Economic indicators show mixed results for Fairbanks heading into 2001

Construction should play a strong role this year with work continuing on the replacement hospital at Fort Wainwright and at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. This summer the Interior City expects to see a 20 percent increase in hotel rooms, when 362 hotel rooms are to come on line. Looking at a handful of years into the future, Fairbanks business leaders are hopeful that construction of a proposed natural gas pipeline would benefit the Interior economy. "People are anticipating the pipeline coming," said Pamela Throop, Fairbanks commercial real estate broker and president of Alaska Commercial Properties Inc. "And now that Bush is in office there’s a possibility of building a missile defense system (in Alaska), so there is a very positive, upbeat feeling about the economy for the next five to seven years." However, statistics from the Fairbanks North Star Borough describe varied results in 2000. The most recent data, from a third-quarter 2000 borough statistics report, shows three business bankruptcies, down from 10 for the same period in 1999. The borough registered 38 nonbusiness bankruptcies for the period ended Sept. 30, 2000, fewer than the 50 recorded for third quarter 1999. Civilian employment in the borough for third-quarter 2000 climbed 2.4 percent to total 34,200 jobs in a year-to-date average compared with the same period in 1999, according to borough officials. Total freight handled at Fairbanks International Airport was down 1.4 percent to total 9,087 tons for the second quarter of 2000. Second quarter revenue landings at the airport were down 5.6 percent compared with second quarter 1999 and totaled 6,483. Incoming passenger figures at the airport rose 1.2 percent for the quarter to total 108,554. Outgoing passengers increased 0.2 percent in second quarter 2000 compared with the same period in 1999, according to borough statistics. Also, for second quarter, new housing units authorized by building permits were 75, down from 129 for second quarter 1999. The value of new residential permits for second quarter 2000 dropped 50 percent compared with the same period in 1999, according to borough data. Construction could play a strong role in the Fairbanks economy this year. "I think construction numbers will come in solid," said Brigitta Windisch-Cole, a labor economist for the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development. She cited development work for the True North deposit, which will be milled at Fort Knox and could add about 100 jobs this year at the mine. "It could really be positive for Fairbanks in terms of job growth," she said. Another major project is the $133 million, 32-bed hospital, which will serve Fort Wainwright and Eielson Air Force Base and replaces the Bassett Army Community Hospital. A general contractor is expected to be chosen in early 2001 to build the replacement hospital at Fort Wainwright. The project is scheduled for completion in 2005. Site development began in April. At the University of Alaska Fairbanks, construction continues this year on the $13 million Duckering Building, and work should be complete in October, university officials said. This year work should begin on the first phase of the $5.6 million Brooks Building project, as well as the $18.7 million Rasmuson Library project. In the university budget request for fiscal 2002, officials have noted $5 million for renovating the old courthouse, which could be the new home of the Tanana Valley Campus. In terms of commercial real estate, the market has sufficient vacancies for office space, said commercial real estate broker Throop. However, she does not gauge a vacancy rate for the sector. Throop noted that handicap accessible office space, which is needed for government agencies, is difficult to find in Fairbanks. Few vacancies are available in warehouse space from 2,000 to 4,000 square feet as well as larger spaces, she said. "There’s definitely not much small warehouse space," she said. One residential real estate broker expects 2001 to come in similar to last year. "Our office had a good year in the year 2000," said Margalynn George, owner and broker at Re/Max Associates of Fairbanks. Last year, however, didn’t see any strong market boosts, like an influx of Alyeska Pipeline Service Co. workers needing housing as in past years, she noted. Rental units are scarce, she said. "The rental market continues to be tight, and rents are still high." George is another real estate broker who is optimistic about possible future projects like a natural gas pipeline or oil exploration on the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Tourism officials in Fairbanks also are eyeing the future, including upcoming winter events and summer visitors. Although December bed tax figures were not yet available, Fairbanks Convention and Visitors Bureau executive director Deb Hickok expects this winter to compare evenly with last year. However, totals for Japanese visitors to the Interior City are up from 2000 thanks to a current peak cycle for the aurora borealis, she said. These visitors usually total 8,000 to 10,000 people or up to 10 percent of total winter visitors, she said. Several events in February and March should benefit the city and related visitor services, she said. "Winter events are definitely Fairbanks’ forte," Hickok said. The Yukon Quest sled dog race starts Feb. 11 in Whitehorse, Yukon Territories, and heads for Fairbanks before returning across the border. The event starts in Fairbanks alternate years, and Hickok believes the originating city gains the largest economic benefit. The event typically generates $500,000 in economic impact for Fairbanks, she noted. The World Ice Art festival starts March 7 with a lighting ceremony March 18 and runs until the sculptures melt. The Fairbanks Winter Carnival runs March 9-18 with the North American Open sled dog race on the last weekend. The FCVB is now developing a survey to gauge the economic impact of these events and others, Hickok said. New this winter is FCVB’s winter coupon book featuring discounts on lodging, shopping and winter activities. The coupon book is aimed at Alaskans this year and may have an increased circulation in the future, she said. "We think it’s another way to get the message out and get people interested in winter products," she said. FCVB officials and other Fairbanks tourism companies are looking ahead to summer when two new hotels and an addition at another property will come on line. "We’ll have a 20 percent increase in room inventory this summer. It will be positive and a challenge," Hickok said.  

