Anchorage partners buy City Hall for $13 million

ANCHORAGE -- An Anchorage real estate developer has closed a deal to buy the eight-story City Hall building at 632 W. Sixth Ave. from Weyerhaeuser Co.Architect Mark Pfeffer and partners Jeff Koonce and Jerry Neeser paid $13 million for the building, formerly known as the Hill Building.Pfeffer and the city have signed a lease agreement that allows the city to continue occupying the building for the next 25 years.It’s a good deal for the city, said Wuerch administration spokesman Dennis Fradley. An independent real estate consultant estimated the city could save $13 million to $17 million in rent during the life of the new lease.The building, which underwent a $13 million renovation in the early 1990s, has housed Anchorage municipal government since 1975. It was built in 1964.

NAC switches to new freight handlers in Nome, Kotzebue

Northern Air Cargo Inc. last month switched freight handlers in Nome and Kotzebue after a 12-year contract with Baker Aviation.Alaska Transport Services is handling cargo for Anchorage-based NAC in Nome, while Village Aviation has taken over the freight contract in Kotzebue."It was a business decision we had to make," said Todd Wallace, NAC’s vice president of sales and marketing.Marge Baker, owner of Kotzebue-based Baker Aviation, said her company had been handling freight in the two communities since 1988."It was a mutual decision,’’ Baker said of ending the freight contract last month. "We wanted to make a change, and they wanted to make a change ... I hope everyone is happy now."Baker said three employees in Kotzebue and two in Nome have been furloughed.Village Aviation and Alaska Transport Services each will handle about 400,000 pounds of freight and mail monthly for Northern Air Cargo, Wallace said.Village Aviation already was under contract for freight handling in Bethel.Russ Ferguson, Village Aviation station manager in Kotzebue, said his company also will handle about 1 million pounds of fish annually for the airline. Northern Air Cargo ships about the same amount of fish each year from Bethel to Anchorage, he said.With a fleet of Boeing 727 and Douglas DC-6 aircraft, Northern Air Cargo serves some 19 destinations within Alaska from its hubs in Anchorage and Fairbanks.

Sitka company gets $7 million order for New York ferries

SITKA -- A Sitka shipbuilder has received a $7 million contract to build more ferries for New York, an unanticipated consequence of the Sept. 11 attacks.Allen Marine Inc. has been hired to build three 149-passenger catamarans and two 97-passenger Sea Otter class ferries for NY Waterway, a private transit company.The ferries are to be delivered by June to replace some of the 11 chartered vessels pressed into service immediately after the attacks, said NY Waterway spokesman Pat Smith."In May they have to go back. We are rushing with Allen Marine to get some boats in a hurry," Smith said.Allen Marine President David Allen said the company will work overtime to complete the order.Allen Marine just completed a $4 million contract for four NY Waterway ferries. One ferry is in service and three are en route, company officials said."Our boat-builders will be working day and night to provide quality ferries worthy of New York," Allen said in a statement.Immediately after the attacks, ferries at a terminal blocks away from the World Trade Center helped evacuate more than 160,000 people from Manhattan, Smith said.The attacks also destroyed a vital subway terminal located under the twin towers, which made ferries essential to transporting people to and from New Jersey, he said.The company used charter vessels, excursion vessels and whale watching ships from as far away as Maine to fill the demand, he said.NY Waterway’s 25 ferries carry nearly 60,000 passengers a day, he said. The company has ordered 14 Allen Marine ferries during its existence, Smith said.Each catamaran costs $1.7 million and the Sea Otter ferries cost $1 million each, Smith said.

Budget to be big battle of legislative session

Alaska legislators are returning to Juneau for the start of the 2002 legislative session, which begins Jan. 14. It looks to be a bruising session, dominated by a fight over money between the Republican-led Legislature and Gov. Tony Knowles, a Democrat. Knowles is pushing for spending $189 million more in the state operating budget than in the current year for various state programs. Of this amount, $100 million is needed to replace lost federal funds and to maintain existing levels of state services in the face of inflation, the governor said. Lawmakers are looking at a projected budget deficit this year of $900 million and $1.2 billion for the next state fiscal year, the budget for which legislators must prepare this spring. It is Knowles’ last year as governor, the required end of his two terms and eight years in office. Mindful of his legacy as governor, Knowles will fight hard for his proposals. Republican leaders in the state House and Senate, less concerned about the governor’s legacy, will take a dim view of the $189 million price tag for what Knowles wants this year.

Poker Flat set to launch 13 rockets this winter

Thirteen rockets are scheduled for launch from the Poker Flat Research Range this winter, according to a release from the University of Alaska Fairbanks Geophysical Institute. The largest land-based rocket range in the world, located 30 miles northeast of Fairbanks, is owned by UA and operated by the institute under contract to NASA.Four rockets are scheduled to be launched in January in rapid succession to measure wind in the upper atmosphere. Three of the rockets will release harmless chemicals to create glowing trails that will be measured by instruments in the fourth rocket. The trails are expected to be visible from the ground in Fairbanks, North Pole, locations north of the Brooks range and as far east as the Canadian border.Six additional rockets involving experiments to study the aurora will launch during specific weather and auroral conditions.A student rocket involving collaboration between UAF students and university students in Japan is scheduled to launch in March. The project’s primary goal is the hands-on opportunities for the students in designing, building and launching of sounding rocket payloads.Poker Flat also is being considered for launch of two guided rockets in April that will be used as part of a federal experiment designed to study rocket dispersion patterns.

