Morris buys Business News Alaska

Morris Communications Corp. has purchased Business News Alaska, a 2-year-old monthly business publication based in Anchorage, from owners Raylene Combs and Kristin Southerland. The purchase price was not disclosed.Business News, which has 2,000 paid subscribers, will merge its operations with the Alaska Journal of Commerce, Morris’ weekly business newspaper in Anchorage.Some of Business News’ former staff members and contractors will join Morris’ Alaskan Publications, the Journal’s administrative parent, to work for a new publication -- the expanded Alaska Oil and Gas Reporter.Craig Johnson, general manager of Alaskan Publications, said the change will be a good one for Alaska’s business community."The Alaska oil and gas industry has not received the media coverage that such a large segment of our economy merits," Johnson said. "We’re very pleased to expand that coverage with the new Alaska Oil and Gas Reporter. The association with Raylene Combs will allow us to deliver that coverage."Johnson and Combs said both Journal and former Business News readers can look forward to better, broader news coverage."We’re delighted to become a part of the Morris family," Combs said. "I’m excited about getting back to working with the oil and gas industry."

It's time to bring a bit of civility back into business behavior

It seems that everywhere we turn we are confronted by incivility, bad manners and in-your-face aggressiveness. It’s migrated to sports (XFL); and it shows up in the way we treat each other in business. Yet there can be no forgetting that civility and good manners are still the important lubricants that make for good business relationships and social intercourse.My life today is made up of a diet of countless business meetings interspersed with life-sapping business travel. In the course of that experience, I’m noticing certain repetitive patterns of behavior that are beginning to grate on the nerves, all committed by boors and buffoons who should know better. It’s time to call these philistines to task. It’s time to reprise the rules of civilized business behavior.Using speakerphonesDon’t use a speakerphone if you’re the only person in the room. Speakerphones were meant for group interaction. At a minimum, it’s discourteous to work at your desk while I’m trying to have a conversation with you. It’s also arrogant in the extreme and an implied power play to boot.

Consulting firms forge alliance to capitalize on Russia's potential

The future beckons for two Alaska consulting firms specializing in Russia who have formed an alliance.Expected increases in oil development activity at Sakhalin Island may translate into more work for Sakhalin-Alaska Consulting Group LLC and its clients. Also, the firm’s new business partner, Alaska Russia Investment Co. Inc., could see more opportunities as a result of a proposed offshore oil and gas lease sale in Magadan.Principals from the two firms agreed to the strategic alliance in January and finalized the agreement in early March, said David Heatwole, president of Alaska Russia Investment Co.The alliance expands potential business opportunities for both firms while offering clients expertise in Sakhalin and Magadan regions, said David Parish, partner with Sakhalin-Alaska Consulting Group.The two firms are now working together on opportunities related to the Magadan lease sale."Magadan is going to come up on the radar screen," said Heatwole who has worked in the Russian Far East city since 1989 previously as a geologist for ARCO Alaska Inc. He has operated his firm since 1993.The firms’ business alliance allows clients to secure resource industry expertise on Sakhalin and Magadan, he said."In Russia local contacts are very important," he said.The lease sale is tentatively scheduled for summer although a delegation of Magadan officials suggested the lease sale could be delayed until summer 2002, Heatwole said. The delegation visited Anchorage in February for the Pacific Rim Construction Oil and Mining Expo.Officials from the Magadan Regional Administration believe exploration and development of oil and gas resources could be key for the region’s economic improvement.Two blocks are proposed for the lease sale, Magadan 1 and 2, Heatwole said. Seismic activity has identified 32 geological structures that may hold oil, he said."Russian geologists figure these structures hold 9.9 billion barrels of recoverable oil," he said.Gas potential for the Magadan offshore leases also is significant, estimated at 75 trillion cubic feet, he said.Alaskans’ oil field industry experience, especially work in Cook Inlet, may be an advantage in Magadan development, he said. Offshore development at Magadan should be similar to Inlet production although with colder temperatures and different challenges from ice, he said.One advantage in Magadan is the city has the only Russian Far East port designated as a free trade zone, Heatwole said. The Magadan special economic zone could benefit Alaska companies, he said. For example if oil field modules were built at the Magadan port, the free trade zone designation could help the module builder reduce import duties, Heatwole said. However, Heatwole believes the trade zone status has not yet been used by companies.On Sakhalin Island major players are advancing oil development projects, Parish said."Shell through Sakhalin Energy and the Sakhalin 2 project recently awarded several major engineering and design contracts for their projects," he said.These contracts cover offshore platforms, pipelines and a processing facility, he said.Parish envisions potential opportunities for Alaska companies in Sakhalin. Oil development in the Sakhalin region is similar to arctic conditions in Alaska and also, akin to the project in the state, developing industry infrastructure where there previously was none, he said.Although some Alaska companies are working in Sakhalin, Parish believes the oil development projects may offer increasing opportunities for a larger number of companies."I think so because the projects have primarily been exploration and initial production," he said. "Now the projects are advancing toward major development and major commercial production. If you look at the normal time frame (for projects like these) it takes 10 to 15 years for development. I think a lot of companies went into Sakhalin early on thinking there would be an early boom, but this is right on time."Parish has been working in Sakhalin since 1997, advising Western clients on business strategy there, lobbying Russian officials and marketing client capabilities to oil companies operating on Sakhalin.