Retail lags; Home Depot, eateries offer hope

Retail in Fairbanks may receive a boost this year with the proposed addition of major national retailer Home Depot.The Atlanta-based home improvement giant is now working to buy property in the Interior city, a company official said."We are currently in negotiations with the property owner of a site in Fairbanks," said Home Depot spokesman Chuck Sifuentes.He would not disclose the possible store location because the acquisition has not yet been finalized. "We’re hopeful to complete the negotiations very soon," he said in mid-January.If the company successfully purchases the property, Home Depot officials would next secure the necessary permits for construction, he said."Our hope is if everything goes right we could begin construction in spring of this year with completion by fourth quarter," Sifuentes said.The company operates one store in Midtown Anchorage with another store scheduled to be built this spring in East Anchorage.The second Anchorage store could open in late 2001.The new Anchorage retailer will weigh in at 133,000 square feet and include a 15,000-square-foot garden center. That store, once open, would employ 175 to 200 people, mostly full-time workers.Competitor Lowe’s, a home improvement retailer, likewise plans to build a second Anchorage store. In early January the retailer completed the purchase of 21.5 acres in South Anchorage, according to company spokeswoman Suzanne McCoy. Work on the estimated 150,000-square-foot store could begin in May, and the store could open in January 2002, she said.Lowe’s is not considering a Fairbanks store, she said.The retail sector in Fairbanks should see some recovery in merchandising with Gottschalks reopening the former Lamonts store, said Brigitta Windisch-Cole, a state labor department economist who covers Fairbanks."Retail is a riddle" in Fairbanks, she continued, noting that the nation’s largest retailer, Wal-Mart, has opened stores in Kodiak and Ketchikan but not in the Interior city. However, the retailer does operate a Sam’s Club warehouse store in Fairbanks.Wal-Mart officials did not return phone calls concerning a possible new Fairbanks store.Windisch-Cole believes the Fairbanks market currently lags in the retail sector. "The only thing growing in retail is restaurants," she said.Although the Royal Fork restaurant closed Dec. 27, operators are now considering reopening the eatery as perhaps a steak and buffet restaurant.Also, a new Popeye’s Fried Chicken and Biscuits is under construction.Popeye’s, at 1800 Airport Way, is expected to open in February, said Scott Roselius, vice president of the franchise’s Fairbanks operation. Roselius’ partner is Kevin Portorella, who runs the Subway franchise in Fairbanks and one in Valdez and owns local Winchell’s and Alaska Burger Master.The area franchise operators are considering opening another Fairbanks Popeye’s in a year or two, Roselius said.The new eatery is in the same building as Subway/TCBY with a connecting hallway, creating a food court, he said. Popeye’s will seat about 44 diners, while Subway seats about 30 people. Winchell’s also is nearby.In terms of available retail space, Fairbanks currently registers some prime locations, said Pamela Throop, broker and president of Alaska Commercial Properties Inc. She cited available space in Shoppers Forum, University Center and the first floor of the Sadler’s locale.