Shipper to begin weekly barge service to Cordova

Alaska Marine Lines will begin weekly barge service between Cordova and Seattle in April.The announcement in late December from the Seattle-based shipper, a subsidiary of Lynden Inc., has brought praise from Cordovans and area fish processors who say freight rates to and from the roadless Prince William Sound community should drop sharply.Alex McKallor, president of Alaska Marine Lines in Seattle, said his company made the decision to come to Cordova largely based on the support from area residents and seafood processors."We spent a lot of time talking to them and felt in the long run this will be good for Cordova," McKallor said.Alaska Marine Lines will build a new $1 million dock for its barges and will invest another $3.5 million for 100, 53-foot long refrigerated containers to transport its share of the more than 30 million pounds of salmon, halibut and black cod processed from the Prince William Sound area, McKallor said.Permitting and construction issues may delay dock construction somewhat, but the first scheduled sailing from Seattle is April 2, McKallor said.For more than two decades, Alaska Marine Lines has provided service to Juneau, Ketchikan, Wrangell, Sitka, Petersburg, Haines, Skagway, Kake, Yakutat, Prince of Wales Island and the Yukon Territory in Canada.Cordova, McKallor said, was a natural fit."We’re new to Cordova, but we’re not new to the market,’’ McKallor said. "Cordova is the kind of market we are very familiar with."Alaska Marine Lines’ primary customers are mostly grocery stores in Southeast, but the company has worked extensively with fishing, mining and timber industries, McKallor said.Alaska Marine Lines’ sister company Alaska Railbelt Marine took over as the barge contractor last February for the Alaska Railroad Corp. In Whittier, Alaska Marine Lines transfers barge shipments to rail. Those shipments mostly include pipes and other supplies and heavy equipment used in oil field operations and maintenance.Instead of going directly to Whittier, those barges will now make a stop in Cordova, McKallor said.Cordova has one of the longest commercial fishing seasons in Alaska, beginning in May with the Copper River salmon run and continuing into October.The community currently is served by Samson Tug & Barge Co. and Totem Ocean Trailer Express Inc.Bill Deaver, vice president and general manager of TOTE’s Alaska division, said his company runs up to five freighters a week through the fishing season and twice a week the remainder of the year for mail and groceries, Deaver said.Feeder vessels transfer containers from the town’s dock to an oceangoing freighter that then offloads in Whittier. Containers are shipped by rail to Anchorage, then loaded on a southbound ship to Tacoma. The entire trip takes about four days, Deaver said.Bill Gilbert, plant manager of Norquest Seafoods Inc. in Cordova, said his company will use Alaska Marine Lines, which at six days transit time, will be a day or two slower to Seattle than TOTE but about 20 percent cheaper."It’s considerably less expensive,’’ Gilbert said. "When we can save money, we will."His company processed and shipped more than 11 million pounds of fresh and frozen seafood last year. The town’s two other major processors, Ocean Beauty Seafoods Inc. and North Pacific Processors Inc., shipped similar amounts of fish, he said.Gilbert said Samson’s freight rates are cheaper, but the product doesn’t arrive in the Lower 48 for two to six weeks, since the barge company stops in Valdez and Kodiak before heading to Seattle."(Alaska Marine Lines) is just a little more expensive than the slow boat,’’ Gilbert said.It’s not just the town’s fish processors who benefit, Gilbert said, because residents can ship everything from vehicles to heavy equipment on the new barge service. He suspects with the new competition, freight on northbound products from groceries to gasoline will be less expensive.Fishing is the economic base in Cordova and the more shipping options the better, said Margy Johnson, Cordova mayor and business owner."Lowering the cost to the processors has been the No. 1 goal of mine,’’ Johnson said."We’re delighted they’re coming into Cordova," Johnson said of Alaska Marine Lines. "They are first-class operators."

2,000 more jobs forecast for city

The Anchorage economy could grow by 2,000 jobs in 2002 or about 1.4 percent, according to the Anchorage Economic Development Corp.The economic forecast reveals a decrease in new job growth compared with 2001, said AEDC research director Jeff Pokorny."Although the final numbers for the year won’t be in until late January, the Department of Labor expects 2,800 new jobs at a minimum, and that number will most likely be higher once the final revisions are in, making 3,100 jobs a very real possibility," he said.Pokorny presented the report at AEDC’s annual economic forecast luncheon Jan. 9 at the Egan Civic & Convention Center.Several factors could influence the forecast outcome, including a U.S. recession officially that’s forecast to end by the second half of the year, according to AEDC’s report. Anchorage unemployment has stayed low, recording the state’s low of 3.7 percent compared to 5.6 percent statewide in November. The national unemployment rate was 5.7 percent for the same period. Pokorny expects per capita wages in Anchorage to hold steady at $33,800 compared with a national average of $28,546."There had been some hope that with higher oil prices and increased activity in the oil patch that Alaska’s wages might start to increase relative to the rest of the country, but with oil prices expected to stay down for the foreseeable future, oil is not expected to be a driver of wage rates," he said.The services sector is expected to tally the strongest gains, adding about 1,600 new jobs this year, Pokorny said."For several years services has been far and away the strongest sector of the Anchorage economy, and 2002 will be no exception," he said.Such gains may be due to increasing demand for health care services, as well as continued growth in businesses services and temporary employment, he noted.A possible downturn in tourism this summer could hamper the services sector, although spring and fall conventions booked in advance could still be strong, Pokorny said.AEDC predicts employment gains in the construction, government and trade or retail sectors while the mining sector should post decreases. Sectors posting flat to slight job growth include transportation, communication and utilities, manufacturing and the finance, insurance and real estate sectors.Employment in the trade sector should climb by 500 jobs, Pokorny said. Leading the surge will be a new Fred Meyer store in South Anchorage opening in February while several other new stores are under construction, he noted."The lone cautionary note in this sector is restaurants, especially those that derive a large part of their business from the tourism sector because tourism is expected to be down this year," Pokorny said.Last year construction in Anchorage posted strong results, and permits are expected to surpass $550 million, according to the AEDC official.Major projects for this year include construction of several large retailers plus work at Elmendorf Air Force Base and Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport. Housing construction, especially for duplex and multifamily units, should play a strong role in the sector, he said.Anchorage construction should add 200 jobs this year, Pokorny said.Government employment in the city could increase by 100 jobs, he said."One possible source of job gains will be the federal takeover of airport security operations but that will largely be a transfer of existing jobs from the services sector to the government sector," he said.The mining sector, which includes oil and gas, was one area AEDC listed as set to lose jobs compared with 2001. However, Pokorny attributes the decrease to completion of Northstar oil field modules in July.Pokorny released his preliminary report before BP Exploration (Alaska) Inc. announced 120 layoffs in early January.Transportation, communication and utilities industries could post no new jobs or possibly 100 new jobs, AEDC predicted. A soft global economy has slowed growth in the cargo industry, affecting Anchorage, Pokorny said.Likewise, manufacturing in Anchorage could post flat employment results or gain 100 jobs."Alaska Seafood International has the potential to make a big impact in this sector," Pokorny said.Employment in the finance, insurance and real estate industries should be on par with last year, posting no significant job gains, according to AEDC.

Alaska Airlines posts good holiday season, plans additional hiring

SEATTLE -- Though most major airlines continue to struggle after the Sept. 11 attacks, the holidays were successful enough for Alaska Airlines to begin hiring more flight attendants.Airlines have curtailed flights, delayed new aircraft purchases and laid off thousands of workers since the terrorist attacks. But executives at the Seattle-based regional carrier say their business has been equal to or even a bit better than last year, and they are planning for limited growth in 2002.Alaska has started advertising among its existing employees for 90 flight attendants to begin training in February and March. The new attendants will be needed as the airline expands its schedule this summer.If Alaska doesn’t find enough new attendants in-house, it will begin advertising for outside applicants, spokesman Jack Walsh said.Alaska cut back its schedule after Sept. 11, but didn’t lay off any workers. It temporarily restored its schedule to pre-attack levels during the Christmas holidays, but reduced flight frequencies slightly in January, traditionally a slow period for travel, then expects to resume a normal schedule by Feb. 10, Walsh said."We’re planning a measured growth this year," Walsh told The News Tribune of Tacoma.Alaska recently added two daily nonstop flights from Seattle to Washington, D.C., and a daily round trip between Los Angeles and Cancun, Mexico. It soon will start a new route, Los Angeles to Calgary, Alberta. Walsh said several other new routes are planned.Alaska’s traffic in November was down 4.7 percent from a year earlier. But Walsh said traffic around Christmas was as high as it was last yearAlaska sold 80 percent to 85 percent of its seats during the Christmas holiday, the company said. On the Saturday before Christmas, the airline filled 89 percent of its seats.It helped that the Washington Huskies played in the Holiday Bowl Dec. 28, drawing Seattle football fans to San Diego. Extra aircraft added on that route quickly sold out, airline officials said.The company also has been aggressively pricing flights, such as a less-than-$200 roundtrip between Seattle and Tucson, Ariz.To meet demand over the holidays, extra flights also were added into San Jose, Calif., San Francisco, Los Angeles, Phoenix and Tucson, company officials said."Passengers are coming back," Walsh said. "Once they’ve come back and have seen the extra security measures, we expect they’ll be ready to travel again and again."Horizon Air, the commuter airline owned by Alaska’s parent, Alaska Air Group, also is increasing flights in February from Seattle to Pasco, Yakima, Eugene, Ore., and Vancouver and Victoria, British Columbia.

