Quality helps Sitka firm market frozen salmon

Sherry Tuttle of Sitka could be Alaska’s answer to the Chilean salmon farmers who are running Alaska’s traditional salmon fishing industry onto the rocks.Tuttle and her partner, Lori Whitmill, operate the Rose, a 55-foot motor sailer built for tuna fishing that the two operate out of Sitka.Their company, Rose Fisheries, is carving a niche in the higher end of the seafood business, upscale restaurants and food stores on the West Coast and more recently in New York.Tuttle is doing something important for the future of Alaska’s fisheries: She’s demonstrating that quality-handled salmon that is frozen properly on the boat at sea, with the right equipment, can beat fresh salmon, farmed or wild, hands down.Tuttle is quick to point out that she isn’t the only Southeast hand-troller freezing at sea and direct marketing, although the total number is small. These pioneers are swimming against a current of public opinion that fresh is always better than frozen, a belief that gives salmon farmers their big edge over Alaska fish.In reality, a lot of fresh fish sold on the market is up to nine days old, Tuttle says. On the other hand, most fish isn’t frozen properly, which gives it a bad reputation.Tuttle is winning converts. New York Times food writer and chef Florence Fabricant gave Tuttle’s salmon a thumbs up in an April 2001 food column. "There’s no question that Rose Fisheries’ coho salmon has a big flavor," Fabricant wrote. "I cooked it alongside fresh king salmon steaks and preferred the flash-frozen coho."Anchorage chef Jack Amon, a partner in Marx Brothers Cafe, said he preferred fresh salmon for years until he tried Tuttle’s flash-frozen product. Now he’s a convert. The Hotel Captain Cook in Anchorage also buys her frozen salmon.Tuttle has been fishing in Southeast Alaska since the 1960s, when she started coming north for summers. "I’ve always been an outdoor person, and this was far better for a student than spending a summer working in restaurants," she said.After stints teaching and coaching at Mendocino College and Sonoma State University in California, she moved to Alaska, living in Juneau but fishing out of Sitka. She moved to Sitka after the Juneau-Douglas bridge got to be too much of a nuisance for her boat, the June Rose, with which Tuttle earned a living trolling for salmon and longlining for halibut.She tuned in on salmon quality under the tutelage of Harold Thompson of Sitka Sound Seafoods, who was developing salmon quality standards. "I learned a lot from Harold. It was a real challenge to get a score of 100 when I was offloading," Tuttle said.At the time, people were experimenting with frozen-at-sea, a concept where fish harvesters freeze their catch right on the boat to preserve quality. Tuttle became interested. She sold her Juneau house and purchased a larger vessel, the current Rose, which was large enough to live aboard.The key to her operation, she said, is the individual handling of the troll-caught fish. Coho or king salmon caught on lines are stunned before being taken from the water, then immediately gill-bled, dressed and pressure-bled with seawater to ensure no blood remains in the tissues.The fish are double-coated with a salt water glaze and then flash-frozen to minus 40 degrees Fahrenheit.Very rapid freezing to such low temperatures suspends metabolic activity, preserving the quality of the fish. The quality remains weeks or even months later. She has now invested in a larger freezer unit that can get her fish down to 100 degrees below zero.That’s cold enough that the product can withstand any erratic freezer temperatures during transit to the customer, she said.But quality has to be watched all along the line, even in the food stores, she said. Tuttle gives high marks to Samson’s Tug and Barge of Sitka and Alaska Airlines for quality handling of her frozen shipments.But she has seen sloppy handling further down the chain. "We put a lot of effort into quality handling but when someone behind the counter in the store is sloppy it can hurt our reputation," she said.Tuttle took over her own marketing after salmon prices plunged, along with prices offered in the upper end of the market. She worked through friends in California and now markets mainly to organic and natural food stores like New Season’s Markets in Portland, Ore., Newleaf’s in Santa Cruz, Calif., and Draegers’ Market in San Francisco.In New York City her salmon were sold last year at Fairmont-on-Broadway. She also sells directly to upscale restaurants, like Harry’s Savoy Grill in Washington, D.C.While most of her sales have been direct, by phone and word of mouth, Tuttle is now setting up a mail-order operation and a Web site for Internet sales."This has not been a slam dunk for Sherry," said Barbara Belknapp, executive director of the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute."Sherry has gone the extra mile in taking care of her fish and marketing them," Belknapp said. "She has traveled and talked people into trying it, getting people to taste it. She tells people ’I caught this fish, I handled it, and I stake my name and reputation on it."Are there lessons in what Tuttle is doing for others in Alaska’s fishing industry? Is she the solution to the challenge of salmon farmers?Yes and no. Part of Tuttle’s advantage is that she is a troller, catching salmon individually on hooks and lines rather than in a mass of fish by net, which is how seine fishermen work.Tuttle works at a slow, measured pace. Her goal is 100 fish a day, and if she is catching too many too fast, she slows down so the processing can catch up."When you troll you can handle the fish individually," she said. "If the fish don’t get bruised there is no scale loss, and they are beautiful. I can guarantee my fish to the customer."Harvesters in most of Alaska’s salmon fisheries can’t do that. "Combat fishing" is what Tuttle calls the kind of large-scale harvesting that takes place in places like Bristol Bay. "What happens to the product is just incredible," she said.Still, Tuttle’s adaptation of new technology, attention to quality and detail, and willingness to be innovative are concepts that can be copied.Overall, Tuttle thinks the fishing industry needs a new mindset. "The (traditional) system has indoctrinated people into a certain way of thinking," which has led to the present decline of the industry, she said.

