Alaska InvestNet builds for future

Like myself, many bright students were graduates of the University of Alaska Anchorage last year; students with big dreams and great ideas. We shared a clear vision of our future and the fact that staying in Alaska wasn’t part of our vision or, should I say, couldn’t be.When asked, "Why do you want to leave?" almost all of them replied passionately, "I don’t want to, but I don’t have a choice. I can’t find a job here."Alaska is a great place to be. It is a very special place. There are many opportunities here, but still, many young people leave, taking many entrepreneurial dreams with them out of state.For the past year, I have worked as an intern for Alaska InvestNet, coaching entrepreneurs and assisting in seminar and conference preparation. One of Alaska InvestNet’s primary goals is to help build businesses investing in Alaska, Alaskans and jobs for their children.This statewide nonprofit organization was founded to introduce investors to entrepreneurs. And through this there’s hope that high-powered, fun jobs in the private sector will attract Alaska’s young people who often move out of state after getting their education.To help do that, InvestNet is directly involved in the Alaska Business Plan Competition giving entrepreneurs the opportunity to interface with potential investors and business students.Students get involved in the business community, find job opportunities and get a hands-on educational experience. I agree with Allan Johnston, Alaska InvestNet chairman, who says that we need critical mass and validation.The biggest goal right now is to get the public involved. It is my hope that more educational institutions will get involved in the process as well.Vashti Young, chief executive of Vashti House Inc., is one entrepreneur I helped in compiling a business plan and presentation. For the last three years Vashti’s House has been developing an effective and comprehensive character education program to meet the increasing demand in the educational market. Vashti House went from the Alaska Pacific University Business Plan Competition to the Venture Forum at the Alaska InvestNet conference in March."Alaska InvestNet helped us develop a very strategic business plan and refine our product and services more. Through InvestNet, we have been able to interact with the major players in Alaska," Vashti said.Even though Vashti and her team have not yet started the production of their final product and have done little marketing, they have already sold twice the amount of product they have anticipated in the first year, including an international sale to Curaao with more sales in the country still pending."With the response we have received at the introduction of our product, that is what the national and international market has been waiting for. And Alaska InvestNet largely contributed to our success," Vashti said.My work as an intern with Alaska InvestNet opened my eyes. I understood how many great ideas and passionate entrepreneurs there are in Alaska. I suddenly saw how many opportunities would have been missed if not for InvestNet. There are ideas and dreams out there, but not only do entrepreneurs not know where to get money from, but also investors don’t know what businesses to invest in. That’s why one of InvestNet’s key missions is education. Alaska InvestNet sponsors seminars on how to prepare business plans, structure and value the business, and how to sell ideas to investors.Alaska InvestNet also coaches to entrepreneurs on how to sell their business to investors and how to run it effectively and create jobs."The seminars, the teaching, the networking and the coaching have been an invaluable resource and motivation for us," said Michael Cook, Polar Environmental Tech, one of the entrepreneurs. "Speaking as an entrepreneur. We need this."Working closely with entrepreneurs, I met many wonderful people, helped develop ideas, shared great dreams and watched them come true. My internship at InvestNet helped me to get my current job with Accenture, the job I enjoy so much, and will help me enormously in pursuing my master’s of business administration degree.No doubt I will stay involved with InvestNet further on and do what I can to support the process of connecting Alaska’s civic entrepreneurs with my peers, Alaska’s talented youth. It has been an inspirational, motivational and rewarding experience for me.Ekaterina Bezrodnaya is a former intern for Alaska InvestNet. Alaska InvestNet can be reached at 907-586-1929.

Williams reports large loss in second quarter

TULSA, Okla. -- Williams Cos. reported a huge second-quarter loss July 29 in line with its previous warning that its energy trading business was suffering from the company’s credit crunch.The Tulsa-based energy giant said it lost $349.1 million, or 68 cents per share, compared with earnings of $339.5 million, or 69 cents per share, in the year-earlier quarter. The year-ago profit was helped by $11 million from the sale of convenience stores.Revenues fell 26 percent to $2.16 billion compared with $2.92 billion, Williams’ officials said.Williams Cos. is the parent company of Williams Alaska Petroleum Inc., which owns a refinery in North Pole, 29 gas stations and convenience stores, a stake in the Anchorage CargoPort at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport and a 3 percent stake in the trans-Alaska oil pipeline. The company announced in June that it was putting its Alaska assets up for sale in an effort to raise cash.Excluding one-time charges, which include declines in the values of its long-term energy trading contracts and a writedown of its anticipated claim in its bankrupt former telecommunications subsidiary, the company reported losses of 34 cents per share.-- The Associated Press