REI ready to launch $2 million upgrade

Construction is set to begin later this month on a $2 million renovation of outdoor gear retailer Recreational Equipment Inc. in Anchorage. Work should be complete by April 1, company officials said.REI had considered relocating its Anchorage store when its long-term lease expired at Northern Lights Center, but the company renewed its lease, said REI general manager Mike Herzog.Hickel Investment Co. operates the shopping center.The retailer plans to remodel other stores this year, and the Anchorage store has expanded its products since moving to its present location, he said. "The Anchorage store is one of the oldest stores in the co-op in terms of the physical age of the building as well as the design and fixturing," Herzog said.Renovations will add 1,000 square feet to the 36,000-square-foot store."Most of the work will be focused on making the store easier to shop and to take advantage of currently underutilized retail space," Herzog said.New features will include a 7-foot boulder for rock climbing, water purification and stove test stations, a footwear test area and a clinic/seminar area for free weekly sessions held at the store. Renovations will also include the customer service desk and online ordering kiosks.Once the project is completed, REI plans to add a unit that allows customers to print U.S. Geological Service maps from a computer terminal and special printer, he said.REI’s internal construction staff will oversee the project, he said. Kumin Associates Inc. of Anchorage designed the remodeled store, and Boslough Construction Inc., also of Anchorage, will build it.Herzog believes the remodel represents REI’s move to increase service to its Alaska members. "The Anchorage store remodel represents REI’s commitment to the unique needs of our Alaskan members."

Internet to carry all the Legislature's work live

JUNEAU -- When the Legislature convenes in 2002, every word uttered on the state record will be broadcast live on the Internet.The second session of the 22nd Legislature will herald a new project by Juneau’s public broadcasting station to stream live audio of all floor sessions and committee hearings on the World Wide Web, said Bill Legere, president and general manager of KTO0-FM and television."It’s going to provide a level of access that’s pretty rare in the country," Legere said.KTOO already broadcasts video of some legislative events on cable television in 30 communities across the state. That coverage, called "Gavel-to-Gavel," generally shows all floor sessions but only some committee hearings. Also, the program sometimes broadcasts the events after they happen.The station this year will offer "Gavel-to-Gavel" video on the Internet along with a new program featuring only audio. The audio project is more sweeping than "Gavel-to-Gavel" because it broadcasts sound from all legislative events."We’ll be able to stream up to seven different events at once," Legere said. "That’s the maximum number of official proceedings that are happening in the Capitol at any one time."With the audio project, Internet users will be able to monitor sound from all committee hearings and floor sessions as they happen, and KTOO will archive the audio so people who miss the live events may listen to the recordings later on the Internet."It will be permanently available for as far forward as we can see," Legere said.Other options to monitor lawmakers "Gavel-to-Gavel": Television program featuring taped and live video of floor sessions and some committee hearings. Available on cable in 30 Alaska communities and on the Internet at ( Audio Project: Live audio of all floor sessions and all committee hearings plus archived recordings of the events. Available on the Internet at ( Legislative Information Offices: The Legislative Affairs Agency provides access to about 80 percent of committee hearings. People can monitor the hearings by going to their local legislative information office and listening by teleconference. The state also furnishes audio recordings of floor sessions and hearings upon request.The leap to the Internet means people can listen to the Legislature live from virtually anywhere in the world, said Legere, noting "anyplace where you have a telephone, you would have access to it."Internet access to state lawmakers is a growing trend in the country, said Gene Rose, public affairs director of the National Conference of State Legislatures.Three years ago only seven states were streaming audio or video of lawmakers on the Internet, said Rose, adding that more than 30 states offer the service today. However, most states broadcast only floor sessions, he said.Alaska "is ahead in terms of extending it to the committees," Rose said. "There’s probably only a handful of other states that are going that far right now."The KTOO venture will replace a pilot project by the Legislative Affairs Agency, which offered audio recordings of some committee hearings on the Internet last year, said Sue Gullufsen, manager of the state Information Teleconference Network.One difference between the two projects is the state Web site offered audio of only teleconferenced committee hearings, or roughly 80 percent of the meetings, Gullufsen said. The state project also did not offer live audio, said Gullufsen, noting the Web site provided only recordings of past hearings."That’s a significant difference," said Gullufsen, who called the KTOO project an "incredible step forward."The KTOO project will not replace other legislative access programs run by the state, said Gullufsen, noting the Legislative Affairs Agency still will provide public access to teleconferenced committee hearings at legislative information offices statewide. The state also will continue to record all legislative events and furnish audio cassettes to the public upon request, she said.KTOO purchased the equipment for the audio project through a $75,000 grant from the city of Juneau, said Legere, noting the station will pay ongoing costs through its "Gavel-to-Gavel" budget of about $557,000 a year."Gavel-to-Gavel" is funded in part by the city and private donors, including Alaska Communications Systems, which donated the bandwidth on the Internet, he said.Legere said Internet users should be able to monitor "Gavel-to-Gavel" and the audio program using a 28.8 dial-up modem, but he recommended a cable modem or DSL broadband connection for best results.Internet users also must have software such as RealPlayer or Microsoft Media Player plus computers with sound cards and speakers, said Legere, noting most new computers come with the necessary hardware.