It's time for Alaska to put its financial house in order

In May, at a breakfast speech before the Alaska Support Industry Alliance in Anchorage, economist Scott Goldsmith laid out in harsh detail what Alaska faces if it does not solve its impending fiscal gap in state government. Without some intervention, come the fall of 2004, Goldsmith said, the state’s Constitutional Budget Reserve, the bank account on the back of which the state has been balancing the state budget in recent years, would run out. That would mean a $1 billion budget shortfall, forcing the state to cut its discretionary spending by 40 percent, said Goldsmith, who is a University of Anchorage Alaska professor and director of its Institute of Social and Economic Research. You really couldn’t cut the budget that much, Goldsmith told the Alliance. Then, being the economist, he caught himself. Well, yes, you could, but it would eviscerate the state’s educational system, for example. That was only one example he offered of effects that would likely drop Alaska into a recession not unlike that it experienced in the 1980s. None of this is anything new. Alaska, where government is big business, has seen the crisis coming for years, only to have good fortune rescue it. But it has never been as close as now -- little more than two years. And the most poignant moment at the Alliance breakfast came when Dave Harbour, a consultant who operates the Northern Gas Pipelines Internet site as a public service, asked Goldsmith to describe how he would now rate the risk to an investor in Alaska -- high, medium or low. Goldsmith paused. He was willing to describe the challenge Alaska faces if it doesn’t address the fiscal gap and to offer solutions. But who wants to be the first to say that, with the recent failure of state lawmakers to put a solution in place, Alaska has arrived at the point now where financial investment is becoming an untoward risk? Goldsmith answered this way: He was heartened by the progress the Legislature made in its recent session, one in which the House passed a plan to address the fiscal gap only to have the Senate reject it. He said next year’s legislative session is not too late to avoid a crisis. But the longer the wait, the more drastic the remedy. The more drastic the remedy, the stronger the shock to the Alaska economy. Alaska’s good fortune in recent years may turn out to have laid the groundwork for self-deception. Five years ago, Alaska was supposed to exhaust its reserve bank account. It didn’t happen because of the luck that global oil prices went up -- and the royalties that fund state government went up with them -- and the U.S. economy boomed. Some think that no fix is needed until the crisis is actually here. Some think that the gas pipeline will save the state. But if construction started today, a gas pipeline’s positive effects are years away and its maximum potential for funding state government would solve less than half the fiscal gap. And Goldsmith will tell you that preventing a crisis is far less costly, in terms of financial hardship and social misery, than curing it once it arrives. The first order of business for the next governor and the next Legislature is to address this fiscal crisis, period. The year 2003 should go down in history as the year that Alaska stepped up to the plate and put its financial house in order. If it fails to address this challenge, good fortune could again rescue Alaska, especially with unrest in the Middle East affecting the outlook on oil prices. But with no action by lawmakers and no more strokes of good luck, a dismal answer to Dave Harbour’s question will become more and more difficult for Scott Goldsmith or anyone else to dodge. Mark Turner is general manager of Alaskan Publications, which publishes the Alaska Journal of Commerce, the Alaska Oil & Gas Reporter, the Alaska Military Weekly, the Alaskan Equipment Trader and the Alaska Star.

Prove your value in salary talks

Ever wonder how to negotiate your salary? Here are 10 pointers for achieving a win-win result.1. Find out what you are worth.Salary mistakes are compound mistakes. Raises are usually a percentage of your base salary. Underestimating your value costs you income not only for this year but also for the future. Do the research to determine your worth. No salary surveys available? Talk to experienced professionals in the field. Ask for ranges: minimum to maximum.2. Stay focused on the value you deliver.The formula according to compensation consultants: Market value + your individual value + risk value = total compensation. Market value is the average for everyone as researched. Your individual value is what you uniquely bring to the job.Risk value is what you are willing to put at risk and say that you will uniquely deliver. Risk value is where you can shine. What problems can you solve for them? What key results can you make happen? Don’t forget the downstream value of your accomplishments in the future.3. The employer goes first in negotiations.It is the employer’s job to make a business deal with you that saves it money. It is your job to convince them to pay you for your value. Avoid being screened out based on salary.4. Put off salary questions until you are ready.Your written response when asked for salary history should be: "I would like to be paid fairly in relation to the job market for this type of work in your area." Past salary has no bearing on this position. The key factor is what you can do for them today.Your verbal responses when pressed, according to Jack Chapman, author of "Negotiating Your Salary: How to Make $1,000 a Minute:" "I’d like to put off salary discussions until I’m sure that I’m right for the job." "I want a fair salary for my responsibilities. Let’s first talk about how I can help." "Is your concern that you can’t afford me? Let’s discuss what I can do for you. Then later let’s talk about compensation." If pressed again: "I see we’re back to salary again. I’m happy to talk about money and even disclose my salary history at some time if it’s important, but could we talk now about why it’s important to talk about salary now?"5. Respond to their offer.In some countries a pause can be a good tactic. In others it can be a test of wills. When the offer is too low, ask this question: "My research indicates that the range for people with my qualifications is x to y. What can you do in that range?"Too high is nice, but what do you do? You negotiate benefits. Then ask for time, one to three days, to confirm the match.6. Perks and benefits play a role.These may provide opportunity for negotiation: Insurance, personal leave (rate of accrual), professional training and development, professional memberships, moving expenses and use of a business cell phone are examples.7. Get an employment agreement.Get the offer in writing, with benefits in writing. Clarify the duration of agreement. Spell out duties. In the event of termination, ask that it be "for cause." If a noncompete clause is required, try to limit this to direct competition.8. Use the Internet for research.I recommend (www.jobstar.org), which has over 300 U.S. salary surveys online.9. Again, your most important focus should be the value of your contribution to the organization.10. Track your value by project and accomplishment.Getting hired is just the beginning. Lay the groundwork for your next performance review and future promotions by delivering and tracking the value of your contribution. Remember, it’s all about value, value, value.Tim Pearson is a business coach and founding member of MindJazz. He can be reached at 907-562-1568 or via e-mail at ([email protected]).

Juneau Native corporation reports tourism-related loss

JUNEAU -- Goldbelt Inc. reported a loss of $4.4 million for fiscal year 2001 due in part to the weak independent travel market, Gary Droubay, president and chief executive, told shareholders at the Native corporation’s annual meeting."Our company depends a lot upon independent travel, and it was weak again," Droubay said in an interview.The market caused Goldbelt’s small cruise company, Glacier Bay Tours and Cruises, to suffer, he told shareholders June 2 in Juneau. "Goldbelt products that depend upon cruise ship passengers will do fine and continue to do fine," Droubay told the Juneau Empire. "But cruise ship passengers don’t stay in hotels, are not able to go to the Glacier Bay Lodge or take the Tracy Arm cruise."Goldbelt’s income for the year was $2.6 million. Operating expenses and long-term debt of $3.5 million, combined with depreciation and amortization costs of $3.6 million, produced the net loss. Goldbelt’s loss for fiscal year 2002 was about $3.5 million.Goldbelt was able to maintain its cash flow by disposing of real estate in Seattle and Anchorage at a substantial gain.As Juneau’s urban Native corporation, Goldbelt’s primary purpose is to manage assets and conduct business for the benefit of its approximately 3,200 shareholders. Its holdings include the Goldbelt Hotel, Mount Roberts Tramway, Goldbelt Tours, Glacier Bay Tours and Cruises, Auk Nu Tours and Raven/Eagle Gifts, all in Juneau, and Alaska Cruises in Ketchikan.To compensate for the loss and to ensure improvement in the future, Goldbelt has reduced its corporate expenses by 50 percent and consolidated some of its operations, according to Droubay."We have one vessel going to Tracy Arm and Gustavus now instead of two," said Droubay. "We refinanced some of the debt on Mount Roberts Tram as well as on our vessels."Goldbelt also is exploring a strategic partnership with Voyager Holdings, an American-owned maritime investment and holding company created to acquire and construct cruise vessels for U.S. domestic markets.According to a press release from Glacier Bay Tours and Cruises, Voyager plans to buy and provide two 200-passenger cruise vessels to Glacier Bay Tours and Cruises to operate in Alaska and along the Pacific West Coast."It is a key part of our strategy for the next year," said Droubay. "I still can’t disclose the details, but it would involve additional capital and strengthen the Glacier Bay operation and really allow it to grow."Goldbelt has made changes to the organization’s structure, dividing the company into the Marine Operations Division and the Land Operations Division.Droubay is still uncertain about how the independent travel market will do this year but is hopeful the numbers will increase."It’s too early to tell," Droubay said. "If people don’t want to go overseas, we hope they will consider Alaska as a potential destination."

