KNOWLES ANNOUNCES HOMELAND SECURITY INITIATIVE, HONORS VETERANS

ANCHORAGE -- During a special tribute to Alaskas veterans before the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce today, Gov. Tony Knowles announced a new Homeland Security Initiative designed to increase Alaska’s security and preparedness against possible terrorist attacks.The five-part plan, estimated to cost about $100 million in state and federal funds, would improve the security of Alaska’s communications, transportation and public utilities infrastructure; expand the state’s ability to detect and respond to biological and chemical terrorism; and better train those who would be called on for a first response to a contaminated environment.Much of the initiative will be submitted to the Legislature for approval next year. "Make no mistake -- America is at war. Nearly everyday we receive new reports of potential terrorist acts -- nuclear, chemical, biological, radiological -- which until September 11th had been only the stuff of science fiction," Knowles said. "In addition to securing our own population, Alaska is uniquely positioned to respond to attacks elsewhere, given our geographic proximity to the Lower 48, Europe and Asia."The security initiative is the result of two months of careful analysis of Alaska’s security capacity since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on America. Led by state Adjunct Gen. Phil Oates, commissioner of the Alaska Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, with the governor’s Disaster Policy Cabinet, part of the initiative calls for creation of an Alaska Office of Homeland Security, to be housed within Oates department.Working with its federal counterpart, the Office will coordinate with military, federal, local, educational, and private agencies, including other states and Alaskas Canadian neighbors."There is an increased price of freedom in this new era of terrorism," Knowles said. "It will require additional Troopers and public safety personnel, increased levels of training and equipment for haz- mat teams and public health officers and increased security procedures. For the coming 18 months -- the remainder of the current fiscal year and Fiscal 2003 -- the Alaska Homeland Security initiative is estimated at about $40 million each in state and federal funds and another $15 million from other sources."The governor also used the speech, delivered on the state and federal holiday of Veteran’s Day, to recognize and honor Alaska’s veterans. Alaska is home to more than 65,000 veterans, more per capita than any state but one.Knowles presented the Governor’s Veteran’s Advocacy Award to two veterans and awarded World War II High School Diplomas to more than a dozen other veterans who left high school for service in World War II and never had the opportunity to return to obtain their high school diplomas.This year’s winners of the annual the Governor’s Veterans Advocacy Award are Anchorage residents Robert O. Bowen and Robert J. Nelson. Recommended by the Alaska Veterans Advisory Council (AVAC), the award recognizes individuals who demonstrate an extraordinary personal concern, compassion, and commitment to veteran’s causes and their families.The plaques were presented by the governor, Gen. Oates and AVAC Chairman Pat Carothers, a retired U.S. Marine colonel who at the time of his retirement was the most highly decorated marine in America. "Bob Bowens record of service to veterans and veterans causes is a mile long and twice as deep," Knowles said, citing his service in World War II and a prisoner of war for three years in a Japanese camp. He later started a Chapter of the American Ex- Prisoners of War organization in Anchorage. Recently, Bowen spearheaded the installation of the bronze statue of the rifleman on Anchorage’s Park Strip, in partnership with the AFL-CIO.Bob Nelson is a veteran of two wars -- Vietnam and the Gulf War -- and retired as a Command Sergeant Major from the U.S. Army. Currently a counselor at the Veteran’s Center, he is a former chair of the Municipal Veterans Commission and has long been a host of the Alaska Veterans Update on Channel 11. Last month, Nelson volunteered to counsel recovery workers at the World Trade Centers Ground Zero.About a dozen WWII veterans attended the ceremony with family and friends to obtain their long-awaited high school diplomas under a program began earlier this year. "For a lifetime of learning, the state is honored to confer a high school diploma upon our World War II veterans," Knowles said.Knowles also noted other recent veterans initiatives, including the newly named Eagle River Veterans’ Memorial Highway, establishment of a Veterans home page and legislation creating the Alaska Pioneers’ and Veterans’ Home system, introduced last session.Calling 2002 the "Year of the Veteran," Knowles announced he would introduce legislation next session to create an Alaska Veterans Memorial Endowment. Through the generosity of dozens of Alaska businesses, more than $125,000 in pledges already have been made to fund the endowment.Next session, the governor will ask the Legislature to match the privately raised funds with $125,000 in public money and to create the endowment in state statute. Interest earned on the endowment would be given out as small grants to make sure that memorials are ship-shape when Alaskans and tourists visit them. "Places of remembrance need to be properly maintained. For Alaskas veterans who took care of America, its time we take care of the memorials that celebrate their sacrifice," Knowles said.At the state’s veterans memorial at Byers Lake the roads leading to it are now named Medal of Honor Loop and Purple Heart Lane, the governor announced. The rest area at the memorial is now known as the POW MIA Rest Area. The signs were donated and will be dedicated next Memorial Day.

Council offers route, other advice

Twenty-eight Alaska business and community leaders gave Gov. Tony Knowles their advice on state natural gas policies, as the Natural Gas Policy Council formed by Knowles early this year wrapped up its recommendations.Not surprisingly, the council recommended the state push for a southern route for a North Slope gas pipeline through Interior Alaska instead of a northern, offshore route that is being studied as an option by gas producing companies.Knowles has endorsed a southern route that would follow the Alaska Highway into Canada.The council also affirmed a recommendation agreed on several weeks ago by one of its committees, that the state not invest in a gas pipeline.The panel also handed Knowles 42 other recommendations dealing with a range of topics from training Alaskans to environmental policies, and a lengthy, complex set of recommendations dealing with state royalty policy and regulatory authority on shipments of gas to points within the state.On state investment, Juneau businessman Bill Corbus told Knowles his committee had first thought the state owning a percentage of the pipeline might solve certain problems, such as guaranteeing access to gas for fuel.But as the committee dealing with the ownership issue held meetings through the summer, it became clear there were other ways to solve those problems, and that owning part of the pipeline wouldn’t do the job, Corbus told the governor Oct. 31.The investment would earn the state an attractive return, he said, but his committee felt that the state could do as well or better by putting its resources in other investments with less risk, Corbus said.Brian Davies, a retired British Petroleum manager, presented recommendations of the council’s environmental policy committee, which recommended adequate funding for state agencies performing oversight on the pipeline project, and a full or supplemental environmental impact statement.This was a bit of a setback for Foothills Pipe Lines Ltd. of Calgary, which has been arguing that an environmental impact statement done for the Alaska Natural Gas Transportation System in the 1970s is still valid. Foothills holds permits for the ANGTS project, which follows the Alaska Highway.Ken Thompson, a retired Atlantic Richfield Co. executive, served as chairman of a council committee considering state royalty gas policy, access to gas by Alaska communities and possible new manufacturing in the state based on natural gas.Thompson told the governor that his committee recommends the state pursue a mix of sales of royalty gas, some left with the producers and sold to other companies, to increase competition and gain the best returns.The state should also base its royalty values on actual sales of gas in the market rather than accepting a formula to determine market value, as has been done with state royalty oil, Thompson said.This should include the value of "affiliated sales" of natural gas liquids shipped along with the gas, instead of a value based only on the energy content, or heating value, of the gas, Thompson said. As state royalty policy is now constructed, the values of these affiliated sales could be left out of the royalties paid to the state, he pointed out.Thompson’s committee also made a number of recommendations on state and federal regulatory authority on a gas pipeline. The first recommendation is for the state to press to include in federal legislation a provision giving the Regulatory Commission of Alaska authority to regulate tariffs and other charges related to gas moved through the pipeline but sold in Alaska.This is similar to provisions in the federal Trans-Alaska Pipeline Act of 1973 that gave Alaska authority to regulate intra-state shipments of oil.If the state fails in securing that legislation, Thompson suggested the state seek a Joint Board of the state RCA and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to consider issues related to sales of gas in Alaska. Although the Joint Board would only be advisory to the FERC, it would still give the Alaska regulatory agency a formal role in considering Alaska issues, Thompson told Knowles.Mike Navarre, a Kenai businessman and former legislator, briefed Knowles on recommendations of the "Alaska-hire" and "Alaska-build" committee he headed.Navarre’s panel recommended more state funding for training but noted that construction manpower was already scarce in the state and that a gas pipeline construction project would strain the state’s skilled manpower resources further.