Alaska seafood gains praise from national stores, others

KENAI -- A movement to promote the sale of sustainable fish, fish harvested in a way that does not jeopardize the survival of the species or the integrity of the ecosystem, identified Alaska wild salmon and halibut among the top choices of fish consumers should be purchasing.The Monterey Bay Aquarium of Monterey, Calif., circulates a brochure as part of its Seafood Watch program that names the two Alaska fish on the list of 21 species of "Best Choices." The program raises the importance of choosing sustainable seafood in markets and restaurants and recommends which seafood to buy or avoid.Outside markets are beginning to take the bait, with some favoring Alaska wild salmon to farmed salmon. And the nearly 60,000 weekly customers of three Seattle-area Thriftway grocery stores are seeing the resulting change, when wild salmon was featured over farmed fish."About six months ago we just made a conscious decision to promote wild salmon," said Larry Roberts, operations supervisor for Penhollow Markets, the group that owns the three stores. "We just feel that the quality of the product is significantly better. After examining the issues, we’ve decided that moving toward sustainable seafood is a sound business choice."The issues have to do with saving world fisheries from overdepletion and pollution, the latter of which scientists say salmon farming could be responsible for in some Atlantic fisheries. Farmed fishing is outlawed in Alaska.According to a U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization report, about 65 percent of the world’s fisheries are fully fished or overfished, and another 10 percent are either depleted or recovering.Many environmental groups believe chefs and seafood consumers, as well as regulators and fishers, should help ensure that world fisheries have a healthy future.In September 2000, the Marine Stewardship Council bestowed its sought-after eco-label on the Alaska salmon fishery, making it the only salmon fishery in the world to be certified as meeting Marine Stewardship Council standards. It also is the largest fishery to date to be certified by the council, and the first in the United States.The council selected the fishery because Alaska’s Constitution requires sustainable management, which is implemented through statutes, regulations and policies that apply statewide.Laura Fleming, spokeswoman for the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, said sustainable fish are being demanded in the nation’s restaurants and markets."Traceability -- being able to find out where fish is coming from -- is a big word in the seafood industry," Fleming said. "There are a lot of retailers who are pretty good about promoting wild salmon."This includes national grocery chains Publix Super Markets, Whole Foods Market and Kroger Co., which is the parent company of Fred Meyer stores, she said.Kenai-area grocers, though not involved in the big push for sustainable seafoods, said they make a point to purchase Alaska fish as much as possible. Country Foods store manager Chris Duncan said his IGA chain store in Kenai gets its fresh product from Kenai Peninsula processors."We get it from local canneries," Duncan said. "It’s fresher fish, and at least that way we can support the community."Joe Gulley, Alaska district manager for Carrs-Safeway, said Safeway is one of the largest purchasers of Alaska seafood in the country. He said Alaska stores are supplied with fish from warehouses in Anchorage and Seattle. Season and availability dictate where the fish is purchased."The majority of the fresh seafood is bought in Alaska," Gulley said. "The frozen (fish) is through our warehouses. We try to put a lot of stock in wild stock. Especially if fresh is available."Gulley said many of the West Coast stores also are supplied from fisheries in Washington and Oregon, depending on the time of year. But he admitted that Safeway stores, particularly those farther from wild salmon fisheries, do stock their seafood shelves with farmed fish."If it’s in season, we get it," Gulley said. "But sometimes, you have no choice if you want a fresh salmon in the winter."He said supporting the communities that produce the Alaska seafood is important to Safeway."We have stores in Kodiak, Dutch Harbor, Kenai, Soldotna, Valdez, Homer and Seward," Gulley said. "We definitely want to be a good neighbor in those fishing communities."Fred Meyer officials were unavailable for comment.From mid-June until the end of this month, Whole Foods Market has been urging consumers to "Fish For Our Future" through in-store promotions in its more than 130 locations. The business is focusing on the importance of looking for the Marine Stewardship Council seal of approval, the issue of overfishing and the power sustainably managed seafood purchases have on helping prompt change in the fishing industry.Whole Food Market stores, located in 24 states and in Toronto, Canada, is featuring cooking demonstrations by local members of the Chefs Collaborative, take-home information and salmon recipes. The chain is offering fresh Alaska salmon through the summer, both in its seafood cases and in its chef-prepared meal selections, and will switch over to frozen in the fall.Chefs Collaborative, a national network of more than 1,000 culinary community members who support sustainable cuisine, also is endorsing the use of sustainable seafood.The three Seattle Thriftway stores will begin selling fresh and frozen Alaska salmon and halibut, Roberts said. He said although his customers are not as concerned with the ramifications, they do like knowing their purchase is making a difference. And he said they have given glowing response to the new offering."They’re not involved in all the politics of ’farmed vs. wild,’ " he said. "Their primary concern is the product quality, (but) they appreciate the information about the environmental impact."

Safeway adds Interior gas station

Safeway is building its first gas station in Fairbanks this summer at the Bentley Mall store, competing with Fred Meyer, which already runs gas pumps in the Interior city.Alaska’s two largest grocers have added several gas stations in the past two years. The move follows a trend started by other food retailers in the Lower 48 like Costco and Wal-Mart.Safeway also is renovating its Carrs Quality Center in North Pole, said Joe Gulley, Safeway’s Alaska district manager for Fairbanks and some stores outside Anchorage. Gulley said it aims to remodel the store’s interior and relocate several departments by Thanksgiving.Construction on Safeway’s new gas station began in mid-June, he said. Work, which included demolition of an existing building, is tied to the Interior Alaska construction season, he said."Our hope is to get it up and going before winter sets in," Gulley said.Safeway already operates gas stations at its Carrs stores at Northway Mall in Anchorage and in Eagle River. Those opened in 2000.Fred Meyer, which also built gas stations in Alaska around that time, will operate five gas stations in the state by mid-2003.The Portland, Ore.-based retailer has gas stations at its west Fairbanks, east Anchorage and Soldotna stores.The new South Anchorage store opened in February selling gasoline. The new Eagle River store, under construction and set to open next spring, includes a gas station.Costco operates gas stations at its two Anchorage stores.

Phillips adds double-hull tanker No. 2

ANCHORAGE -- Phillips Petroleum Co.’s second new double-hull tanker, the Polar Resolution, sailed into the Port of Valdez this week and loaded its first cargo of Alaska North Slope crude oil.The vessel is the second of the five "Endeavour" Class crude oil carriers that will be added to Phillips’ fleet each year until 2005.The crude oil carriers are built specifically for Alaska trade in compliance with the Federal Oil Pollution Act of 1990. The act was passed following the Exxon Valdez oil spill.The next tanker, the Polar Discovery, will join the fleet in 2003. The tankers are valued at more than $200 million each.