Good buy-sell accord is essential

Business owners have long relied on buy-sell agreements to protect the financial future of their business and their family. Sometimes called a "business will," a buy-sell agreement is a legal contract among business owners that states what will happen should an owner leave the business because of death, disability or a lifetime sale.The agreement obligates the remaining owners to purchase the business interest of the owner who has left the business, and the departing owner (or heirs) is obligated to sell.However, the effectiveness of a buy-sell agreement depends largely on the specific terms set forth in the agreement. If a buy-sell agreement is not properly prepared, it may cause serious problems for heirs and remaining owners.The two biggest mistakes to avoidA buy-sell agreement can be effective only if it’s properly written. Too often, business owners overlook key areas, leaving survivors in a difficult situation. Let’s take a look at two common mistakes to avoid when drafting your buy-sell agreement: Addressing a one-sale contingency. A poorly conceived buy-sell agreement usually addresses only one event, such as the death of an owner. This is a limited view that may lead to problems later. What would happen if an owner became disabled? What if an owner wants to retire? When would the buyout be executed, and at what price and terms? A proper buy-sell agreement should address three situations: death, disability and lifetime sale by an owner. Setting the value of the business too low. Some owners value their business too low in their buy-sell agreement believing that this will reduce their estate tax liability. If certain criteria are not met, the IRS can reject the business’ value for estate tax purposes.Let’s look at a hypothetical example: A successful business owner makes $150,000 a year. The buy-sell agreement has a stated value of $100,000 for that owner’s share at death. When that owner dies, the heirs receive $100,000 from surviving owners, which is actually less than one year’s salary. Then the IRS values the business at a much higher figure, say $600,000 to $800,000. Not only are the heirs shortchanged, but they may end up owing the IRS more in estate taxes than they received from the sale.A valid buy-sell agreementIn order for a buy-sell agreement to be used to help determine the estate tax value, the IRS has set some guidelines. Internal Revenue Code Section 2703 gives these requirements for a valid buy-sell agreement: It must be a bona fide business arrangement. It must not be a device to transfer property to members of the decedent’s family for less than full and adequate consideration. It is similar to comparable arm’s length transactions.In addition, applicable case law has established several rules that must be followed: The estate must be obligated to sell at death. The agreement must have a fixed and determined sale price or a method for determining the price. An owner cannot sell during his or her lifetime without first offering it to the other owners. The price must be fair and adequate when the agreement is made.Buy-sell agreement benefitsWhen structured and funded properly, a buy-sell agreement can accomplish several goals, including: Creating a market for the stock; Setting a predetermined price or valuation method that the owners agree on to buy and sell their shares; and Providing money to fund the plan.A buy-sell agreement benefits both surviving owners and their heirs. Benefits to heirs include: Freedom from business worries; A guaranteed fair purchase price; and Possibly avoiding probate delays.Benefits to surviving owners include: Relieving concerns about new and possibly unwanted partners; Knowing the purchase price beforehand; and Retaining good relations with creditors and clients through a smooth transition of ownership.Doing it rightWhen it comes to business succession planning, it’s best to sit down with experienced professionals to plot your strategy. You should draft a comprehensive buy-sell agreement with the help of an attorney. It should be flexible enough to allow for future modifications with consent of all involved parties. You’ll also want to discuss funding options with your insurance agent. Insurance can be a cost-effective, tax-advantageous means of funding a buy-sell agreement.Don’t delay. Now’s the time to put together a well-thought-out plan that will help guarantee the smooth transition of your business. It can benefit both your family and your business partners.Lon G. Wilson is co-owner of The Wilson Agency LLC in Anchorage. He can be reached via e-mail at ([email protected]).

Juneau clinic earns its reaccreditation

JUNEAU -- The Juneau clinic of SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium has been reaccredited with a score of 94 out of a possible 100 points."Everyone wants to score in the 90s -- it’s like getting an A," Administrator Brenda Sturm said.SEARHC is a nonprofit Native health consortium of 18 federally recognized tribes. It is funded by the Indian Health Service; collections from Medicare, Medicaid and private insurance carriers; and grants.The clinic has about 6,000 patients who make about 32,000 visits a year, Sturm said. It provides family practice, mental health, dental and health-promotion services.The clinic is accredited by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations, a national group made up of representatives of organizations such as the American Medical Association and the American College of Physicians.The SEARHC clinic’s score at its previous accreditation, in 1998, was 93. On both occasions the clinic’s laboratories scored 100. The commission’s Web site says that 82 percent of outpatient clinics score between 90 and 100.Being accredited helps the clinic qualify for Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement and for higher payments by insurance companies, Sturm said. The commission sets standards of care and updates them monthly."They put it out as a gentle reminder, but you better do it," Sturm said.The commission this time made a number of minor recommendations mostly regarding paperwork, she said.It asked the clinic to put a statement on a hiring form that the medical director had verified that a doctor was fit to work. It asked the clinic to change the wording in policy and procedure manuals, and to change its maintenance records, Sturm said. And the commission asked the clinic to assess patients’ pain more frequently and consistently.Accreditation is a learning experience, according to Sturm."What we learn, No. 1, is different approaches on how to meet standards," she said. "Sometimes you work in your own bubble and don’t see the whole picture."The commission’s surveyor who visited the clinic was impressed with its care of patients, Sturm said."It just gave me a good feeling to know we were taking care of folks the way we needed to," she said.SEARHC also runs Mount Edgecumbe Hospital in Sitka and clinics in Haines and Klawock. It is building a new, 25,000-square-foot clinic in Juneau that will double its exam rooms.

Whittier selects prison promoter

The seeds of Alaska’s first private prison may have found fertile soil in the economically barren city of Whittier.On Dec. 21, a 6-0 vote by Whittier’s city council selected Cornell Cos., based in Houston to plan, promote, design, construct and operate a minimum 800-bed medium security correctional facility. Not selected was Corrections Corp. of America, which operates a facility in Florence, Ariz., where about 800 Alaska prisoners are incarcerated because of a shortage of bed space in Alaska prisons.Whittier’s interest in a private prison came after 73 percent of Kenai Peninsula Borough voters gave the Cornell-led project the cold shoulder Oct. 2."We thought that was about as strange as it could be," Whittier Mayor Ben Butler said. "So we thought Whittier should give it a try, and we started the process."He said Whittier views the prison as a way to save a "dying community.""We are not trying to debate the philosophical reasons between a private- and a state-operated prison," Butler said. "What we’re trying to do is get some economic development going in this town."Paul Doucette, Cornell’s public relations spokesperson in Houston, said Cornell stood ready to work with Whittier. He described the project as a 1,200-bed medium security prison, larger than the 800-bed facility approved by the Whittier council.Despite voting for the partnership with Cornell, Whittier city council member Arlen Arneson doesn’t support the project."The majority of (Whittier) people won’t ’fess up to it, but 60 to 70 percent of them are against the prison, too," he said. "The simple reason is that the ordinance was written to exclude a public vote. ... There’s no public vote. Not even an advisory vote."Arneson also voiced concern over lack of a feasibility study.However, Butler said, "We don’t have any problems with thinking the prison isn’t feasible. The contractor will do a site evaluation and that will be a feasibility study."In 1998, the Legislature authorized the creation of a private prison by the city of Delta Junction at abandoned U.S. Army facilities at Fort Greely. Corrections Group North, formed by Cornell and Weimar Investments, worked with Delta Junction on that project. Pete Hallgren, the executive director of Delta Junction’s department of economic development and the city administrator, said a $75,000 feasibility study "indicated that there wasn’t anywhere near enough money appropriated under the enabling legislation to make it financially feasible."Constructing the private prison was not pursued, lawsuits were filed, and Hallgren said, "We came out of the project defending against a lawsuit by the proposed prison operator. We ended up settling the case for $1.1 million."Delta Junction has paid $100,000. The remaining $1 million is due July 1."It’s more money than we’ve got," Hallgren said.Jeff Sinz, finance director of the Kenai Peninsula Borough, said the borough invested $75,000 in the project that was ultimately rejected by voters.Butler said Whittier had spent little on the proposed prison."And we have no intentions of really spending on this at all," he said.Nome, whose lobbyist, Joe Hayes, also lobbies for Cornell, recently gave brief consideration to constructing and operating a private prison."It was one of 20 different items that were covered at a legislative priority meeting, but there wasn’t an interest in following up on it," said Marguerite Lariviere, assistant to the city manager.Wrangell and the Ketchikan Gateway Borough are two other areas considering the project. Gary Paxton, interim manager for the Ketchikan Gateway Borough, said the Alaska Department of Corrections has been invited to meet with borough officials Jan. 21 to address the advantages and disadvantages of a prison in Ketchikan, project costs and the need for legislative approval."There are enough serious questions that need to be asked of the department that our assembly needs to have them come talk to us," Paxton said.According to Corrections Commissioner Margaret Pugh, the department has received no such contact from Whittier. Butler has, however, contacted people from Kenai "just to see how it went before and to know what to expect.""There’s no sense in reinventing the wheel," he said.On Jan. 4, Sen. Lyda Green, R-Wasilla, pre-filed legislation to authorize the Corrections Department to enter into agreements for new or expanded correctional facilities in the Fairbanks North Star Borough, Matanuska-Susitna Borough, the city and borough of Juneau, Bethel, Ketchikan Gateway Borough, Seward and the Kenai Peninsula Borough. The plan, according to Pugh, is similar to one proposed by Gov. Tony Knowles several years ago.Butler said the city is working with Anchorage legislators to prepare legislation needed to authorize the Corrections Department to work with Whittier."All Whittier is trying to do is keep from dying," Butler said. "It would be nice if the city of Whittier could direct its own future."