Anchorage airport to handle wildlife parts and products

It now will be easier and cheaper to ship everything from snakeskin cowboy boots to hunting trophies and exotic zoo animals through the Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport.Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, has secured funding for his namesake airport that will be used to staff U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service inspectors to regulate the importation and exportation of wildlife and animal parts and products. Anchorage International is now considered a "designated port" by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, special status that will save shippers money by not having to obtain special permits.A formal ceremony was held May 29 in Anchorage with Stevens on hand to give the airport the designation.The federal Endangered Species Act requires that all animals or their parts be imported and exported through a designated U.S. Customs port staffed with inspectors from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. While Anchorage ranks sixth in the nation in the annual volume of wildlife and wildlife products, it is the 14th city in the United States to be awarded the special status."We were overdue," said Bruce Woods, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service spokesman in Anchorage.Other designated U.S. Customs ports are Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Dallas-Fort Worth, Honolulu, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, New York, Newark, Portland, San Francisco and Seattle.Anchorage will receive about $360,000 over the next three years to staff at least one additional inspector and a special agent for investigations.Each wildlife or wildlife-product shipment should save the customer about $65 in inspection fees with the new designation, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.Noncommercial shipments are now exempt from inspection fees if imported during regular business hours. Commercial shipments cost $55 each if imported during normal business hours. Shipments of federally protected wildlife still require additional permits in most cases.Before Anchorage became a designated port, shippers like United Parcel Service and Federal Express, which have large hubs in Anchorage, would bypass most of their wildlife shipments through Alaska to San Francisco, which has the special designation, said Stephen Oberholtzer, a special agent with the Fish and Wildlife Service in Anchorage.In 2000, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service handled 3,555 wildlife shipments valued at $9.3 million in Anchorage. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service expects the shipments to triple during the next three to five years now that the Anchorage International is recognized as a designated port.Federal inspectors monitoring wildlife shipments typically find between 150 and 250 violations a year in Anchorage, Oberholtzer said.The number of American and foreign hunters requesting clearance of wildlife trophies in Anchorage has jumped 300 percent in the last five years, according to the Fish and Wildlife Service. Over the last seven years, the number of foreign hunters exporting Alaska big game trophies has jumped 73 percent.Products, mostly from Asia, like lizard-skin belts or snakeskin shoes, also require special clearance, Oberholtzer said.An increase in international visitors to Alaska also required more wildlife shipments requiring clearance, Oberholtzer said.

Alaska ranks last in economic growth

WASHINGTON -- At the end of America’s longest economic boom, Alaska and Louisiana were dead last in a ranking of economic growth, the government reported June 10.Rhode Island and Idaho were at the top of the list, the report said.The Commerce Department report on gross state product showed the 10-year economic boom was showering prosperity from coast to coast in 2000 but there were pockets of weakness, reflecting hard times in the oil and gas industry and manufacturing.Residents of Rhode Island enjoyed the fastest growth pace, a gain of 10.7 percent in gross state product in 2000 compared to 1999. Idaho was not far behind with an increase of 8.3 percent, followed by an 8.1 percent rise in economic output in neighboring Oregon.At the other end of the spectrum, Alaska, Louisiana and Mississippi were all hurt by weakness in the oil and gas industry and manufacturing. Economic output in Alaska fell by 2.9 percent in 2000 and was down 2.7 percent in Louisiana, the only two states where the economy shrank that year. Mississippi, third from the bottom, eked out a tiny 0.8 percent increase.The performance in the various states compared to a nationwide increase of gross state product of 4.5 percent in 2000. That performance compared with an increase in the gross domestic product, the benchmark for the entire economy, of 4.1 percent for 2000.The GDP and GSP figures are not directly comparable because the government subtracts some components from the state-by-state figures that are included in the overall GDP numbers. For instance, the gross state product excludes compensation paid for federal employees and members of the military stationed overseas.The National Bureau of Economic Research has ruled that the country’s longest period of economic growth ended in March 2001, exactly 10 years after the economic expansion began. The NBER has not determined when the recession ended, but many private economists believe the recovery began in January or February.

