Oil sector leads construction spending rebound

The last couple years have been tough for Alaska contractors.

While it took about two years to really be felt as money on large multi-year and preplanned projects continued to be spent, the precipitous fall of oil prices in late 2014 led to construction spending declines of 18 percent in 2016 and 10 percent in 2017 year-over-year.

Not only did the price collapse hit contractors working in the state’s oil fields, but state capital spending has all-but disappeared since the oil revenues the State of Alaska relies on dried up as well.

LNG tank construction a sign of progress for Interior gas project

Backhoes are back digging in south Fairbanks as construction work is again underway on the Interior Energy Project.

Ground-turning work on the effort to expand the natural gas supply to the region had been on hold since the summer of 2015 as IEP leaders looked revise the scope of the project in the face of challenging economics brought on by lower oil prices. The last physical work on the project involved laying gas distribution lines in North Pole and Fairbanks.

Duluth, Dave and Buster’s cushion recent Anchorage job losses

Ax throwing and log sawing contests vied for crowd approval outside but it was probably the flannel shirts or underwear inside that stole the show when Duluth Trading Co. staged its grand opening March 1.

Duluth took over the 24,500-square feet former home of Sports Authority at 8931 Old Seward Highway, which closed in 2016. After an investment of $800,000 in renovations performed by local contractors H. Watt &Scott Inc., it took about a month to set up the store and hire 50 individuals, said manager Erik Hansen.

Homer grad finds career path at AVTEC

HOMER — Career in a year. That’s the motto at the Alaska Vocational Technical Center in Seward also known as AVTEC.

“That catch phrase is one of my favorites,” said AVTEC plumbing and heating instructor Tim Shearer. “We teach skills that every employer is looking for. And not just skills, but also communication skills, job skills, all those skills that prepare a person to be successful.”

That’s exactly what T.J. Thomas was looking for when increasing the number of employees at Anchorage-based Living Waters Plumbing and Mechanical.

Bradley hydro expansion moves forward with AEA approval

The Alaska Energy Authority board of directors unanimously approved a $46.4 million expansion of the Bradley Lake hydroelectric plant at its Aug. 10 meeting in Anchorage.

Vigor works to cut turnover by training local workforce

Vigor Industrial, operator of shipyards in Ketchikan and Seward, has embraced training of a local workforce as its key strategy in reducing a costly problem with turnover of skilled workers, company officials say.

In 2015, with a $101 million contract in hand to build two new, 280-foot state ferries and an increasing workload from the fishing industry, Vigor experienced a 46 percent turnover.

Hotels spring up as visitor numbers keep climbing

Alaska has some of the highest hotel occupancy rates in the country on average in the short four-month period from May to September, enough to warrant yet four more hotels on the Anchorage landscape in addition to three that went up last summer.

The Hyatt House on C Street opened in May and the company is breaking ground for two more hotels on land cleared at nearby 46th Avenue. Last summer saw My Place on Old Seward across from the University Center open. A new Aptel Hotel opened near the Northway Mall. And Home2 Suite opened in 2016 near Motel 6, also on C Street.

Construction season ramps up with nearly $1 billion in projects

Summer 2017 brings $976 million in construction contracts for 128 projects in 45 communities across the state as the season for both tourism and construction gets underway.

The dollars — 90 percent federal with a 10 percent state match — will pay for Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities highway and airport improvements.

Federal monies so far have remained at consistent levels in recent years, said department communications director Meadow Bailey.

INSIDE REAL ESTATE: Anchorage commercial permits up in 1Q

The Municipality of Anchorage has reported that the total value for all categories of building permits in the first quarter of 2017 has increased by $15.26 million when compared to the first quarter of 2016.

This increase is directly related to commercial permits rather than residential permits, which remain at historic low levels.

Changes at Anchorage operation won’t hurt rural utilities, AEA says

Rural utility operators are worried changes to how the Alaska Energy Authority handles their powerhouse projects will hurt the reliability of electrical service in communities across the state, but AEA officials say the fears are the result of a simple misunderstanding.

The usually quiet public testimony portion of the authority’s March 30 board of directors meeting was dominated by utility managers and local government administrators from small bush communities pleading with AEA directors to not close the authority’s north Anchorage warehouse.