Alaskans committed to the future

Due to its geographic challenges, Alaska is exactly the type of environment that should best be able to take advantage of new technologies for business development, and in turn build a dynamic infrastructure that will retain vital talent.In my search for signs of alternative life forms in Alaska’s new technology, nontraditional business environment, I am heartened yet realistic about our prospects. The good news is that there are committed individuals who love Alaska and see its potential and are working hard to nurture a fledgling social entrepreneurial community here.When deciding on a graduate school, I chose the law school at Santa Clara, in the heart of Silicon Valley, primarily for the strength of its high-tech law program and the exposure that being in such a vibrant environment could afford me. Many naturally assumed that I would be led elsewhere due to the lack of depth present in Alaska in my interests: "So this means you won’t want to come back?"The reality is that I very much want to come back to Alaska and I hope the specific expertise I am able to bring back with me makes me invaluable to the mix. However, I don’t necessarily want to come back at the sacrifice of opportunities in my interests in international, entrepreneurial and technological issues. Ideally, I would like to return with my education and skills and continue to help with exciting new ventures in the state.The rhetoric on state priorities focuses on a need to diversify Alaska’s economic base from its traditional reliance on natural resources and government. Alaskans need to back up this rhetoric with the reality of a strong infrastructure for new business ventures that could constitute anything from soap to high-tech software, judging from the businesses represented at a recent InvestNet marketing seminar.The Alaska Science and Technology Foundation is a state agency that invests money to improve Alaska’s economy and its science and engineering capabilities. ASTF and its progeny are making a difference on the Alaska business landscape.Recognizing a need for know-how to help with the sophisticated nature of new venture deals, ASTF established InvestNet in 1998. Among the entrepreneurs involved with InvestNet, the only statewide capital matching network, funding sought ranges between $100,001 and $250,000 for businesses seeking equity investment of more than $1,000,000.Products include sand and gravel; real estate; bottled water; thermal environmental control systems; laser lighting products; pharmaceutical discovery; software for medical billing and human capital management; and Web-based grant-seeking services for nonprofits.With the thought that these organizations would be on the front line of any development related to technology and start-up interests in Alaska, I worked with ASTF and InvestNet this past summer. Through my work with InvestNet, I also connected with and started working for PeopleMatter LLC, a promising Alaska-based start-up company specializing in human capital management software.The irony is that Alaska itself could probably stand to be evaluated in terms of how human capital is being drained from or retained by the state.If we attempt nothing, then we can achieve nothing. But if we try and fail, we still can gain.What is it going to take to grow Alaska’s economic base? It takes bona fide Alaska "angels" to invest in homegrown enterprises rather than forcing promising Alaska start-ups to look Outside. If companies have to look Outside for venture funding, they run the real threat of having relocation dictated by outside investors. It takes those in positions to affect change within the state to create high-tech infrastructure - and high-paying, cutting edge work - as a way to attract and retain the "best and the brightest" to Alaska.It takes individuals who not only spew the rhetoric of new technology and social entrepreneurship, but individuals who are willing to get their hands dirty with the work of building that vital infrastructure. It takes people willing to step outside traditional work patterns and pursue creative problem-solving solutions to help build Alaska’s economic base.Jeanne HuangLi served as an intern at Alaska InvestNet in Juneau this summer. She can be reached via e-mail at ([email protected]).

Delta makes last flight out of Fairbanks

FAIRBANKS - Delta Air Lines has left Fairbanks, saying business there wasn’t good enough to make a profit.The airline made its last flight from the Interior city on Oct. 31, with no plans to return.The financially strapped airline, the nation’s third-largest carrier, offered its 32 Fairbanks employees a variety of options, including transfers and furloughs.On Nov. 1, Delta reported a $259 million third-quarter loss that was eased by emergency assistance from the federal government, which is doling out $5 billion to help offset industrywide turmoil since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.The Atlanta-based airline also said it will lay off 2,000 employees systemwide.The losses, combined with the attacks, has led to a 16 percent reduction of Delta’s systemwide operations, the company said.The company extended to its 80,000 employees a voluntary program that allowed for leave of absences, severances and retirement packages. Of those, 11,000 employees took the offer, said Delta spokeswoman Peggy Estes.Delta’s vacant ticket counter and cargo bays will cost the Fairbanks International Airport $392,000, airport officials say. No carrier has stepped in to fill the spot, said Dave Carlstrom, director of airport marketing for Fairbanks Economic Development Corp."It’s a real setback for the airport and the community," Carlstrom told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.The airline’s departure from Fairbanks leaves only Alaska Airlines and Frontier Flying Service offering daily flights. Northwest Airlines and Condor, a German airline, offer summer Fairbanks flights.