Bulletin Board March 18, 2001

In gear Anchorage-based DAT/EM Systems International, a developer of photogrammetric hardware and software products and services, now services Zeiss Planicomp-series analytical stereoplotters. DAT/EM technicians Chad Carpenter and Chance Nygard recently completed training for the servicing of P-series instruments at Aero-Metric Inc. in Sheboygan, Wis. The Whale’s Tail Coffee & Spirits has opened in the Hotel Captain Cook in Anchorage. The Whale’s Tail combines the coffeehouse concept, serving coffee and pastries in the morning and lunch-time fare in the afternoon, with a wine and martini bar in the evening. Operating hours are 5:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. Quality Electric has awarded Grinnell/Audio-Video a contract for special systems at the Dimond High School project scheduled for completion in August 2003. The contract includes systems for fire detection, security, intercom, classroom television distribution, public address and theatrical sound. Alcan General is general contractor for the high school construction project. Kudos The National Weather Service Alaska Region has presented awards to several marine operators in recognition of the operators’ help with weather observations in Alaska waters in 2000. Honorees were Crowley Marine Services Inc.’s vessels Seneca, Guardian, Cavalier, Sea Ranger and Sea Viking; Samson Tug & Barge Co.’s Samson Mariner; Newport Petroleum’s Northern Spirit; Alaska Marine Highway ferry Tustumena; Dunlap Towing’s Malolo; and Campbell Towing’s Lt. Campbell. The Ketchikan Visitors Bureau, celebrating its 25th anniversary, honored several individuals and organizations at its recent annual banquet and awards presentation. Kris Geldaker received the Rainbird Award for furthering the efforts of the bureau and the visitor industry in Ketchikan. Rebecca Mix of Cape Fox Tours and Ken Mix, owner of North Wind Consulting and Management, were honored with the Spirit of Alaska Award. The Excellence in Tourism Award was presented to Dale Pihlman and Cynthia McNulty for the successful development of the local company Alaska Cruises. The Ketchikan Fire Department received the Heart of the Community Award for its record of quick response, skill level and care of visitors in emergency situations. The Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show received the Golden Totem Award for leadership, ideas and cooperative efforts in working with Ketchikan’s visitor industry. The Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel providing access to Whittier and Prince William Sound has won a Grand Award in the American Consulting Engineers Council’s 35th annual Engineering Excellence Awards competition. The world’s first public highway/railroad tunnel opened June 7. HDR Alaska Inc. led the design of the $80 million multi-modal facility for the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities. Locator Anchorage Neighborhood Housing Services and Anchorage Mutual Housing Association are moving their offices to 480 W. Tudor Road in Anchorage March 20. The telephone numbers for ANHS, 907-243-1558, and for AMHA, 907-248-1321, remain the same. The fax number for both offices remains 907-243-3214. Facility Management of Alaska Inc., a SMG Co., is moving the location for the Tesoro Alaska Recreational Vehicle Round-up scheduled March 22-25 to the Municipality of Anchorage-owned facility located at 5701 Northwood Drive. For more information about the annual RV dealership show, contact Tanya Hoak at 907-279-0618. Media Friends of the Library is conducting a Unique and Rare Book Auction at 7 p.m. March 30 at the Z.J. Loussac Public Library Ann Stevens Room. Both silent and live auction literary treasures will be up for bid. The live auction begins at 8:15 p.m. with former Mayor Rick Mystrom as auctioneer. Tickets costs $30 at the door. For more information, contact Kim Brady at 907-522-4028. Answers to a series of questions posed by the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce for Anchorage Assembly and Anchorage School Board candidates relating to their qualifications and positions on issues are available online. Responses can be found on the chamber Web site at (www.anchoragechamber.org) under News. For additional information, contact Angeline Fowler at 907-272-2401. Much obliged The Alaska Native Heritage Tribal Health Consortium has awarded undergraduate scholarships for the first time. Recipients are: Shylah Blair of Kotzebue; Renee Kelly, Anchorage; Jessica Scott of Juneau; Meryl Towarak, Unalakeet; and Julianne West, Kiana.  

