Anchorage pilot buys Homer Air, promises no immediate changes

HOMER -- Homer Air, the locally owned air taxi service that has connected Homer to other Kachemak Bay communities for 27 years, has been sold to an Anchorage buyer. Papers were signed last month.Former owner Larry Thompson was Outside and not available for comment.Dana Pruhs, the new owner, said he was happy and excited about taking over the successful local airline. Pruhs said he has no immediate plans for any changes."Not at the moment," he said. "We will work real close with Larry Thompson and continue to service Homer Air’s great customer base and try to make it a more responsive airline for the customers. Larry has built up a great business."Pruhs once worked for Alaska International Construction Inc., a company owned by Alaska International Industries, the firm that later owned Mark Air.Pruhs is a pilot and once flew corporate aircraft for Alaska International Industries, but was gone before the advent of Mark Air, he said.Neil Bergt, who operated Mark Air until its demise in 1995, has acted as a consultant to Pruhs. He was in Homer and spoke about the purchase March 9.Homer Air will "continue to provide the best service available as we always have," he said. "It’s a premier operator. That’s why Dana was interested in it."Bergt said he is a consultant, not an owner.Pruhs said the company staff will remain in their jobs."With new stewardship, you support the people who worked so hard to make it what it is," he said.Homer Air has five aircraft, including two Islanders and three Cessna 206s.

Calendar April 1, 2001

Confabs The Anchorage Chamber of Commerce is holding its Make It Monday forum at noon April 2 at the 4th Avenue Theatre. Cheryl Frasca, Municipality of Anchorage budget director, and Ernie Hall, former chairman of Alaskans Against the Tax Cap, will discuss the pluses and minuses of a sales tax. The cost is $14 for members and $20 for others. For additional information, call 907-272-2401 or visit ( WOMEN$fund, a program of YWCA of Anchorage, is offering a class on starting a child day care center at 6 p.m. April 2 at the Gateway Learning Center, 801 Karluk St. A business plan is required. The cost is $50. For additional details, contact Donna Fagan at 907-274-1532 or at ([email protected]). The Greater Fairbanks Chamber of Commerce is holding its general membership luncheon at noon April 3 at the Westmark Fairbanks. Jennifer Benefield, community development manager of United Way of Tanana Valley, will speak on National Volunteer Month. The luncheon cost is $11.25. For more information, call 907-452-1105. The Greater Soldotna Chamber of Commerce is holding its weekly meeting at noon April 3 at the Riverside House, 44611 Sterling Highway. Stefanie Gorder of Premier Alaska Tours is the scheduled speaker. For more information, call 907-262-9814. The Greater Wasilla Chamber of Commerce is holding its luncheon presentation at noon April 3 at the Mat-Su Resort, 1850 Bogard Road. Maj. C.K. Hyde will report on the Elmendorf Air Force Base annual air show. Program fees are $3 for members and $5 for others. An optional lunch is available. For more information, call 907-376-1299. The Mat-Su Borough Small Business Development Center is presenting a seminar entitled "More Customers, More Profits" from 1-3 p.m. April 3 at the SBDC office, 201 N. Lucille St., Suite 2-A, Wasilla. The seminar will demonstrate the importance of maintaining current customer bases and will provide information on attracting new business. The fee is $10. For registration or more information, call 907-373-7232. The Chugiak-Eagle River Chamber of Commerce is scheduling its luncheon forum at noon April 4 at the North Slope Restaurant, 11501 Old Glenn Highway. Jim Palmer, vice president external affairs for BP Exploration(Alaska) Inc., is the scheduled speaker. For more information, call 907-694-4702. The Kenai Chamber of Commerce is holding its weekly meeting at noon April 4 at the Old Town Village Restaurant, 1000 Mission Ave. Steve Arbelovsky, Kenai liquefied natural gas plant superintendent for Phillips Alaska Inc., will focus on the topic, "Forty-nine Years in the 49th State."The luncheon cost is $10.50. For more information, call 907-283-7989. The Greater Palmer Chamber of Commerce is holding its open meeting forum at noon April 4 at the Palmer Moose Lodge, 1136 S. Cobb St. The forum will provide updates to local economic development and agency reports as well as a networking opportunity. The cost is $9. For additional information, call 907-745-2880. The World Trade Center Alaska’s 2001 luncheon series continues with a forum scheduled for noon April 4 at the National Bank of Alaska fifth floor conference room, C Street and Northern Lights Boulevard. Robert Eddy, district director of the U.S. Department of Justice, Immigration and Naturalization, will discuss the direction the Immigration and Naturalization Services is headed in terms of an increasingly diverse work force, as well as current trends and challenges faced in the agency. The cost for members is $15 and $20 for others. For reservations, call 907-278-7233. The Association of Information Technology Professionals is holding its regular monthly meeting at the Regal Alaskan Hotel with a social hour beginning at 6 p.m. April 4. John Klinkhart, systems engineer for Cisco Systems, will discuss Cisco AVVID, a foundation for tomorrow’s converged enterprise communication networks.The cost for members is $20 and for guests $25. For reservations, e-mail ([email protected]). The Resource Development Council for Alaska Inc. is presenting a program at 7:30 a.m. April 5 at the Petroleum Club of Anchorage, 3301 C St. David Policansky, project director of the National Research Council Committee on Cumulative Environmental Impacts of Oil and Gas Activities on the North Slope, will discuss the impacts. Breakfast for members cost $12 and for others is $15. Reservations are required. For more information, call 907-276-0700. The Anchorage Small Business Development Center in Anchorage is sponsoring a core seminar on starting a business from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. April 5 at the SBDC office, 430 W. Seventh Ave. A core seminar on developing a business plan is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. April 6 at the same location. Each seminar costs $30. When attending two seminars, the cost is $45. For registration, call 907-272-7232. The Mat-Su Borough Small Business Development Center and the Anchorage Procurement Technical Assistance Center are offering a free workshop entitled "Construction Contracting in Alaska" from 9 a.m. to noon April 5 at the SBDC office, 201 N. Lucille St., Suite 2-A, Wasilla. The industry-specific workshop covers the basics of governmental construction contracting for federal and state agencies in Alaska. Registration is required. For more information, call 907-373-7232. World Trade Center Alaska is facilitating a Food Forum from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. April 6 at the Land’s End Resort in Homer. Among the forum’s topics are global market trends, quality control and practices, customizing, branding, price and profitability, technology, packaging, temperature monitoring and transportation systems. Featured speakers include Barbara Belknap, Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute; Pat Shanahan, International Seafood Consultant; Lisa Goche, Surefish; Craig Wiese, Alaska Science & Technology Foundation/Alaska Manufacturers Association; Gail Marshall, Phoenix Food Consulting; Steve Grabaki, Graystar; and Ryan Hill, NET Systems. For details, call 907-278-7233 or visit ([email protected]). The Alaska World Affairs Council is presenting a program at noon April 6 in the Hilton Anchorage Hotel. Jolyon Howorth, professor of French civilization, University of Bath, United Kingdom, will discuss the topic "Europeans on Europe: Transnational Visions of a New Continent." Program lunch fees are $17 for members and $20 for others. For more information, call 907-276-8038. The Anchorage Chamber of Commerce, the Anchorage School District and the University of Alaska are holding a City-wide Career/Job Fair from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. April 7 at UAA. The fair is open to interested individuals seeking permanent or summer jobs, making educational, apprenticeship or vocational plans, learning about scholarship information or exploring new careers. For additional information, call 907-786-1215. The Cooperative Extension Service, University of Alaska Fairbanks; Cooperative State Research Education and Extension Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture; and the Alaska Wood Utilization Research and Development Center, Pacific Northwest Research Station, USDA Forest Service are sponsoring a forest products workshop focusing on value-added products April 9 in Ketchikan and April 11 in Anchorage. The workshop is entitled "Wood and Fish Composting: Small Industry Waste Management in Alaska." For location information and other details, call 907-747-4309 or visit (  