In Alaska, women running airlines no big deal

Alaska -- where men are men and women run airlines.Of the small sorority of airline owners and operators worldwide, nearly all are located in Alaska, says Peggy Chabrian, executive director of Florida-based Women in Aviation International.Chabrian says although women have been involved in aviation since its infancy and the number of women working in the industry is on the rise, it’s still extremely rare for a female to be in charge of an airline. Besides the handful of those in Alaska, she knows of no other woman in the United States who owns an airline currently. "The only other one that I know of is located in Singapore," said Chabrian, whose organization has more than 6,000 members worldwide and encourages young women to consider aviation as a career."I’m impressed," said Chabrian of Alaska’s female airline ownership.The work force in Alaska has long accepted women in tough-as-nails occupations like logging, mining and fishing. So for a woman to work in the airline industry, or even to own the company, is really no big deal, said Karen Casanovas, executive director of the Alaska Air Carriers Association. "Nobody really gives it much thought. It’s just the way its is,’’ said Casanovas who has nearly three decades in the aviation industry and heads the heavily male-dominated 85-member Alaska Air Carriers Association.The association counts between a half-dozen to a dozen airlines in Alaska either owned solely by women or run by husband-and-wife teams.A hard way to the topAt least three airlines in Alaska, F.S. Air Service Inc., Northern Air Cargo Inc. and Baker Aviation are run by the widows of men who started the businesses.After commercial pilot Floyd Saltz died in an airplane crash in July 1998, his wife, Sandi Saltz Butler, took over Anchorage-based F.S. Air Service and has vowed to make it safer.Safety, said Butler, is the No. 1 priority with the airline, which now provides pilots and mechanics with advanced flight and technical training.F.S. Air Service no longer runs cargo or makes what Butler calls high liability flights, like landing on beaches or unimproved village runways. "My late husband Floyd lived and died for this business. I think he’d be very proud of where we are today," Butler said.Floyd and Sandi, whose initials make up the company name, started the airline in 1986 with one airplane in a building with one room. Floyd Saltz was the sole pilot. Today, F.S. Air Service has a fleet of 10 airplanes that provide charter and jet ambulance services throughout Alaska. The airline also runs scheduled Anchorage-to-Seward flights.Butler said she believes the gender of a business owner makes little difference in the success of a business or how it is perceived."There are a lot of people out there that still think it’s a man’s world," said Butler. "But I can’t say up here it makes a whole heck of a lot of difference."She said men and women probably approach business a little differently but overall "we have the same goal in mind."F.S. Air Service has some 63 employees and several female pilots, including its chief pilot, Kathy Whittington.Some 20 years ago Butler thought she wanted to be a pilot and took a few lessons, but she said she never got the "seat-of-the pants" feeling needed to be a good aviator."I leave the flying to those who are good at it," Butler said.Northern Air Cargo Inc., the largest all-cargo carrier in the state, was founded in 1956 as partnership between Robert "Bobby" Sholton and Maurice Carlson.Sholton died in 1982, and the airline is now run by his widow, Rita Sholton, who serves as the company chairman and chief executive officer.Sholton was out of state and could not be reached by the Journal.Northern Air Cargo, according to company history, started as a charter air freight service with two C-82 "Flying Boxcars," pioneering the shipment of oversize cargo to the Bush. Northern Air Cargo now operates a dozen aircraft throughout the state, including nine DC-6 aircraft and three Boeing 727s.The company has some 240 employees and earned $40 million in revenues in 2000.Marge Baker, owner of Kotzebue-based Baker Aviation, runs a somewhat smaller operation but no less important one to the folks in the northwest region of the state.Baker, who, according to her children, has never lent herself to a media interview, politely declined an interview with the Journal, saying she had an airline to run.Lori Henry said she looks up to her mother, who was left with the airline and seven children when her husband, pioneer aviator Bob Baker, died in a plane crash in 1968."She managed the airline, built it up, took care of the kids -- all in the Arctic," Henry said of her mother, who is an Inupiat Eskimo. "She’s amazing."John Baker worked for 10 years for his mother as a pilot but now devotes most of his time to dog mushing, where he is a a veteran of seven Iditarods.Baker said his mother was as good of a boss as she is a mom."She is the type of boss that may be a little too caring, too sympathetic," John Baker said.For more than 30 years, Marge Baker has kept the family airline aloft and profitable, her children said."My dad would definitely be proud of her," John Baker said.’Two Babes and a Bird’

Nevada regulators give nod to CIRI casino investment

CARSON CITY, Nev. -- Nevada gambling regulators are recommending approval of a complex agreement letting 7,000 Alaska Natives profit from a planned Las Vegas-area hotel and casino.If approved by the Nevada Gaming Commission June 20, the agreement would allow the Cook Inlet Region Inc. to receive gambling profits from a 350-room Ritz-Carlton resort being built at Lake Las Vegas in suburban Henderson.The agreement recommended by the Nevada Gaming Control Board June 5 seeks to resolve conflicting federal and state requirements, balancing Nevada gambling law and the rights of the Alaska Native shareholders in their Anchorage-based company.Nevada officials said regulations might ban some shareholders in prison from receiving gambling profits."I think this achieves a very good balance in terms of strictly regulating this company," said Dennis Neilander, control board chairman .He added that the issue of shareholder suitability is very narrow and should not be the focus of a gambling application. The company has assets of more than $1 billion and has a "commendable history," Neilander said.If the commission approves the agreement, the company must apply for a license.Control board member Scott Scherer said Nevada gambling law allows for flexibility. He said the agreement approved by the panel encourages investment while maintaining strict control and regulation of gambling.Control board members were told in April that CIRI was established under the authority of Congress, and that the federal act requires all shareholders to receive equal dividends.But Carl Marrs, company president, told the control board at the April meeting that some shareholders are in prison and could be found unsuitable by Nevada officials.Nevada law, designed to weed out mob influences, prohibits unsuitable persons from receiving gambling earnings.The proposal, drafted by Cook Inlet attorney Paul Bible in cooperation with control board attorneys, allows for members who may be unsuitable to transfer their shares to selected family members.The agreement also says that if a shareholder is found unsuitable, gambling profits from the hotel-casino could not be disbursed to shareholders until the issue is resolved.CIRI has a 47 percent interest in the Village at MonteLago development at Lake Las Vegas, which will be anchored by the Ritz-Carlton resort.The company already has a 50 percent share in the Hyatt Regency at Lake Las Vegas but does not share in its gambling profits.

Women own one-fourth of businesses

In Alaska, women count for an important portion of the work force and as employers.The U.S. Small Business Administration in 1999 recorded 16,136 employer businesses in Alaska and 97 percent of those were classified as small businesses with fewer than 500 employees. Women-owned businesses counted for 25.9 percent of businesses in 1997 and employed 16,520 people, according to SBA statistics.According to U.S. Census 2000 figures released in May, Alaska has a population of 302,820 women who make up 48.3 percent of the total population. The total statewide labor force age 16 and older was 326,596, including 145,422 women. Of all Alaska women age 16 and older, 65.9 percent are in the labor force.The state Department of Labor and Workforce Development reports that at least 50 percent of women workers in 1999 were employed in administrative support, clerical and service jobs.State research shows occupations employing the largest numbers of female workers were general office occupations, sales clerks, bookkeepers and accounting and auditing clerks, secretaries, elementary school teachers, waiters and waitresses, teacher aides and cashiers.Jobs employing at least 90 percent of workers who were female in 1999 were legal secretaries, dental assistants, hairdressers and cosmetologists, secretaries, receptionists, billing clerks, pre-kindergarten and kindergarten teachers, bank tellers and registered nurses.Jobs with 5 percent or fewer women include heavy equipment mechanics, plumbers/pipe-fitters, automobile mechanics, welders and cutters, carpenters, electricians, material moving equipment operators, truck and tractor-trailer drivers, supervisors of mechanics and repairers, airplane pilots and navigators, and excavating and loading machine operators.

