.” The marketing message is also different, says Julia Herz, home brewer and craft beer program director at the Boulder, Colo.-based Brewers Association. “Historically, the mass-produced lagers have been marketed as a beverage targeting males in their mid to high 20s, and it seems to me in advertising that I see for craft beer that it’s really not marketed as a gender-specific beverage.” It’s hard to put a number on the trend, but Morrison and others say they’ve personally seen more women take an interest in beer. “It used to be at beer festivals, I was pretty much the only gal. Now it’s definitely venturing more toward 60-40” with women being the 40 percent, says Morrison, who has been involved in the craft beer scene for nearly 15 years. On the business side, beer management remains predominantly male, though there have been changes there, too, says Irene Firmat, founder and CEO of Full Sail Brewing Co. in Hood River, Ore. To support female brewers, a support network called the Pink Boots Society was formed. It includes a consumer tasting group organization, Barley’s Angels, that has chapters in the U.S., Canada, Australia and South America. Being a female beer producer means standing out, says Rosemarie Certo, cofounder and owner of Dock Street Brewing Co. in West Philadelphia. Certo’s interest in beer started when she began making beer at home because she wasn’t happy with what was available domestically at the time. She started Dock Street in 1985 and remembers in the early days going to make a sales pitch to a distributor and being the only woman in a room of more than 50. “I remember not being bothered by it,” she recalls. She sees the craft segment as generally having a different approach to business. “I think it’s easier for women to enter the craft industry only because the craft industry is different to begin with,” she says, pointing out that most people don’t go into the labor-intensive craft beer business with dreams of piling up a fortune. “It’s an industry that is born from a lot of love.” Firmat also started in beer about 25 years ago, a time when there were about 20 craft breweries nationwide compared to today’s 2,000. Back then, it was considered more outlandish to be challenging the big domestic producers than to be a woman in the beer business, she says. As far as operating in a man’s world, she says, “the thing that I always focused on, and it’s what I always tell women in our company, is really focus on being competent. Focus on being good and doing your job and don’t go in expecting to get a reaction.” And, of course, there’s always a silver lining. “You can always tell when you’re at a beer conference because there’s a line in the men’s room and there’s none in the women’s room,” she says with a laugh. One of the things that Firmat sees as a challenge is keeping craft beer accessible to women, which means guarding against the snobbery that can creep in when consumers become very enthusiastic about a product — think wine. “Our responsibility is making sure that the way we communicate is very respectful to men and women,” she says.