Around the World January 13, 2002

STATEMinimum wage initiative certified for November ballotJUNEAU -- An initiative to raise Alaska’s minimum wage by $1.50 was certified to appear on the ballot in November.Lawmakers who took up the issue last session will decide whether to renew debate on an increase after they return to work Jan. 14. But a labor union pushing the initiative said voters may have the last word.The initiative being sought by the Alaska AFL-CIO would raise the state’s minimum wage to $7.15 per hour, putting it $2 above the federal minimum wage.Mano Frey, executive president of the Alaska AFL-CIO, said the minimum wage in this state is below Washington, Oregon and California. Frey chided the Republican-controlled Legislature for not raising the wage in its last session."We have the lowest state minimum wage at $5.65 per hour of any of our Western states," Frey said. "Now, because the Legislature refused to act last year, the people of Alaska will have a chance to act themselves this November at the ballot box."The union was able to collect nearly 50,000 signatures in support of putting the measure on the ballot, Frey said. Lt. Gov. Fran Ulmer certified it for the ballot Jan. 3.State, Ketchikan shipyard agree on ferry repair billJUNEAU -- The State of Alaska and a Ketchikan shipyard have resolved their differences over delays in repairs to the ferry Columbia, with each side dropping its claims.The deal, months in the making, was announced Jan. 7 in Ketchikan at the Alaska Ship and Drydock facility.The Columbia’s main switchboard caught fire in June 2000 during a Juneau-to-Sitka run.The state Department of Transportation and Public Facilities contracted with Alaska Ship and Drydrock for a $10 million-plus overhaul, including upgrades to the ship’s staterooms and public spaces.The ship was due to be delivered to the state by May 26, 2001, but was not delivered until July 19, well into the peak of the tourism season. Under federal procurement rules, that delay was worth $4 million in damages, according to state officials.But Alaska Ship and Drydock said the state issued faulty specifications for the work and should pay an additional $2.8 million.The state and company participated in mediated talks from October to December in a successful effort to avoid litigation.As part of the settlement, Alaska Ship and Drydock will be paid $1.5 million to complete remaining work on the Columbia.NATIONSupreme Court imposes limits on disability law in workplaceWASHINGTON -- The Supreme Court narrowed the reach of a landmark disability rights law Jan. 8, ruling that an assembly line worker with carpal tunnel syndrome was not entitled to special treatment on the job.A unanimous court ruled that Ella Williams’ partial disability did not obligate her employer, car manufacturer Toyota, to tailor a job to suit her wrist, arm and shoulder problems.The 1990 Americans With Disabilities Act guarantees equal treatment on the job and elsewhere for people whose disabilities "substantially limit" their ability to perform what the law calls "major life activities," such as caring for oneself.Williams’ disability did not prevent her from doing many tasks at home and at work. But a federal appeals court found that she was disabled under the ADA because her physical problems substantially limited her ability to perform manual tasks at work."This was error," the Supreme Court noted in an opinion written by Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.Wendy’s founder Dave Thomas diesCOLUMBUS, Ohio -- Dave Thomas, the portly pitchman whose homespun ads built Wendy’s Old-Fashioned Hamburgers into one of the world’s most successful fast-food enterprises, died Jan. 8 of liver cancer. He was 69.Thomas died around midnight at his home in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., the company said.Thomas had been undergoing kidney dialysis since early 2001 and had quadruple heart bypass surgery in December 1996."He was the heart and soul of our company. He had a passion for great tasting hamburgers and devoted his life to serving customers great food and helping those less fortunate in his community," said Jack Schuessler, chairman and chief executive of Wendy’s, based in the Columbus suburb of Dublin.The founder and senior chairman of Wendy’s International became a household name when he began pitching his burgers and fries in television commercials in 1989.But burgers weren’t his first love. Thomas, who was adopted as an infant, became a national advocate for adoption.He once testified before a Congressional committee about the importance of creating incentives for adoption."I know firsthand how important it is for every child to have a home and loving family," he testified. "Without a family, I would not be where I am today."WORLDP&O Princess wins German approval for planned mergerLONDON -- P&O Princess Cruises PLC has won approval from German authorities for its planned merger with Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., sailing past the first of three regulatory obstacles to the deal, the British company said Jan. 8.Germany’s Federal Cartel Office approved the proposed merger Jan. 7, in what Princess called "a positive step on the way." The would-be partners still need permission from competition watchdogs in Britain and the United States to form a combined $6 billion business that would overtake rival Carnival Corp. as the world’s biggest cruise ship operator.Carnival itself has made a hostile takeover bid for Princess worth $4.4 billion. Princess continued to reject the bid and urged shareholders to do the same when they meet Feb. 14 to consider the proposed merger with Miami-based Royal Caribbean.Princess is the third-largest cruise operator by market share, and Royal Caribbean is No. 2. A union between them would create a fleet of 41 ships and 75,000 berths.Their planned merger triggered Carnival’s bid, as the three companies maneuver to cut costs to offset a plunge in passenger traffic after the Sept. 11 attacks in the United States.All three companies operate in Alaska waters.Argentine president asks firms to maintain stability of pricesBUENOS AIRES, Argentina -- President Eduardo Duhalde pleaded with businesses Jan. 7 to keep prices steady as Argentines fretted that a devaluation could unleash inflation and rapidly erode their purchasing power.Duhalde appealed to supermarket owners, shopkeepers and other businesses as he began abandoning a decade-old link between the peso and the U.S. dollar, hoping to reverse the continuing decline of South America’s second-biggest economy.Economy Minister Jorge Remes Lenicov also said the government would watch for any signs of resurgent inflation after the peso was freed from its one-to-one peg with the dollar."The success of this plan depends on keeping prices from shooting up," Remes said. "I’m asking (all Argentines) that they fight and push for stable prices."He set the peso’s official rate at 1.4 pesos to the dollar for exports and imports, and said a rate applying to most ordinary transactions by Argentines will be set by the marketplace.-- Compiled from business wire services.