Senate-approved bypass mail bill could save Postal Service $30 million a year

FAIRBANKS -- The U.S. Senate has approved changes to Alaska’s bypass mail system.The Senate June 6 added the bypass mail language to a supplemental spending bill for the federal government’s current fiscal year. Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, offered the amendment, which was adopted by unanimous consent.Stevens said overhauling the bypass mail system should save the Postal Service $30 million a year.The Senate action comes after more than a year of work on the proposal, which was supported by some air carriers in Alaska but opposed by others.The House version of the supplemental bill, which passed last month, contains intent language supporting revisions to the bypass mail system. Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, secured that language.The House and Senate versions must be merged in a conference committee."I don’t expect any problems from the House or anybody on this bill," Stevens told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.Under the current bypass program, shippers can send 1,000 pounds or more of material, including groceries, to rural Alaska at parcel post rates. It’s dubbed "bypass" because the packages bypass post offices and go directly to eligible air carriers on a rotating basis.The Postal Service pays the air carriers to carry the bypass mail, using a formula based on industry costs.Those costs will continue to rise if nothing is done and more companies get into the bypass mail business, according to Stevens. As the mail gets split among more carriers, the amount each carrier spends to deliver each shipment inevitably rises, he said. Under the cost-based formula, those rising expenses must be reimbursed by the Postal Service.Eliminating the cost-reimbursement system isn’t an attractive option, Stevens said June 7. If that were done, the Postal Service would contract out the mail delivery to the lowest bidder. Then air carriers would have to cut back their rural passenger service dramatically, something he doesn’t want to see happen.So he and Young have pushed a two-pronged approach to cap costs while potecting passenger service.First, their legislation would restrict new carriers on mainline routes between Alaska’s larger cities and the Bush hubs. No new carriers on a route would be allowed unless they provided at least as many passenger seats as the current largest passenger carrier serving the hub community.Existing carriers would not face the minimum passenger requirement. Those carriers include Northern Air Cargo, Air Cargo Express, Alaska Airlines and Lynden Air Cargo.At least one company hoping to get into the bypass mail business, Evergreen Aviation, has said requiring new mainline carriers to carry a certain number of passengers while exempting existing carriers is unfair.Stevens, however, said the restriction is necessary to prevent the cost escalation.Provisions of the bill also will encourage consolidation of the mail into fewer, larger planes, he said.The legislation’s second prong would affect Bush routes between the hubs and the smaller outlying villages. Carriers that transport more passengers and non-mail freight would be given most of the bypass mail. Also, carriers using small planes would have to upgrade to twin-engine aircraft under certain conditions to remain eligible.The legislation delays the new rules for 15 months.

Gov. Knowles asks unions to keep loading ships bound for Alaska

ANCHORAGE -- With less than a month before a West Coast longshoremen’s contract expires, shipping companies operating in Alaska are girding for a possible strike or work slowdowns. Gov. Tony Knowles, meanwhile, has asked the longshoremen’s union to continue loading Alaska-bound ships if a strike occurs.Neither the International Longshore and Warehouse Union nor the Pacific Maritime Association, both based in San Francisco, will comment on the contract talks because of a self-imposed news blackout. Talks began last month. The three-year contract ends July 1.Union spokesman Steve Stallone said that there’s been only one strike in 54 years and that the two sides usually work out a contract. The maritime association’s chief executive, Joseph Miniace, said he’s optimistic that the union shares the goals of modernizing workplace practices and technology. The maritime association represents shipping lines, stevedore companies and terminal operators.Trucks and jets haul some goods to Alaska. But the threat of a dock workers’ strike looms large in the state because the bulk of Alaska’s groceries, clothing, furniture, cars and building materials arrives by container ship from the Port of Tacoma.Frank Peake is Alaska vice president of CSX Lines, one of the two major shippers that bring everything from milk to toilet paper to minivans to Alaska."I don’t think that they’ve really tackled any of the tough issues yet," Peake said.Peake said he’s monitoring the labor talks. In the meantime, he’s repositioned another ship to handle any spike in inventory to Alaska this month. With the possibility of a strike, department stores and car dealers often increase the amount of goods shipped."For this state in particular, it’s critical because we only have seven to eight days worth of inventory in many cases. It wouldn’t take long for us to be out of milk and bread and what have you," said Peake.The other major shipping company that serves Alaska, Totem Ocean Trailer Express Inc., or TOTE, is also making contingency arrangements, said Bob McGee, president. McGee declined to offer specifics, saying it wouldn’t help the contract talks.McGee noted that the longshoremen’s union hasn’t had a work stoppage since 1972. When strikes have loomed in the past, the union has agreed to exempt Alaska because shipping, to a large extent, is the state’s economic lifeblood, he said.Knowles wrote to the union April 15 asking longshoremen to continue loading ships bound for Alaska even if they strike or stage a work slowdown. Knowles said that he recognizes the union’s right to withhold labor in the absence of a contract but that to exempt Alaska from any work stoppage would be "a bold statement of partnership with my state."The union hasn’t responded yet but plans to reply, Stallone said.Union longshoremen on the West Coast handle 60 percent of commodity freight to Alaska, Knowles said. But Alaska is just a small portion of the overall domestic and international cargo moving through West Coast ports such as Long Beach, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle and Tacoma.It’s the union’s prerogative whether or not to grant Alaska a waiver."It’s not a slam dunk," Peake said.