Soldotna man typifies oil field work force, offers youths advice

KENAI -- Doug Marshall has some years to go before he qualifies for senior citizen discounts, but the 53-year-old Soldotna resident is the perfect poster boy for the state’s aging oil field work force."Oil pipeline construction in the mid-1970s and the employment boom associated with high oil prices in the early ’80s brought a large number of young workers to Alaska," according to an article on the aging of Alaska’s work force by Jeff Hadland and Greg Williams. The article appeared in the September 2000 Alaska Economic Trends, published by the state’s Department of Labor and Workforce Development."Many of these workers remained in Alaska and have aged in place, resulting in a significant increase in the average age of Alaska’s workers. Because of a number of demographic factors, it is not likely there will be enough children of those older workers to fill the anticipated employment needs of Alaska employers over the coming decade," Hadland and Williams reported.Marshall got his first taste of the oil patch in Ventura, Calif., when he was 22."My first job was with Otis Engineering as a wireline helper," Marshall said. Two years later, he had advanced to operator and was working on Unocal and Chevron platforms off the coast of Carpenteria, Calif.Coming to Alaska in 1973 to "kind of look around," Marshall did wireline work in the Swanson River area for several months, moving on to Utah and eventually back to California.In 1974, he married and set up home base in California with his wife, Carla. But home base meant little in terms of work assignments, with Marshall returning to Alaska to work for a company named Camco."They had me do some work in Cook Inlet," he said. "I came here to finish a job and then go back to California."While sitting at the Anchorage airport waiting to board his flight home, Marshall was tapped on the shoulder by Camco’s Anchorage office manager."He said, ’You know, we’re really shorthanded on the (North) Slope. Would you mind going up for a week and helping out?’ " Marshall said.Forty-five days later, the company finally flew him back to Anchorage and brought his wife from California for a three-day visit."She sat around and read and was sad all the time because I did not want to do anything but sleep," Marshall said.In 1978, he accepted an offer from Shell Oil Co. to work as a wireline operator on one of the company’s Cook Inlet platforms. His career with Shell eventually spanned more than 20 years and carried Marshall through the development of Alaska’s oil industry.Home base shifted to Alaska, with a short two-year assignment in the Bakersfield, Calif., area, where the couple lived in a 47-home company-owned community. During that time, Carla Marshall began working for Shell. Marshall made frequent trips between Shell’s offices in Houston and the company’s Alaska operations. In 1984, the couple finally returned to Alaska, with Marshall continuing to work for Shell and Carla Marshall working for Peak Oilfield Service Co. in Anchorage and on the North Slope.Marshall’s resume includes an assignment as drilling foreman for Shell’s exploratory drilling program in the St. George Basin, about 150 miles north of the Aleutian Islands and on the company’s man-made gravel islands north of Prudhoe Bay. What you won’t find mention of is the experience of riding out a five-day storm with 70-foot seas and stories of working with whaling crews out of Kaktovik."It was one of the highlights of my career to go out there and meet those people," Marshall said of assistance his crew gave to the whaling communities of northern Alaska.In 1998, when Shell sold its two Cook Inlet platforms to Cross Timbers Operating Co., the Marshalls were faced with a big decision -- to continue with Shell, transfer to the new owner or look at other opportunities."I thought my chances were a lot better to remain here at home," Marshall said. "I definitely made the right choice."Marshall said he’s not ready to retire from his position as production superintendent, Cross Timbers’ top-ranking position in Alaska.Looking back, Carla Marshall, who is currently employed by Inlet Drilling, said the couple’s employment in the oil industry has "let us live quite a comfortable life."What has been difficult for the couple is the impact of demanding work schedules."The time away from each other and then having to learn to live with each other again has been tough," she said of the travel that’s been required. After being in their home in Soldotna for almost 10 years, Carla is ready for the next adventure.If the couple decides to move on, finding someone to fill Doug Marshall’s shoes won’t be easy. Replacing personnel lost during transition of ownership has been challenging."There’s a number of people that work for us here in the Inlet that are very knowledgeable about the Inlet," Marshall said. "They’re all in the same boat I am -- long-term employees, and I think we’re all about the same age. The majority of us are over 50 years old."We’ve got two new hires and I’m getting ready to hire a third," he said. "But all of these people are well-experienced and the employees that we did keep (during the transition) are all long-term employees."They’re probably what I would call the best in Cook Inlet."For those considering careers in Alaska’s oil industry, Marshall advised, "Get an education."I know everyone doesn’t have that opportunity, but experience is the big thing even with an education, and how do you get it? That’s just it. You’ve got to break the barrier somehow, but it’s not an easy thing to do. There’s a lot of young people out there that want to get out and work, but it’s just difficult to get into the business."Marshall said that although Alaska is a big state, the industry’s small size works in favor of those wanting to break into it."In Alaska, it’s who you know," he said.

Knowles seeks school, road work funds

The outlines of a major construction program are taking shape in the Legislature. Gov. Tony Knowles has introduced bills to build and rehabilitate rural schools using new state bonds that would be repaid from future proceeds of a national tobacco tax litigation settlement that is shared with several states. A similar school construction program was funded by tobacco-funded bonds last year.The governor’s proposal, in House Bill 118 and Senate Bill 146, would see $127 million in new school construction, with $69.2 million committed to four new rural schools that are on the top of the state Department of Education’s school replacement priority list. These include a $29.2 million new facility at Togiak, a $9.9 million school at Golovin, an $11.7 million school at Koyuk, and an $18.4 million facility at Tuluksak. The remaining $57.8 million would be spent on major maintenance projects on schools around the state.A second new initiative by the governor is a bill that would allow the state to sell a form of revenue anticipation note, to which future federal transportation funds would be pledged, to fund major regional transportation-related projects. Senate Bill 122 would authorize the sale of Grant Anticipation Revenue Vehicle, or GARVEE, notes.A program proposed by the governor would see $425 million in major projects funded through this mechanism. Most of these would appear on the state’s long-range transportation plan anyway, but would take more time if they were funded through the state’s annual allocation of federal transportation funds, according to state highway officials.An example is a major highway overpass project like one planned next year at the junction of the Parks and Glenn highways near Palmer, which will cost $50 million, state Department of Transportation & Public Facilities Commissioner Joe Perkins said in a recent briefing to the Resource Development Council.If this were funded out of the normal annual allocation of federal highway dollars it would take about one-fifth of the money coming to the state that year, Perkins pointed out. As it is, the Glenn-Parks overpass is being funded out of a special one-time federal appropriation.But GARVEE bonds will allow several of these large projects to be done on a planned basis, Perkins said. By selling the bonds, he said the state DOT can put together larger amounts of funding more quickly, speeding the projects.Other construction-related legislation pending in the Legislature includes bills that would allow the state international airport system, which operates the Anchorage and Fairbanks airports, to sell revenue bonds to fund multiyear airport construction programs.At a recent briefing for legislators, Perkins said the bonds would be paid for by landing and other fees paid by airlines using the airports. House Bill 64 and Senate Bill 36 would accomplish this, Perkins said.

Railroad plans $90 million job

FAIRBANKS -- The Alaska Railroad Corp. is proposing to relocate a Fairbanks line between Sheep Creek Road and the median of the Parks Highway.The new alignment would move onto the Tanana River Dike and stay there past North Pole to the Moose Pass Road interchange, eliminating 48 road and trail crossings. That plan also cuts out about 18 miles of track.Thomas Engineering and Peratrovich, Nottingham & Drage Inc. drafted the conceptual designs for the project. Bob Thomas, with Thomas Engineering, said the project has a price tag of about $90 million.Thomas estimated project completion to be six to 10 years from now.