Railroad predicts leap in its freight revenues

The Alaska Railroad Corp. is forecasting freight revenues to be $80 million for 2001, up $10 million from a year ago.Freight revenues in 1999 were $65 million, according to Patrick Flynn, the railroad’s public affairs officer in Anchorage.Officials at the state-owned railroad would not give specifics on revenue increases, saying the information is proprietary. The railroad, however, said freight hauling increased in all categories except coal, which experienced a shipping slowdown because of a track rehabilitation project at Fort Wainwright in Fairbanks.Railroad officials expect some growth in coal shipments once the project is completed.Highlighting the growth this year was the railroad’s joint venture with Seattle-based Lynden Inc., whose subsidiary, Alaska Railbelt Marine, took over as the barge contractor in February.Goods that come to Alaska by barge and are then transferred to rail mostly include pipes, supplies and heavy equipment used in oil field operations and maintenance.The railroad said the large spike in the barge-rail service can be attributed to increased oil activity on the North Slope.Trailer-on-flatcar service increased 12 percent from last year, due largely to a new contract with Safeway Inc., which is shipping trailers on rail from Anchorage to Fairbanks. Flynn said other grocers have expressed interest in shipping similarly.The railroad nearly matched its 1999 record of pulling more than 36,000 100-ton hopper gravel cars this summer, according to Flynn.Gravel is the second largest revenue generator for the railroad behind fuel, which was shipped in record amounts this summer.

Northstar oil field begins production, to reach peak next year

The Northstar oil field, offshore from Alaska’s North Slope, shipped its long-awaited first oil to shore on Oct. 31, BP Exploration (Alaska) Inc. announced Nov. 1."We are bringing the field up very slowly, producing crude from one well," BP spokesman Ronnie Chappell said. "The current rate of production is about 3,000 barrels per day. We are making sure everything is working properly."Production at Northstar is expected to reach a peak of 65,000 barrels a day during first quarter of 2002. BP has pegged Northstar’s recoverable reserves at about 175 million barrels, though the field has an estimated 247 million barrels of high-gravity crude and nearly 500 billion cubic feet of gas in place. Gas re-injection is occurring from start-up to maintain reservoir pressure and improve recovery, Chappell said.BP has spent more than five years bringing Northstar on line.The company and Gov. Tony Knowles made a controversial deal in 1996 that traded the state’s profit share for a higher royalty rate and a commitment to hire Alaskans for the project.The project was halted for nearly a year by a lawsuit filed by several Anchorage residents who argued that BP was given a sweetheart deal. The Supreme Court sided with the state in a 1998 decision.The company also battled environmentalists to develop the field. BP received a restraining order last year barring Greenpeace activists from interfering with activities at the site.Greenpeace and a group of North Slope Natives also challenged the Northstar development in court, arguing that the Environmental Impact Statement for the project was inadequate. The lawsuit also alleged that BP did not have an adequate oil spill response plan for the project.But in late September, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against the group.BP holds a 98 percent working interest in the field. Murphy Exploration & Production Co. holds a 2 percent working interest.The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Nurse mends emotional wounds after facing terror

JUNEAU Two months ago Ruth Perez-Matera was fleeing for her life as the World Trade Center collapsed behind her. Ruth Perez- Matera, photographed in her Juneau home on Saturday. The Juneau nurse is recovering emotionally after witnessing firsthand the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. Although the largest terrorist attack in U.S. history did not claim the Juneau woman, the memories of Sept. 11 still haunt her. After suffering repeated nightmares and a bout of depression following the attack, Perez-Matera said she is starting to heal emotionally. But she cannot forget the carnage she saw on the streets of New York City. "It’s hard," said Perez-Matera recently from her home in downtown Juneau. "But it’s something I have to learn to live with." Perez-Matera was in the Marriott Hotel across the street from the towers when the first jet struck. At first, her mother and sister, on vacation with Perez-Matera, thought their hotel was on fire. The trio fled from their room to the lobby, where Perez-Matera, a nurse at Bartlett Regional Hospital, saw injured people staggering into the hotel and ran to help them. Then they heard the second jet plow into the other tower, and they went outside. To their horror, they saw body parts strewn in the street, and the women fled with a crowd toward a nearby park. Perez-Matera turned to look at the towers just as one began to fall, and the crowd panicked as a cloud of smoke engulfed them. Perez-Matera and her sister escaped Manhattan by running across a bridge to Brooklyn, where they took refuge in a church. They lost their mother in the chaos and spent an agonizing night searching for her before reuniting the next day. Perez-Matera spent another three days in New York before leaving the East Coast and for three nights she could not sleep. When she finally dozed off, the nightmares came. "I had a dream of a man jumping on a trampoline, and he jumped so high that he was falling. And I knew he was going to hit the ground and there was nothing I could do,· said Perez-Matera, who awoke from the nightmare yelling. In another nightmare she was inside a hospital and people missing body parts were coming to her for help, Perez-Matera said. Then there were the nightmares about explosions and bombings and terrorists. "I would dream of people coming after us with guns," she said, adding that the nightmares came almost every night for a month. She fell into a depression in the days after the attack and took some time off from work to cope with the trauma. "I lacked energy and ambition and didn’t feel like doing anything. I had a great sadness that overcame me," she said. "You have a certain amount of guilt because you’re alive and the others are dead." Her mother, Jan Perez, also had nightmares and struggled with feelings of guilt. "I felt like there was more I should have done or could have done," said Perez, who stayed in Manhattan the day of the attack to help load the fleeing people onto ferries. "I had this real deep sadness for the people who were still there working and searching for bodies. I wish I could have been there with them to help," Perez said from her California home. A Juneau counselor helped Perez-Matera work through some of her sorrow. The counselor "helped me realize a lot of the things I was going through were normal and to expect them," said Perez-Matera, noting that the nightmares have tapered off. "I’m calm. I’m feeling a lot better now," she added. But "you never get over that sadness and that trauma that you go through." Perez-Matera said the event proved the U.S. is as vulnerable as any country to terrorists. Although she considers Juneau a relatively safe place, she has come to believe attacks can happen anywhere. However, it’s pointless to panic about anthrax and other potential strikes, she said, adding that people must accept the fact that bad things happen. "Everybody is very reactive to all the things that are occurring. I think that’s wrong," she said. "I don’t think we should get overly concerned about everything because unforeseen circumstances will occur. "Emotionally and spiritually we have to be prepared for these things."