Lawmakers offer natural gas tax, permit bills, take action on alcohol measures

State Rep. Jim Whitaker, R-Fairbanks, introduced legislation March 20 establishing a state reserves tax on natural gas on the North Slope. House Bill 190, if passed, would become effective if North Slope producing companies fail to move Alaska gas to market by 2007. The three largest North Slope producers, BP Exploration (Alaska) Inc., Exxon Mobil Production Co. and Phillips Alaska Inc. are now working on a joint project to do feasibility and conceptual engineering for a $10 billion overland pipeline from Alaska to the Lower 48. The companies have said 2007 is the soonest the pipeline could be completed and in operation. In other legislative action related to the gas pipeline, the Senate Resources Committee passed Senate Bill 143 March 19, which requires the state of Alaska to be reimbursed for work on permits related to a natural gas pipeline project. The bill also requires reimbursement whether the project moves ahead to completion or not. The bill is now in the Senate Finance Committee. In other actions, two bills dealing with the sale of alcohol passed out of the House Labor and Commerce Committee March 22. House Bill 80, sponsored by Rep. Scott Ogan, R-Palmer, would set statewide hours for bars to be closed from 2 a.m. to 10 a.m. on weekdays and 3:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. The bill is now in the House Finance Committee. The committee also moved House Bill 132, sponsored by the House Judiciary Committee, which lowers the amount of alcohol a person may possess before police assume it is for illegal resale. The bill also authorizes the state Alcohol Beverage Control Board to submit fingerprints of prospective liquor licensees to the Federal Bureau of Investigation to run through its national criminal history record system. The bill is now in the House Judiciary Committee. Sen. John Torgerson, R-Kasilof, introduced a bill March 20 to help the state’s fledgling mariculture industry. Torgerson, who chairs the Senate Resources Committee, introduced Senate Bill 141, which improves the state’s selection process for mariculture lease sites and increases the sites available for mariculture, which is the commercial farming of shellfish, such as oysters, clams and geoducks. "The bill would also protect the existing wild shellfish stocks located on a farming site by requiring growers to adhere to a harvestable surplus program," Torgerson said. SB 141 would require the Departments of Natural Resources and Fish and Game to offer public leases on 60 suspended shellfish sites, 20 clam sites and 10 geoduck sites. The leases would be in addition to mariculture permits already issued.  