Resort grows with state, in fits, starts

Just as Alaska became a state in 1959, the Alyeska Resort at Girdwood, 40 miles south of Anchorage, was conceived as a magnet to attract skiers from other states and nations and build a winter tourism for the young state.The first rope-tow at the base of Mount Alyeska was actually built in 1950 by a group of ski enthusiasts headed by Joe Danich, a local resident.Later, Francois de Gunzberg, a Denver-based oilman with real estate interests, and a group of other investors including wealthy Texas oil families, first developed Alyeska as a day-use ski area in 1959.In 1960 the "Roundhouse," a wooden shelter, was built at the 2,300-foot level of Mount Alyeska and became the upper terminus for the first chair lift, a mile-long French-made Pomagalski chairlift.In 1962 the first day lodge was built near the base of the first chair to aid an effort to secure the 1963 Olympic ski tryout competition, which was successful.From the beginning, the resort’s development has been connected with efforts to attract major world ski competitions and to build the state’s winter recreation image, according to Chris von Imhof, Alyeska’s managing director.Because Anchorage was then a major refueling and support station for international airlines flying the polar routes between Asia and Europe, the resort early on began hosting international airline ski competitions. Von Imhof himself first skied Alyeska in 1964 when he was with Scandanavian Airlines System.He has been deeply involved in Alyeska’s development, from the time he first became its manager in 1967. That same year de Gunzberg’s group sold the resort to Alaska Airlines. Its then-chairman, Charlie Willis, had a vision that the resort could be developed and would attract winter visitors, helping fill airline seats during the winter months.But Alaska Airlines was struggling financially, and von Imhof had to find other ways to fund the resort’s development. Von Imhof recalls an early conversation with the late Elmer Rasmuson, chairman of National Bank of Alaska, in which Rasmuson advised him to find a new investor with deep pockets.Development proceeded, but it was slow. The resort owned a 160 acre homestead and in 1962 acquired 233 acres at the base of the mountain under long-term lease from the state of Alaska. The upper half of the mountain is used under a long-term permit from the U.S. Forest Service.The first hotel, with 32 rooms, was built in 1969. The following year another 43 units were built and sold as condominium units, with many of the units leased back to the hotel for rentals. The state-leased land was developed into Alyeska Subdivision, now a growing community with homes and condominiums.In the 1970s, three or four more buildings with condominiums were built, sold mainly to people from Anchorage. The idea was not only to sell properties to fund development of the resort, but also to build a customer base, von Imhof explained.Through the 1970s three additional chairlifts were built on the mountain, and other improvements, including night lighting at the origibnal Chair 1. In 1979 Alaska Airlines told von Imhof to find a buyer for the resort. The airline maintained an office in Tokyo then, and von Imhof recalled that its manager thought that Seibu, the major operator of ski resorts and the Prince Hotels in Japan, might be interested in an overseas investment.Four senior Seibu officials visited, and a few months later an offer was forthcoming, von Imhof recalled. The sale was concluded on October 1, 1980.Alyeska has hosted a series of high-profile international competitions, including the 1963 Olympic Trials, 1973 World Cup Alpine Competition, 1987 World Masters Competition, 1993 World Junior Olympic Competition, 2000 Western Region Collegiate Spring Series, 2000 Red Bull Freeski World Championships and, in 2001, the Alpine ski competitions in the Special Olympics World Winter Games held in Anchorage.Anchorage was the U.S. choice to host the 1992 and 1994 winter Olympics. Had the selection been approved by the International Olympic Committee, Alyeska would have been the site of all alpine events.