Mining initiative moves Alaska Forward

Alaska Forward has developed a strategy to enhance the state’s economic structure. These are called industry clusters, and a committee has just met in Anchorage to get its next one moving forward: that of the mining industry. Industry clusters are sets of firms linked together by services, common customers, geographic areas, shared reliance on labor markets and other commonalities. They complement each other while remaining in competition and draw productive advantages from their mutual proximity. The implementation committee just met in Anchorage to determine the path forward for its mining cluster, the latest one Alaska Forward is engaging. Within this are six action initiatives to be addressed. Mike Satre, executive director for the Council of Alaska Producers, said the difficulty in mining clustering is that mines are spread out, but the work in support of the mining industry, such as those by private companies and the university, help establish the cluster. “Mining being an important part of Alaska’s economy,” he said. A large action initiative was for a workforce development plan to meet the state’s need for a sufficient mining workforce. The need for training students and workers and then keeping them in the state was a key factor. Training was deemed to be essential to provide these jobs to residents. The committee presented how additional mining classes could provide $35 million per year in Alaska wages. Tactical issues for workforce development involve the construction of training plans and the need for instructors. One tactic would be a training center centrally located to mining activity and prospective employers. This would be a cost-effective way to make use of limited instructors. Specific task training and standard basic training to include preliminary federal programs would be needed. The initiative takes workforce needs estimates into account. Such estimates for both mining construction and operations phases include 4,200 for Pebble, 4,000 for Donlin Gold, 900 for Niblack, 850 for Bokan Mountain, 2,400 for International Tower Hill, up to 350 for Chuitna and up to 125 for Wishbone Hill. Funding remains the primary problem for workforce development training. Partnerships, such as those though the University of Alaska, will be needed to help overcome this. Other funding sources could include state and federal grants, contributions and even international support. Other obstacles include lack of coordinated training, public perceptions on mining, Mine Safety and Health Administration regulations, geographic challenges and lack of industry focus. In fact, public perception on mining is another cluster initiative. The purpose is to develop a statewide communication strategy to position mining as a leader in responsible resource development. The committee states that opposition to this stems from public misconceptions that mining must damage one resource to produce another. An action plan would involve developing positive message and media, strategies to leverage initial messaging as a base for a focus on environmentally responsible mining and forming a speaker’s bureau with presentations in different regions. A third initiative is to improve the communication in the mining network and create a collaborative environment for all tiers of industry, producers, explorers and independent mines. An action plan suggests using social media and a mining network. A fourth initiative is to create a single comprehensive place-based website to encourage investment and development. This is to combat numerous websites that are deemed to be incomplete for Alaska’s mining industry. This would compose of both public and private sector phases. The final two action initiatives for mining are potential infrastructure development plus research and development. The infrastructure’s objective is to encourage systematic and rational investments, both public and private, to deliver power and transportation to the mining industry. Better research is needed to help Alaska set a world-class example of mine engineering and expertise. This includes processes for ventilation, remediation and tailings. Research is also needed with a special emphasis on cold climate mining. “I think that’s really what were focusing on is connecting or promoting mining interests and also looking at partnerships with the university in terms of creating some broader base support for the industry,” Satre said. Now that the action initiatives are moving forward, Satre said the next step will be to look at the other industry clusters to examine any crosscutting measures and common ground. “Really from here on out, the chairs, the co-chairs of the cluster group will work with the initiative champions to actually start moving forward on these various things,” he said. Alaska Forward is part of the Alaska Partnership for Economic Development, whose goal is to engage the public and private sector with strategies to improve economic conditions across a variety of venues in the state. This is where clusters come in. Brian Holst, executive director for the Juneau Economic Development Council, is part of the implementation committee. He said the ultimate result is to strengthen these industries in Alaska and to be more productive, which will increase innovation, productivity, employment and wages. Holst said the clusters are a relatively new concept and only four have been engaged. Besides mining, this includes logistics, tourism and clean energy. These are many more clusters than this for Alaska’s industries. Alaska Forward has several partners, such as the Denali Commission, University of Alaska, the governor’s office and several private enterprises. It received $100,000 in the governor’s fiscal year 2011 capital budget.

Movers 04/15/12

Bruce Bustamante, vice president of community and public affairs for Holland America Princess Alaska, has taken the role as president of the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center board of directors. Bustamante has been an AWCC board member since 2006 as president of the Anchorage Convention and Visitors Bureau. AWCC has also added new members to its board of directors. Dennis Brandon, of Brandon Marketing Strategies; Charles Money, of Alaska Geographic; Carl Marrs, of Old Harbor Native Corp.; and Jason Graham have joined the board of directors in the last six months. Bustamante replaces Chris von Imhof, who has been the president of the board since the AWCC moved from a for profit organization to a nonprofit organization in 2004. Paul Davidson has joined Solstice Advertising as a web technician and Jackie Bartz has joined the company as a copywriter. Davidson has spent 15 years working in the communications industry and has a strong background in creative technology. He previously managed the creative production workflow for Leo Burnett/Capps Digital in Illinois and has developed digital collaboration systems for global agency networks. Davidson has a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Colorado. Bartz brings her creative writing and storytelling skills from the local broadcast arena. As a reporter for KTUU, she traveled all over the state covering a range of topics and issues important to Alaskans. Bartz holds a bachelor’s degree in broadcast journalism from the University of Montana.