Court decision redefines wetlands, how Corps regulates them

In a 5-4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Jan. 9 that the Army Corps of Engineers had no jurisdiction to regulate fill of ponds on an Illinois landfill site. The decision has potentially far-reaching consequences for the Corps’ regulation of wetlands under the Clean Water Act.The property in question was a former sand and gravel pit on which ponded water had accumulated. A public agency purchased the property with the intention of filling the ponds. The Corps initially declined jurisdiction because the ponds did not qualify as "wetlands." However, an environmental group asserted the ponds are used by migratory waterfowl.Using its 1986 "Migratory Bird Rule," the Corps reasserted jurisdiction over the ponds because these constituted "waters of the United States." The rule states that waters that are or could be habitat for migratory birds crossing state lines become "waters of the United States."The Supreme Court disagreed. The court’s majority emphasized that the Clean Water Act regulates "navigable waters." Referring to an earlier decision, the court said that Congress intended to regulate some waters that are not navigable in a classical sense. That decision held that the Corps could regulate wetlands adjacent to actually navigable waters.However, the Jan. 9 decision found that the Corps’ "isolated waters" regulation as clarified in its "Migratory Bird Rule" exceeds the authority granted in the Clean Water Act.The Corps’ "isolated waters" and wetlands regulations are administrative interpretations of the Clean Water Act. Normally, the courts defer to administrative agencies in their interpretations of statutes. In the Jan. 9 decision, the court refused to do so.The court also declined to legitimize the Corps’ assertion that Congress has been aware of the Corps’ wetlands regulations for years and tacitly approved the rules.Most importantly, the court refused to endorse an expansive interpretation of the Clean Water Act that would trigger constitutional consequences under the Commerce Clause, saying it would alter "the federal state framework by permitting federal encroachment upon a traditional state power."The impact of the case is perhaps best expressed in Justice John Paul Stevens’ dissent: "In its decision today, the court draws a new jurisdictional line, one that invalidates the 1986 migratory bird regulation, as well as the Corps’ assertion of jurisdiction over all waters except for actually navigable waters, their tributaries, and wetlands adjacent to each."With those exceptions, the Corps’ wetlands regulatory program is at risk of being declared unlawful. The ramifications for Alaska are obvious, with thousands of acres of wetlands lying across the state.Due to the many environmental laws on the books, wetlands may still be regulated under other laws unaffected by the court’s Jan. 9 decision. For example, the Coastal Zone Management Act provides extensive authority for resource regulation. Also, the Clean Water Act allows states to condition or veto permit approval pursuant to state water quality considerations.In addition, wetlands may be classified as habitat for endangered species under the Endangered Species Act. Furthermore, state and local governments may regulate land use, including wetlands, pursuant to their police powers over real property generally. Finally, wetlands adjacent to waters that are navigable fall within the Corps’ jurisdiction.Reverberations are likely from the court’s Jan. 9 decision. The Corps of Engineers may issue interpretative guidance; property owners will seek determinations that wetlands regulations do not apply to their property; and environmental advocates may seek remedial legislation in Congress.Prior to the decision, the docket of regulatory takings cases filed in the United States Court of Federal Claims consisted largely of the Corps’ regulation of wetlands under the Clean Water Act. For those who believe Alaska’s land is over-regulated by the federal government, the decision is a breath of fresh air.For those who advocate responsible stewardship of resources, other environmental laws and authorities will have to be examined as a source of wetlands protection.Lawrence V. Albert is an Anchorage attorney in private practice specializing in natural resources and regulatory takings law. He can be reached via e-mail at ([email protected]).

If 'Survivor' wasn't enough, consider this show

In case you weren’t sure whether a stop should be put to reality television shows, now you will be. A recent classified advertisement appearing in a California legal newspaper announced that a television producer was seeking "Lawyers (ages 25-35) who are intelligent, outgoing, attractive, and have passed the California bar exam, to star in a reality law firm television program. Send resume, video, and recent photo. This is for real."God in courtMany lawyers think they have God on their side when they enter a courtroom, but one may actually be right about that.Defense attorney Mary Ross attended law school and practices law despite being a Catholic nun. She is now a staff attorney for Legal Aid Society in Hempstead, N.Y. "We’re all guilty of something, you know," she said in an interview.Her supervisor at Legal Aid says Sister Mary too often believes her clients’ stories.Lawyers still lowA Harris poll has measured the amount of prestige associated with various professions. Lawyers ended up toward the bottom of the list -- but not the very bottom! Only 19 percent of those participating in the survey said that the law provided "very great" prestige.That may make lawyers feel bad but not as bad as journalists and bankers may be feeling. Those two professions came in at 15 percent each. In last place were union leaders.By contrast, more than 50 percent of the survey participants associated "very great" prestige with doctors and scientists.’A’ for attorneysPersonal injury lawyers in Connecticut are competitive -- even when it comes to listings in the Yellow Pages. A lawsuit filed against Southern New England Telecommunications Corp. alleges that lawyers are being allowed to list themselves in the telephone directory out of alphabetical order.The suit sites the case of personal injury lawyer John Haymond who, instead of being listed with the H’s where a potential client’s fingers may never walk, is listed with the A’s under "Affordable Legal Services."Haymond’s name, however, comes after that of another lawyer who lists himself as "AAAAA" for "Accident Attorneys Always Affordably Available."FootnoteA Finnish man recently received a $71,400 fine for driving 40 mph in a 25 mph zone. The reason is that Finland bases such fines on income and the driver was Internet millionaire Jaakko Rytsola. Rytsola had previously received a $44,000 ticket for reckless driving.Have something to share with Out of Court? E-mail it to ([email protected]).

Air Force general to take reins

ANCHORAGE -- Patrick Gamble, a four-star general in the U.S. Air Force, has accepted the top job at the Alaska Railroad.Gamble, 55, was named Jan. 22 as the new president and chief executive officer by the railroad’s board of directors. He was head of the Air Force’s Alaska Command from 1996 to 1998 and is currently serving as Commander of all Air Forces in the Pacific.Gamble, who will make $176,000, takes over from former Gov. Bill Sheffield, who is retiring.Board chairman Johne Binkley said Gamble has a track record of managing large budgets and work forces and has specialized in the development of safety programs and strategic plans."General Gamble is committed to the Alaska Railroad’s vision to continually improve its safety, customer service and profitability," Binkley said in a statement.Gamble has participated in numerous formal safety programs and has convened six formal safety board investigations.Gamble and his wife live in Hawaii but had always hoped to return to Alaska. Gamble will take over his new duties in mid-March after his retirement from the Air Force becomes official.