Editorial Cartoon April 1, 2001


Movers & Shakers April 1, 2001

The Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute has promoted KC Dochtermann export program director. Dochtermann has been a senior marketing specialist with the program since October 1999 and has a background in international marketing. Dochtermann will oversee ASMI marketing activities in the European Union, Japan, China/Hong Kong, Australia/New Zealand and Taiwan.   Marketing Solutions Inc. has promoted Karen Lien to media manager. Lien is responsible for media strategy, planning and placement for the advertising and public relations firm. Lien also assists with client services. The following 10 teachers were chosen as the first semester BP Teachers of Excellence: Arturo A. Ayala, Dimond High School; Deborah Baker and Julye Neel, Service High School; Nina Bonito-Romine, Stellar Secondary School; Deneen L. Bozeman, Campbell Elementary School; Deborah Fancher, East High School; Maya Gauvreau, Mt. Iliamna Preschool; Cindy Mikawa, Ptarmigan Elementary School; Maureen Petrunic, Hanshew Middle School; and Dawn E. Worley, Creekside Elementary School. Alaska Stock has hired Arlen Ayojiak as a computer technician on its information technology staff. Ayojiak is a recent graduate of the University of Alaska Anchorage. Ayojiak’s responsibilities at the professional stock picture library in Anchorage include maintaining and managing servers, troubleshooting workstations, building and configuring computers and systems, and Web site work. Denali Alaskan Federal Credit Union has promoted three managers to oversee Anchorage branches: Mike Rich, First Avenue branch; Shannon Conley, Benson branch; and Molena Daniels, Huffman branch. Rich has more than four years of financial management experience and previously served as assistant manager at the credit union’s LaTouche branch. Rich also previously served as manager for Norwest Financial in both Anchorage and Iowa. Conley formerly worked as assistant manager at the First Avenue branch. Conley has worked as branch manager of consumer finance for Norwest Financial/Wells Fargo. Daniels previously served as assistant branch manager of the Huffman branch. Daniels has more than 18 years of operations and sales experience in the financial industry in Alaska and the Lower 48. The Anchorage ATHENA Society, a program of the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce, has selected the following 16 new members: Sandy Beitel, human resources director, BP Exploration (Alaska) Inc.; Linda Friday Cardoza, owner/Realtor, TGIF Yes It Is! Prudential Jack White Real Estate; Barbara Cash, owner, RIM Design; Sandra Ann Erber, strategic account director, CSX Lines; Joe Griffith, chief financial officer/executive manager energy supply, Chugach Electric Association; Jana Hayenga, owner, Cabin Fever and Up North; Dianne Horbochuk, senior plant manager, U.S. Postal Service; and Joerene Savikko Hout, owner, Enchanted Woods Bed & Breakfast. Other new members are: Wisteria Johnson, director of counseling and placement, Charter College; Jennifer Johnston, owner, Alaska Gourmet Adventures; Christine Ellen Klein, facilities manager, Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport; Cheryl Mann, professor of human services, University of Alaska Anchorage; Deborah Ruth Marshall, director, Alaska InvestNet; Rick Morrison, owner, EERO Volkswagen & Saturn of Anchorage; Gloria O’Neill, president/chief executive, Cook Inlet Tribal Council; and Ann Parrish, president/chief executive, Innovative Cooking Enterprises. The Anchorage ATHENA Society has awarded two chamber membership scholarships to YWCA WOMEN$fund graduates. Stacey Dean, owner of Grayling Construction, and Carol Caruso, owner of Payroll Accounting Specialists, are the recipients. Junior Achievement of Alaska Inc. has inducted five laureates into its Business Hall of Fame in honor of their significant contributions to the Alaska economy and their efforts to promote the growth of Alaska business. The 2001 Laureates are Bob and Betty Allen, owners of Allen Marine Inc.; Eleanor Andrews, president and chief executive of The Andrews Group; Marc Langland, chairman, president and chief executive of Northrim Bank; Arnold G. Espe, (posthumous), a Northrim founder; and Morris Thompson, (posthumous), former president and chief executive of Doyon Ltd.  

Unocal plans to drill in Kenai refuge

KENAI -- Unocal has applied to develop satellites to the Swanson River oil field and could be drilling exploratory wells by 2002, federal officials said.The two satellite fields lie north and east of the present Swanson River field and inside the boundaries of the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. Jim Hall, deputy refuge manager, said Unocal proposes to drill from three gravel pads near Scaup Lake, just north of Captain Cook State Park, and from three pads surrounding Krein Lake, just west of the Swanson River canoe trails.There has been previous exploration near Scaup Lake, and one of the proposed drilling sites is an existing pad where an old well struck natural gas. The other two pads would be new. There is no road yet to the existing pad.To reach the drill sites, Unocal proposes to build roughly 13 miles of gravel roads and a bridge across the Swanson River just north of Krein Lake. Access would be from existing roads in the Swanson River field. If Unocal finds oil or gas, Hall said, it proposes to build production facilities by the drill sites and buried pipelines along the new roads.The Kenai refuge holds surface rights to most of the land, but Cook Inlet Region Inc., an Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act regional corporation, holds most of the subsurface oil and gas rights. Tyonek Native Corp. holds some surface rights on the route to the northern satellite, Hall said. Unocal holds a federal oil and gas lease for the Birch Creek Unit by Scaup Lake."This will be a venture into the wilderness," said Brian Anderson, a wildlife biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s realty division in Anchorage. "The coal, oil and gas belong to CIRI. They constitute an inholding. The refuge must allow access, but access can be conditioned to protect the resources of the refuge. For example, we could require restoration of surface disturbance and protection of wetlands and stream crossings."Biologists said the areas Unocal wants to explore are wetlands, birch and spruce forest."We’re concerned about moose habitat," Hall said. "We’re concerned about fisheries issues, because this is a significant fishery watershed, the Swanson River. We’re concerned about brown bears. We’re concerned about forest-breeding birds. We’re concerned about all the critters until we get a chance to look and see what’s there."We want to assure that they get their oil and gas resource, because that’s an economic boon to them, and we want to protect fish and wildlife because that’s our job. If it was your property, you’d want it done as nicely as possible."Because the development will have a significant impact on the human environment, Fish and Wildlife must develop an environmental impact statement, including public hearings and comments, Hall said."That gives us alternatives. This is what Unocal is proposing, but we may develop alternatives in the environmental impact statement process that are more acceptable to the public and maybe even more acceptable to Unocal," Hall said."They will get to drill for oil and gas, but maybe not along the routes they’ve requested or using the methods they desire, because they may not be ecologically or economically feasible."Unocal has proposed routes for roads, but the soil has not been tested and may not support roads, he said. Unocal has proposed the best sites for vertical wells, he said, but directional drilling could allow the well sites to be moved."All these things will be looked at when we go through the environmental impact statement process," he said.Unocal submitted its application Jan. 29, beginning a 60-day clock for Fish and Wildlife to determine whether the application is complete. Once the application is deemed complete, Fish and Wildlife has 18 months to complete the environmental review and issue a right of way permit, Anderson said.Unocal must also obtain state and federal drilling permits, a wetlands permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and a permit for the Swanson River bridge from the U.S. Coast Guard.Hall said Fish and Wildlife will develop alternatives, publish a draft environmental impact statement and pick the best alternative. An environmental impact statement generally takes 12 to 18 months to complete.Unocal officials could not be reached for comment.