Major salmon farmers in Europe gearing up to produce farmed cod

Cod will be the next major aquaculture species exported to world markets from Norway, and the big commercial breakthrough will happen this year.That’s according to a new report on the growth of cod farming from the Norwegian fisheries newspaper Intrafish, which says that 280 cod-farming licenses have already been issued in Norway. Production of cod will grow from 3 million juveniles this year to 64 million in 2005, based on projections.Seafood.com reports that growth in Norway and the United Kingdom is being spearheaded by investments by major salmon farming companies, including Fjord Seafood, Pan Fish, Nutreco, Grieg Seafood, Marine Farms, Salmar and Stolt Sea Farm. All of these have begun investments or will do so shortly through their own companies or subsidiaries.Aquascot, the largest producer of organic salmon in the United Kingdom, is expected to produce more than 2 million cod juveniles annually, leading to production of 5,000 to 6,000 tons. The complete 21-page report is for sale for $285 from Intrafish.com.Foundation helps Coast GuardMany people are unaware of an organization called the Coast Guard Foundation, a nationwide, nonprofit group that is dedicated to improving the quality of life for those in the U.S. Coast Guard.The foundation began in the late 1960s and originally focused on providing programs and facilities at the Coast Guard Academy in Connecticut. Its mission was expanded in the mid-1980s to encompass the entire Coast Guard."Our broader mission and main thrust is to reach out to Coast Guard men and women all over the country, particularly those serving in remote locations such as in Alaska," said Barbara Richards, foundation president, at the group’s headquarters in Stonington, Conn.In Kodiak, for example, the foundation helped renovate the bowling alley and other recreational facilities on the Coast Guard base. In Sitka, the funds built a bus shelter. The foundation’s biggest project this year, and in fact one of the biggest anywhere in the country, is to build a community-activity center for Coast Guard families stationed in Valdez.The foundation also provides scholarships for enlisted men and women and their dependents, as well as grants for continuing education. "These people are not highly paid, and they struggle to make ends meet," Richards said.Some might argue that men and women in the military don’t need a special funding source, because the government provides housing, medical insurance and many other benefits. Richards said that’s a comment that’s often heard, and she has a ready response."Most people are aware that the Coast Guard is a very small organization in relation to its mission nationwide, now more than ever, with so much emphasis on port security and the Coast Guard’s role in the whole homeland security issue," she said. "Its budget has traditionally been under funded, and operational priorities always take precedent."While we have seen some positive trends in federal support, those dollars won’t go to the kinds of things the foundation does, small things that can make a difference in the quality of life but will always be at bottom of list in terms of priorities."The foundation also organizes and recognizes Coast Guard heroes and units at awards dinners around the country and uses those opportunities to help spread the word about the many things the Coast Guard is doing.Most notably for Alaskans, on Oct. 3 an awards banquet and fund-raiser is scheduled at the Hotel Captain Cook in Anchorage. Richards said all the money raised will go toward the community center project in Valdez.For more information, call 860-535-0786, or check out the foundation’s Web site at (www.cgfdn.org).Hold the fishFirst it was farmed fish. Now, NASA scientists have developed a method for growing chunks of fish flesh in a lab -- without a fish. The Alaska Fisherman’s Journal cited a CNN report that said the process would allow "the production of copious amounts of protein for consumption without the messy and involved business of killing fish or livestock."The magazine said the fish-flesh began with muscle from goldfish. It was placed in a vat of fetal bovine serum liquid, taken from the blood of unborn calves. Within a week, the goldfish flesh had grown by 16 percent. The experiment is part of a project aimed at feeding people during extended space travel.Salmon roe prices expected to declineThe first sujiko, or roe, from the Copper River fishery was offered in Japan at $14.55 per pound for No.1 product and at "the traditional price spread of $1.45 per pound less for No. 2 product," according to market analyst Bill Atkinson. Last year the starting price for No. 2 roe was $17.05 per pound but dropped to between $14.91 to $15.27 per pound by early June. With the weak market conditions for salmon roe in Japan, prices are expected to decline as the season progresses, Atkinson said. Wanted: seafood fanaticsThe Old Bay Spice company is looking for America’s biggest seafood and Old Bay fans. Old Bay is a Southern tradition, famous for the flavor it gives to crabs, shrimp and, especially, crawfish. Enthusiasts can enter the contest by describing in 100 words or less why they are the biggest seafood fanatics, and provide their favorite or most unusual uses for Old Bay.Ten winners will be selected on the basis of creativity, persuasiveness and originality of Old Bay use. The winners will then compete in the first Peel & Eat Shrimp Classic on Labor Day in Baltimore, Md. The person who eats the most shrimp will win a $10,000 grand prize. Look for Old Bay displays in grocery stores or call 800-632-5847. The deadline to enter is July 31.Kodiak-based free-lance writer Laine Welch can be reached via e-mail at ([email protected]).

Knowles signs measure reversing drilling ruling

JUNEAU -- Gov. Tony Knowles signed into law June 7 a bill that would undo a unanimous Alaska Supreme Court decision on permitting requirements for oil drilling wastes in Cook Inlet.The new law also would exempt firing ranges from state waste disposal permitting requirements.The measure was a response to two separate lawsuits filed by environmental groups. It was sponsored by Sen. Gene Therriault, R-North Pole.The action on permitting for drilling wastes was in response to a Supreme Court decision handed down May 3. Knowles said that decision could jeopardize oil and gas permits as well as other resource development activities.The court ruled unanimously that state regulators erred when they decided to allow the discharge of drilling mud and rock cuttings from Forest Oil’s Osprey Platform in Cook Inlet under a general discharge permit issued by the federal government.The high court ruled that the Alaska Coastal Zone Management Act required a project-specific review.The lawsuit challenging the state’s action on the Osprey platform was filed by the environmental group Cook Inlet Keeper.In addition to undoing the court decision, the new law would undercut a lawsuit filed by Cook Inlet Keeper, Alaska Community Action on Toxics, the Military Toxics Project and the Chickaloon Village Traditional Council.The federal lawsuit sought to have the military stop using the 2,500-acre Eagle River Flats firing range at Fort Richardson and clean up unexploded munitions on the range.Therriault’s bill was introduced late in the session at the request of the military to exempt all active firing ranges from state requirements for a waste disposal permit.Environmentalists have argued that white phosphorous and other chemicals from ordnance fired at Eagle River flats can cause serious health problems in wildlife and people.In addition to seeking a state solid waste permit for the Eagle River flats firing range, the groups’ lawsuit seeks to have the firing range brought into compliance with the federal Clean Water Act.The law takes effect immediately.

Committee approves Adak land transfer

ANCHORAGE -- The transfer of land on Adak Island to the Aleut Corp. took another step toward completion June 5.The U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee approved a bill to transfer 47,000 acres to the corporation.The corporation wants to develop the island community, once home to a large Navy base. The former base contains hundreds of homes, as well as schools, warehouses, a power plant, an airfield and one of the Pacific’s best deep-water ports.The corporation hopes to turn the island into a fish processing and refueling center.The bill is sponsored by Sen. Frank Murkowski, R-Alaska. It calls for the corporation to relinquish an equal number of acres of land it selected from the federal government.The measure still must be approved by the full Senate.

Fairbanks hotel shows plans for 8-story tower

FAIRBANKS -- Representatives of Westmark Hotel and Convention Center will demolish the oldest section of the hotel and build an eight-story tower in its place, the hotel chain has announced.Preliminary site work on the $34 million project is scheduled to begin this month, with an opening set for the spring of 2004. Architect Merle Jantz unveiled the plan for city officials June 5.Much of the two-story northern portion of the hotel that will be demolished was constructed in the 1950s as the Traveler’s Inn. The project calls for 108 rooms to be replaced with 265 new ones, giving the hotel 400 rooms.Company President Dave Cocks said part of the motive behind the addition is to try to draw off-season conference-type events from Anchorage and Juneau."We’ll be going after some of the larger state organizations and conventions, which Fairbanks desperately needs," he said. "We have a lot of faith in the infrastructure of the city."No new convention space will be added. Jantz said the difficulty with attracting events has had more to do with a lack of top-caliber accommodations."It wasn’t the conference space, it was the number of rooms," he said. "Now we’ll have 400 good quality rooms ... the rooms are larger, the bathrooms are larger and modern."

Business Profile: 3SG Inc.