Reporter finds taxpayers are paying for environmentalists' work

In these days when lawsuits by environmental groups are hamstringing many of our nation’s fisheries, it’s interesting to learn that much of the legal bankrolling comes from the federal government.The Sacramento Bee reporter Tom Knudson recently dug deep into the realm of environmental funding in an article that began: "A major investor is helping The Nature Conservancy - America’s largest environmental group - buy land and protect species across the United States."The same benefactor is providing financial aid to the World Wildlife Fund for international conservation [and] is spending heavily to help other groups, from the American Farmland Trust to Trout Unlimited, hold conferences, post Web pages, restore habitat and sway public opinion in favor of protecting the natural world. Who is this conservation-minded patron?"You, and every other taxpayer in the United States, that’s who."It’s well known that the federal government dispenses billions of dollars in grants for foreign aid, research and other activities. But it’s not commonly known that it also distributes financial aid to environmental organizations, including activist groups that seek to influence, and even sue, the government.Just how much public money flows to environmental groups has never been calculated, partly because it springs from so many sources. Knudson wrote that more than two dozen federal entities, from the State Department to the Fish and Wildlife Service, make awards to environmental groups. But, he added, no government agency charts the total spending, identifies trends or assesses what taxpayers are getting for their money.Information gathered by The Sacramento Bee revealed: Last year, nearly $137 million flowed to 20 major environmental nonprofit groups - an average of $377,000 a day - up 27 percent from 1999. Since 1998, more than $400 million in federal money has been granted to environmental groups. Four groups - The Nature Conservancy, which last year received $37.3 million in federal funds or the most of any group, Ducks Unlimited, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, and the World Wildlife Fund - have gotten more than two-thirds of the money since 1998. More than 15 nonprofits received $1 million a year or more. Most large environmental groups take government grants, but some, such as the Sierra Club and Greenpeace, do not, the newspaper reported.Knudson said that more than half of the money is used to help groups purchase, restore or protect land and species. But federal records show public money also trickles into more controversial activities, such as lobbying and advocacy.Some money also helps fund government adversaries, and, as seen in Alaska’s Steller sea lion lawsuit, federally funded environmental groups also sue the government. International conservation is another huge ticket item. Last year, more than $37 million in federal funds were routed through environmental groups to programs outside the United States.Fish brain may help humansResearchers are convinced that fish brains could provide a cure for Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, as well as repair brain damage. WorldCatch reports that scientists have found that fish brains have an amazing ability to regenerate brain cells that far surpasses all mammals, including humans. They’re hopeful that the same capacity might be used to repair human brains damaged in accidents or suffering from disease.According to WorldCatch, "studies by biologist Gunther Zupanc of the University of Manchester revealed that even a seriously injured fish brain can be as good as new within four to six weeks, in stark contrast to the human brain, whose capacity for repair is almost zero. The electric fish Apteronotus leptorhynchus, also known as the brown ghost fish knife, can produce a staggering 100,000 brain cells in just two hours, O.2 percent of its total brain population."Over the past 10 years, Zupanc’s research has shown the brains of adult fish produce new cells all the time. He said it is already possible to initiate human brain cell growth in a culture by adding growth factors not normally present in sufficient quantities in the brain. Zupanc added: "If we can find the factors that drive the fish’s brain repair systems, we may be able to apply them to mammalian systems and stimulate the production of new cells."Kodiak-based free-lance writer Laine Welch can be reached via e-mail at ([email protected]).

Recent events show system works, Alyeska official says

The puncturing of the trans-Alaska oil pipeline by a bullet in early October and two other emergencies earlier in the summer have demonstrated the effectiveness of emergency response capabilities, David Wight, president and chief executive of Alyeska Pipeline Service Co., told the Resource Development Council Nov. 1.Alyeska operates the pipeline on behalf of North Slope oil producers who own the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System.One incident, in which a small fishing boat deployed nets in the Valdez Narrows in the path of an outbound tanker, was the first case of a real emergency in which a tanker was stopped by escort tugs accompanying it.In this case the loaded ship was halted in a distance equal to twice its length. It demonstrated the tug escort system worked, Wight said.In a second incident, a fishing tender sank with 35,000 gallons of diesel fuel. The fishing industry activated its own spill response system but the Coast Guard asked Alyeska to help.The skimmers operated by Alyeska were able to get one-third of the dangerous light hydrocarbons off the water, demonstrating that the spill recovery system really works, Wight said.In the case of the pipeline puncture, Wight said there have been about 50 known incidents of bullets being fired at the pipeline, but the Oct. 2 incident was the only case in which the pipeline was penetrated by a bullet.The company knew about the spill minutes after it occurred and began shutting down the pipeline, but public safety officials ordered response crews to remain away from the site for six hours until the person who had shot at the pipeline, who was still armed, was captured.Crews had the spill contained six hours after that, were picking up more oil than was leaking within 24 hours of the puncture and had the leak itself sealed within 36 hours, Wight told the RDC.Halting the leak was an extremely hazardous operation because the fine spray of oil from the puncture released volatile vapors that could have ignited. A substantial amount of firefighting equipment was mobilized.Wight also credited the work of emergency response crews from the villages of Minto and Stevens Village, which are in the region.Alyeska learned a lot from the event about how to improve its response to a similar incident, Wight said.The company and the state and federal agencies that oversee pipeline operations are now looking at ways of speeding the stop of a similar leak from 36 hours to 24 hours, or even 12 hours.For example, it’s working to improve the emergency clamp device that was able to stop the leak while the pipeline still contained oil under pressure.Another effort is aimed at pumping oil from undamaged adjacent segments of the pipeline at faster rates, so that fluid pressure and the flow of oil at the leak site is reduced, he said.In a review of other issues, Wight said the effort to renew the pipeline’s 30-year federal right-of-way lease is going well. Alyeska has spent four years on the renewal effort and expects to continue working on it for another year and a half. So far the renewal has cost about $35 million.The company is also making good progress in recruiting Alaska Natives and other minorities to its work force. About 16.5 percent of the pipeline work force is Alaska Native and another 13.5 percent are other minorities.This brings the total minority component of the work force to about 30 percent, which is similar to the minority composition of the state’s population as a whole.One area for improvement is in the recruitment of women, however. Women now account for about 26 percent of Alyeska’s employees, a percentage that can be improved, Wight said.A major concern of the company is training skilled workers to replace veteran employees who will soon be retiring.Much of the pipeline work force has been on the job since construction began more than 30 years ago, Wight said. Within five years, about one-third of Alyeska’s work force will be eligible for retirement.Replacing these experienced employees is now a prime concern for the company, he said. Alyeska is sponsoring 50 trainees in internships and is providing training scholarships for more, Wight said.The company is also participating in initiatives with other industries to train skilled workers. One is the Alaska Process Industries Careers Consortium, a group formed to promote training for process operators, the skilled operators who run industrial facilities.