Trend Setters putting hairstyling school under one roof

The longtime operators of an Anchorage hairstyling school are building a new, larger facility adjacent to its Midtown location.The new two-story, 12,700-square-foot building for Trend Setters School of Beauty will be a contrast for the employees, students and customers who now shuttle between four buildings including a Quonset hut, said company owner Dennis Millhouse."I never knew how bad we needed space until we started this project," he said.Dennis and Connie Millhouse have owned and operated Trend Setters at the same Anchorage location for 30 years. Last April they began preparations for the project and hired Anchorage architects at Kumin Architects Inc. to design it.Construction on the $2 million expansion began in early October, said Jeff Pfile, a partner with Sandvik Pfile Construction Inc., the project’s general contractor.Work should be completed by April and ready for Trend Setters staff to move in, Pfile said. Next, construction workers will demolish the old buildings and build a 5,000-square-foot building, he said.By mid-January workers were due to finish enclosing the structure, Pfile said.In the late 1980s the Millhouses tried to build a new facility but were thwarted by banking upheaval in the state.The current project is financed by KeyBank, said Dennis Millhouse, who has lived in Alaska since 1952.The new building will more than double space for Trend Setters. Currently, the company operates in three buildings, measuring 1,827-, 1,015- and 1,963-square-feet, and a 1,500-square-foot storage building which will be demolished later, he said.This spring Trend Setters staff, students and customers will move to the single location and not have to walk between buildings, he said.Granite will be a feature of the new building, he noted."It will have a different look than most salons," he said.Trend Setters runs a 10-month school teaching students about styling hair and makeup. During training students refine techniques on mannequins, nonpaying customers and then paying customers.Millhouse believes his company handles some of the state’s highest volume in beauty services."We probably do more than all the salons and barber shops combined," he said.Demand exists for the training, he said. Trend Setters also runs its own salons, one in Dimond Center and another in Eagle River, and sometimes has difficulty finding employees, he said.Millhouse estimated thousands of students have graduated from Trend Setters, he said.Graduates can carry skills learned at Trend Setters with them to other states, he noted. "We teach them how to make a living at what they went to school for," he said.

More seafood exports keeping Alaska's trade figures healthy

State trade officials got a pleasant surprise last month, thanks in large part to Alaska’s seafood industry.Economists and other number crunchers had anticipated a big dip in the value of Alaska’s exports this year because of a worldwide economic slowdown. But to the contrary, the value of Alaska exports is actually up slightly from last year, totaling $2 billion, an increase of $7 million from the third quarter of 2000.More than $1 billion of that came from exports of Alaska seafood, whose exports were up 21 percent through the third quarter. According to the state Division of International Trade and Market Development, most of the fish going to other countries was groundfish, especially pollock.The increase in the total value of Alaska’s exports is especially interesting for two reasons, said ITMD director Greg Wolf. One is the fact that beginning this year one of the state’s primary export products, crude oil, is no longer exported overseas but instead is sent to West Coast refineries."With crude oil no longer being exported, we prepared everyone for a dip in our export numbers," Wolf said. "However, seafood, minerals and fertilizer more than made up the difference."Another reason is that the economies of Alaska’s primary trading partners, especially Japan and Korea, have been mostly stagnant in 2001. Wolf said that while Alaska’s exports to Japan have borne out a projected decline, exports to Korea increased 4 percent, with seafood exports more than double last year.These are clear signs that more Alaska seafood is steadily making its way to more countries around the globe. Here’s another good example: The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agriculture Service reports that American exporters shipped nearly $105 million worth of seafood to Germany in the first nine months of 2001, more than double 2000 figures and setting a record for sales to that country."Record U.S. exports of pollock (92 percent of which was frozen Alaska pollock fillets, valued at more than $68.4 million for the nine-month period) spurred this tremendous growth," the FAS report said. "These record sales were more than five times the value of pollock exports for the entire 2000 calendar year. Reduced harvests by European fleets were a major factor in Germany’s increased imports of Alaska pollock."Other major U.S. exports to Germany were salmon, lobster and dogfish. The report added: "In 2000, the U.S. share of total salmon imports was a modest 4.5 percent, as farmed salmon from Norway and other countries dominated the market. However, U.S. exports of wild Alaska salmon to Germany have increased steadily in recent years, growing from $3.8 million in 1996 to nearly $13.9 million in 2000."The report concluded, "Product differentiation and consumers’ environmental awareness (such as recognition that Alaska salmon is harvested in a sustainable manner) may have played a role in the increased purchases of Alaska salmon."The report said Germans have clear preferences in seafood, and their favorites are Alaska salmon, herring and tuna, followed by Atlantic and Pacific salmon.While the numbers are encouraging, more opportunities for Alaska seafood exports clearly await in Germany. For example, Russia and China are the leading providers of groundfish fillets to Germany, supplying nearly 65 percent of that product last year. In all, 75 percent of Germany’s seafood is imported. Only about 2 percent originates from the United States.Testing may affect whalesU.S. Navy tests of a new SONAR system were the likely cause of the beachings of 16 whales in the Bahamas last year. reports that a study by the National Marine Fisheries Service determined that the whales came ashore March 15 and 16 as Navy ships were testing sonar in the area. Six of the whales died.The Navy was reportedly testing a new midrange frequency system for submarine detection.Joint NMFS-Navy tests found that the dead whales had suffered hemorrhages in the ear area. While not fatal, the injuries could have disoriented the whales and caused them to beach themselves.Investigations of similar incidents have been inconclusive because the whale corpses were too decomposed. However, this time many of the whales were beached in front of the island home of Ken Balcomb, research director of the Washington-based Center for Whale Research. He made sure the whales were properly preserved for further study. The U.S. Navy has committed to trying to avoid causing whale beachings within the constraints of its national security mission.Americans love jerkyJerky is now the fastest growing category within America’s snack food market, with sales soaring because of demand from outdoor enthusiasts and consumers on high-protein diets.WorldCatch reports that figures from the Snack Food Association show sales of jerky and beef sticks grew by almost 29 percent in 1999 and 32 percent last year. Sales of pork rinds grew 21 percent, and pumpkin and sunflower seeds sales grew 16 percent."Companies have responded to demand by launching new gourmet versions of the jerky snack: similar products made with the meat of elk, buffalo, salmon, ostrich and pheasant, for example," WorldCatch said.Kodiak-based free-lance writer Laine Welch can be reached via e-mail at ([email protected]).

