Elwood Brehmer

CH2M Hill gives detail to role of VECO in port expansion

A CH2M Hill spokesman issued a statement Feb. 18 in an effort to clarify confusion over the role of VECO Inc. in the Port of Anchorage expansion project.

CH2M Hill purchased VECO Inc. in September 2007, and the Colorado-based engineering giant with nearly 3,000 employees in Alaska now has a contract pending with the Municipality of Anchorage to manage future construction at the stalled port project.

Bipartisan bill would eliminate exit exam

Legislation introduced by Gov. Sean Parnell and a bipartisan group of legislators would do away with the state high school exit exam.

The High School Graduation Qualifying Exam has been administered to high school seniors in Alaska since 2004. Department of Education and Early Development Deputy Commissioner Les Morse said the exam that tests students’ proficiency in reading, writing, and mathematics at up to the sophomore level has run its course.

Roads to Resources adds West Susitna, stalls other projects

As the original Roads to Resources projects await more money, a new state study adds new proposals to the mix.

The West Susitna Access Reconnaissance Study released by the Department of Transportation and Public Facilities in late January highlights five routes, that if constructed, would provide access to the largely undeveloped side of the Susitna River valley and the resources available there.

Collectively, the more than 350 miles of proposed access corridors are more than $1.8 billion of infrastructure, representing another “mega project” for the state.

BP's Weiss says tax stability key to LNG project

BP Exploration Alaska President Janet Weiss discussed the company’s North Slope plans over the coming years and the impact that repealing the now in place More Alaska Production Act oil tax structure could have on a large-scale liquefied natural gas export project during a Feb. 10 Anchorage Chamber of Commerce speech.

The oil tax reform legislation commonly known as Senate Bill 21 went into effect Jan. 1 and has brought about a more stable investment environment in the industry, Weiss said, as have other oil and gas leaders in the state.

Postal reform includes Alaska provisions to reduce rural rates

The U.S. Postal Service has agreed to reform its pricing structure and operations in some parts of Alaska, according to Sen. Mark Begich.

Rates on packages heavier than 50 pounds increased by up to 50 percent Jan. 26 on some routes in rural Alaska as part of a widespread rate increase, Begich told reporters during a conference a Feb. 6 conference call from his Washington, D.C. office.

Vigor Industrial close to deal for Seward Ship's Drydock

Vigor Industrial, which operates the Ketchikan shipyard, is poised to acquire Seward Ship’s Drydock operations.

It’s unclear when an agreement might be finalized, Vigor spokesman Brian Mannion said Feb. 3, but he said the company excited about expanding in Alaska.

“We are looking at making investments in the workforce (in Seward) very similar to what we’re doing in Ketchikan,” Mannion said.

Forecasted gov't spending cuts could slow state economy

Alaska’s economic outlook for 2014 is tempered versus recent years, largely due to cuts in government spending according to state economists.

Anchorage-based Northern Economics Vice President and Senior Economist Jonathan King told World Trade Center Alaska members in Anchorage Feb. 4 that he expects marginal growth in the state’s economy at around 0.1 percent in the coming year.

State spending is no longer masking federal cuts, he said.

“Federal spending dropped a while ago and now state spending is slowing,” King said.

Arctic Commission delivers first report to Legislature

Sen. Lesil McGuire said she wants 2014 to be the “year of the Arctic” across Alaska during a meeting with other legislators Feb. 4.

McGuire, R-Anchorage, and Rep. Bob Herron, D-Bethel, are co-chairs of the Alaska Arctic Policy Commission, which released its preliminary report to the Legislature Jan. 30 following nearly a year of work.

“We are, have been and are going to play a key role in Arctic policy as the Arctic is our future,” Herron said to the joint House Economic Development, Trade and Tourism and Senate World Trade committees.

Saving cash, better communication top DOT aviation priorities

In-step with Gov. Sean Parnell’s message of fiscal restraint, Department of Transportation and Public Facilities Deputy Commissioner John Binder said the Statewide Aviation division is returning to its basic responsibilities.