Around the World March 18, 2001

STATEMineral industry gets liftANCHORAGE -- The minerals industry in Alaska is getting a big boost from record production at Red Dog and Greens Creek mines.According to state figures, the two mines pushed the value of the minerals industry to more than $1.2 billion last year. That’s an increase of 11.6 percent over 1999 figures.The 2000 numbers represent the fifth straight year that the industry’s total value has topped a billion dollars. Strong mines production, as well as a surge in investments in development, helped offset exploration declines.Readers Digest deal setANCHORAGE -- Alaska is among 32 states that have reached an agreement with Readers Digest Association over its sweepstakes mailings, Attorney General Bruce Botelho said.The settlement requires Readers Digest to discontinue misleading information and to include facts about the "real" chance of winning. Included in the settlement was an $8 million fund for attorneys’ fees and restitution.Alaska consumers could be eligible for more than $16,000 in restitution, and the state will receive $75,000 for consumer protection and antitrust investigations, enforcement and education.BP fights Prudhoe spillANCHORAGE-- BP Exploration (Alaska) Inc. is dealing with a spill of drilling mud, sea water and rock cuttings at the Prudhoe Bay oil field.BP officials believe 3,200 to 5,880 gallons of the mixture spewed from a small crack in a pipeline March 6. Most of the material left a gravel pad and spilled onto the snow and tundra, BP spokesman Ronnie Chappell said.Drilling muds are used to lubricate drill bits. After use, the muds and rock cuttings from the well bore are ground at a Prudhoe Bay facility and then sent through high-pressure pipelines to be injected underground.NATIONStarbucks hits EuropeFRANKFURT, Germany -- Europe is the last frontier for one of America’s greatest commercial icons.After building a caffeine empire that stretches from Seattle to Shanghai to Dubai, Starbucks waded into continental Europe on March 8, opening doors at a shop in Zurich, Switzerland, the first of 650 stores Starbucks says it will open in six neighboring countries by 2003.Europe is new territory for the Longview, Wash.-based retailer. Over the next year, chairman Howard Schultz said he hopes to have 10 more stores in Switzerland.Most of the new stores will be 50-50 joint ventures with local companies. One hurdle remains the price. European coffee drinkers are used to paying as little as 30 cents for an eye-opening shot of espresso.Get out of the officeTRUMBULL, Conn. -- All work and no play are making Americans sick, according to a survey by Oxford Health Plans.A study of 632 men and women found that nearly one in five U.S. workers can’t use up annual vacation time because their jobs are so demanding. A third never leave the building where their offices are located once they arrive at work, the same number that work and eat their lunch simultaneously."Taking a vacation is not frivolous,’’ said Dr. Alan Muney, chief medical officer and executive vice president at Oxford. "It is essential to staying healthy.’’The average U.S. workers gets the least vacation time among industrialized nations. Where Italians are given 42 vacation days, Americans receive 13.American to buy TWAWILMINGTON, Del. -- American Airlines won a bidding war March 12 for the assets of bankrupt TWA in a $742 million deal that will mean the end of one of the most celebrated names in aviation.U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Peter Walsh approved the purchase by American parent AMR Corp., much to the relief of TWA employees who feared the airline might be reacquired by its former chairman, billionaire financier Carl Icahn.American has said it expects to offer jobs to most of TWA’s 20,000 workers, and the airline’s unions are expected to approve the deal. The purchase is subject to approval by the Justice Department.Sales fall 0.2 percentWASHINGTON -- Consumers were more selective in February, driving down sales at the nation’s retailers by 0.2 percent after a January shopping spree. They cut spending for furniture and ate out less often, though they did buy more groceries.The latest snapshot of consumer spending, which accounts for two-thirds of all economic activity, suggested that the economy continues to be sluggish but hasn’t fallen into recession, analysts said.The March 13 report "does not carry the implication of a collapsing consumer,’’ said First Union’s chief economist David Orr.But, analysts said, the report does provide a fresh reason for the Federal Reserve to rev up economic growth by reducing interest rates again.Compiled from business wire reports.

Bill would ban drilling in ANWR

WASHINGTON -- Two days after Republicans unveiled an energy bill that would allow oil drilling in an arctic wildlife refuge, legislation was introduced Feb. 28 in both the House and Senate to permanently protect the area from oil rigs.A bill by Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., would designate the 1.5-million-acre coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge a wilderness area, barring future development.A similar bill was introduced in the House by Reps. Ed Markey, D-Mass., and Nancy Johnson, R-Conn.President Bush has made drilling in the arctic refuge a centerpiece of his energy plan, arguing that oil and gas can be taken from the area without environmental harm.Environmentalists have promised to fight any drilling proposal, and most congressional Democrats, as well as a handful of Republicans, are opposed to opening the refuge to development.The refuge was set aside for protection in 1960. In 1980, Congress barred development of its coastal plain -- beneath which is believed to be between 5.6 billion and 16 billion barrels of oil -- without congressional approval. The area is the calving grounds for thousands of caribou and attracts millions of migratory birds and other wildlife each spring and summer.A broad energy bill introduced by Sen. Frank Murkowski, R-Alaska, on Feb. 26, would open the refuge to oil and gas drilling. Bush’s proposed budget anticipates $1.2 billion in revenue from oil leases in the refuge by 2004.Under the wilderness designations outlined in the bills introduced Feb. 28, the coastal plain of the refuge would be permanently protected from development.

Day's Inn owners plan Country Kitchen nearby

Owners of the Anchorage Day’s Inn have acquired franchise rights to Country Kitchen restaurant and plan to open a new eatery in June.Break of Day Inc. currently is remodeling the site at 346 E. Fifth Ave. for the 24-hour restaurant, which will seat 200.The downtown restaurant will employ 65 people, said franchise operator Dennis Lavey. Sixty-five percent of the employees will work full time with 35 percent working part time, he said.Renovations started Feb. 5 on the 5,200-square-foot building which Break of Day has owned for several years, he said. "We looked at all the options and decided a restaurant would be best," Lavey said.Based in Madison, Wis., the Country Kitchen chain tallies more than 250 family restaurants and plans to add 30 new stores in 2001. The corporation lends its brand to franchises either inside hotels or along busy travel routes; free-standing restaurants must seat at least 150 people and can choose to operate round the clock.Lavey believes the chain is a good fit for the neighborhood which includes the Day’s Inn and the Sheraton Anchorage Hotel."As I travel across the U.S. I always seek out Country Kitchen," he said.Country Kitchen, which serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, carries an early American farm house motif, he said.Break of Day operates the restaurant inside Day’s Inn, but Lavey plans to remodel the eatery due to the addition of Country Kitchen.