Name of the company: 3SG Inc.Established: October 2001Location: 3709 Spenard Road, Suite B101, Anchorage, AK 99501Telephone: 907-929-4374Web site: www.3sgi.comE-mail: [email protected] focus of services: 3SG Inc. provides Internet and network security services as a monthly subscription for companies. A hardware device from the company provides protection from Internet hackers, and the company also uses software to thwart computer viruses and filter Internet access based on various specifications. 3SG also can design virtual private networks and develop security policies for companies.History of the company: 3SG owners Justin Burgess and Brian Evans met while working at General Communication Inc. Three years ago Evans considered a business idea to provide information technology services for small- and medium-sized businesses that typically could not afford to employ an IT professional. He and Burgess decided providing security services would be the best avenue for a new business.After drumming up financing from investors, Burgess and Evans opened 3SG on Oct. 1. Burgess spent six months developing a customized management platform and fine-tuning software programs for the company’s service offerings. Although similar companies operate in the Lower 48, the two Alaskans say 3SG is the only such company in the state offering this type of outsourced security services.3SG has clients ranging from a network with three computers to another with 1,200 computers. Burgess and Evans handle much of the work but also employ part-time subcontractors for installations.Top accomplishment of the company: The business partners are pleased that financial performance should break even this summer, ahead of their business plan that listed that milestone after one year. Projects also have been important like starting service for its largest customer and providing a virtual private network between Anchorage, Kenai, Edmonton, Alberta and Houston, Texas. Burgess and Evans also relish operating their own business. "I enjoyed GCI, but this is my own," Evans said.Major players: Justin Burgess and Brian Evans, owners, 3SG Inc.Burgess moved to Alaska in 1995 and has worked for the North Slope Borough, GCI and Ilisagvik College in Barrow. He has 10 years experience in Internet security and holds several industry certifications. Evans was born and raised in Anchorage. He worked for eight years as an account manager at the Odom Corp. and five years at GCI as senior commercial accounts manager.-- Nancy Pounds

Native corporations report impact

Alaska’s Native regional and village corporations contribute widely to the state’s economy and will grow and prosper as Alaska develops, senior managers of three prominent Native regional corporations said June 5.Native-owned corporations have invested in timber, hotels, oilfield services, mining and several other types of businesses, said Jacob Adams, president of Arctic Slope Regional Corp. of Barrow.But in the long run, it is the huge private land base owned by Native corporations, combined with the talents of young Alaskans educated and trained as a result of the corporations and their business activities, that will boost the state’s growth, Adams and the others told the Resource Development Council for Alaska Inc. in Anchorage.The council was holding its annual membership luncheon at the Sheraton Anchorage Hotel.Adams said the values held by Native people, as they move into leadership roles in the state’s business community, are also important."Cooperation, respect and integrity are values that are ingrained in our cultures," he said.Barbara Donatelli, executive vice president of Cook Inlet Region Inc., agreed with this. "Alaska Natives have a concern for the well-being of the whole group, not just the individual. This is good for Alaska," she said.Marie Greene, president of NANA Regional Corp. of Kotzebue, said her corporation has invested in 35 businesses that employ 1,800 Alaskans and 1,200 people in the Lower 48.NANA’s goals are jobs for its shareholders and business opportunities, Greene said, and one of its successes is the partnership with Teck Cominco in developing the Red Dog Mine, which is on NANA-owned lands."Thirty years ago there were very few jobs in our villages. The only jobs were seasonal, except for a handful in the village store or in the school," Greene said. Now 60 percent of the work force at Red Dog are shareholders. NANA’s ultimate goal is for shareholders to manage the mine and its operations.But accomplishing that will require continued investment in education and training, Greene said. The need has spawned the creation of strong regional education and training initiatives.NANA and other institutions in the region, like the nonprofit Manealuk Corp., the Northwest Arctic School District and others, formed the Northwest Arctic Higher Education Consortium to promote education and training.The consortium has now been enlarged to include the Arctic Slope, with the addition of Arctic Slope Regional Corp., the North Slope Borough and Phillips Alaska Inc. as members.Adams told the council that the 44 million acres of private lands owned by Alaska Native corporations will be a key factor in the state’s future development. However, long delays in conveyance of these lands by the government to the corporations have impaired this potential, he said.But now resources on Native lands are being produced. Adams said Native lands are included as part of the largest new oil and gas field to be developed in the last decade, the Alpine field on the North Slope.He is optimistic that the huge coal reserves of the western Arctic, which are owned by Arctic Slope, will begin to be developed within the next decade as part of a plan to supply power for continued development of mining in the Red Dog region.Adams said that shareholders in Native corporations who are taking advantage of scholarships and other assistance to secure higher education and training will provide a critical pool of skilled workers for Alaska’s industries in future years."Young Native people who go outside the state to pursue education typically return when their education is complete," bringing their knowledge and skills back home, Adams said.Adams is concerned, however, about the future of Alaska’s rural economy, its communities and the smaller village corporations, he told the council.Reducing conflicts between the state’s urban politicians and rural people is critical to the future of the state, because rural communities depend on public infrastructure and services."I don’t expect the same level of services in Atkasuk, an Arctic Slope village, as I would in Anchorage, but I would expect some level of understanding" about the needs of rural people, Adams said.Donatelli said that while the largest industrial firms working in Alaska have their headquarters out of state, Alaska’s Native corporations are based in Alaska.They are important sources of investment in Alaska enterprises, she said. Recent economic studies showed that a group of 21 Native corporations, including 12 regional corporations and nine village corporations, employed 10,600 Alaskans with a payroll of $350 million in 2000, Donatelli said.