BP official calls for progress on proposed gas pipeline

WHITEHORSE, Yukon Territory -- The three major companies pursuing an Alaska Highway natural gas pipeline could lose interest in the project if they do not see movement toward their goal in the next year or two, according to a top-ranking BP official.David Welch, president of BP Alaska-Canada Gas Pipelines, told Whitehorse reporters the desire to build a pipeline through Alaska, the Yukon and British Columbia to central Alberta is still very much alive in the hearts of BP, ExxonMobil Production Co. and Phillips Alaska Inc.But without movement in regulatory and fiscal areas by the United States, Canada and the state of Alaska, there could come a day when the interest wanes and the three oil and gas producers walk away, Welch said."As a matter of fact, that is one of the concerns I have about the project, is that if nothing happens this year and maybe the year after, then all of a sudden, the companies do start losing momentum," Welch said. "You know, we spent $125 million last year and we are probably spending another $30 million or so this year."You can’t go on year after year spending $100 million without progressing the project, at least in the regulatory arena."Welch said he is "guardedly optimistic" the U.S. federal government will come up with a package in its energy bill that will satisfy the companies’ desire to reduce project costs and risks, and that will be acceptable to opponents of direct subsidies.He reiterated BP’s favor for the Alaska Highway route, and not the over-the-top route across the Beaufort Sea to the Mackenzie Valley.With both routes costing roughly the same at $19 billion, with the strong environmental resistance to the Beaufort Sea link, and with the state of Alaska having passed legislation prohibiting the over-the-top route, the logical and most likely choice is the highway route, he said.The U.S. Senate’s version of the proposed federal energy bill would guarantee tax credits for BP, ExxonMobil and Phillips if the price of natural gas fell below $3.25 per thousand cubic feet for the first 15 years of the Alaska Highway project.Repayment of the credits would begin when the price went above $4.85 per thousand cubic feet.The Senate incentive has been widely criticized, particularly by Canadian proponents of the Mackenzie Valley pipeline project and the Canadian government, as a direct subsidy that unfairly influences matters that should be left to the open market.Also, U.S. Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham recently informed members of the Senate and the House of Representatives that he does not like the idea of the guaranteed floor price.Abraham has asked senators and U.S. representatives to look at other means of providing assistance to the companies.

Around the World

StateAIDEA’s chief executive resigns, takes new jobANCHORAGE - The executive director of the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority is stepping down to work for a Native regional corporation.Bob Poe, 48, will take a job with ASCG Inc., an Anchorage-based architectural and engineering firm owned by Arctic Slope Regional Corp.Poe’s departure comes after two years heading AIDEA, a state development and lending agency, and a companion agency, the Alaska Energy Authority.Poe has worked in some capacity for five governors, including a hitch under Gov. Tony Knowles as commissioner of administration, a job that saw Poe direct the state’s Y2K preparedness.His resignation is effective Aug. 30. Jim McMillan, AIDEA’s deputy director of credit, will be acting executive director until a replacement is found.BLM rejects extension for pipeline commentsANCHORAGE -- The Bureau of Land Management said the public comment period for renewal of the trans-Alaska oil pipeline permits will remain at 45 days.A number of groups representing environmentalists and Alaska Natives had asked that the comment period be extended.BLM Director Kathleen Clarke said July 31 that an extension was not necessary because the government is reviewing renewal of a system that’s been in place for 25 years, not a new project with major new impacts.State and federal officials are reviewing whether to renew permits for the 800-mile line. The pipeline’s owners are seeking a 30-year renewal.More than 20 environmental, Native and community groups had sought the public comment extension, saying the 1,000-page environmental impact statement is too extensive to review adequately in 45 days. The public comment period will end Aug. 20.NationAlaska firm wants role in Montana joint ventureFORT PECK, Mont. -- An engineering firm owned by an Inupiat Eskimo corporation wants to design and build the Fort Peck tribes’ new water pipeline as part of a joint venture.But tribal leaders in Fort Peck already have hired a Helena firm to complete the design portion of the project.Arctic Slope Regional Corp., a company privately owned by nearly 8,000 Inupiat Eskimos in Alaska, is proposing a profit-sharing plan with the tribes and promises that participation by American Indian contractors will be used whenever possible. Arctic Slope is one of 13 regional native corporations formed by the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act.The company recently was named by Forbes magazine as one of the top 500 design firms in the country and has earned more than $1 billion in revenues.However, in an executive session June 24, the Tribal Executive Board approved hiring Mike Watson of Helena-based Watson Engineering to complete the design portion of the $192 million project.Watson, who is not of Indian descent, has been working with the tribes’ water resources office for the past several years.Arctic Slope officials said they still would like to be involved in the project, even if it means forgoing the design stage. The primary concern expressed by local contractors is that the tribes stick with Indian-owned firms and contractors in the design and construction of the 3,000-mile pipeline, something Arctic Slope has said it will do.WorldJapan introduces new financial market rulesTOKYO -- Japan announced new financial market rules Aug. 6 that are aimed at boosting the slumping stock market.Among the guidelines introduced by the Financial Services Agency are tighter restrictions on short selling of stock. Short selling involves selling borrowed shares in a bet that their value will drop and that they can be bought again later at a lower price.Excessive short selling can cause market swings and has been branded by Japanese finance officials as a culprit in Japan’s tumbling stock prices.The FSA said it plans to implement the new curbs from September. The government regulatory body imposed similar curbs in March. The new rules are different in that they apply to short selling on margin -- a form of borrowing against a broker to buy stock.Traders say the new rules should help stem the deliberate manipulation of share prices by speculators, but warn they could also damp trading activity and hurt liquidity.The FSA said it wanted to develop a securities market that is fair, transparent, efficient and "easy for anyone to invest in."-- Compiled from business wire services.