Phillips gears up for oil exploration near Anchor Point

ANCHOR POINT - As the tungsten steel bit below the towering Nabors Drilling Rig 273 chewed nearly 3,000 foot deep in the rock and mud near Anchor Point, Phillips Alaska Inc. officials said the oil company’s Cosmopolitan Exploration Project has progressed smoothly since a planned 90-day drilling operation began Oct. 21.The 152-foot-tall derrick, shipped in from Wyoming, is the largest rig operating in Alaska, according to Paul Mazzolini, statewide exploration team leader for Phillips.While the rig is large, drilling operations and related facilities cover an area of only about 650 feet by 310 feet on the bluff overlooking Cook Inlet west of the Sterling Highway about 5.5 miles north of Anchor Point.The drill site is called the Hansen well after landowner John Hansen, who leased the surrounding 11 acres or so to the drilling partners.Using a technique called "extended reach drilling," the drill will grind its way down through the bluff about 6,800 feet before curving at a 45-degree angle to reach about three miles out under the Inlet to seek oil.Based on an updated computer analysis of data from two offshore wells drilled by Mobil and Pennzoil in 1967, Phillips geologist Bob Swenson believes drillers have a good shot at finding commercial quantities. Some oil was found at the 1967 Starichkof State No. 1 well, but the site was not developed, he said.It would take about three to five million barrels of oil to make the project viable to plan production drilling and perhaps more wells on the site, Swenson estimated.Phillips Alaska Inc. is fronting 75 percent of the cost of the exploration well, with Forest Oil Corp. picking up 25 percent and Devon Energies 5 percent, according to Phillips spokeswoman Dawn Patience.The exploration phase is expected to cost about $18 million to $23 million, she said.While saying that drilling from land, then angling under the Inlet bed, offers protection from offshore oil spills, Mazzolini noted that working so close to homes along Sterling Highway is an unusual situation.In an effort to monitor any potential effects on local water wells, 40 wells, including 21 within one mile of the derrick, were tested before drilling began, Patience said.After about six years studying the entire basin and the possibility of exploring the old Starichkof offshore well, the Hansen test site was pinpointed based on requirements that it be 500 feet from the high-water mark and at least one-quarter mile from Stariski Creek."This is a lot different from most of the wells we drill in Alaska," Mazzolini said.With most residential drinking water wells in the area tapping water 25 to 150 feet deep, he said drillers are taking the unusual step of casing the oil well with steel pipe sealed with cement down to the 700-foot level."That’s well below where any of the neighbors get water," he said.In addition, Swenson said four 30-foot wells were dug around the rig to regularly monitor for any potential contamination.Drill foreman Ray Springer said most of the 50 to 70 workers typically at the site are from the Kenai Peninsula.Springer, a retired Arco engineer and fisherman from Seldovia, now a Phillips consultant, said that 45 of his 62 workers on site last week were from the borough, with about 15 hailing from south of Nikiski.While the directional-angled method of drilling offers environmental advantages and allows a smaller footprint for the rig, Phillips officials acknowledged there are also practical and economic advantages as well.While oil is the target on this lease, drilling manager Marty Lemon said tests will be conducted for natural gas as the drill digs.Once the planned 18,500-foot drilling depth is reached about mid December, the data and samples collected will be analyzed to see if a sustained drilling operation is feasible.

Struggling commercial fishermen search for solutions

HOMER - Alaska’s fishing businesses are in a world of hurt these days, reeling from the effects of everything from fish farms to climate change, but how to resolve the myriad problems facing fishermen is a million-dollar question.Rep. Drew Scalzi, R-Homer, has some radical proposals for the state-managed salmon, crab and other fisheries, which he pitched to a state convention of commercial fishermen in Petersburg and may introduce to the Alaska Legislature in January.And in Homer, the Alaska Marine Conservation Council board of directors met to discuss a broad range of ideas about revamping federal fisheries, some of which could dramatically strengthen or work to undermine coastal Alaska fishing towns.All this talk comes under the umbrella term "rationalization," meaning efforts to increase efficiency in a notoriously inefficient industry."Rationalization is a huge word," said Alan Parks, a longtime fisherman who is the conservation council’s citizen outreach coordinator in Homer. "People really need to think about what that means."The most familiar example of rationalization in Alaska was the institution of individual fishing quotas in the halibut and black cod fisheries. Before 1995, anyone could fish for either species, which caused the fleet to get so large that federal managers reduced fishing time to two 24-hour periods a year.With IFQs, the public harvest rights were awarded to individuals, allowing them to fish whenever they wanted. That improved safety and fish quality and spread the harvest over eight months.Other results were less savory for many in the fishing industry. Processing plants lost much of their markets for frozen fish, and many fishermen who felt they deserved IFQs didn’t get them. The number of boats has dwindled, reducing the number of crew jobs.Now federal managers are considering IFQs for the big Bering Sea crab fisheries and possibly for bottomfish boats in the Gulf of Alaska. With the halibut and black cod experience behind them, many in Alaska’s fishing industry either want IFQs desperately or will fight them to death.However, IFQs aren’t the only option for rationalizing a fishery. Other options are to create fishing co-operatives in which boats, as well as processing plants, get individual quotas and can work together to wring the most money out of their harvest. That might include timing their fishing trips to coincide with the highest market demand or fishing more carefully to reduce the bycatch of unwanted species.The Alaska Marine Conservation Council doesn’t support or condemn any particular rationalization plan, but wants any plan to reflect its conservation ethic, Parks said."One of our guiding principles is that there is an intrinsic value to fishing in our coastal communities," he said, "and decision makers have the responsibility to take those intrinsic values into consideration when discussing rationalization plans."Other principles include the need to reduce bycatch of unwanted species, to protect the habitat that is crucial for the long-term health of fish and other marine animals and to convert boats to less-destructive means of fishing, such as using pots rather than bottom trawling."Bycatch, habitat protection, gear conversion - they all need to be talked about now and incorporated into rationalization plans," Parks said. "If not, you don’t really address the issues" that are casting doubt on the viability of Alaska’s fisheries.The council has about 800 members in Alaska, many of whom are coastal fishermen, Parks said.Some of the problems inherent in federal crab and groundfish fisheries are mirrored in state waters, but at least their markets are relatively strong. Salmon fishermen, on the other hand, have seen their valuable markets undercut by salmon farms, and the combination of low prices and high expenses has made salmon fisheries less viable now than at any time since the mid-1970s.Across Alaska, fishermen are scrambling to find an edge in the increasingly global salmon market.In Kachemak Bay and elsewhere, fishermen have formed cooperatives to ensure high quality and take advantage of niche markets. Scalzi thinks the Alaska Legislature could lend the industry a hand, and he has nearly a dozen bills ready for introduction that shore up the hard-pressed salmon industry.His proposals could be shot down by fishermen, the Legislature or the governor, Scalzi said, but that’s not the point of bringing up these issues. He’s trying to get people to "think outside the box.""The industry has to take a good look at the next 20 to 30 years," he said. "What we are going to need to be viable again? What are we going to do to keep canneries in remote areas? A love-hate relationship exists between canneries and fishermen, but we need each other. We have to make the business climate acceptable to processors as well as to fishermen."