Movers & Shakers 04/08/12

Frank Bickford, lobbyist with Alaska public affairs consulting firm Bickford Pacific Group, was retained by Verizon Wireless. Bickford Pacific Group represents 10 clients statewide that range from Walmart to Dell Computers, and has offices in both Anchorage and Juneau. Jaysen Katasse recently joined First National Bank Alaska in Juneau as a loan officer and was appointed assistant vice president. He’s also managing the bank’s Juneau branch on Front Street. Juneau-Douglas High graduate of Tlingit descent, Katasse brings more than 14 years of banking experience to First National and has worked with customers in Southeast Alaska and in Western Alaska. Veteran CNN Senior Producer Tracy Sabo was named news director of KTUU-TV’s Channel 2 News operation. Sabo, currently based in Dallas, has a 19-year career at CNN producing both domestic and international coverage, as well as holding the positions of national assignment editor and CNN radio anchor at the network’s Atlanta headquarters. Sabo also will oversee Channel 2’s online news distribution and mobile platforms. She has visited Alaska on assignment for CNN and on personal vacations. Sabo is a communications and political science graduate of the University of Tennessee with additional study at the University of California Los Angeles. She replaces Tom Lindner, who has been the interim news director since September 2011. Brent Kimball recently joined First National Bank Alaska as comptroller. Kimball has more than 25 years of banking experience and knowledge of bank operations, financial management and regulatory requirements. Kimball most recently worked as controller of Woodlands Commercial Bank in Salt Lake City. Ron Wille has been promoted to assistant general manager of Kenai Fjords Tours. Wille has been with the company for more than eight years and held the position of operations manager for Kenai Fjords Tours for the past seven years. He will continue his role in operations, as well as expand his involvement in all aspects of the business. After graduating from Oakland University in Rochester, Mich., with a bachelor’s degree in finance in 1993, he started working on Alaska waters. Scott Heaton was hired as a behavioral health clinician and as program manager for the Juneau Behavioral Health Clinic of the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium Behavioral Health Division. Heaton holds a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy from Prescott College in Prescott, Ariz. He also has a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Southern Utah University in Cedar City, Utah, and an associate’s degree from Dixie State College in St. George, Utah. Heaton previously worked in a youth correctional facility, and working with youth and their families in a variety of youth treatment programs. He was clinical director for three programs, and program director at his most recent position, with the Silverado Academy in Utah. He also has several years running his own counseling business, and served as director of human services for the Kaibab Band of Paiute Indians in Pipe Springs, Ariz. Heaton and his wife, Traci, also developed and authored the positive parenting Accountable Kids Program. Until he resigned in February, Heaton was serving as mayor of his hometown of Fredonia, Ariz.

Movers & Shakers 04/01/12

Andy Coon has been appointed vice president and general manager of consumer and small medium business sales for Alaska Communications. Prior to joining Alaska Communications in 2012, Coon served as region vice president of Xerox Alaska. Before that he spent 12 years in the telecommunications industry in several leadership roles in both Alaska Communications and GCI. Professional engineer Boyd Morgenthaler and co-founder of AMC Engineers retired March 30. AMC has expanded its management team by adding Ken Ratcliffe and David Shumway to the board of directors and appointing them both to vice president positions. Ratcliffe is a principal electrical engineer with 23 years of electrical engineering and project management experience. Ratcliffe is currently working on the State of Alaska Library, Archives and Museum in Juneau, University of Alaska Anchorage Engineering Building, and Kodiak Library. He was AMC’s Project Manager for the new UAA Health Science Building, which recently won an Illuminating Engineering Society lighting award. Shumway is a principal mechanical engineer with 30 years of engineering experience including more than 18 years of complex HVAC design, construction and field commissioning experience. Shumway joined AMC after serving 10 years as a Line Officer with the U.S. Naval Submarine Force. He is currently working on the Alaska Scientific Crime Detection Laboratory, State of Alaska Library, Archives and Museum in Juneau, UAF Engineering Building and the Blood Bank of Alaska project. Eric Deeg has been named employee benefits program manager for Wells Fargo Insurance in Alaska. Deeg has 25 years of experience managing employee benefits and health insurance programs for organizations in Colorado, Montana, Washington and Alaska, including 10 years as a senior vice president for Brady & Co. Geraldine Simon will serve as the new senior vice president of administration for Doyon Ltd. Originally from Allakaket, Simon is a Doyon shareholder. She will begin her duties April 23. Prior to accepting the senior vice president of administration role, Simon served as vice president of Alaska lands and operations and general counsel for the Tyonek Native Corp. Previously, she was the special assistant to the director of legal and intergovernmental affairs for the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium in Anchorage. Simon holds a degree from the Seattle University School of Law and is a member of the Alaska Bar Association. She also holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Washington. She is a board member of her village corporation, K’oyitl’ots’ina, Limited and a committee member of the Alaska Native Village CEO Association. Joyce Vick has been named the Governor’s Highway Safety Representative for Alaska. Vick will oversee the Alaska Highway Safety Office that coordinates federal and state highway safety programs. Alaska’s safety program focuses on seven main priorities: Impaired Driving, Seatbelt Usage, Speeding or Aggressive Driving, Distracted Driving, Motorcycle Safety, Teen Drivers and the Designated Safety Corridors.

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