Cuts may risk loss of federal funding

The state’s failure to maintain several rural runways could threaten federal funding for all of Alaska’s airports, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.State Department of Transportation and Public Facilities officials said the Legislature’s failure to fund the agency’s requested budget will require the closing of 18 rural airports. Five of the airports, however, have received federal funds for improvements in recent years, under a promise the runways would remain open at least two decades from receipt of the money, according to FAA officials."The state is jeopardizing federal funding if they don’t live up to their obligation," said Joette Storm, an FAA spokeswoman in Anchorage. "Citizens of the state have to realize there are ramifications."According to state officials, no maintenance will be provided at Kasilof, Ninilchik, Quartz Creek, Lawing, Goose Bay, Sheep Mountain, Clear, Chistochina, Circle, Circle Hot Springs, Wiseman, Dahl Creek, Summit, Boundary, Livengood, Salmon Lake, Copper Center and Tazlina.Skwentna Airport will not have lighting under the proposed budget cuts.The maintenance for the airports adds up to only $152,400 for all the airports, but the state says it is more than $6 million short this year, and has cut winter road maintenance next year on several highways, closed maintenance stations and is cutting 70 jobs, including a deputy commissioner.The Republican-led House and Senate cut budget requests from several agencies in addition to the state transportation department.Debbie Roth, an FAA manager in Anchorage, said when it comes to closing down airports that receive federal money for improvements, it’s not a matter of just deleting them out of the state’s budget. "There are some strings attached," Roth said.Clear, for example, has received more than $2 million in federal airport improvement money since 1993. When the state applied for airport-improvement money, it gave assurances the airport would remain open until 2013, according to the FAA.The FAA has in the past come down on state or local governments that didn’t honor their promises, Roth said.Millions of dollars in airport improvement funds were cut in California, after the Los Angeles International Airport did not use some federal money for the purpose applied for in grants, Roth said."Legally, there are a lot of things that could happen, including making the state pay back the (airport improvement) money," said Roth. "But I don’t think it will ever get to that."The state last year received $162 million in federal airport improvement money for 262 airports, according to the state transportation department.Kurt Parkin, deputy transportation commissioner, said his agency is aware of the assurances given to maintain the runways under the federal airport improvement program."We do have a problem," Parkin said. "We’ve been talking to the FAA and whatever we need to do, we’ll do. We are not going to, in any way, jeopardize airport-improvement funding."That likely will mean passing the buck to the Legislature, which already must wrestle with additional costs in next year’s supplemental budget with the maintenance funding reinstated for the Steese Highway and the Circle airport. After much pressure from citizens, Gov. Tony Knowles last month ordered the transportation department to find $225,000 to keep the Steese open in the winter and another $14,400 to keep the Circle airport open, both of which had been cut in the state operating budget.

FCC commissioner upholds need for competitive market

Despite recent financial struggles in the telecommunications industry, the Federal Communications Commission needs to uphold policies for competition, an FCC commissioner said in a visit to Anchorage recently."Let’s be sure not to use the current situation to back off on competition," Commissioner Michael Copps said in a speech to Commonwealth North members July 24 at the Hotel Captain Cook.Copps is one of five commission members who are appointed by the president to serve five-year terms. During his visit, he toured Alaska, was joined by FCC Commissioner Kevin Martin, and spoke with communications industry representatives.Appointed to the FCC last summer, Copps had served until January 2001 as assistant secretary of commerce for trade development at the Commerce Department. His first year at the FCC was marked by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and troubles in the telecommunications industry.FCC officials have vowed to do their part to strengthen homeland security in response to the East Coast attacks, he said."I want to see the sense of urgency that we had on Sept. 11 persist," he said.Copps praised the industry for its role despite financial sacrifice during the tragedy to help rescuers and loved ones communicate. That high note contrasts with what Copps described as the recent "sad plight of telecom companies."Copps spoke in Anchorage three days after WorldCom filed the largest corporate bankruptcy in U.S. history. Michael Powell, FCC chairman, said the agency would protect consumers from any abrupt end of services, although he believed WorldCom had secured funding to continue operations during bankruptcy proceedings.Copps believes the telecommunications shakeout may have run its course, but the industry should not take all blame for recent financial market troubles, he said."In spite of it all I remain optimistic about the telecom industry," he said.The nation has seen boom and bust cycles before that are similar to the highs and lows in telecommunications, he said. For example, railroads and canals required large investments during their initial struggles, but Americans needed the infrastructure, said Copps, who is a former history professor at Loyola University of the South. The telecommunications industry should follow a similar path, he said.The FCC has a role in promoting corporate responsibility and should rely less on data from companies while performing its own analysis, Copps said."The FCC needs to do a credible job on behalf of American consumers and businesses," Copps said.The FCC should continue to encourage competition in telecommunications and other communications industries, he said. Telecommunications competition has been evident in Alaska since 1996 legislation. The former monopoly of local phone service now shares that market in Anchorage and Fairbanks.In Alaska, key issues are funding decisions for universal service and the significance of broadband services, he said.The state, which relies on satellites to provide telecommunications service in rural Alaska, requires different considerations for communications policies although the FCC should ensure comparable service, Copps said."I think you will always have to deal with Alaska with special respect," he said.The FCC is considering several major policy issues next spring, and Copps encouraged input from Alaskans."Every American is a stakeholder in the communications revolution of our time," he said.

Federal agency cancels bids for research center project

JUNEAU -- The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has canceled a bid solicitation for an over-budget fisheries research center planned for Lena Point as it continues to evaluate its options.NOAA decided July 30 to cancel the bids so contractors wouldn’t be left "dangling" as federal officials regrouped, said Sheela McLean, a public affairs officer for the National Marine Fisheries Service."We’re examining rescoping the Lena Point project to fit within the $51 million budget. That’s one option," she said. "The other is we’re going to look at renovating the existing Auke Bay lab. We’ll look at those things as well as other options. ... We’re looking at trying to fit within the money we have right now."Construction on a new, 69,000-square-foot fisheries research facility was to have started this summer at Lena Point. About 100 employees, many from the NMFS lab in Auke Bay, were to have moved to the Lena Point center in 2004.A University of Alaska Fairbanks fisheries lab also is planned for Lena Point.The government had estimated the fisheries center would cost $36 million to build, but the bids came in higher than projections. The low bid, from Cornerstone of Anchorage, was $42 million. Haskell Corp. of Bellingham, Wash., and McGraw Custom Construction of Sitka also submitted bids.With a decision on the NOAA project hanging, the contractors saw bonding capacity reduced for other projects, Cornerstone President John Eng said."It’s good news and bad news. The good news is we have plenty of bonding capacity," he said "The bad news is we’re not getting a project we were the low bidder on."At its peak, Eng estimated the construction project would have put 80 to 100 people to work. Cornerstone is interested in bidding on a future fisheries center project here, he added.NOAA officials said earlier this summer the Lena Point project would be built; it was just a matter of when and how. The city started construction on a new road to the proposed center last week and a residential subdivision is planned nearby.McLean said NOAA is staying in touch with the city on developments. If major changes to the project are needed, the agency likely will be required to go through a National Environmental Policy Act review, she said.Work on the fisheries center started in 1992 and the project’s budget was cut from $78 million to $50 million as plans evolved.John MacKinnon, interim city manager, said the city still is trying to gather information about Tuesday’s decision and doesn’t plan to halt road construction."There hasn’t been a decision made to stop the project and I’m not sure there will be a decision," he said. "Simply put, I don’t think we’re in a position to react and shut things down. We’re proceeding on good faith that that is where the facility will be and upholding our end of the bargain."The city and NOAA contributed funding to build the new road at Lena Point. The city also purchased land at Lena Point for the center that NOAA acquired in a land swap.During initial scoping for a project site, NOAA studied upgrades to the Auke Bay lab and the option received the lowest possible ranking, MacKinnon said."From my perspective, I don’t think that’s an option," he said.