Life insurance vital even in retirement

There is a prevalent notion among retirees that they no longer need the same life insurance coverage they had while they were working. Many surrender or reduce their insurance policies when they retire, leaving just enough to cover funeral expenses. The logic may be that the mortgage is paid off, the kids are grown, and college tuition bills have been paid. But in reality, many of the same financial responsibilities -- such as food, transportation, and medical care -- continue in retirement, and these needs must now be met on a reduced income. Many people also plan to enjoy traveling and hobbies during retirement, which may actually increase normal expenses. And it still remains important to provide financial security for loved ones in the future. The value of money With inflation, the value of money depreciates. While simply preserving retirement money provides some measure of safety, it makes greater financial sense to build on assets, so that the value of money actually increases in proportion to the changing worth of the dollar. A well thought out financial plan allows a retiree to stay ahead of inflation and protect hard-earned assets. And permanent life insurance can be an important part of such a plan. Continuing need It is important to remember why you may have bought permanent life insurance in the first place. Perhaps you sought financial security. Maybe you wanted to ensure that if something were to happen to you, the people who depended on you will have their needs met. The truth is, the original reasons for buying life insurance protection are likely just as relevant as they were years ago. Personal needs may change after retirement, but they do not disappear. Furthermore, as modern medicine has increased our life expectancy, it is necessary to have finances that will last during this longer life. The reality of living in retirement for as long as 30 years may create the vital need to keep policies in force that maintain adequate insurance protection, while freeing up dollars for the well-deserved things you require or want. That’s why retaining your insurance protection in retirement is so important. The cash value of a permanent life insurance policy will accumulate on a tax-deferred basis, and you may access this cash value in the case of an unforeseen emergency or opportunity (of course, unrepaid policy loans will reduce the death benefit). As you live longer, the cash value of your permanent policy continues to accumulate. Having worked so hard to reach retirement, don’t you and your family deserve to have the financial protection you need? This information is not to be construed as tax, legal or financial advice. Consult your own professional advisers. Lon G. Wilson is president and chief operating officer of The Wilson Agency LLC in Anchorage. He can be reached via e-mail at ([email protected]).  

Anadarko wins OK on Berkley

CALGARY, Canada -- Houston-based Anadarko Petroleum Corp. said March 14 that it has received regulatory approval of its proposed $1.68-billion takeover of Berkley Petroleum Corp.Anadarko, which has moved aggressively into Alaska, said its offer was approved under the Investment Canada Act and the Competition Act.The Berkley board of directors supported Anadarko’s offer when it was announced Feb. 12, eclipsing a $1.5-billion bid by Dallas-based Hunt Oil Co.Anadarko offered $11.40 per share in cash for all of Berkley, which will boost the Texas company’s oil and gas holdings in Canada to 18,800 square kilometres in the Mackenzie Delta, northeastern British Columbia, the Alberta foothills, and the Scotian Shelf.

Fewer sockeyes, chum part of state's forecast for this year's salmon season

Alaska’s salmon industry could get a boost in world markets if early projections for this season’s harvest hold true. State number crunchers are forecasting a fishery that’s similar to last year’s catch, with two important exceptions -- fewer sockeye and chum salmon. Preliminary projections peg the statewide harvest this year at roughly 142 million fish, down from last year’s forecast of 153 million. The actual catch fell well below that number, however, coming in at 136 million salmon worth $272 million at the docks. The numbers are still being tweaked, but state fish managers expect the following: 419,000 king salmon (up from last year’s catch of 360,000); 4.78 million coho (compared with last year’s catch of 4.2 million); only 15.3 million chum salmon (well below the 2000 take of nearly 25 million); 28.7 million sockeye (down from last year’s harvest of 33.5 million reds); and nearly 93 million pinks (up from 74 million last year). Of course, the only sure thing about preseason projections is that they’re likely to be wrong. Fishery scientists point to major regime shifts in the Bering Sea and North Pacific that directly affect salmon survival. That’s likely to continue to cause trouble for many species, most notably chums and king salmon in Western Alaska regions. The world’s biggest red salmon run at Bristol Bay also appears to be experiencing negative affects, presumably from changes in ocean conditions. That region is projected to once again yield a reduced harvest of just 17 million fish, down from roughly 21 million last year. Meanwhile, some Alaska fishermen are urging the federal government to restrict U.S. imports of Chilean farmed salmon during the prime harvesting months of May through September. The United Fishermen of Alaska, which represents 24 fishing groups, claims Chile is flooding the U.S. market with lower priced salmon, thereby driving down prices for wild fish. Chile accounted for 49 percent of all U.S. salmon imports last year, up from 38 percent in 1999. According to Chris McDowell of the Salmon Market Information Service, Chile is the leader in salmon imports by a margin of 39 percent over its closest competitor, Canada. The two countries combined accounted for 83 percent of salmon import volume last year, or nearly 273 million pounds. McDowell said 91 percent of Chile’s volume is salmon fillets, compared with 16 percent for Canada. U.S. imports of Chilean salmon grew 229 percent between 1995 and 2000, while imports from Canada grew 60 percent during the same period. Call for better science Alaska legislators unanimously passed a resolution asking the National Marine Fisheries Service to use better science when curtailing fishing in the North Pacific. HJR 10, introduced by freshman representative Drew Scalzi of Homer, also declares legislative support for the restrictions now in place resulting from the controversial "biological opinion" on Steller sea lions published by NMFS last November and asks that agency to work with the North Pacific Fishery Management Council to develop new regulations by the end of next year. The resolution declares that the reasons for declines in the Steller population are "poorly understood." It also states that NMFS "lacks an adequate scientific basis" for its regulations, "and has not explained why the restrictions are scientifically or legally necessary." The resolution further declares that the restrictions resulted in closures to the majority of the groundfish fisheries, caused losses of $170 million to fishing fleets and "immeasurable" economic losses to other businesses, harvesters, their families and in state and local tax revenues. The resolution now goes before the Senate Resources Committee. Halibut farming Halibut will be the next large-scale operation for fish farmers. That’s according to international aquaculture expert John Forster, who presented his findings recently to the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute. While technological and biological problems will prevent halibut from making it to market in large quantities in the next five years, Forster said after that all bets are off. According to the weekly publication Laws for the Sea, when asked if farmed halibut could "totally trounce wild halibut" in the next 20 years, Forster answered without hesitation: "Absolutely. I think halibut has it, within that time scale, to be a major farmed fish." He also suggested the time frame could be far shorter. A study on global prospects for halibut farming done by Forster for the state of Alaska in 1999 projected world production could reach 6.2 million pounds this year, and he said he stands by that estimate. Halibut farms are now operating in Norway, Iceland, Scotland and Nova Scotia, to name but a few places. The University of Maine is funding research and development of halibut farms in that state. Forster said halibut has many natural features that make it appealing to fish farmers. It utilizes feed very efficiently, meaning it’s very cost effective to grow in a farm environment and is also very resistant to common marine diseases.