Aurora Gas: shut in for 20 years, Cook Inlet gas well has potential

Aurora Gas LLC has announced successful test results for its Nicolai Creek Unit No. 3 Well, which had been shut in for more than 20 years. The well, tested last week, had a sustained flow rate of more than 4 million cubic feet of natural gas per day attained from the five commingled perforated intervals of the Upper Tyonek formation at depths of 1,900 to 2,380 feet.Nicolai Creek is believed to contain up to 8 billion cubic feet of proven reserves and straddles the shoreline near the offshore Granite Point field.Jones said the test data confirms the reserves picture. "If anything, the flow pressure was a little higher than we expected," he said.Though the well has been shut in for years, it once produced a fair amount of gas that was used by Texaco for fuel on its offshore platform.Aurora Gas is an exploration & production company owned by 50-50 partners Aurora Power Resources Inc. and Texas independent Orion Resources LLC. It purchased a 50 percent interest in the underdeveloped field from Marathon and picked up the remaining 50 percent from Unocal.In December, a drilling contractor cleaned out, reperforated, and gravel packed the well in a workover of the Nicolai Creek Unit, which is located on the West Side of the Cook Inlet.The successful test was critical to the company’s future intentions to develop the Nicolai Creek Unit, Ed Jones, Aurora Gas’ executive vice president and project manager, said March 5."We can now proceed with our plans to rework or drill at least two additional wells early this summer," he said. "We’ve looked at seismic of area and we see more potential."If next two wells are successful, Jones said the company plans to drill a new well during next winter’s exploration season.Aurora Gas officials will begin work on installation of production facilities as soon as it can barge needed equipment across the Inlet from Kenai and is currently finishing engineering for a connection to the Cook Inlet Pipeline, he said.Half of the gas produced from Nicolai Creek is dedicated to Agrium Inc.’s fertilizer plant in Nikiski and the remainder will go to Aurora Power, a gas marketer in Southcentral Alaska, Jones said.Cook Inlet is the scene of substantial oil and gas exploration activity this winter for the first time in years. Two weeks ago, Forest Oil announced a significant oil discovery in the Redoubt prospect. Several other exploratory projects have occurred in the region this season."Natural gas supply in the Cook Inlet has become a hot topic, and our company is positioning itself to be a long-term player in supplying the energy needs of Southcentral Alaska," said Aurora Power President G. Scott Pfoff. "Bringing the Nicolai Creek Unit on production is a very significant step for us, we have now joined the ranks of Cook Inlet operators, something few companies, if any, our size have accomplished."Jones said gas sales are expected by the end of April. He also said gas prices in Southcentral Alaska are firming up a bit. "They certainly are up from when we started this project last summer, so that’s encouraging," he added.

Phillips sells building, leases it for 20 years

Phillips Petroleum Co. has sold its Alaska headquarters building in Anchorage to the financial services division of The Staubach Co., an international real estate services firm. The $14.6 million sale-lease back deal calls for a 20-year lease on the 610,406-square-foot property, allowing Phillips to retain long-term control of the property, Staubach officials said.Phillips acquired the building -- the largest privately owned commercial office facility in the state -- when the company purchased ARCO’s Alaska properties in 2000."Following its ARCO acquisition, Phillips faced a year-end deadline to sell its Alaska headquarters to free up capital for other uses," Staubach Financial Services President Brant Bryan said in a statement.The Staubach Co. provides real estate services for companies seeking office, retail and industrial space and has more than 950 professionals in North America with others in several countries.

Arctic Slope subsidiary wins NASA job

Arctic Slope Regional Corp.’s subsidiary ASRC Aerospace has received a $29 million contract from NASA to provide scientific and technical information services and related support for the Center for AeroSpace Information in Hanover, Md.The center supports NASA’s Scientific and Technical Information program at NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va., ASRC officials said.Under the cost-plus-fixed-fee contract, ASRC Aerospace will organize, disseminate and archive scientific and technical information. The company also will create and maintain databases.ASRC Aerospace, based in Greenbelt, Md., researches, develops, manufactures and operates advanced technology systems, products and services, ASRC officials said.ASRC Aerospace operates 16 contracts including a five-year $59 million contract with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency awarded last year for information technology services.

Movers & Shakers

The following new members have joined the Alaska SeaLife Center board of directors: Mike Burns, KeyBank Alaska; John Schoen, National Audubon Society; and Ned Smith, San Diego Foundation. Sharon Anderson, past board president, is now serving on ASLC’s board of governors. New board officers include president, Tom Tougas, Kenai Fjords Tours; vice president, William C. Noll, Major International; treasurer, Richard L. Lowell, Ribelin Lowell & Co.; and secretary, Willard Dunham, former publisher of the Seward Phoenix Log. The International Association of Energy Economics - Anchorage Chapter recently elected officers for 2001. William Nebesky was re-elected president. Nebesky has been a member of IAEE for four years and is a former vice president. Nebesky works as a petroleum economist with the Alaska Division of Oil and Gas. Kristen Maines, an economist with Northern Economics Inc., was elected vice president. Before joining Northern Economics in 1999, Maines worked at the Carolina Recycling Association in Raleigh, N.C. Gregory McDuffie was re-elected treasurer. McDuffie currently is working as a commercial consultant in the exploration and land group at Phillips Alaska Inc. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce recently presented Sens. Frank Murkowski and Ted Stevens, both R-Alaska, 2000 Spirit of Enterprise awards for their strong support of pro-business legislation in the second session of the 106th Congress. The awards go to members of Congress who supported the chamber’s positions on at least 70 percent of key votes. Jeff Wilcheck has been promoted to district manager of Grinnell/Audio-Video. Wilcheck is responsible for offices in Anchorage, Fairbanks and Juneau. Wilcheck previously managed the Grinnell Fire Protection office in Boise, Idaho. Adams & Associates Inc. has chosen Joanie Havenner, a personnel consultant in its Anchorage office, the No. 1 Consultant of the Year for the Northwest. Havenner was recognized for placing more than 300 candidates in 2000 at the year-end award ceremony held recently in Seattle. Havenner has been with Adams & Associates for six years. Lisa Herrington has joined Dynamic Properties as an associate broker. Herrington specializes in representing buyers and sellers in relocation transfers, condominium sales and temporary housing placements. Herrington has opened a branch office for Dynamic Properties at 702 Barrow St. The Alaska Club Network has hired Aaron Collins as membership manager at Alaska Clubs Eagle River and North. Collins previously was employed by Nordstrom as a department manager. Dawnell Arthur has been promoted to fitness manager at The Alaska Club East. Arthur has worked as a fitness consultant for the club since August. John Warren has been hired as member services director at the Alaska Club East, North and Eagle River. Warren most recently worked as an athletic director at the University of Nebraska. Shannon Segerstrom has been hired as aquatics director for The Alaska Club Network. Previously, Segerstrom was the director of programming, aquatics, health and fitness for the Nordby Center for Recreation in Huron, S.D. Hiawatha Logan has been promoted to front desk associate at The Alaska Club West. Logan has worked as a front desk associate at the West facility since 1999. Sara Anderson has been hired as front desk manager at the club’s Midtown location. Anderson most recently served as manager and senior consultant for the Boston University office of information technology’s residence computer lab system. Gabriel Wagner has been hired as front desk manager at The Alaska Club South. Wagner previously served as valet manager at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in San Antonio.  