Juneau businesses see decline in independent travelers

JUNEAU -- A predicted slowdown in travel to Juneau in the wake of Sept. 11 has left the cruise ship industry unscathed, but may be taking a toll on local businesses that depend on independent travelers.No firm numbers are available yet, but anecdotal evidence from a wide variety of Juneau establishments catering to independent travelers shows a slowdown in bookings and an increase in cancellations for the key summer season of mid-May through mid-September.Independent travelers, or generally any visitor to Alaska who isn’t coming on a prearranged package tour, are thought to provide an important boost to local economies, said Caryl McConkie, tourism program manager with the state Department of Community and Economic Development."That’s a concern," McConkie said. "People think of (independent travelers) as people that are coming, staying overnight ... purchasing tours locally, that sort of thing. They’re the tourists many of the communities and businesses want."Unlike cruise ship passengers, who often are in town for only a few hours, independent travelers eat, shop and tour around Juneau and other Southeast towns, taking advantage of local hotels, motels and bed-and-breakfasts and small-scale travel activities like charter fishing.In 1993, purely independent travelers made up 44 percent of the Alaska summer market, said McConkie, who also oversees the Alaska Visitor’s Statistics Program, a statewide research project on the visitor industry, conducted four times since 1985.Last year’s survey found that independent travelers made up only 30 percent of Alaska’s summer tourism totals, or approximately 360,840 of the 1,202,800 people who came to Alaska from May to September 2001.Of that total, anywhere from 100,000 to 160,000 reach Juneau each year, said Lorene Kappler, president of the Juneau Convention and Visitors Bureau, a nonprofit organization that works to increase independent travel to the capital.That number, which is based on summer occupancy rates, has remained relatively flat for the last 10 years, Kappler said. With the 2002 summer season heating up, she’s hearing a mix of predictions about business prospects."It’s hard to have a broad brushstroke because different people operate their businesses differently," Kappler said. "Anecdotally, I’ve heard different stories, from ’I can’t believe how well things are,’ to ’I’m down 40 percent.’ Overall, it isn’t as strong a market as it’s been."That overall decline is taking its toll on local operations, both large and small. Goldbelt Inc., Alaska’s urban Native corporation, lost $4.4 million for fiscal year 2001. The loss partially stemmed from a weak independent travel market, Gary Droubay, president and chief executive, told the Juneau Empire June 4.For smaller operations, the costs of the decline also have been dramatic. Phil Greeney closed the doors on his bed-and-breakfast, the Mt. Juneau Inn, this summer. He and wife, Karen, who began operating the bed-and-breakfast in 1995, saw double-digit increases in client numbers until the economy ran into trouble in 2001, Greeney said."It was flat," Greeney said of the 2001 summer season. "(Business) didn’t pick up anywhere as we were used to it picking up. ... A big part of it was the state of the economy and then when Sept. 11 came that just really finished it."Many businesses cited last fall’s terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C., as a likely cause of the drop in reservations by independent travelers. Several also noted a decline in foreign visitors."From what I’ve heard, people that are in Europe don’t want to travel to America at this point in time because of the terrorist activities and the waiting and everything in the airports," said Joshua Zeller, front desk manager for the Breakwater Inn, Restaurant and Lounge.Mike Bethers, who has owned the charter fishing service Silver King Marine since 1995, said he had cancellations of long-standing charters for the first time this summer. All five parties canceled because of Sept. 11-related issues, including fear of flying and their own required military service.Other business owners attributed declining numbers to increased traffic from cruise ships.

New high school ahead of schedule

Construction is more than three-fourths complete on the $45 million Dimond High School replacement, the largest project in the Anchorage School District’s history.Work on the 264,000-square-foot, two-story school should be finished in spring 2003, a few months ahead of schedule, said Ray Amsden, Anchorage School District director of facilities.The cost of the Dimond High eclipses recent projects to build Mirror Lake Middle School and Goldenview Junior High, which each cost in the mid-$30 million range, he said.It also is one of the largest construction projects under way in Anchorage this year.Building began 15 months ago, alongside the current Dimond High, said Vince Stevens, school district project manager. General contractor Alcan General Inc. and its subcontractors were able to work during winter, which contributed to being ahead of schedule, he said."On a project this size it’s quite a credit to the contractor," he said.Alcan project manager Stephen Jelinek believes the building should be finished in January, although the contractor will have a few site details to complete that June. The project is four to five months ahead of schedule, he said. "I think we can stick to it," Jelinek said. "We’ve gotten over the risk areas."He attributes the swift progress to coordination among project participants."We’re blessed to have really good people," Jelinek said.Stevens, from the school district, agreed, noting the efforts from Alcan and Anchorage-based company USKH Architects, Engineers, Surveyors & Planners.AMC Engineers of Anchorage served as electrical and mechanical engineer contractor.Employment at the site peaked three to four months ago at 140 workers, while minimum employment has been 100 people, Stevens said. The project is 79 percent complete, Stevens said.In some sections of the building, walls are painted and lockers and white boards are already installed, while other areas like the main gymnasium and auditorium-cafeteria have additional work remaining.Work this summer will finish most academic areas, including installing carpet and other floor coverings, Stevens said. Construction on public areas such as the gym will continue through February.Currently, Dimond has 2,100 students, requiring 19 relocatable classrooms at the site, Stevens said. Those units will not be needed once the new 1,600-student school is completed, boundaries are redrawn and the new South Anchorage high school is finished, he said. That date is tentatively set for fall 2004.Another Anchorage high school is being built this year. Site work started in May on the new $68 million South Anchorage school, according to school district facilties director Amsden.Once the Dimond replacement school is finished, another construction phase will follow to demolish the old school, renovate the front area to include student and public parking, an entry plaza and tennis courts, Stevens said. That work is being designed now and should go out for bid in 2003.Dimond High’s new design separates academic and public areas, he said. It will allow community members to use the gym or library while school officials can close off classroom wings and prevent vandalism.The design also features a new arrangement called an academic wing, which aims to create a more personal environment, Stevens said. Each wing will house most classrooms and lockers for 400 students plus have an office for an assistant principal and a guidance counselor.Another feature in each wing is a teacher work area, which includes a computer work station and locking cabinet for each teacher plus a kitchenette. A teachers’ lounge is located near the administration area. The school has been wired for high-technology applications including card-reader entry as well as overhead projectors and data connections in classrooms, Stevens said.The main gym, with a 1,600-person capacity, has a three-lane, one-eighth mile running track circling its second level. An adjacent auxiliary gym is suited for smaller activities like wrestling or gymnastics practice rather than large assemblies, Stevens said.An auditorium-cafeteria combines food service and performance capability in a design concept probably used for the first time in Alaska, he said. The area includes a stage and orchestra pit.A commons area includes stairs and an elevator to the second level. The school has two art rooms, a scene shop for performances, one room each for band, choir and orchestra, and individual practice rooms for music students.The school will have a new hockey rink, and soccer and baseball fields."It’s going to be a beautiful site," Stevens said.

Railroad seeks federal aid for Susitna flooding damage

The Alaska Railroad Corp. is seeking $430,000 from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to cover track damage and lost passenger revenue when the Susitna River flooded last month.Some 20 rail lengths of track were washed out and damaged May 14 at Mile 239 north of Talkeetna from the flood, canceling scheduled northbound and southbound Denali Star trains for a day, said Patrick Flynn, railroad spokesman.The federal emergency money would cover materials, labor and money lost from the tourist trains, Flynn said.It was the first time in at least a decade the railroad had a significant shutdown from a track washout, Flynn said."It’s been at least a decade that we have seen one of that magnitude," Flynn said.The Alaska Railroad also had other unforeseen costs in May when a locomotive leaked about 1,300 gallons of diesel in the Seward rail yard, Flynn said.The leak was discovered by a railroad crew May 7.Cost of the cleanup was pegged at $75,000, Flynn said.

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