Fred Meyer to begin work on new store

Retailer Fred Meyer is set to begin site work in March on its fourth Anchorage store after more than a year of delays. The $28.5 million Southeast Anchorage store, which would be the Portland-based company’s ninth store in Alaska, would total about 170,000 square feet, Fred Meyer officials have said. Fred Meyer is owned by grocery giant The Kroger Co. The new store will be at the southwest corner of Abbott Road and Lake Otis Parkway. "We completed purchase of the property last week," company spokesman Rob Boley said March 13. Work on the site had met delays last year due to proceedings required to relocate a radio tower on the property. The tower served Anchorage Media Group radio stations, which are owned by Morris Communications Corp., also owner of the Alaska Journal of Commerce. A new tower across Knik Arm from Anchorage now serves the stations. The old tower was removed in early March, Boley said. Site work was due to begin in mid-March, and foundations could be established this summer if weather permits, he said. Watterson Construction Co. of Anchorage is the general contractor. The retailer also is now considering a site for an Eagle River store, Boley said. Fred Meyer proposes purchase of 16.8 acre site between the Glenn Highway and Business Boulevard, he said. The retailer is now conducting due diligence work including a traffic study for the site. The retailer would need to rezone five acres of the site from residential to general business. Boley said the developer, KND Investments, was already planning the rezoning. The request for rezoning will be heard by the Planning and Zoning Commission on April 2 and two days later by the Platting Board. Wal-Mart opens sixth Alaska store in Ketchikan Retail giant Wal-Mart was due to open its new store in Ketchikan on March 21. The Southeast Wal-Mart would be the company’s sixth store in the state. The 70,511-square-foot store will employ about 130 people, 70 percent of whom will work full time, Wal-Mart officials have said. The retailer already operates two Anchorage stores plus one store each in Eagle River, Kodiak and Wasilla. Wal-Mart reported annual sales of $191 billion from more than 2,600 stores and 470 Sam’s Club warehouse stores.  

Valdez Westmark gets $3 million overhaul; 6 others upgraded

This spring Holland America Line-Westours Inc. is renovating seven of its 14 Westmark hotels in Alaska and the Yukon Territory. Upgrades should be complete by summer for the visitor season, a company official said.Westmark Hotels operates the largest hotel chain in the region.Also, Westmark has closed the Westmark Valdez Hotel in preparation for a major overhaul.The Seattle-based tour operator plans to spend at least $4 million this summer as part of a nearly four year renovation project, said David Cocks, president of Westmark. Last year was the first year of renovations."It’s typical of our new game plan, but it was not typical of the past," he said, adding that future years will bring additional upgrades at the hotels."Our new game plan is to upgrade facilities to meet the expectations of cruise travelers and corporate travelers," he said.One major project this year is an anticipated $1.5 million for improvements to the Westmark Fairbanks, Cocks said. Work includes installing air conditioning and completing an electrical upgrade that will allow the hotel to provide coffee service for guests in their rooms.The Westmark Anchorage also will receive upgrades this year that include installation of a new telephone system, key card lock system and renovations to about 30 guest rooms each year during the multiyear project, Cocks said.Last year Westmark completed a $3 million renovation of its Anchorage property.In Valdez the hotel operator closed its 96-room facility Feb. 24 while plans are finalized to renovate and rebuild part of the building, said general manager Josiah Dean. However, Westmark officials are still studying the economic feasibility of the scope of the plan, which could cost $3 million to $4 million, he said.The project aims to demolish two-thirds of the hotel, including 60 guest rooms, and replace them with 40 rooms, he said. The administrative offices, bar and part of the restaurant also will be rebuilt, Dean noted.Once renovated, the Westmark Valdez will feature 76 rooms, fewer rooms than before the project."All the plans are still in the works," he said. "Basically, this is the outline of what needs to be done."Company officials hope to finalize plans before the summer building season, he said. "We’re looking at opening for the 2002 season," Dean said.Westmark officials said they began working on plans to renovate the facility and discovered that portions of the property did not meet current codes.The hotel was build in 1964 after the Good Friday earthquake, Dean said. Westmark purchased the hotel in 1987 from Sheffield Enterprises.The closure has affected 21 employees, most of whom worked full time, he said. Westmark officials said those employees were to receive severance packages and outplacement assistance. Some Westmark Valdez employees were offered jobs at other company hotels, although no one has opted for the transfer, he said.Other renovation work at Westmark properties includes $600,000 to renovate about 60 guest rooms at the 196-room Westmark Baranof in Juneau, Westmark President Cocks said. Room renovation efforts were being completed in March, he said.Work also converted some streetside retail space into a 2,500-square-foot banquet room capable of seating about 60 people, he said. This project was completed before Christmas, he said.The Westmark Whitehorse hotel will receive $500,000 in upgrades to about 30 rooms including installing irons and hair dryers in rooms plus improving building code compliance for seismic integrity, he said.In Sitka, Westmark, under contract with Shee Atika Corp., plans to operate the 51-room Totem Square Inn in summer, he said. The hotel was converted from a Sheffield Hotel to student housing for the University of Alaska Southeast. About $200,000 of upgrades should be completed in time for operations from May to August.The Westmark Shee Atika will see expenditure of about $80,000 for a key card lock system and lobby renovations, he said.The Westmark Inn Tok is due to receive $190,000 in changes including a new restaurant deck expanding seating capacity from 100 to 180, he said.