Measure appropriates $20 million to seafood marketing

JUNEAU -- A major U.S. Senate appropriations bill includes $20 million to market Alaska seafood. The Senate Appropriations Committee in mid-July approved the bill, which funds the departments of Commerce, Justice and State. It will go to the full Senate for consideration.The appropriated funds will be administered through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Saltonstall-Kennedy Program, which offers grants or cooperative agreements for research and development projects to benefit the U.S. fishing industry."Through similar efforts, the Alaska seafood industry has shown great success in promoting our prime seafood to targeted Lower 48 consumers," said Sen. Ted Stevens, an Alaska Republican, in a prepared statement. "This additional $20 million will expand on these efforts and increase the volume of domestically grown wild seafood purchased by Americans and consumers abroad. This is good for all Alaska fishermen."The Saltonstall-Kennedy Program is funded by duties or tariffs collected on fishery-product imports to the United States.The proposed funding bill will not add new money to the federal budget, said Stevens spokeswoman Melanie Alvard.But it will designate $20 million of the funds already appropriated to the program for Alaska seafood marketing."In 2001, money from the program was used for government programs that had nothing to do with fisheries or seafood products," said Bruce Schactler, president of the Alaska fishing group United Salmon Association and chairman of the United Fishermen of Alaska."Our salmon industry in particular is so crippled because of farmed salmon imports," he said. "But $20 million will be a great first step for the marketing health of our industry."Stevens said the appropriation will assist Alaska fishermen in combating the sale of internationally farmed salmon in the United States."Last year, Chilean pen-raised farm salmon was purposefully delivered at the same time as Alaskan fishermen brought their salmon to market," Stevens said. "It was and is the intent of Chile to devastate and erase the Alaskan wild-salmon market. Other countries are increasing their farmed salmon capabilities and are flooding the U.S. market with pen-raised, pellet-fed and chemically enhanced salmon."Barbara Belknap, outgoing executive director of the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, said the price of salmon is so low because Chileans are selling at very low prices with a campaign to sell as cheaply as they possibly can."If a grocery store owner can get salmon for 70 cents a pound, and Alaska wants $1.20 a pound, they’re going to go for 70 cents unless they are convinced it’s better to get wild salmon," Belknap said. "Chileans fortunately have started to reduce production, and we hope the overall price will go up."Wild salmon have several advantages over farmed salmon in the marketplace, Belknap said. Wild salmon have no additives and are naturally colored, but farmed salmon are artificially colored, she said."Wild salmon is a sustainable product, part of the natural ecosystem," Belknap said. "Farmed salmon takes from the earth and doesn’t give back. They use fish to feed fish. Wild salmon is part of the natural cycle; it’s healthier and it tastes better."Schactler said the United Salmon Association developed a plan in 2001 to aggressively pursue the use of Saltonstall-Kennedy funds to create a National Seafood Marketing Fund. The plan was adopted by the United Fishermen of Alaska as well."We presented the plan numerous times to Sen. Stevens and Sen. (Frank) Murkowski and Rep. (Don) Young," Schactler said, referring to the Alaska congressional delegation. "We’re hoping that through the budget process it remains in place."Belknap said if the bill is approved with the Alaska fish marketing intact, ASMI will apply for a marketing grant. She said ASMI’s budget continues to decrease because it depends on state taxes from the seafood industry.ASMI’s projected budget for fiscal 2002 is a little more than $10 million. The organization expects its budget will have decreased by 39 percent between 2000 and 2004."We’re the first in line to apply for a marketing grant since we already have the infrastructure in place," Belknap said. "In the past we’ve had to contract our efforts, and in markets like Japan and Europe we’ve had to cut back."My guess would be that fishermen who market their own fish may be able to apply for grants as well."Schactler agreed."It’s on an RFP (request for proposal) basis, so the best idea will get the money," Schactler said. "It ought to be enough to get fishermen and processors in a room to get a plan to get marketing to match production."We need to work together to complement each other. We need to plan to market products that we presently produce."