Stocks sock Permanent Fund

ANCHORAGE -- The stock market slump has taken its toll on the Alaska Permanent Fund, and Alaskans are likely to see a smaller dividend from the state’s oil wealth savings account this year.The permanent fund dividend is expected to slip from $1,964 in 2000 to about $1,925 this year, according to fund projections. That would still be the second highest per capita distribution on record.The slight drop in dividends obscures what has been a hard fall in the permanent fund’s stock portfolio. Since the start of the fund’s fiscal year June 30, the fund’s U.S. stock holdings are down about 11 percent to about $8 billion, said spokesman Jim Kelly.This year’s stock losses are ugly, but a correction for the soaring markets may have been overdue, fund managers say."It feels like what we have expected to happen for a long time," Kelly said.For the first time since 1994 the fund is projected to slip in value, from $26.5 billion to $26.2 billion this year. Since June 30, the fund is down 3 percent, Kelly said. The dividend last fell in 1992.Kelly cautioned that the figures are preliminary and could change.Alaskans pay no state income tax and no state sales tax, and much of the state’s budget is covered by taxes and royalties on oil pumped from Alaska’s North Slope. Voters created the permanent fund in 1976 as a savings account for some of those royalties. Annual checks on its earnings have been distributed since 1982.Last September, the fund distributed $1.15 billion to Alaskans.

Net opens market to outdoor clothier

A small specialty clothing manufacturer is prospering in Fairbanks, thanks to an ability to reach out to world markets through the Internet.Dick Flaharty is convinced his business, Apocalypse Design, wouldn’t be serving much more than the small local climbing and backcountry ski clientele it started with in 1984 if he hadn’t learned to market through the Internet.Now he has customers in Asia, the Lower 48 and Europe. Apocalypse Design isn’t Eddie Bauer or Recreational Equipment Inc., and Flaharty doesn’t want it to be.Growing large would eliminate his key advantage over competitors -- a specialty focus on cold weather outdoor gear and an ability to fill custom orders quickly."If you called Eddie Baeur and asked them to make something special, they could do it but it would take three months and they’d want you to buy a big quantity," Flaharty said. He has to charge a bit more, but customers get exactly what they want. However, the advent of electronic commerce has allowed him to reach customers only larger companies could have reached before."We get a lot of our business in Alaska and the Lower 48, but we ship a lot to Norway, Germany, Sweden and Switzerland -- all places that are cold -- as well as Japan," he said.Apocalypse Design imports fabric to Fairbanks, sews what customers order and ships it out. The company has a retail store in the Interior city and a sewing shop where orders are assembled. Flaharty employs about 12 people in the winter and seven to eight in the summer, he said.A lot of orders are small quantities but some have been large, at least for a small company."We’ve had orders for thousands of gloves and mittens," of a particular design. "Some orders for parkas have approached a 1,000." There are smaller quantity orders for duffel bags and even briefcases, he said.During the winter there is lots of business from the mushing community."We’ve made as many as 50,000 dog booties," Flaharty said.Apocalypse Design started in 1984. Flaharty didn’t have much capital, and his customers were local climbers and skiers. He began to expand into other products when computers began to be widely used in business and orders came in for customized computer covers.Alyeska Pipeline Service Co. and BP Exploration (Alaska) Inc. began buying specialized fabric products for use on the North Slope and along the pipeline corridor, and government agencies became customers, too.Flaharty’s firm, for example, makes body bags, which must be rugged enough for helicopter and sled transport for the U.S. National Park Service. They’re for the almost-inevitable fatalities each year that occur during the climbing season on Mount McKinley in Denali National Park and Preserve.But Flaharty really wanted to expand his cold weather retail line. A catalog was developed to help in marketing, but it didn’t produce much business, he said.Access to the Internet was the company’s ticket to a wider market."I built our Web site myself in July 1999." Flaharty admits he has a flair for working on the site but says anyone can really do it, and there’s a lot of free software available. "I’m getting better at it," he said."We keep our Web site simple. The people who buy from us are interested mainly in our products and we don’t have a big marketing budget, so we don’t have flashy animation and we keep graphics to a minimum."He does have to update product information, and he has "web specials" and a "tip of the month" to keep people interested in the site.Flaharty easily became listed with the eight major search engines mainly used in the United States, and then began branching out to search engines used in other countries."Getting into and keeping current in the search engines and directories is very important," he said.It didn’t really matter when he found a search engine that wasn’t in English because he was still able to link to it anyway, Flaharty said.