Premier Alaska Tours adds nine buses to its summer tour fleet

Operators of an Alaska-based tourism company are expanding their summertime bus fleet to support statewide tours.Premier Alaska Tours Inc. of Anchorage plans to lease 12 buses this year, up from three buses leased last year, according to company president Peter Grunwaldt. In 2000 the company started its transportation division with the three 54-passenger buses plus four 15-passenger vans and a luggage truck.Before 2000, Premier Alaska Tours had chartered buses from other companies like Princess Tours and Gray Line of Alaska.In addition, Premier Alaska Tours plans to increase its seasonal staff from about 30 last year to 60 for 2001, said Stephanie Gorder, vice president of sales.Premier Alaska Tours specializes in providing land-based itineraries with tour guides for major U.S. tour groups visiting Alaska that are not affiliated with major cruise lines.The 12 buses, which should carry 50 to 56 passengers, are due to arrive in Anchorage in late April or early May, said Josh Howes, vice president of operations.The move represents a $1 million investment in leases for the vehicles, Grunwaldt said. Premier Alaska Tours is leasing the buses from a Vancouver, British Columbia, company with an option to purchase, he said.Last year Premier Alaska Tours’ three buses chiefly served the company’s tour groups and handled limited charter services for other groups, Grunwaldt said. The additional buses this year will allow the company to increase its charter service, he said.Operating its own fleet of buses allows Premier Alaska Tours to manage transportation quality, he said. "It’s very significant in that we are able to have in-house control of the product," Grunwaldt said.With an eye to the future, Premier Alaska Tours is looking for a two- to three-acre site for a bus maintenance facility, he said.

AHFC to return to state's investment

Alaska Housing Finance Corp. has paid its way. The state housing corporation has benefited thousands of Alaskans with lower-cost home mortgages and allowed thousands more to own homes who might not otherwise have been able to buy. It has also nearly repaid the state’s original capitalization, and now contributes $103 million yearly to the state treasury. The state of Alaska has invested $1.069 billion in Alaska Housing Finance Corp. since it was formed in 1971. As of last June 30, the corporation has paid $1.053 billion back to the state general fund, according to documents the agency provided to the Legislature. With another $103 million to be paid by AHFC to the state this year, the housing corporation will have repaid the state’s investment. AHFC was created in 1971 to provide housing for low- and moderate-income Alaskans. In 1980, when interest rates skyrocketed and home financing became virtually unavailable in the state, the Legislature expanded the state housing corporation’s programs to include all residents regardless of income.

PenAir drops service to its Bethel hub

A pilot shortage and the reallocation of company resources are factors that prompted management at Peninsula Airways Inc. to discontinue service to the southwestern Alaska hub of Bethel.Effective March 13, PenAir discontinued its flight operations in Bethel, according to General Manager Dick Harding."We needed to use those pilots and aircraft elsewhere in our system," Harding told the Journal. "The decision was made because of the current pilot shortage and the addition of service to the Aleutian Islands, the core of our service area."PenAir was awarded an essential air service contract from the U.S. Department of Transportation for flights to Adak shortly after Reeve Aleutian Airways Inc. discontinued scheduled service to Adak last December, and it is in the process of adding a 17-passenger Metroliner for service to Adak.Bethel was a stand-alone hub for PenAir, meaning that it offered passenger service from the Bethel airport to the surrounding villages, but that none of its other flights connected service to the Bethel hub."PenAir had a very small share of the market here, and with their amount of canceled flights, they probably decided that they could better use the aircraft in the (Aleutian) Chain," said L.J. Davis of the state Department of Transportation and Public Facilities and airport manager in Bethel.PenAir is leading air carriers statewide by using an operations risk management safety checklist that can cancel flights due to safety hazards.Figures for PenAir market share were not available from DOT officials but 14 passenger and cargo carriers currently operate out of Bethel."We are directly attributing this decision to a statewide pilot shortage that leaves us training pilots for service to the major airlines outside, and they pay more so that’s the reality," Harding explained. Of the 17 PenAir employees in Bethel, seven were pilots. PenAir’s hub operation used six aircraft for flights from the hub operation.As PenAir rearranges the 17 Bethel employees affected into its system, the Senate Commerce Committee on March 15 agreed to a modified version of Alaska Republican Sen. Frank Murkowski’s legislation to raise the mandatory retirement age for commercial airline pilots from 60 to 63.Harding, also PenAir’s director of operations, was forced out of the left hand seat as a pilot for PenAir by current FAA regulations when he turned 60. As a pilot with more than 30,000 hours, Harding has testified before the U.S. Senate and House transportation committees in favor of upping the age of pilot retirement."This is an issue of age discrimination," said Murkowski at a Subcommittee on Aviation hearing. "When pilots are leaving small carriers because they can earn more money flying for the major commercial carriers, this exodus is having a devastating effect on service to rural and remote areas."Certified pilot numbers nationwide have fallen by nearly 80,000 to 616,342 in the past 10 years; during that same period, certified pilots in Alaska have fallen by 1,300, or from 10,000 to about 8,700. Another 18,600 pilots are likely to retire nationwide in the next two years, according to a Smithsonian Institution study.