Web sites require ongoing maintenance to yield benefits

Obscene amounts of money have been spent on the development of Web sites. Unfortunately, companies make little investment in updating those sites or maintaining their relevancy. Why?To begin with, in most small- to medium-sized businesses, maintenance of the Web site is a low priority for the information technology or marketing departments. It’s perceived as grunt duty. However, for the first time, many Internet users are questioning the validity of the information posted on Web sites. This, in turn, has led to the need for "Web-site nurturing" or the process of continually updating and improving the company Web site so it adjusts to the ever-growing demands of the increasingly sophisticated Internet user.The numbers reveal the problemThe data clearly reveals a disconnect between the consumer expectation and the provider delivery when it involves Web usage. According to the UCLA Internet Report 2001, "About 58 percent of users in 2001 believe that most or all of the information on the Internet is reliable and accurate."That result leaves a significant audience share with doubts about the data they acquire through Internet use.The Internet consulting firm, Enterpulse, in a May 2002 report, noted that "89 percent of business people aren’t impressed with the Web sites they visit. And 66 percent rarely return to sites where they’ve had a bad experience."Again, Enterpulse found there is a significant gap between customer expectation and experience. Almost 80 percent of visitors feel business Web sites tend to be designed from an internal company perspective vs. a user perspective. Ninety-five percent say it is very or extremely important that the information they need to do their jobs be accessible, up to date and easy to find on the Web. Yet, nearly half said business Web sites are not always easy to navigate.A Web credibility study by Stanford Persuasive Technology Labs - Makovsky & Co. in 2002 clearly identifies the top factors that increase a visitor’s perception of site credibility. Such a Web site must: Provide quick response to customer service questions, Provide comprehensive information that is attributed to a specific source, List author’s credentials for each article, Be hosted by an organization that is well respected, Have been updated since the last visit, and Look professionally designed.What’s the problem?There are always numerous rational reasons why Web site nurturing is a forgotten priority. Web site maintenance is normally not budgeted, planned or integrated into performance-based tasks.It’s often the purview of a committee with little or no accountability. In many instances, it’s perceived as the lowest common denominator function or handed off to staff who have little or no understanding, training or commitment to Web site marketing strategy.The Web site, an important tool in brand leverage if managed correctly, becomes a cause of brand erosion. As potential customers are lost, competitors gain at their expense. The final result is a loss of credibility and trust in the brand or the organization. The failure to conduct an ongoing analysis of the site’s performance, results in missed opportunities to economically update the site by adding new content, features or other interactivity functions.Site assessmentAccording to Toby Bloomberg, principal of Atlanta-based Bloomberg Marketing, a Web site nurturing consultancy, it all comes down to consumer need. Bloomberg suggests that there are five basic filters the average Internet user applies to Web site assessment:1. Is the information reliable and accurate? This is the entry point to any Web site experience.2. Can I trust the information to make needed decisions? What are the repercussions of incorrect data in terms of time, money and personal credibility?3. Is it worth my time to interact with this site? Do I waste time with broken links and dead pages?4. Can I easily find the information I need? Is the site easy to navigate?5. Is there a reason to return to the site or bookmark it? Is the content updated? How frequently? Is it relevant and valuable to me?The Stanford/Makovsky Study confirms Bloomberg’s advice at www.webcredibility.org/guidelines/index.html. Consumer WebWatch, at www.consumerwebwatch.com, also outlines the guidelines for standardizing Web site disclosure information and promoting credibility, specifically in areas of identity, advertising and sponsorships, customer service, corrections and privacy."Web site nurturing provides distinct and accountable benefits that most companies are failing to acknowledge," Bloomberg said. According to Bloomberg, the benefit list is long: Increasing sales from Internet and traditional channels, Increasing Web-site value and credibility Gaining visitor trust, Reinforcing branding strategy, Fostering customer loyalty, Increasing conversion of newsletter registrations, product update requests, survey participation, and so on, Stimulating return site visits and site bookmarks, Improving search engine rankings, and Encouraging the media to view the site as a credible source of industry information and product advice.Alf Nucifora is an Atlanta-based marketing consultant. He can be contacted via e-mail at [email protected]

Knowles petitions committee about gas pipeline

FAIRBANKS -- Gov. Tony Knowles has pleaded Alaska’s case for helping a natural gas pipeline to the U.S. House and Senate members serving on a conference committee deciding the fate of a national energy bill.In a letter to the 61 committee members, Knowles said the Senate bill’s gas provisions would benefit U.S. and Canadian residents by encouraging development of a source of secure, plentiful natural gas.The state of Alaska will provide incentives as well, but the companies that own the natural gas on Alaska’s North Slope think federal legislation is the most important step, Knowles said.Canada can’t criticize the proposed tax credit in the bill because that country itself offers energy project subsidies, Knowles said.Such assistance is already provided by the U.S. government for some coal and natural gas projects, Knowles wrote.The governor also defended the bill’s call for a southern route along the Alaska Highway. A pipeline along the northern route would bypass potential gas deposits in the federal National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska and on state lands, Knowles said. It would also eliminate chances of using the gas within the state, he said.Knowles also urged the conference committee to adopt House language that would allow oil development in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Alaska Railroad could get $25 million for rail improvements

FAIRBANKS -- The Alaska Railroad would receive $25 million for track improvements in the coming year under a transportation spending bill approved by a U.S. Senate committee.The funds would be more than the state spent to buy the entire operation.The state paid $22.3 million for the railroad in 1985. The federal government had owned the operation since it was completed in 1923.The rail money is in the annual federal spending bill, which was approved July 25 by the Senate Appropriations Committee. The bill must still be approved by the full Senate and House.Another $2 million listed in the bill would go toward a new railroad terminal in Fairbanks.The railroad also is eligible for a variety of other federal grants, which should boost its total take from the federal government by several million dollars more in the coming year.Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, obtained language in the transportation bill that would reduce the money the railroad must provide to match federal transit money. The match is currently 20 percent; Stevens’ amendment would cut that to 9 percent, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported.Other transportation bill money includes the following: $2 million to build a new road that would provide access to lands where access is currently blocked by Fort Wainwright. $3 million for volcano monitoring through a program based at the University of Alaska Fairbanks that is designed to warn aircraft of dangerous ash clouds. $500,000 for computer system upgrades necessary to handle data to be created by a newly passed law that redesigned Alaska’s bypass mail system.