Seafood testing, exotic species bills among those of interest to Alaska fishermen

Alaska lawmakers are already putting forth bills that are of interest to the fishing industry. For example, testing seafood for safety will become more timely and convenient if Gov. Tony Knowles’ request for a new laboratory is granted by Alaska lawmakers. House Bill 51 would authorize the State Bond Committee to issue the necessary paperwork for a lease-purchase agreement for a new facility with a maximum cost of $13.6 million. Currently, a single lab in Palmer tests shellfish and other foods from across Alaska."The laboratory facility is now outdated and woefully inadequate, and will have to relocate in any case when its current lease expires in the near future," Knowles wrote in a statement that accompanied the bill. The Legislature has previously approved design and planning funds for a new testing facility.Also, anyone who introduces an "exotic" species of fish into state waters could be hit with a fine of up to $50,000 if Rep. Andrew Halcro, R-Anchorage, has his way. Halcro has asked the House Special Committee on Fisheries to sponsor the proposal, referring to the continued spread of Northern pike and yellow perch in Southcentral.Pike were put into the waters more than 20 years ago and are voracious eaters of salmon, trout and other native species. More recently, yellow perch have been found in lakes on the Kenai Peninsula and further north. Halcro’s bill would fine a person from $10,000 to $50,000 per occurrence for releasing a nonindigenous species into public waters. The misdemeanor conviction could also result in a jail term for up to one year.The bill has the support of Alaska Department of Fish and Game Commissioner Frank Rue, who called the pike problem one of the biggest threats in sustaining stocks of salmon, trout, char and grayling in the area.According to the weekly report "Laws for the Sea," Rue noted that a variety of exotic fish beside pike or perch have been found in Southcentral waters. He said goldfish and koi, an Alaska blackfish that is not native to the Anchorage bowl, and one 12-inch specimen of a pacu, which he described as a "vegetarian relative of piranha" have been caught in recent years.More health newsA report in the Journal of the American Medical Association claims that eating fish can cut the risk of a stroke in half. Researchers at Harvard University’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital tracked the eating habits and medical records of nearly 80,000 women for 14 years. After taking age and smoking into account, they found that women who ate five portions of oily fish each week cut their risk of having a stroke by 52 percent.The study also found that eating just one portion of oily fish a week cuts the risk of stroke by 22 percent.The study reports that oily fish like mackerel, salmon and sardines contain omega-3 fatty acids, which are known to have a number of health benefits. Omega-3s are credited with slowing the growth of tumors, easing arthritis and asthma, promoting fetal brain development, boosting the immune system and slowing effects of Alzheimer’s disease.The study found that eating oily fish was particularly helpful in reducing thrombotic infarction, a type of stroke in which a blood clot blocks an artery in the brain.Seafood.com reports that the Harvard study is one of the first to provide definitive proof of a protective role for fish in cardiovascular disease. According to federal data, Americans eat only about 1.3 servings of any type of seafood each week.Fewer fatalitiesThe Coast Guard reports that 26 vessels and nine lives were lost last year, down from 32 boats and 17 lives lost in 1999. Overall, fires were blamed for the loss of 10 of the vessels, nine boats sank, and alcohol was a suspect in at least two losses. The decline in fatalities could be due in part to the postponement of the snow crab fishery from January to April, which reduced the havoc caused by winter storms.Kodiak-based free-lance writer Laine Welch can be reached by e-mail at ([email protected]).