State moves long-term care management

As a result of an executive order from Gov. Tony Knowles, management of the Long Term Care Ombudsman Office has transferred to the Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority. The order took effect March 10.The office had previously been overseen by the state Department of Administration’s Alaska Commission on Aging.The Long Term Care Ombudsman Office oversees long-term care facilities in Alaska including the state-run pioneers’ homes. The office investigates, mediates and advocates in instances of abuse or neglect in long-term care facilities like nursing homes, pioneers’ homes and assisted living facilities in the state for people 60 and older.Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority officials said the first duty is to hire a new ombudsman to replace the ombudsman who resigned in November.

BP wins federal grant to study capturing, storing carbon dioxide

BP Exploration (Alaska) Inc. has won a $5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy, Sen. Frank Murkowski, R-Alaska, announced March 13.The grant, along with $8.8 million from an industry consortium, will be used to study the feasibility of capturing carbon dioxide from a variety of fuel types and combustion sources and storing it in unmineable coal seams and saline aquifers.The industry team will include BP, Chevron, Norsk Hydro, Royal Dutch/Shell, Statoil, Suncor Energy and Texaco, and the project will be funded for 27 months, beginning June 2001."This is an example of a government-private partnership to develop new technology to meet environmental concerns," Murkowski said.Carbon sequestration is the removal of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, from the exhaust gases of power plants, or from the atmosphere itself, and securely putting them in storage."If we can lower the cost of the technology, we could remove the carbon dioxide emissions from power plants and other facilities that have substantial emissions," said Ronnie Chappell, a BP spokesman in Anchorage. "For us, this represents a significant opportunity. If we can get the cost of removing the carbon dioxide low enough, we can use it to enhance oil recovery, particularly in our more viscous fields."This project, and others recently awarded, will study the ways to capture the gases and store them in underground geologic formations, or in terrestrial vegetation such as forests."We will be using fossil fuels for the foreseeable future," Murkowski said. "We need to see if we can develop the technology to use them without releasing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere."For more information about the study, visit the consortium Web site at (

Bush: Explore, protect ANWR

WASHINGTON -- President Bush has reiterated his interest in exploring for oil and gas in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.Bush, during an interview with regional newspapers, said he recognized that some places ought to be off-limits to development for at least aesthetic reasons. Other, less-precious places can be used without damaging the environment, he said.To him, ANWR’s coastal plain falls in the latter category."There’s a mentality that says you can’t explore and protect land," Bush said. "We’re going to change that attitude. You can explore and protect land."Bush described his view of how that might occur on the coastal plain.First, he said, "I think it’s about less than 10 percent of the total refuge up there."And modern development techniques reduce impacts, he said."I don’t know if you know, but they flood roadways, flood drill sites. And so they do all their exploration activity on ice," he said. "They get all the equipment out and when it comes time to melt, the only thing left is a wellhead. And the technology today is such that you’re able to drill, slant-hole drill, in various directions from a single platform.""It’s a much friendlier technology than when we first explored in Prudhoe Bay," Bush said.The president spent the summer of 1974 working in Fairbanks for Alaska International Industries, an airline and construction business working on the trans-Alaska pipeline. The business later evolved into the now-defunct airline MarkAir.

Find the right employee by sharpening your interviewing skills

A successful interview should determine if there is a match between the individual and the job. Furthermore, a good interview process allows you to understand the applicant’s behavior, values, motivations and qualifications. Time and time again we have seen people hired for sales jobs that don’t like calling people, customer service people who can’t look into your eyes and say, "Hello." Then there are good employees promoted into management positions who have no clue how to lead and manage others. Here are several reasons why interviewing techniques fail:Lack of preparationThe first impression lasts a long time. Before the interview, make sure you understand the key elements of the job. Develop a simple outline that covers general job duties. Possibly work with the incumbent to get a better idea of what the job is about. Screen the resumes and applications to gain information for the interview. Standardize and prepare the questions you will ask each applicant.Lack of purposeNot only are you trying to determine the best applicant, but you also have to convince the applicant that this is the best place for them to work. Today’s workers have many more choices and job opportunities to choose.Job competenciesEach job can have anywhere from 6-14 job competencies. Identify the behaviors, knowledge, motivations and qualities incumbents need to have to be successful in the job.If the job requires special education or a license, be sure to include it on your list also. There are several assessments and profiles available to help ensure you have a good match between the applicant and the job.Lack of structureThe best interview follows a structured process. This doesn’t mean that the entire process is inflexible without spontaneity. It means that each applicant is asked the same questions and is scored with a consistent rating process.A structured approach helps avoid bias and gives all applicants a fair chance. The best ways to accomplish this are by using behavioral based questions, role-plays and situational questions.Behavioral based questions are used to evaluate the applicant’s past behavior, experience and initiative such as:* Give me an example when you ...* Describe an incident where you went above and beyond the call of duty ...* Tell me about the time you reached out for additional responsibility ...* Tell me about the largest project you worked on ...Situational-based questions evaluate the applicant’s judgment ability and knowledge. The interviewer first gives the applicant a hypothetical situation such as:You are the store manager of a hardware store. One of your employees has just told you that he thinks another worker is stealing merchandise from the store.* What should you do?* What additional information should you obtain?* How many options do you have?* When or should you call the police?Sample role plays are effective ways to learn and practice new skills. They can also be used during the interview process to determine the skills and personal charisma of people during stress.For example, if you are interviewing a customer service representative you can use a role play to see how this person can manage an irate customer. When using role-plays consider the following guidelines.* It is a good idea to write the situation down on paper. Give the person time or a short break to "get into character" before beginning the role play.* Give the candidate clear guidelines and background information so they thoroughly understand the situation.* Allow them to ask questions before you begin.* Debrief the applicant at the conclusion of the role play. Ask them to tell you how they thought they did and how they could have done it differently. Conclude the role play in a positive way.The traditional interview is never 100 percent reliable. Yes, a structured approach will improve your chances, but it is important to go one step further. Pre-employment screening is an important aspect of the hiring process for a growing number of employers.By using various assessments and profiles, organizations have been able to help clients reduce turnover and improve the quality of the work force.Gregory P. Smith leads the management consulting firm called Chart Your Course in Conyers, Ga. He can be reached via e-mail at ([email protected]).