This Week in Alaska Business History January 13, 2002

Editor’s note: "This Week in Alaska Business History" revisits events that shaped our past."Those who cannotremember the past arecondemned to repeat it."-- George Santayana, 1863-195220 years ago this weekAnchorage TimesJan. 14, 1982New rules anger Cook Inlet set net fishermenBy Ronald ChappellFor The TimesSoldotna -- A regulation limiting the distance Cook Inlet set netters can fish from shore may be the opening salvo in a gear war between local drift fishermen and their counterparts on the beach.At a meeting Wednesday night, irate set netters represented by the Kenai Peninsula Fishermen’s Association asked the sponsors of the new regulation to ask the state Board of Fisheries to rescind it.Representatives of the United Cook Inlet drifters Association refused to do so until set netters agreed to support a compromise plan aimed at halting the continued expansion of the inlet’s set net fishery into areas traditionally used by drift fisherman.Another meeting between the two groups is scheduled early next week. A compromise plan could include a moratorium on new set net gear in the inlet. If the new regulation is contested, a petition must be filed with the Board of Fisheries by Jan. 22.Anchorage TimesJan. 14, 1982Wien plans suspension of Juneau flightsThe Associated PressWien Air Alaska announced Wednesday it is suspending its daily service to Juneau effective Jan. 29 because of a lack of passengers.Wien spokeswoman Carla Beam said the airline’s management analyzed the passenger traffic on the flight for several months before deciding to halt the service.Wien had offered weekday flights between Anchorage, Juneau and Seattle, and the decision to halt that service leaves only Alaska Airlines with regular stops in Juneau.Beam said the airline’s study indicated there were not enough passengers to and from Juneau to sustain service by two airlines.Household International Inc., Wien’s owner, has agreed to sell the airline to Eagle International Corp. for $50 million. That corporation is headed by Neil Bergt, who also owns Alaska International Industries Inc.10 years ago this weekAlaska Journal of CommerceJan. 14, 1992Big dropoff for oil production? Not yetBy Ray TysonAlaska Journal of CommerceYear-end statistics prove Alaska oil production hasn’t undergone a predicted radical decline since the giant Prudhoe Bay reservoir peaked four years ago.North Slope oil production in 1991, in fact, exceeded the previous year’s output for the first time since the Prudhoe Bay reservoir fell into decline, according to statistics furnished by the state Division of Oil & Gas Audit.Production from all North Slope fields has decreased 10.5 percent since 1988, for an annual slippage of just 3.5 percent. Prudhoe Bay, which produces three-fourths of total slope oil, has fallen 18.8 percent, for an annual decrease of 4.7 percent."Where’s this (annual) double-digit decline everybody predicted for the last decade?" said Dudley Platt, a petroleum economist for the oil and gas audit division.The division projects similarly modest production declines through 1995, a forecast that doesn’t jibe with recent comments made by James B. Hermiller, president of Alyeska Pipeline Service Co., to the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce.Alaska Journal of CommerceJan. 20, 1992Port MacKenzie promoters, railroad spar over spurBy Margaret BaumanAlaska Journal of CommerceA quiet battle is being waged in the case of the proposed Port MacKenzie over a critical missing link, a railroad spur, over which millions of tons of natural resources could be moved to the dock.On one side are port promoters who say they have all the economic facts and numbers needed, except those they need from Alaska Railroad Corp. to build that track.On the other side are railroad officials, who say they can’t decide whether to support such a link, which they don’t propose to finance until they get more facts on the economic feasibility of the port.In the middle are the developers of coal and timber, who say the link would lower costs of transporting the resources, giving them a competitive edge.Before lending support to about 30 miles of rail from Palmer to the proposed port on Upper Cook Inlet, the railroad needs to know what revenues would be generated by the port, said Loren Lounsbury, chairman of the railroad board.-- Compiled by Ed Bennett.

Murkowski sees ANWR goal slip away in 2001

ANCHORAGE -- Opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge never seemed closer than in 2001 for Alaska Republican Sen. Frank Murkowski.Republicans controlled the White House and both houses of Congress for the first time in 45 years, and energy policy was high on their agenda. Murkowski himself was chairman of the Senate Energy Committee.But Murkowski returned to Alaska at year’s end without the ANWR legislation he sought. What went wrong?Murkowski, the Senate’s prime champion of ANWR drilling, blames Jim Jeffords. When the Vermont senator left the Republican Party in June, declaring himself independent, the balance of power in the Senate shifted to the Democrats."And with that went the (committee) chairmanships," Murkowski said, looking back on the year. "Instead of setting the energy agenda for America, we kind of took the position of having it dictated to us by my good friend, Senator Jeff Bingaman."Bingaman, the New Mexico Democrat who now chairs the Energy Committee, sat on the energy bill for a few months, and then Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., pulled it from the committee and kept it off the Senate floor.Murkowski said those events kept him from passing an ANWR bill.Environmentalists say it isn’t that simple.It’s hard to say what would have happened if the Senate had stayed in Republican hands, said Elliott Negin, spokesman for the Natural Resources Defense Council."I think it’s true that Jeffords did definitely slow the Senate down on energy," Negin said.On the other hand, Jeffords was always against drilling in ANWR, and his defection didn’t change any yeas or nays, Negin said. It takes 60 votes to get most controversial measures through the Senate, and it’s pretty clear Murkowski doesn’t have them.At least, that how it looks."It’s hard really to know," Negin said. "We didn’t think we were going to get killed that badly on the House vote."In an August coup for Alaska Rep. Don Young, the House overwhelmingly approved an energy bill that would boost domestic production, in part by allowing drilling on the coastal plain of the refuge. A bid by opponents to strip ANWR drilling from the bill failed 223-206.The House energy bill will be alive until the current two-year Congress expires at the end of 2002, but Murkowski may meet more resistance as time goes on."In most Congresses, the heavy lifting gets done in the first 18 months or so,’’ said John Katz, head of Gov. Tony Knowles’ Washington, D.C., office."Conventional wisdom is controversial issues do not fare well in the waning months of an election year."President Bush supports drilling in ANWR, which was a central element of the energy plan he introduced, and his Cabinet secretaries have made repeated pitches for drilling. But there’s no evidence the president has been using his political muscle to persuade key senators to come to Murkowski’s side.Murkowski acknowledged he hasn’t had as much White House help as he would like, but he expects to get more in the new year."I’ve had some discussions with the vice president, and we (Vice President Dick Cheney, Murkowski and other Senate drilling supporters) are going to be meeting in January to work up kind of a task force approach," he said.

Business Profile: Porath Tatom Architects

Name of the company: Porath Tatom ArchitectsEstablished: 1982Location: 800 E. Dimond Blvd., Suite 3-670, AnchorageTelephone: 907-349-1425Major focus of services: Porath Tatom Architects provides design services including design-build work. The firm specializes in planning schools, retail facilities and churches.History of the company: Dale Porath and Art Kjos founded Porath Kjos in the early 1980s. Kjos left the firm nearly two years later. Porath added other partners later, including them in the firm’s name.Despite Alaska’s economic troubles in the late 1980s, Porath Architects was buoyed by work for military bases and designing a multipurpose room addition for Anchorage’s Muldoon Elementary in 1989.In 1999 Bill Tatom, who had worked at the firm from 1984 to 1996, bought Porath Architects. Although Porath has retired, he continues to serve the firm as a consultant, Tatom said.Major past projects include the early 1980s design of Mears Junior High School; remodeling University Center to add a theater; renovating Dimond Center to include a skating rink and office tower; designing Valley River Center in Eagle River and planning for Carrs stores construction. The firm also worked on plans of the downtown Anchorage FBI building and renovating four Kmart stores -- two in Anchorage plus one each in Fairbanks and Juneau -- to offer groceries.Current projects include design of some renovations at Carrs stores including Carrs Huffman in South Anchorage, Eagle River and Kenai and work on the Municipality of Anchorage permit center.Porath Tatom Architects employs 13 people including four architects.Top accomplishment of the company: Principal Bill Tatom is proud of the firm’s longevity. The secret of success: "I think it’s treating clients like they’re important, being a listener," he said. Tatom also cited the firm’s school design projects. In 1990 the Anchorage School District conducted a design competition to plan a prototype school for Bowman Elementary and for use in additional new school construction. Porath Architects’ design was chosen as the competition winner.Major player: Bill Tatom, principal, Porath Tatom Architects.Tatom earned a master’s degree in architecture from the University of Texas at Arlington. He operated his own firm in Dallas before moving to Alaska to work for Harold Wirum & Associates in 1982. Two years later he joined Porath Architects as a project architect. From 1996 to 1999 he ran Bill Tatom Associates before buying Porath Architects.-- Nancy Pounds