Widening of Parks, Seward highways top list of state's summer road projects

State transportation Commissioner Joe Perkins laid out plans for a busy highway construction program this summer, speaking before the Resource Development Council in Anchorage on Jan. 25.One important project is widening the Parks Highway to four lanes all the way to Wasilla. Last year a $50 million interchange was completed at the intersection of the Parks and Glenn highways near Palmer. Widening the Parks to Wasilla will allow commuters there to drive all the way to Anchorage on wider highways without stops, Perkins said.The Parks will also be widened further north, from White Crossing to the Little Susitna River, Perkins said.He also said paving will continue this summer on the Dalton Highway, which connects Interior Alaska roads to the North Slope; about 33 miles of the 500-mile Dalton is now paved and another 40 miles will be paved this summer.Additional contracts for paving will be let this summer, enough to have 40 percent of the entire Dalton paved within a year or two, the commissioner told the RDC.He said that in addition, more work is planned this summer on the Seward Highway, including widening the road from Seward north for eight miles and around Moose Pass. A bypass will be built at Moose Pass, so that motorists can drive around rather than through the small community.A lot of work has been done on the Seward Highway in recent years. One major project the department is now working on, Perkins said, is relocating the highway away from a major avalanche exposure area between Indian and Girdwood. The highway will be moved toward the nearby Turnagain Arm shoreline.Last year major avalanches closed the highway for several days, and an Alaska Railroad employee was killed by slides.The Seward Highway has been designated as a scenic "All-American Highway" by the federal Department of Transportation, which makes it an important attraction for summer visitors.Perkins said that on the Sterling Highway, which connects Soldotna, Kenai and Homer with the Seward Highway, a future project involves relocating the highway away from the Kenai River around Cooper Landing.One big project that will be advertised for bid in late summer on the Glenn Highway is a new bridge to replace the existing one at Caribou Creek. This will be a $35 million to $40 million project, Perkins said.A lot of improvements have been made on the Glenn Highway, but one project in planning is relocating the highway in the vicinity of Long Lake, the commissioner said.Improvements are also planned on the Richardson Highway from Glennallen to Delta and on the Tok Cutoff from Gulkana to Tok. Some work will continue on the Alaska Highway from Fairbanks to the Canada border, but this road has seen a great deal of reconstruction in recent years and is now in good shape, Perkins said.He said a great deal of state and federally funded road improvement work is also planned for Anchorage, including widening Arctic Boulevard and the Old Seward Highway and extending the four-lane width on C Street from International Airport Road to Dimond Boulevard.A project in the planning stages is an overpass on Minnesota Boulevard at C Street, where there is now a stop light, Perkins said.The department faces an interesting dilemma of its own making here, the commissioner said. A few years ago, as a part of building Minnesota, an artificial pond was created that has now become home to wild ducks and geese.The pond is in the center of an established right of way, and must be removed, or moved, if an overpass is to be built. How to deal with the birds has now become a problem, Perkins said.In terms of maintenance, the state is doing better."I think we’re in the best shape we have been in for 10 to 12 years in maintenance, thanks to a decision by the federal government to allow us to spend federal dollars on road reconstruction," Perkins said.However, the $20 million in federal funds that the department is devoting to what is essentially major maintenance projects on roads could be used to build new projects if the Legislature were to increase state funds for maintenance, Perkins said.Overall, Alaska’s maintenance spending of state funds on a man-hour-per-miles basis is among the lowest in the nation. That is a result of 10 to 12 years of steady cutting of state road maintenance budgets, Perkins said."Our gasoline tax, at 8 cents per gallon, is the lowest in the nation. If we were to raise it to the national average -- 23 cents a gallon -- and dedicate these funds, as well as auto license and registration fees, we could fund our maintenance without any further appropriation from the Legislature," he said.

What to do when you fall ill abroad

Travel requires some mental toughness and physical fitness. When you travel across many different time zones, you need to be in extra good shape. So what if you become seriously ill or injured while traveling abroad? Here are some helpful tips to remember. International calling plan Enroll in an international calling plan before you leave home. Find the program that offers you access to international calls from any local phone. If you can use the program only from "international" phones, you may not be able to use it in need. Remember, the 800 toll- free number is of no use if you are calling from overseas. Emergency contact numbers Keep handy emergency phone numbers including local police, fire and the nearest U.S. consulate or embassy. Local consular offices can notify family members back home in the event of an emergency. They can also assist in the transfer of funds from the United States if needed. Insurance coverage Carry your health insurance card with you and check with the provider ahead of time to find out what types of medical services are covered while traveling abroad. Prescription drugs Medications should be kept in the original container with doctor’s name, item description, and so forth attached. Do not mix medications in the same container. When going through customs, a lack of a label may cause officials to question items as possible illegal substances. Also, know the generic name of any medications you are taking. You can’t stop from getting sick while you are traveling. However, the best protection is prevention. Here are some tips to stay healthy. Dollar bills Have enough dollar bills. Nothing is more frustrating than having a bunch of 20- or 50-dollar bills when you are in the need of dollar bills for tipping or for airport carts. Baggage claim is where many back injuries occur. It is a small price to pay for the cart or for the porter compared to injuries you may suffer for the rest of your life. Dehydration Push water through your system constantly while flying to avoid dehydration. Avoid alcohol and sodas with caffeine that can dehydrate you even more. Air in the passenger cabin is extremely dry. A lack of water can also cause constipation, which is more common than diarrhea when you travel. Take some fiber products to deal with this. Noise Do you realize how noisy it is inside the cabin when you are airborne? Noise is one of the top causes for fatigue and stress, whether you are traveling or not. Take some ear plugs or a noise desensitizer. Flying objects If you are seated on an aisle seat, be extra careful. Many people are injured from falling objects from the overhead compartments. Laptop computers are small, but are heavy enough to cause major injuries. This can happen any time during the flight, boarding or deplaning process. Have a safe and nice trip! Yoshi Ogawa is president of ITC Travel & Tours.

A landing strip for Santa?