Bills would provide $75 million for rural sanitation

FAIRBANKS -- Two spending bills recently unveiled in the U.S. Senate would provide rural Alaska with $75 million to improve drinking water and sanitation systems.The Senate Appropriations Committee approved the bills on July 25. They now go to the full Senate, after which they must be combined with the House versions.Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, said July 26 that he considers the water and sewer work essential to the public health and economy of villages. Stevens, the ranking Republican on the Appropriations Committee, requested the money.One bill would route $45 million through the Environmental Protection Agency. That’s 11 percent higher than the amount provided in a similar funding bill last year, according to Stevens.The committee on July 25 also approved $30 million for the Village Safe Water Program, funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That’s up 25 percent, Stevens said.Other spending bills also carry smaller amounts for federal water-related projects.The 2000 Census showed that Alaska continued to lead the nation in the percentage of homes without plumbing facilities, but progress is being made. About three-quarters of Alaska homes were equipped with flush toilets by last year. The state’s goal is to bring water and wastewater service to all households by 2005.

ACS lists net income, trims operating costs

Alaska Communications Systems reported net income of $3.6 million for the second quarter, but the telecommunications company plans restructuring to reduce operating costs.Operating expenses before depreciation and amortization rose $7.2 million from the first quarter.ACS is reducing its staff by 7 percent of its 1,200 total workers, company officials said. About 80 workers are affected, said Mary Ann Pease, ACS vice president of investor relations.However, more than 70 of the affected positions came from early retirement options, reassignments of workers and posts not being filled, she said. Another 10 employees were laid off, although three have been called back to work, Pease said.Restructuring should save ACS more than $6 million and reduce expenses in the third quarter results, company officials said.The second quarter $3.6 million net income compares with a net loss of $2.8 million for the same period last year. Revenue from continuing operations was $92.5 million for the quarter compared with $81.5 million in second quarter 2001.Key expenses for the quarter were one-time charges like $2.2 million used partly for restructuring, $1.8 million for its new Internet Protocol network and state of Alaska telecommunications contract and $1.2 million on new customer care and retention programs.Financial results for the quarter were also affected by delays in the roll-out of services for the five-year, $92 million state contract."We had anticipated a certain revenue stream from the state contract, and that stream was slightly less than expected," Pease said.ACS should be back on schedule in the third quarter for its plan to provide state government telecommunications services, she said.The company also recorded a one-time noncash charge to reduce its goodwill or intangible benefits from its brand names by $105.4 million, due to new accounting rules. The charge affected overall results, and ACS recorded a loss of $109 million for the first six months of 2002.Total access lines dropped from 330,055 for second quarter last year to 328,913.Cellular revenue rose 3.5 percent compared with second quarter 2001, and ACS had subscribers totaling 81,109, up from 78,574 at the end of the period last year.At the end of the quarter, the number of Internet subscribers climbed to 47,841, up from 43,681 for second quarter last year. The increase was mainly due to gains in digital subscriber line customers, which climbed to 9,856 so far this year, compared to 4,958 recorded in mid-2001.Long-distance subscribers dropped to 64,958 at the end of the second quarter, compared to 66,341 for the same period in 2001. Minutes of long distance declined to 38.9 million, down from 60.8 million, according to ACS reports.

ASMI chooses new executive director

ANCHORAGE -- A search committee for the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute has chosen a retiring Coast Guard commander to be the institute’s new executive director.Vice Adm. Ray Riutta, retiring as commander of the Coast Guard’s Pacific area, based in Alameda, Calif., will take over for Barbara Belknap, who was scheduled to step down as head of the state seafood marketing agency Aug. 1 after five years in the top job.Riutta has spent a total of 15 years in Alaska, serving in various Coast Guard posts around the state.Riutta comes from a fishing family. His father was a Columbia River gillnetter and his grandfather was a troller on the Columbia. He served on the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council while Commander of the 17th District in Alaska.Given the tough market conditions and potentially significant changes facing commercial fishing, Sandro Lane, ASMI board chairman, said the organization needs a leader with excellent communications skills."Ray’s proven track record on communication skills and ability to arrive at consensus and be a leader, are huge. We need leadership, we need someone who isn’t carrying any particular cross or banner. Someone who isn’t representing any one region, one group, one gear group, one constituency over the other,’’ Lane said.Lane said Riutta will help bring together special interest groups to rally the industry.Gov. Tony Knowles must approve ASMI’s selection. Spokesman Bob King says he doesn’t anticipate any problems with the appointment.When Riutta decided to retire to Juneau and buy a house this summer, he didn’t know about the ASMI position but learned of it on his way back to Juneau. Until the governor makes the appointment, Ruitta is reluctant to speak about his plans."I’m really honored to have been considered for this job, and I’m looking forward to getting started whenever the governor approves it,’’ he said.

Credit union acquires interest in Alaska firm

Denali Alaskan Federal Credit Union has purchased interest in a local insurance company and will now write policies for individuals, aircraft owners and large corporations.Alaska Business Insurance has been renamed Denali Alaskan Insurance with the deal finalized last month, said Keith Fernandez, marketing director of the Anchorage-based credit union.Terms of the purchase were not disclosed.Fernandez said Alaska Business Insurance was started 18 years ago in Anchorage by Wayne Burger and Jim Campbell.Campbell will remain the president of the company, Fernandez said. The credit union also added an investment subsidiary and mortgage company last year. The insurance company "marks a continuing effort to provide more diversified financial service to our members and a broader economic base for the credit union," Fernandez said.Denali Alaskan Insurance will offer home, auto and health insurance to individuals, as well as commercial and aviation insurance, Fernandez said.Denali Alaskan Federal Credit Union is the third-largest credit union in the state, with about 35,000 members and more than $230 million in assets, Fernandez said.