Board appoints new chief executive at Valley Hospital

Valley Hospital’s operating board of directors has approved the appointment of George V. Larson as new chief executive.His contract begins Dec. 1. However, Larson probably will start his new post on the first workday, Monday, Dec. 3, said Elizabeth Ripley, Valley Hospital Association director of community health planning.The board gave Larson the nod Oct. 26.Larson will move to Alaska from Wickenburg, Ariz., where he serves as administrator of Wickenburg Regional Medical Center, an 80-bed acute care hospital. He has held similar positions in Holyoke, Colo., and Bethel, Maine. Larson, a certified public accountant, earned a master’s degree in personnel administration with a concentration in health care administration from Central Michigan University in Mount Pleasant. He received a bachelor’s degree in business administration from La Sierra University.At Valley Hospital Association Larson will lead an organization with annual revenues of $50 million and 500 employees. VHA includes Valley Hospital in Palmer, Valley Hospital Medical Center in Wasilla and home health, hospice and pharmaceutical agencies.Last February VHA compiled a task force to begin the search for a new chief executive, although work began in earnest in May, Ripley said.The organization worked with an executive search company that narrowed the list of candidates to nine, Ripley said."We interviewed five of the nine," she said, adding that on-site interviews were conducted in late September."George personifies these corporate values and brings with him the expertise to provide sound organizational leadership to our growing hospital system," said Kathleen Kelly, VHA operating board president. "From business analysis to finance and relationship building, George brings extensive skills and experience that make him an excellent match for the needs of our organization."In a statement, Larson described his new position in Alaska. "I am eager to begin my role in the leadership of this progressive health care organization and in developing a relationship with the board of directors, employees and community residents."

Timing is key to The Alaska Club's growth

Ten years ago, Andrew Eker and Tom Behan had a dream: to build a statewide network of athletic clubs in Alaska. Through a series of mergers and acquisitions, the partners have grown from owning a single location in Anchorage to 12 in Anchorage, Fairbanks, Juneau, Eagle River and Wasilla.The Alaska Club Network now has about 40,000 members and 800 full- and part-time employees. Eker projects total company revenues to exceed $24 million in 2002. The statewide network is now largely in place."We’re getting close to accomplishing that goal," Eker said.But getting there wasn’t easy. On Feb. 10, 1986, a limited partnership formed by Eker and Behan, with 50 investors, purchased the Teamsters Recreation Center in Anchorage for $9 million in an owner-financed deal. That was right around the time oil prices collapsed and the Alaska economy went into a tailspin."We really scrambled the first couple of years to get it up to where it could pay the rent," Eker said. "There were no returns right away to our investors."It was a trial by fire that taught Eker and Behan how to run a successful fitness club."You learn going up, but you learn a lot more going down," Eker said. Those lessons were never forgotten. "We’ve been in an expansion mode ever since."Eker and Behan were uniquely suited to running fitness clubs. For one thing, they both are active in sports. Behan was a handball player, while Eker enjoys skiing, biking, tennis and golf.Behan, as former president of Alaska Pacific Bank, understood financing. Eker was a real estate developer and was involved in construction and business management. Asked what he likes to do best, Eker’s eyes light up and he replies, "mergers and acquisitions."And merge and acquire he has. Here’s the list:1989: purchase of Anchorage Racquet Club Inc.;1994: purchase of the Anchorage Racquet & Fitness Club building;1995: purchase of the Fairbanks Athletic Club;1997: purchase of three Alaska Athletic Clubs, two in Anchorage and one in Fairbanks;1997: conversion of the former Alaska Builders Cache into The Alaska Club South;1998: purchase of World Gyms in Eagle River and West Anchorage; and1999: purchase of Valley Fitness Center in Wasilla.This year, the company leased a former Alaska Marketplace store in Anchorage and began converting it into a new home for The Alaska Club West, plus a new women-only facility. In October, the company announced the purchase of the two Juneau Racquet Clubs.Any business professor - and any observer of the dot-com debacle of the past year - will tell you that rapid growth, when not properly managed, can cause a company to collapse, usually for lack of cash. So how did The Alaska Club grow successfully? Eker cites a variety of reasons.Find talented peopleThe original partners, Eker and Behan, brought real estate, construction and financing skills to the table. Eker also cites two other key team members: John Marchetti, vice president of administration and finance, and Robert Brewster, vice president of operations.Those four key players have worked together to make the company grow, Eker said.Use creative financingFor each acquisition, Behan and Eker formed a limited partnership and sought investors. The original group of 50 investors now numbers about 150, most of them Alaskans; many have invested in more than one transaction, Eker said. The partnerships provide the cash needed to make a sale work.Another technique the company has used repeatedly is to offer equity in The Alaska Club to the owners of the firms they buy. This minimizes the amount of cash needed for each deal, Eker said. Owner financing has been used in several transactions as well, he said.Actual operation of the clubs is divided between two corporations: The Alaska Club Inc., which owns the Anchorage, Eagle River and Wasilla facilities; and Athletic Clubs Inc., which owns the Fairbanks and Juneau clubs. Eker is president of both.Timing is everything"If there’s anything I’ve found out in business, it’s that timing is the governing factor," Eker said. "Until the timing is right, nothing happens." He said it took five years to persuade the Teamsters to sell their Fairbanks facility; the Wasilla transaction took three years.Then there’s the timing of the fitness craze in the United States, which began about the time the partners bought their first club - and it has been growing ever since.Eker pointed out that fitness equipment generates far more revenue per square foot than tennis or racquetball. An 800-square-foot racquetball court provides exercise for four people. That same space, used for fitness, can accommodate 20 paying customers, he said.Location, location, locationWhat’s true for McDonald’s is true for fitness clubs: Location is vital."We’ve discovered that the distance people will travel for fitness is limited," Eker said. "Also, they will travel shorter distances for fitness than they will for tennis or racquetball."That explains the company’s drive for multiple locations in Alaska’s three largest cities. Eker said that opening a new location drops attendance at existing facilities at first, but in the long run it attracts people who were never customers before, for a net gain.Serve the customerEver since Day One, the company has invested heavily in upgrading the clubs it buys. In 1993, the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority backed an $8 million loan from National Bank of Alaska, now Wells Fargo Bank Alaska. The money was used to expand The Alaska Club’s original location, refinance existing loans and pay off the Teamsters Union, which had helped finance the original purchase."Buy it, then fix it up" could be a motto for the company because it has done so many times."Annually, we create a plan to update and upgrade," Eker said. "I think the membership appreciates it. We don’t want them to get bored. We rely on them coming back every month."Eker said he learned a lesson about the changing needs of his customers when he opened The Alaska Club South. "Parents wanted something for young people 8-14 to do," he said. "We missed the market," he freely admits. His response: Add things kids like - a rock climbing wall, a game room, a pool and a basketball court. Membership promptly took off and the club is now a success, he said.Eker said another important way he serves his customers is with what he calls "reciprocity." That means any person who signs up at any club in the state can use any other club in the network."We’re trying to create value through convenience," he said. "It’s really viewed as a value by our customers."Eker said reciprocity for Juneau will begin when the final paperwork is signed, which he expects to occur by Dec. 1.Eker pointed to the Wasilla facility as an example of how his company’s experience can turn things around."When we bought it, it had 600-800 members. It’s grown to almost 2,000 members in 18 months," Eker said. "The original owner created a nice facility and he had good intentions, but he didn’t understand the business."Eker said he’s focused now on completing the two clubs at the West Anchorage facility and is beginning the analysis of what will be required at the newly purchased Juneau clubs.And while he won’t disclose any other future plans, you can be sure he’s got more deals in the wings. He’s just waiting until the timing is right.