NORTH POLE -- North Pole officials are studying options for a new airport or to purchase Bradley Sky Ranch in hopes of creating an alternate airport for general aviation users at Fairbanks International Airport."Two years ago we couldn’t even get the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) to acknowledge us. Today they are allowing us to put out an RFP (request for proposals) for a master plan," said Merle Jantz, chairman of the North Pole city transportation subcommittee.Jantz and eight other North Pole residents are studying options for a new airport or to purchase the aircraft facilities at the ranch and the 100 acres that go along with it.The facility’s 4,093-foot runway and 2,500-foot float pond have room for 100 tie-downs and an on-site aircraft maintenance business, but according to Jantz the airport’s current condition is questionable."Currently the airport is deteriorating and losing tie-down business," said Jantz, a pilot and former aircraft owner. "We hope to find an alternative or in Bradley’s legacy continue to improve the Sky Ranch."The RFP to develop a master plan for the airport will include several options, according to Jantz. And one of the options could be for North Pole to buy the airport."... One of the planning options could be to purchase the existing airport, but we are not leaning one way or the other," said Matt Freeman, a statewide airport planner for the FAA.A typical grant for an airport master plan costs from $250,000 to 350,000, with the FAA capable of providing up to 92.5 percent of the funding with the other 7.5 percent provided by the community or the State Department of Transportation and Public Facilities."The state can provide funding for this if the city decides not to fund it, and we may want to go this way," added Jantz.Bradley Sky Ranch has been embroiled in a family feud that had the heirs suing each other, although the intent of the airport’s namesake was to support his wife, Sophie Bradley, after the passing of Robert Bradley.The results of the lawsuits by the Bradley children eventually forced the court system to assign a conservator to handle Bradley Sky Ranch’s business.The court assigned Guardian Services to handle the airport assets and business, according to Jantz.Guardian Services referred all calls and information about the airport to Tom Manniello, an attorney with Borgesson and Burns of Fairbanks. Manniello did not return the Journal’s calls.The RFP is set to be opened in mid-February, according to Jantz. "We hope to get a start on this in the spring and have some answers to what we are going to do about an airport in the future."Several airports in the Tanana Valley have disappeared in the past 10 years. Phillips Field yielded to the Johansen Expressway, and Metro Field in the Van Horn Road industrial area in South Fairbanks is now closed, leaving little in the way of general aviation alternatives to Fairbanks International. Jantz also indicated that the gravel strip could be paved to attract more commercial operations."If the master plan indicates that we buy the Sky Ranch, we could offer an alternative to Fairbanks International for general aviation aircraft who have a radio failure or other restrictions that could keep them from using the airport’s airspace," Jantz said.North Pole, famous for the Santa Claus House and the mail stop for the winter cherub, may have an additional facility for a sleigh and reindeer."Perhaps we could call it Santa Claus International Airport," Jantz said.

Industry totals 15% of state's payroll

An economic survey of the petroleum industry’s impact on the state’s economy concludes that the industry and its contractors directly and indirectly contribute 15 percent of the state’s payroll and 8.3 percent of total employment.For communities in the state where petroleum employees live, and where producing company regional offices and contractors are located, the percentages are higher, according to the survey.In Anchorage, 16.2 percent of total payroll, or $740 million, comes from the industry, its contractors and suppliers. Some 16,323 jobs in the Municipality of Anchorage exist because of the industry, or 13 percent of total employment, the survey found.The percentage is even higher on the Kenai Peninsula, where 26 percent of the jobs and 36 percent of the payroll comes from industry activities, according to the survey. Kenai Borough communities play a major role in supporting Cook Inlet oil activities, and many petroleum contractors working on the North Slope are based on the peninsula.Brian Rogers of Fairbanks, who helped coordinate the project, said the petroleum industry’s economic impact in the state has been obscured because the data is reported in different ways by the state and federal agencies that monitor employment trends."Both the state and federal governments tend to blur the industry’s reach to the casual eye in their official economic reports," Rogers said. "Oil production is often referred to as ’mining,’ and oil refining may be folded into ’manufacturing’ without delineation. Pipeline operations are rolled into the broad category of ’transportation, communication and utilities.’ "The survey was conducted by Rogers’ firm, Information Insights of Fairbanks, and McDowell Group of Juneau. Both consulting firms have done previous regional economic studies of economic impacts of the Fort Knox gold mine, the University of Alaska and the petroleum industry in Fairbanks.The McDowell Group also has done studies of the tourism industry in Alaska over several years.The petroleum industry study included in-depth reviews of payroll and purchasing records of 13 companies responsible for oil production, transportation and refining, and reviews of payroll and purchasing records of contractors and suppliers to the industry.Excluded from the survey were the economic effects of state spending of petroleum revenues and Alaska Permanent Fund dividends paid to residents, which are from earnings of accumulated state oil and gas royalties paid into the fund.The industry and contractor participation was coordinated through the Alaska Oil and Gas Association, a trade association for oil producers, and the Alaska Support Industry Alliance, the association for oil-support contractors and service companies.Rogers said the statewide survey grew out of a similar study of the petroleum industry’s impact on the Fairbanks economy, also done by Information Insights and McDowell Group."That investigation provided surprises, findings that showed the industry’s role in the local economy has a far wider reach than was suspected," Rogers said.