Around the World January 7, 2002

STATEHomer company wins contract to build centerHOMER -- A Homer construction company has won the federal contract to build a headquarters and visitor center for the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge in Homer.Jay-Brant Construction got the job with an $11.7 million construction bid, said Sheri Della Silva, a contracting officer with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.The $16 million total budget includes construction money and about $3 million to design and build interpretive displays in the 38,000-square-foot facility.The visitor center will be located on a bluff above Beluga Slough in Homer. The 60-acre site was purchased in the early 1990s for $1.1 million.The facility will include space for the state and federal Kachemak Bay Research Reserve.Construction is to begin in May and should take two years to complete, Della Silva said.The Alaska Maritime Refuge, created in 1980, protects 3,000 islands, including most of the Aleutian Islands and the Pribilof Islands in the Bering Sea.State changes smoking policy for ferry travelersJUNEAU -- Smokers traveling the Alaska Marine Highway will find fewer places to light up under a newly clarified policy.After complaints, Alaska Marine Highway System General Manager George Capacci updated the ferry system’s smoking policy in December. Under the new policy, smoking is not allowed inside state ferries, except for one designated area in a bar on board the Columbia, where there is adequate ventilation. The goal is to make a consistent policy, Capacci said.Smoking will be allowed in designated areas on weather decks and designated open areas behind the solarium. Otherwise, smoking is off limits for passengers and crew in lounges, observation areas, passageways, dining areas, the car deck and inside the solarium, according to the policy.Charities show area economy still strongFAIRBANKS -- At almost year-end, charitable giving in Fairbanks seems to have transcended a lagging economy and the Sept. 11 terror attacks.It’s an indicator that the recession hasn’t hit Fairbanks as hard as it has cities in the Lower 48, according to a state labor economist, but next year could be another story."It depends on how soon consumer confidence is restored," said Brigitta Windisch-Cole, an economist with the state Department of Labor.Sept. 11 coincided with the normal seasonal decline in tourism, one of the main industries in Fairbanks, so the Sept. 11 economic impact on the tourism industry was arguably minimal. In fact, Fairbanks experienced growth, Windisch-Cole said. Employment has grown an average of 2 percent a month.But if people are afraid to fly next summer, as many believe may be the case, fewer tourism dollars could flow into Fairbanks. And that could translate into less charitable giving in the fall and winter of next year.This year, main Fairbanks charity organizations such as the Fairbanks Community Food Bank and the United Way, which are dependent on gifts from residents, report that things are fine.Some charities were concerned a few months ago when an initial lag in local giving occurred as tens of thousands of Fairbanks dollars went to the East Coast following the terror attacks.Haines residents form business organizationHAINES -- A group of Haines business people unhappy with the Haines Chamber of Commerce are forming a new business advocacy group.The group wants to fight taxes and government regulation more aggressively, said retailer Doug Olerud."We want to take a strong stand for business," he said. "There are lots of people in the chamber now who aren’t pro-business. They think new taxes, like the tour tax, are just fine. I don’t share that view."The tour tax and a proposal to ban motorized commercial tours from a section of the Alaska Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve are two of the group’s main issues. As of Dec. 20, the group had held one meeting."We’re ready to form an alternative group to get rid of the tour tax," said tour operator and break-off group member Duck Hess. "Right now the future does not look good. That’s what’s down the line, another battle for Haines."NationChicagoans denounce expansion of O’HareBENSENVILLE, Ill. -- A Chicago suburb near O’Hare International Airport is raising taxes to finance its efforts to fight a proposed runway expansion.Bensenville officials said they expect the 5 percent amusement tax, affecting such things as golf courses and ice arenas, to bring in an extra $200,000 annually.Some of that money will be used for a Fourth of July celebration, and the rest will go into a legal fund used to fight the airport expansion, deputy village manager James Johnson said. The tax was approved Dec. 27.Community groups and leaders in Chicago’s western suburbs around O’Hare have fiercely opposed proposals to add runways or expand the number of flights, complaining of noise and air pollution and reduced property values.Gov. George Ryan and Chicago Mayor Richard Daley agreed earlier in December on a $6.6 billion deal to expand O’Hare that involves reconfiguring several runways, adding a new runway and providing western access to the huge airfield. Plan supporters say the new runway would require the destruction of about 500 homes.Newmont to acquire Australian mining firmDENVER -- Gold giant Newmont Mining Corp. said Dec. 30 its planned takeover of Australia’s Normandy Mining Ltd. and Toronto-based Franco-Nevada Mining is going according to schedule.Newmont chief executive Wayne W. Murdy said the takeover should be completed by mid-February as planned.The takeover would create the world’s largest gold-mining company, with 22 mines on five continents, interests in eight other gold operations and 12,500 employees.On Dec. 26, the Federal Trade Commission cleared Newmont’s plan to buy Normandy and Franco-Nevada, Normandy’s largest shareholder. Denver-based Newmont is competing with South Africa’s AngloGold Ltd. to acquire Normandy.Newmont’s offer for Normandy, Australia’s largest gold producer, topped an unsolicited September bid by rival AngloGold, currently the world’s biggest gold producer.WorldBush approves trade relations with ChinaWASHINGTON -- The ailing U.S. business sector hailed President Bush’s decision to grant normal trade status to China, saying it will take the gamble out of dealing with the communist nation and emerging economic powerhouse.The new trade status was to take effect Jan. 1.The United States has struggled over China’s trade status for almost a quarter-century, with factions of both political parties arguing that the Beijing needed to improve its human rights record before normal trade was considered. But supporters argued that China would be better influenced by an influx of American business brought on by normal trade relations.That, and the acknowledgment that China could soon have a production ability that rivals the United States, brought the issue to the fore.Congress in 2000 granted the permanent status to the Chinese contingent upon its entry into the World Trade Organization. China’s application was accepted formally at the WTO’s annual meeting in November in the United Arab Emirates.Some economists said the decision reflects a need to repair the country’s relationship with China, after the incident earlier this year when the crew of a crashed U.S. spy plane was held for a short time in China.Since 1980, China has enjoyed temporary normal trade relations with the United States under annual presidential waivers of the law.-- Compiled from business wire services.


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