Brewery owners manage growth

Marcy Larson, co-owner of Juneau’s Alaskan Brewing Co., has some hard-won advice for small business operators managing growth: Be careful, pay attention to quality and make sure you’ve got strength in your home market before you expand out of state.Listen to your banker is another bit of advice."There have been many times our banker has looked at sales projections and made us scale back, to make sure we can pay our loan even if sales didn’t meet expectations," she said. "That conservative view helped us."It’s easy to dream," Larson added. "Alaska is full of optimists, and it’s real easy to get up there in the stars without knowing where the ladder is."You have to take risks. That’s business. But do everything you can to mitigate those risks."Alaskan Brewing, which makes amber, pale ales and English strong bitter that have become popular in the Alaska and the Pacific Northwest, has had brisk growth since the company started in 1986. Eighty Alaskans bought shares to help launch Alaskan Brewing, and 75 are still with the company.Since that first year, production has grown ninefold to 90,000 barrels per year. Seventy-five percent of the company’s output is now sold out-of-state, in Pacific Northwest states.The popular Alaskan Amber is now the second-best-selling microbrew in Washington state and is outsold only by Red Hook, which is helped by its part-owner, a major brewing company.

As travel rules evolve, here's what to expect

The rules at airports and airlines continue to evolve since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. New Federal Aviation Administration security measures have altered airport procedures across the country. Some airports have made specific changes that may further affect your travel logistics. So, what is the latest?Airport arrivalTravelers are being asked to arrive at least two hours before domestic flights and three hours before international flights to allow for tighter security procedures. At Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport, two hours for domestic flights is definitely enough. The lines will be long and check-in/screening process will be slow. Stress levels can be reduced by allowing more than enough time, and then enjoying a cup of coffee with a good book.Parking and curbside accessThe FAA prohibits parking within 300 feet of an airport terminal. This has forced some airports to close short-term parking areas. Valet parking at some airports has also been suspended. Be sure you don’t leave packages or other materials in your car that could appear suspicious. No curbside check-in is available at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport. Do not plan to pick up your friends or relatives at the curbside upon arrival. The Anchorage short-term parking garage gives you free parking for up to 45 minutes.IdentificationPassengers must have government-issued photo identification. It can be either federal, state or local. Be prepared to present your ID upon check-in and at subsequent points along with boarding passes. Minors do not need photo ID as long as an accompanying adult certifies their identity.Airport check-inAutomated check-in kiosks are available at Alaska Airlines. Make sure to check in before you go through the security gate. Web check-in has also been restored. Consequently, electronic tickets are being accepted again. Written confirmation, such as a letter from the airline acknowledging the reservation might be required.Carry-on baggageOne carry-on bag and a personal item, such as a purse, briefcase or laptop computer is allowed. Do not carry on knives of any kind including straight razors, scissors, and metal nail files. Other prohibited items include corkscrews, baseball bats, golf clubs, pool cues, ski poles and hockey sticks. Permitted items for carry-on, however, include walking canes, umbrellas, nail clippers, safety and disposable razors, tweezers and eyelash curlers. Of course, these rules are subject to change. Please check with the airline for the latest information before traveling.Security checkpointLimit the metal objects you wear. There have been several reported cases where women wearing underwire bras set off metal detectors. Allow ample time to go through the line. This process may take as much time as check-in procedures if not more. Only ticketed passengers are allowed beyond the checkpoints. Say your goodbyes before you head for the gate. Exceptions are for those with specific medical needs or for a parent escorting a child. Again, check with the airline for specific requirements.Be patientEveryone, including the traveling public, government officials, airport staff and airline crew members, now has to adapt to a wide range of new regulations. The rules will continue to evolve. There are many factors that are beyond our control; however, you can control your outlook on travel to have a pleasant trip.Yoshi Ogawa is president of ITC Travel & Tours in Anchorage. He can be reached at 907-561-7722 or via e-mail at ([email protected]).

CSX announces new Yukon Pacific Corp. leader

ANCHORAGE -The parent company of Yukon Pacific Corp. has announced a new director for the corporation.John Snow, CSX Corp. chairman and chief executive officer, said Ward Whitmore will be director of project development and will direct daily operations for Yukon Pacific.Yukon Pacific holds the major state and federal permits and authorizations for an 800-mile natural gas pipeline and liquefaction facility. Under the company’s Trans-Alaska Gas System project, natural gas would move via pipeline from the North Slope to Valdez, where it would be refrigerated to produce liquefied natural gas for shipment to Asia.Whitmore has worked on the project for 12 years. An Anchorage resident since 1989, Whitmore joined Yukon Pacific after holding several engineering-related positions with Union Pacific Resources and Phillips Petroleum.He replaces Jeff Lowenfels.