Business Profile February 4, 2001

Name of the company: Criterion General Inc.Established: 1992Location: 816 Whitney Road, AnchorageTelephone: 907-277-3200Web site: www.criteriongeneral.comMajor focus of services: Criterion General Inc. provides general contracting services -- new construction or remodeling -- for commercial buildings. History of the company: Dan Austin founded the company in the early 1990s and eventually added an office in Montana. In 1995 Austin’s friend, Scott Johannes, left a painting company he had owned since 1983 to become a partner at Criterion General.By 1996 company officials decided to close the Montana office, and Austin left Criterion General to stay in Montana while Johannes became the sole owner. Today, Criterion General is owned by Johannes and Dave Paule.The company employs 30 to 50 people. This winter Criterion General expects to employ its peak number of workers to handle projects.Major projects: Criterion General has completed several projects across Alaska, including its largest project to date, the $7 million school in Kasigluk. In Anchorage the contractor has built the Land Rover dealership, the Salvation Army’s Serendipity Living Center and a 30,000-square-foot trucking facility for Carlile Enterprises Inc.Top accomplishment of the company: Criterion General President Scott Johannes is most proud of the firm’s ability to establish a good reputation with clients leading to repeat business or referrals. The contractor handles remodeling work for Phillips Alaska Inc.’s Anchorage office and builds branches for Alaska USA Federal Credit Union.Major player: Scott Johannes, president, Criterion General Inc.Johannes moved to Alaska in 1965 with his family. He later attended the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Wash., for a year before moving back to Alaska later starting the painting company."What makes our company is the group of people we’ve maintained. It’s the people who make it happen to get you where you’re at. ... Our whole philosophy is when you go into a project with the team of owners, architects and subcontractors, identify what you want to accomplish and work to get there. We enjoy what we do."-- Nancy Pounds

It's a new year, time to review finances

As we enter the new calendar year, it’s always a good time to consider your overall financial plan. Any review should include the four primary sections in every financial planner’s book: investment, insurance, retirement and estate. InvestmentThe latter part of 2000 provided a great reminder of what it means to have good, solid financial planning that includes discipline and diversity. Since October 1987, when the market crashed and then recovered instantly, stock return expectations have been out of whack.Not only do investors who lived through that ’80s cycle believe that a downturn is an opportunity to buy because the market immediately turns around, but the last five years have convinced investors that stock returns should grow 15-26 percent per year.Such returns don’t remotely resemble the historical average return for equities over a long period. Of course, a big part of this perception is a result of young investors who have experienced a market that had only gone up. Not only did the up-market cause normally conservative money managers to put more of their wealth into stocks, but also larger percent allocations in the sectors that seemed to have no upside boundary -- volatile technology stocks.There was no "plan" basis for this type of investing, just greed or "herd mentality." Re-evaluate your holdings, set realistic expectations for returns that provide a source of funds to meet future needs and stick with the plan.InsuranceReview your property, health and life insurance. Insurance should cover the catastrophe. Do you have every item insured that, if lost, would cause undue stress on your financial well being? Specifically, do you still need collision on your automobile and is the deductible right for your financial situation? Will insurance cover the replacement of your home?In the health area, I recommend coverage for the major situations, unless premiums are less than the cost of medications and/or doctor visits. Health insurance is one area that an annual review of benefits compared to costs can save you money.Check life insurance coverage. Has your situation changed in the past year -- an addition to family, change in job, change in cost of living, earnings capacity or net worth? Don’t forget to consider disability insurance. You are much more likely to become unable to perform your current job than to lose your life. How would your loss of income affect family lifestyle?RetirementYou are never too young to be considering your plans for this stage of life, even if currently it only pertains to setting aside earnings in a 401(k) or individual retirement account. Under what conditions would you like to leave your profession and when? Do you want to continue earning income in some capacity in this profession or another? Where would you like to live? What kind of lifestyle would you like?What amount of income will provide you the ability to do what you want to do? Are you closer to your retirement goal at yearend? If not, why not? What adjustments should be made?Estate planningThe one area of planning most likely to be neglected, but likely to have the greatest consequence on your family fortune is the estate plan. If you have a will that has been updated in the past few years based on your current family situation, you are more prepared than most. Be sure your family and the executor know where to find the will. Send a copy to a close relative, as well.If your estate exceeds the unified tax credit of $675,000 this year, including life insurance proceeds, or you have real property in more than one state, then you should consider having a trust, as well. If you don’t have a will, contact an estate attorney and get one. An estate attorney will meet with you to discuss your needs, and will quote you a price to provide the service required.The financial planning exercise requires some effort on your part to be effective. Begin by collecting information about your current situation. I would suggest completing a balance sheet for starters so you can see what you own, what you owe and your net worth.At the very least, bundle up your balance sheet, three years of tax returns, your current will and any trust documents, retirement account statements and insurance policies and go see a financial planner. Remember, if you don’t do anything, nothing will change.There are a number of certified financial planners in Anchorage that will assist you in your review. Some work for a fee, some make commission on selling you financial instruments and some do both. Interview each with an eye toward experience in their field, what others say about them and your comfort in talking with them.Ron Kukes is president of First Interstate Bank of Alaska.