Hospital begins building three-story addition

Construction has begun on a $12.9 million, three-story addition at Fairbanks Memorial Hospital, launching a multiyear expansion to meet Interior Alaska’s future health care needs.Work began in mid-June, led by Fairbanks-based general contractor Ghemm Co., said Jon Lundquist, assistant administrator for plant operations and support. Builders started the project at that time in order to make the most of the short Interior construction season, he said.The foundation work and preliminary construction, however, must total less than $1 million, pending state approval of health care projects surpassing that amount, he said.State health officials are conducting a project review through late August. The Department of Health & Social Services commissioner typically issues a decision a few weeks after the review is completed, said David Pierce, state health department certificate of need coordinator.A public meeting was conducted July 25 in Fairbanks.Hospital officials submitted an application in May for a state certificate of need, Pierce said.The project will add 41,000 square feet to Fairbanks Memorial Hospital, Lundquist said. Features include three floors plus a basement for storage.Work is scheduled to be complete by October 2003, he said.The project is phase one of the 162 bed-hospital’s master site plan, which aims to prepare for Fairbanks’ growing health care needs for the next five to 20 years. The master site plan, started in November 2000, was completed last fall.The current hospital building measures 500,000 square feet, but if the master site plan is completed as proposed Fairbanks Memorial could expand up to 926,000 square feet, hospital officials told the Journal last year.Phase one of the project is significant because it creates space needed to house departments like radiology and the lab, Lundquist said. Currently, the hospital lacks space to relocate units during construction, he said."It gives us an empty chair so we can start moving people in the regular way," Lundquist said.Radiology will be eventually be located on the first floor, a move that could be scheduled for 2004, Lundquist said. The clinical lab will be moved to the new building’s second floor, probably in late 2003, he said.The third floor will house mechanical rooms and another portion of the lab, Lundquist said.

Around The World

STATESoldotna sets hearing on restaurant smoking banKENAI - The Soldotna City Council voted July 24 to set a public hearing in September on a proposed smoking ban in restaurants.The proposed ban would apply to all public eating establishments within the city. Bars would be exempt from the ban if they were enclosed.The ordinance was brought before the council at the request of Councilwoman Sharon Moock.The council did not debate the smoking issue. Moock said she wanted business owners to have more time to prepare for the proposal."I think we need to have plenty of comments from the community," Moock said. "We need not be accused of not giving them enough time."U.S. Coast Guard awards base contract in KodiakKODIAK -- The Coast Guard has awarded Brechan Enterprises of Kodiak a $50 million contract for work on its Kodiak facilities.The job order contract encompasses many areas of work on the base. "It’s a construction contract, which covers all facets of construction," said project manager Matt Holmstrom, including carpentry, earthwork, paving, electric and mechanical work.The contract provides for $10 million a year, or $50 million total for the life of the contract.Brechan was first awarded a contract for base work in November 2000.Brechan has approximately 120 construction employees."We’ve hired a whole lot of people and with this dollar volume, we will continue to hire more people," Holmstrom said. "A contract of this volume helps us keep competitive and keep people working."NationChevronTexaco’s second quarter profit plungesSAN FRANCISCO -- ChevronTexaco Corp. said July 30 its second-quarter profit plunged 81 percent as a result of investment losses in troubled energy trader Dynegy Inc. and lower gasoline prices.The San Francisco-based company earned $407 million, in the three months ended June 30, down from $2.11 billion, at the same time last year.Second-quarter revenue to-taled $25.3 billion, down 13 percent from $29.7 billion last year.The results included a $631 million loss on ChevronTexaco’s holdings in Houston-based Dynegy Inc., whose stock dropped 75 percent in second quarter amid intensifying questions about its business practices. The scrutiny led to the May resignation of Dynegy’s chief executive and co-founder, Chuck Watson.ChevronTexaco’s second-quarter setback doesn’t reflect an additional 80 percent decline in Dynegy’s stock in July.With a 26.5 percent stake in Dynegy, ChevronTexaco warned it might have to absorb another loss on the investment in third quarter. As of June 30, ChevronTexaco valued its Dynegy holdings at about $2 billion.The second-quarter results also included a $122 million charge to pay for environmental clean-up efforts and to settle a lawsuit.If not for the Dynegy losses and other charges, ChevronTexaco said it would have made $1.23 billion, or $1.16 per share. That figure still fell well below the consensus earnings estimate of $1.37 among analysts polled by Thomson First Call.Hilton Hotels’ earnings show 12 percent declineBEVERLY HILLS, Calif. -- Hilton Hotels Corp. on July 30 reported a 12 percent decline in net earnings for its second quarter due to sluggish travel demand and a charge related to work done at a hotel in Hawaii.Net income for the quarter ending in June was $76 million compared with $86 million for the 2001 quarter, or 20 cents per share versus 23 cents. The company took a charge of $10 million for fixing mold damage found at the new Kalia Tower at the Hilton Hawaiian.Hilton Grand Vacations, the company’s timeshare business, last month completed the sale of about $52 million of timeshare notes receivable out of a total portfolio of about $190 million to a subsidiary of GE Capital. The transaction resulted in about a $2 million gain in the second quarter ending June 30.The company reported revenue of $1.04 billion, down 5 percent from $1.09 billion in the 2001 period.For the first six months of the year, net income fell 22 percent to $110 million from $141 million, or 30 cents per share versus 38 cents per share. First half revenues fell 10 percent to $1.96 billion from $2.16 billion.WorldChina passes U.S. as Taiwan’s major marketTAIPEI, Taiwan -- China has surpassed America as Taiwan’s largest export market, taking a record 25 percent of the island’s exports in May, Taiwan’s government reported July 30.Taiwanese exports to China totaled 94.6 billion Taiwan dollars ($2.8 billion) in May, a 44.5 percent increase from the same month last year, an Economics Ministry report said.In the first five months this year, Taiwan exported to China 405 billion Taiwan dollars ($12 billion) worth of goods, or 23.5 percent of the island’s total exports, the report said.The United States, which for decades had been the island’s largest market, took up 20.6 percent of Taiwanese exports in the first five months, the report said.The island’s "export reliance" on China, or the share of goods exported to China, has increased from 9 percent in 1991 to 16.5 percent in 1996 and to 25 percent in May 2002, the ministry said.Taiwan has been cautious about relying too much on the market of its biggest rival, fearing that close economic ties might give China more political control over the island.However, facing pressure from Taiwanese businesses, the government has been gradually relaxing restrictions on trade and investment in China.The two sides split amid civil war in 1949, and China insists the self-ruled island is part of its territory.-- Compiled from business wire services.

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