Denali Commission directed to work on shutdown plan

Here’s the task handed to Denali Commission federal co-chair Joel Neimeyer: What would it take to shut down 17 years of the Denali Commission’s work in Alaska if funding is eliminated in 2018?

On March 31 by close of business day, Neimeyer was required by the Office of Management and Budget to summarize how he would close down the federal agency created in 1999.

President Donald Trump’s initial budget submitted to Congress, the so-called “skinny budget,” calls for eliminating the $15 million budget that funds a myriad of projects in rural Alaska.

Military brass stress looming Real ID deadline in briefing

JUNEAU — Alaska’s top military brass were in Juneau March 23 for their annual briefing to the Legislature’s Joint Armed Services Committee.

Air Force Lt. Gen. Kenneth Wilsbach and Army Major Gen. Bryan Owens had some key messages to convey.

One is that Alaska’s $3 billion-plus military industry will be stable for the foreseeable future; a second is that the big construction programs at Interior Alaska defense installations are on track; third is that there are no Army reductions planned, for now, at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson.

Construction forecast down 10 percent

Those who attended the 2017 Associated General Contractors of Alaska forecast on Thursday heard many of last year’s talking points: Construction forecasts are down, again, the Legislature is at fault, again, but things aren’t as bad as they seem. Again.

USDA pumped $2.1B into state in last 8 years

A small federal office has quietly injected more than $2.1 billion into Alaska over the past eight years with almost no impact to the national debt.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture Office of Rural Development has done that through its 35 programs that help fund everything from water and sewer systems in the most remote villages in Alaska to startup businesses in every corner of the state.

Gov’s budget would cut Alaska Construction Academies

The Alaska Construction Academies might see a steep decline in funding next year if the Legislature accepts Gov. Bill Walker’s proposed budget cuts.

The governor’s fiscal year 2018 budget, released Dec. 15, proposes a $600,000 reduction in general fund dollars for the Alaska Construction Academies, an Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development program that offers free basic construction training to high school students and adults in Anchorage, Juneau, Ketchikan, Fairbanks, the Mat-Su Valley and on the Kenai Peninsula.

Anchorage settles for $12.6M with port contractors

Anchorage has settled out of court for $12.6 million with three subcontractors in the city’s failed port expansion project while a lawsuit against other players in the complex drama continues.

Most recently on Oct. 19, Terracon Consultants Inc. and the Municipality of Anchorage filed a motion in U.S. District Court of Alaska notifying the court that Terracon had agreed to pay the municipality $1.95 million.

Housing First gets more money, but still in hole

A project to put a roof over Juneau’s most vulnerable residents just received a federal grant for $600,000. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development awarded the money to Central Council of the Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska through its Indian Community Development Block Grant program.

“We’re excited; $600,000 is a lot of money,” Myrna Gardner, Central Council’s business and economic development manager, said on the phone Monday.

$27M in federal funds flow in for water projects

The U.S. Department of Agriculture Office of Rural Development is allocating $27 million for water and environmental programs around the State of Alaska after USDA-RD Undersecretary Lisa Mensah made the announcement on Aug. 30 at the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corp. in Bethel.

The Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation and the City of Bethel are among several agencies and organizations to receive grants and loans for rural sanitation and water projects.

Tustumena replacement accelerated to FY2017 funding

It’s looking like the M/V Tustumena could be headed for an earlier-than-expected retirement.

The Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities has moved up its federal funding request to pay for the 52-year-old Tustumena’s $237 million replacement from “after fiscal year 2019” to federal fiscal year 2017, which begins Oct. 1.

The Seattle-based marine engineering firm Glosten finished designing the new 330-foot vessel in January.

CIRI, Golden Valley progressing on Fire Island Wind expansion

In about a year there could be a few more wind turbines dotting the horizon west of Anchorage, thanks to a Fairbanks utility.

Golden Valley Electric Association and Cook Inlet Region Inc. jointly announced Wednesday that they have agreed to the framework of a deal that would double the number of wind turbines on Fire Island just off Anchorage in Cook Inlet.

About a $50 million project, Phase 2 of CIRI’s Fire Island Wind project would add another 11 large turbines to the group that was installed in 2012.


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