Statistics for Kenai Peninsula reveal diverse, strong economy

KENAI -- The Kenai Peninsula’s economy is diverse, reasonably strong and, in many ways, better than other economies around the state, despite an economic growth of only 1.8 percent in the 1990s.That’s the message researcher Brigitta Windisch-Cole, of the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development, gave at the Kenai Chamber of Commerce luncheon Feb. 28."We can call 1.8 percent moderate," she said, adding the decline in 1999 was considered leveling out."I was here in 1999 and the mood was not good," she said. "Oil prices were low, tourism was down, and so was fishing."She said the loss of nearly 2 percent of Peninsula jobs in 1999 over 1998 is directly attributable to layoffs at the Unocal fertilizer plant, Southcentral Air’s demise and the explosion and fire at the Icicle Seafoods plant in Homer.Some other facts and figures Windisch-Cole presented included:* The Peninsula has always had a faster rate of growth than the rest of the state. In the 1960s, the Peninsula experienced 16.5 percent growth, compared with 6.6 for the state as a whole; in the ’70s, the Peninsula had 7 percent growth, the state 6.3 percent; in the ’80s, the Peninsula had 5.2 percent to the state’s 3.5; and in the ’90s, the Peninsula’s growth was 1.8 percent to the state’s growth at about 1 percent.* In the ’90s, industry growth was mixed, with oil and gas employment declining by 9.5 percent, and manufacturing -- which includes the then-Unocal fertilizer plant and the Tesoro refinery, but not the Phillips LNG plant -- falling by a whopping 25 percent.* Retail showed the greatest growth of all sectors in the last decade, with a 57.7 percent increase in jobs. It was closely followed by the financial, insurance and real estate industries with 39.5 percent, and construction at 30.8 percent. The service industry and government employment increased by roughly 24 percent each.* There is a huge disparity in wages between the oil and gas industry, which is losing jobs, and the service and retail industries, which account for most of the new jobs created on the Peninsula.Her figures show annual oil and gas wages in 1999 averaged $60,485, while service and retail averaged $18,000.* In 1999, the Peninsula work force earned $498.6 million, with an average wage of $30,091. The biggest piece of the pie came from government employees, highlighting their importance to the area’s economy. More than 30 percent of the total earnings on the Peninsula were made by government employees, compared with 19 percent in service and retail, and 13 percent in oil and gas. Seafood processing accounted for barely 3 percent of income earned.* Unemployment has been a relatively dark spot during the ’90s, but has recently improved, Windisch-Cole said. In 1991, 11.7 percent of the work force was out of a job, and it went up from there. The next year it was 13.6, before peaking a year after that, in 1992, at 15.5 percent. After declining slightly for the next few years, the jobless rate popped back up to 14 percent in ’96 and was 13.6 percent in ’97.The decade’s only year of single-digit unemployment followed in 1998, when the rate was 9.8 percent. In ’99, it rose 1 percentage point, but dropped back down to 10.2 in 2000."The unemployment rate is tied to the economy of the Lower 48," Windisch-Cole said. "If the national economy weakens, we will get an influx of workers from there."* Since the economy in the Lower 48 had been so good during the Clinton years, causing fewer workers to come to Alaska looking for jobs, in-state and local hire skyrocketed in the ’90s. In 1992, out-of-state hire was more than 34 percent. In 1999, it was down to 17.8 percent.* An influx of retired people to the Peninsula -- up 70 percent in the ’90s -- could be attributable to the relatively low cost of buying a home here. The average cost of a home on the Peninsula is $146,631, she said, and it only takes 1.3 wage earners to buy one.In Juneau, it takes 1.9, Kodiak 1.8, Ketchikan 1.7, the Matanuska-Susitna Borough 1.6 and Fairbanks 1.4. The state average is the same as Anchorage at 1.5.* A solid majority of the jobs on the Peninsula are in the central Peninsula. Two-thirds of the jobs are in the Nikiski-Sterling-Kasilof triangle, with the Homer and Seward areas accounting for about 15 percent each.Windisch-Cole said the construction industry is an early indicator of the overall health of an area’s economy, which looks good for the next few years, as millions of dollars are going to be spent on roads and other public works projects.

Better hiring plan keeps Hannibal Lecter from company picnic

Life has been pretty tough lately at the company. Good employees have been really hard to find, but since the economy has slowed things are starting to improve ... so you think. Your phone rings and Harry, your sales manager excitedly tells you about this great employee he hired today. "Let me tell you about this great guy I hired! He is a little older, but he passed the interview with flying colors and best yet, he loves to work with people. He is fascinating and has great ’soft skills,’ just what we need around here. I have a gut feeling he is going to be the best salesperson we’ve ever hired." Finding and placing the right person for the right job is critical to business success. Because of the labor shortage, many businesses feel they need to lower their standards and hire the first body that walks through the door. But that’s a bad strategy. Job interviewing alone is unreliable in today’s market. Many people with hiring responsibilities are not aware how one bad choice can damage or in this case "kill" healthy organizations. Shortsighted decisions often lead to disastrous results.

House resolution takes exception to linking fisheries with Steller sea lion decline

The House Fisheries Committee has given a unanimous nod to a resolution that supports limitations on pending fishing restrictions designed to protect sea lions. The measure is expected to fare as well in the state Senate. House Joint Resolution 10 notes a reference in the National Marine Fisheries Service’s controversial "biological opinion" that salmon and herring fisheries may also be a factor in the decline of the Steller sea lion. "In doing so it raises a red flag," said Rep. Drew Scalzi, R-Homer, who sponsored the resolution. According to the publication "Laws for the Sea," Scalzi said that a committee review of research on the sea lion decline indicated "evidence to curtail the fishery is lacking." Pacific Seafood Processors Association Vice President Stephanie Madsen testified in support of the resolution with a newspaper editorial cartoon that compared federal restrictions on groundfish harvesting to an imaginary order to stop picking berries because of a decline in bear populations. "That’s how we feel," Madsen said. "We’re being broad-brushed because one theory points the finger at us."

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