State hopes to name new telecommunications provider this month

State officials said they hope to announce in mid-November the vendor for a $26 million annual contract to provide state government telecommunications.Earlier this fall, Administration Department Commissioner Jim Duncan had expected the contract award would be announced by Nov. 1.He said in early November the state is finalizing the process and would make the announcement later in the month."We are concluding negotiations with the top-ranked vendor based on their response to the RFP (request for proposals) and hope to give public notice of intent to award by Nov. 13," he said.When state officials declare a contract award winner, documents and other bidders once proprietary during the process will be made public, he told the Journal earlier this year.Also, after the vendor is announced the state kicks off a 10-day period during which protests can be filed, he said.When state officials issued the bid for the telecommunications contract in August 2000 they estimated that 42 state employees would be laid off as a result of the new contract. However, many of them might be hired by the winner of the contract, officials said.The state received three proposals for the new contract which went out for bid last August, Duncan told the Journal earlier this year. He was unable to list names of vendors because the procurement process was ongoing.Start-up dates for providing service are part of negotiations, but Duncan hopes to implement the services as soon as possible after the award date.In December, representatives from major Alaska telecommunications players AT&T Alascom, Alaska Communications Systems and General Communication Inc. told the Journal they submitted bids.Originally, state officials had planned to award the contract in mid-March. However, once they started evaluating the proposals, officials determined the process would take longer than expected because the proposals were more complex than anticipated, Duncan said.The new contract aims to streamline state telecommunications services.The request for proposal calls for a vendor, including possibly a consortium of companies, to run the state’s telecommunications networks for four years, with two optional one-year renewal periods.The contract covers providing service for wired telephones, data networks, video, paging, cellular, satellite transport, tech support including a help desk, and operating and maintaining the state’s microwave system.

State promotes seafood in South Korea

Officials from the state trade department report strong results from a seafood promotion in South Korea. Seafood exports to South Korea so far this year have eclipsed last year’s exports.Two years ago the state Division of International Trade and Market Development coordinated a campaign to introduce Alaska seafood to deluxe hotels in Seoul and other Korean cities.Dating back through July 2000, Korean hotels have purchased about $1 million worth of salmon, halibut, crab, scallops and other Alaska products to serve at promotional events and as regular menu items.State officials organized events to educate importers and hotels about Alaska seafood. The trade representatives also helped promote the seafood at hotel events. The Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, a Korean importer and Korean Air helped department employees coordinate Alaska visits for hotel chefs and food and beverage managers.For the first eight months of 2001, seafood exports to Korea totaled $188.2 million compared with $85 million for the same period last year.Two major promotions were conducted at Korean hotels earlier this year, the Westin Chosun Hotel and other Westin properties in Seoul and Pusan plus at the Sheraton Walkerhill and Seoul Plaza.Trade department officials say these promotions and the work with hotel chefs and managers have led to purchases of Alaska seafood by eight major hotels in Seoul, Pusan and Kyangju, Korea.

Entrepreneurs must learn how to delegate

For its small population, Alaska has more than its share of creative and independent entrepreneurs, the kind of people who want to own their own businesses."Alaskans seem willing to take risks. We seem eager to do something different, which is why we all live here," said Gary Selk, a professor at the University of Alaska Anchorage’s School of Business and Public Policy.At the same time, Selk said, many entrepreneurs and small business owners lack a complete grasp of the skills they need to make the right decisions, particularly if the business is growing.Fortunately, many seek advice and training, which is available through the university and a number of consulting services, he said.Two areas where business owners commonly encounter trouble is, first, when rapid growth outpaces financial and accounting systems, and second, when it comes time to bring on more help and delegate authority, Selk said.One local company Selk has been advising has seen rapid growth, but while the record-keeping system was adequate for the business at a smaller scale, it was completely inadequate for the size the firm has grown to or where it is headed."Also, no one in the management, which were also the owners, had the skills to really understand what the financial reports were telling them," he said. "They also had no clear direction of where they were going," as a business.In this case, some help in developing a strategic plan was a starting point. But the clients were also unwilling to lose control by bringing in a chief executive officer with the needed skills, he said.Additional training for the management team will address part of this problem, but unwillingness to delegate authority is the most common hurdle owners and managers of growing businesses must overcome."It’s a quantum leap to someone to give up that sense of control, but if you don’t, you’re just so caught up in day-to-day tasks that you lose the big picture," Selk said.Selk has experienced the difficulty himself with a small nonprofit corporation he started and continues to operate, the Alaska Business Development Center, which offers management consulting services."It’s hard to give up control over the checkbook, hiring and firing, and other key decisions," he said.

Business Profile: Automated Laundry Systems & Supply

Name of the company: Automated Laundry Systems & SupplyEstablished: 1979Location: 621 W. 54th Ave., AnchorageTelephone: 907-561-3178Web site: www.autolaundrysystems.comMajor focus of services: Automated Laundry Systems & Supply sells and services commercial and industrial equipment and supplies to care for different fabrics. The company also designs, installs, trains and provides consulting services for industrial, on-site and coin-operated customers.History of the company: Its origins date back to the 1950s when the company was called Alaska Boiler but was later renamed Dubois Chemical Co. In 1979 Dick Wells and Glen Miller purchased the equipment and service division from Dubois Chemical, renaming it Automated Laundry Systems.The company purchased its current building in 1985 and later added a warehouse, office and shop space. Miller left the company in 1987. In 1995 the company took on a new moniker: Automated Laundry Systems & Supply.Automated Laundry became a general contractor in 1997 to expand services. In 1998 company officials started the Cointronics Division to provide equipment rentals and shared revenue leasing.Clients include the health care, hospitality, mining, fishing and oil industries as well as dry cleaners, coin-operated laundries, health clubs, correctional facilities and federal, state and local governments.Automated Laundry employs 15 Alaskans.Top accomplishment of the company: Automated Laundry officials cite projects in Alaska including the new Anchorage jail and downtown fire station; a new laundry for BP (Exploration) Alaska Inc. at Prudhoe Bay; equipment and air handling upgrades for Phillips Alaska Inc. at Kuparuk; upgrades at Providence Alaska Medical Center, Central Peninsula Hospital and Fairbanks Memorial Hospital; a new laundry at Johnson Youth Center in Juneau and fire service laundry equipment for North Slope Borough villages. Other laundry projects included a joint venture in the former Soviet republic of Kazakstan during oil field development there and supplying equipment to clean workers’ suits during cleanup of the Exxon Valdez oil spill.Major players: Dick Wells, president, and Kim Aho, general manager and president of Cointronics, Automated Laundry Systems & Supply.Wells came to Alaska in 1976 to work at RCA Alascom, then started with Automated Laundry a few years later. In 1982 Aho was hired as an administrative assistant and has learned the business through the years. She is a partner in the company.- Nancy Pounds

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