“Along the line of the governor’s State of the State address (Jan. 25) is a focus a lot on our core competencies and our core mission — making sure we’re providing that rural access, fix and maintain the things we have and finishing everything we’ve started without a whole lot of emphasis on going out and looking for new projects,” Binder said.

FAA backs off 2012 rule restricting night approaches

The Federal Aviation Administration has “backed way off” on a rule implemented in October 2012 that could have restricted night operations at more than 100 airports across Alaska, Transportation Department deputy commissioner John Binder said.

The change in FAA policy sparked a nationwide review of aeronautical surveys of airports to determine if obstructions penetrate the 20-1 ratio approach minimum standard at a given runway. FAA regulations require a clear approach path extending up to 10,000 feet beyond the end of a runway in some situations.

Private spending to grow $1.2B in '14

Investments in North Slope oil and gas projects will be the main driver behind statewide construction spending growth in the coming year, according to a report by the University of Alaska Anchorage Institute of Social and Economic Research.

The annual forecast projects oil and gas spending on construction work in the state to total $4.3 billion in 2014, up 34 percent from $3.2 billion last year. That sector accounts for 46 percent of all construction spending in the state, estimated to be about $9.2 billion.

Alaska Air Group ends 2013 with another record quarter, year

Alaska Air Group Inc. continued to set profitability records in 2013. The parent to Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air reported a net income of $383 million for 2013 in its Jan. 23 earnings report, up nearly 13 percent from a then-record $339 million for 2012.

Housing, commercial markets near capacity around state

The largest real estate markets in the state remained strong in 2013, largely due to lean inventory.

Brandon Walker with Pacific Tower Properties told members of the Building Owners and Managers Association Anchorage Jan. 10 that the commercial real estate market in Anchorage is “extremely healthy” across its subsets.

Bed tax numbers, 2014 visitor outlook strong

Hotels, lodges, and bed and breakfasts in the state’s major destinations had a healthy year in 2013 based on preliminary bed tax results.

LNG export deal would end AGIA in-state transport limit

The agreement Gov. Sean Parnell’s administration signed for a large commercial liquefied natural gas project could have a major impact on the state’s separate push to develop a smaller gas project, Alaska Gasline Development Corp. President Dan Fauske said during a Jan. 24 presentation.

AEA recommends 26 projects for seventh round of grants

The Alaska Energy Authority is recommending the Legislature fund 26 heat and power projects through round seven of the state Renewable Energy Fund.

If legislators choose to match Gov. Sean Parnell’s fiscal year 2015 proposal for the grant program, the projects would receive a total of $20 million when the money is disbursed in July.

Arctic issues will be hot topic as Legislature convenes

The Arctic will be a hot topic in the months ahead for state legislators.

Co-chairs of the state Arctic Policy Commission, Sen. Lesil McGuire, R-Anchorage, and Rep. Bob Herron, D-Bethel, said Jan. 16 that they have plans to enter the 2014 legislative session “armed with an Arctic legislation package,” according to a commission release.

Arctic activity, tight funding for transportation in 2014

The coming year will likely see an ongoing discussion between the feds and the State of Alaska as to how an increasingly-active Arctic will be managed going forward.

Sen. Cathy Giessel, R-Anchorage, previewed a draft version of the report the state Arctic Policy Commission is set to release to the Legislature Jan. 30 at a December Commonwealth North meeting.

Labor Department program recognizes workplace safety

Workplace safety is a topic that can rear its head for all the wrong reasons — typically after an accident. A partnership between the State of Alaska and the federal Occupational Health and Safety Administration tries to make workplace safety a positive subject matter.

The Department of Labor and Workforce Development Voluntary Protection Program, or VPP, certifies companies with exemplary safety records. The latest to be recertified was BP’s Exploration Alaska Central Power Station facility in Prudhoe Bay.

State, small businesses weigh in on health care strategies

While the battle over the Affordable Care Act had the federal government shut down, health care industry experts and affected groups gathered in Anchorage Oct. 4 to the future of discuss health care in Alaska.

The State of Reform health policy conference began with an overview of the state’s AlaskaCare and Union Health Trust insurance plans for its employees by Department of Administration Commissioner Becky Hultberg.

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