Evergreen buys Avionics Specialists, plans one-stop products, service shop

Evergreen Helicopters of Alaska Inc. has acquired Avionics Specialists of Alaska Inc. in an effort to expand service to general aviation, air taxi and charter operations in Alaska."Evergreen intends to quickly expand Avionics Specialists into a ’one-stop shop’ for general, commercial and military avionics products and services. A retail store and online shopping are planned," said Evergreen Helicopter’s president, Jerry Rock.According to the March 13 announcement, Avionics Specialists will operate as a division of Evergreen.Avionics Specialists will retain its name, staff and management, and, according to Rock, Evergreen is actively recruiting for additional avionics specialists to expand the business."Evergreen will enable Avionics Specialists to provide a much broader range of products and services on a statewide basis," Rock said. "We will emphasize avionics systems that enhance flight safety for all aircraft categories."Avionics Specialists is at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport. Services will also be offered at Evergreen Helicopters’ location at Merrill Field, and eventually other Evergreen bases statewide.Avionics Specialists has been in business since the 1980s in Anchorage. Evergreen Helicopters of Alaska was founded in 1961 at Merrill Field by aviation pioneer Del Smith, who remains the sole owner.Evergreen International Aviation Inc., the parent company, employs about 4,000 people in more than 185 locations worldwide. Corporate headquarters are in McMinnville, Ore.

Rent pays property taxes

Several years ago I worked with a company that owned a number of commercial buildings and nearly 200 residential properties and had just completed one of the most popular beer micro-breweries in Downtown Anchorage. I was the partnership’s residential property manager for a couple of years and received a very extensive education and a great deal of exposure into real estate of all kinds.At the time we had, for the most part, rebounded from the "Great Depression of Alaska" but nothing was really booming, and the market was rather balanced between buyers and sellers, renters and landlords.While things have been getting progressively better since then, people tend to forget, or never knew, how out of balance our economy can get. And then there is always someone who starts making unfounded claims.One of the claims floating around across the state that I would like to refute is that "Property owners are the only ones footing the bill for property taxes."I’m personally not aware of any property owners in the residential market that had to take a negative monthly cash flow from their rentals in the 90’s -- unless they didn’t manage it properly.Part of the reason is that owners have been able to charge amounts that covered their monthly mortgage PITI (principal, interest, taxes and insurance), sewer, water, trash pick-up, snow removal and a property management fee for a very long time.Renters do pay, in fact, rent amounts that cover the owner’s property taxes. Collectively renters make up nearly 40 percent of the housing market in Anchorage.If we implement another form of taxation to ease the burden on the property owners, then we, in effect, transfer the tax burden disproportionately to renters. If owners are subsidizing anything in the rental market it’s not the renter’s property taxes but rather the renter’s lifestyle.Poor property management, in my opinion, along with unprincipled spending by governments, is what owners should push to change rather than creating class warfare to increase taxes while leaving the real problems intact. I know this is a hard statement, but allow me to explain.While there are a few owners who never enjoyed much of a positive cash flow, it was usually because their properties were in "challenged" parts of town, had too much deferred maintenance, or they pushed too hard for that extra $25 per month in rent. All of these contributed to their tenant turnover and vacancy.Rents have been rather stable, though slowly increasing, and an owner is able to charge between $600-$800 for a two bedroom apartment in a four-plex, depending on condition, location, amenities, and so forth. Condominiums and townhouses rent for more as location, condition and amenities increase.The gross rental income should more than cover the outflow of cash, including the tax burden, with that four-plex. And since rents are not going down any time soon, renters will continue paying the higher level of rents, in addition to any taxes that may be implemented -- especially since most landlords will simply increase their rents dollar for dollar to cover their property taxes.Not all renters or property owners are created equal. Some renters don’t take care of the property or pay their rent, and some owners don’t know how to manage their property very well.For example, when a tenant doesn’t pay rent, causes damage, or simply gives proper notice and moves, the owner is faced with turnover maintenance, collections, advertising costs, and the most expensive of all, vacancy.The solution is to implement better management and therefore get better tenants and lower one’s costs, rather than get someone else to pay property taxes and still have the same landlord-tenant problems in place.I regularly recommend the smarter, win-win solution. Owners of income properties will enjoy a better cash flow position and the tenants will stay longer and happier. Here are some suggestions.* Get a copy of the Alaska Landlord-Tenant Law booklet so you know what you and your tenants can and cannot do legally.* Set down the rules in writing from the very beginning and don’t allow deviations unless the tenant pays you for each one.* Refuse to subsidize a tenant’s undesirable lifestyle that costs you money. For example: allowing smoking indoors, allowing unrestrained pets to damage carpets and walls, allowing broken cars to be an eyesore and take up valuable space, allowing late payments without late fees, allowing "over-occupancy" in a rental, or allowing tenants to occupy without first paying your security deposit.* Conduct a thorough move-in inspection that is part of the lease that all adults sign.* Remember that even a small $25 increase in rent will rarely justify even a two week vacancy if that tenant chooses to move rather than pay it.Ken Jelinek is an associate broker with Re/Max Properties of Anchorage. He can be reached at ([email protected]).


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