State scientists urge federal Steller plan go back for improvement

Go back to square one and come up with a better plan, is the recommendation Alaska scientists are making to federal fish managers. At issue is the hotly disputed BiOp or biological opinion, on Steller sea lions, which states that commercial fisheries jeopardize recovery of the endangered animals. The document proposes "reasonable and prudent alternatives" that drastically curtail pollock, Atka mackerel and Pacific cod harvesting in the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska. The protective measures were scheduled to take effect this month, but last-minute congressional action delayed them by six months. "I’ve not read a document generated by an agency like the National Marine Fisheries Service before that had as many shortcomings as this BiOp," said state biologist Gordon Kruse, head of the Alaska Steller Sea Lion Restoration Team. In its six recommendations, the scientific review team states that the alternatives outlined in the BiOp are "not justified based on the data and analysis provided." The group notes that fishing closures in many areas were based on historical data that goes back three decades and recommends that contemporary data on present-day fisheries should be included in this analysis. The restoration team recommends delaying the implementation of an experimental management plan until "a better one has been developed," and states that any regulations in 2001 should be considered temporary. The NMFS has released its proposed emergency rules to the North Pacific Fishery Management Council in order that the fisheries can open on schedule. The basic rules would: * Prohibit all directed groundfishing within three miles of sea lion haul-outs. * Modify previous rules to allow up to 60 percent of the catch of pollock and cod to take place in the winter, rather than 40 percent. This is important because the valuable roe fishery takes place in the winter. * Reduce the Gulf of Alaska pollock catch quota by 10 percent. * Limit Bering Sea pollock catches within the conservation areas to the levels they were in 2000. * Close the critical habitat areas defined in the BiOp as of June 10, rather than immediately. This will provide more time to review the science behind the fishery closures and permit the NPFMC to suggest modifications. Fish and Alzheimer’s A new study in the U.S. journal "Lipids" claims that eating fish might ward off Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. The study, done on 70 test subjects at the University of Guelph at Toronto, found that Alzheimer’s sufferers all had lower levels of docosahexaenoic acid in blood samples than did elderly subjects with normal cognitive functioning. DHA and other omega-3 fatty acids are found in high concentrations in many fish species, including tuna, salmon and trout, and have been found to lower incidences of cardiovascular disease, depression and attention deficit disorder. "Our research suggests that the need to increase fish, fish products or other sources of omega-3 fatty acids in the diet of both the population at large and the elderly seems prudent. We should all be eating more fish," said team leader Julie Conquer. Fish shop attacked The Independent of London reported that fish and chips shops have become the latest target of animal rights activists. A letter bomb packed with nails exploded at a shop in North Wales, and it’s suspected that the perpetrators are members of the Animal Liberation Front. Previous targets have included animal testing laboratories. Robin Webb, spokesman for the ALF, said: "When one looks at the meat industry in this country ... there is what is supposed to be humane slaughter. With the fishing industry, there is no such thing. They are dragged out of the water into an alien environment in which they slowly die. There is no pretense of humane slaughter."  

Commission spends $40 million on utilities, economic projects

The Denali Commission, a state and federal agency formed to coordinate funding for rural Alaska infrastructure improvements, approved $40.5 million in projects at its Jan. 18 quarterly meeting in Juneau. The commission will have $65 million to spend overall this year. That is up from $40 million last year and $20 million the year before. Approved Jan. 18 was $18 million to Alaska Village Electric Cooperative, a utility serving small rural communities in Western Alaska, for improvements to electrical generation, bulk fuel storage and related equipment, as well as $7 million to the Alaska Energy Authority, a state agency, for utility and bulk fuel upgrades in other rural communities. Previously, money for rural energy and bulk storage projects was channeled through AEA, a commission spokesman said, but the direct grant to AVEC was made with the state’s agreement because the state energy agency has reached capacity in its ability to administer the projects. About $10 million was appropriated for improvements to rural health facilities. The money will be allocated according to a rural health primary needs assessment that was completed last year. Whether projects can get under way this summer will depend on whether permits and approvals from local communities can be secured. It’s possible that 10 rural health projects could be going this summer, either new construction or major upgrades. Two regional health facilities on the list are at St. Paul, in the Pribilof Islands, and at Metlakatla, an Indian reservation in Southeast Alaska. In both cases money from the Denali Commission will "jump-start" construction, allowing work to get under way so that other federal funds can be tapped. The commission also approved $4.5 million for rural economic development projects and $1 million for emergency medical equipment. Jeff Staser, federal co-chairman of the commission, said the group’s work is concentrated on nuts-and-bolts infrastructure in rural communities. "The work we’re doing is carrying out the vision of Sen. (Ted) Stevens, (R-Alaska), in creating the commission, that Alaskans work together to find the right solutions in creating rural infrastructure," Staser said. Stevens formed the commission through congressional action to coordinate federal program money for rural Alaska. It is modeled on the successful Appalachian Commission, which coordinates federal programs in poverty-stricken eastern U.S. states.  

This Week in Alaska Business History January 28, 2001

Editor’s note: "This Week in Alaska Business History" revisits events that shaped our past. "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." -- George Santayana, 1863-1952 20 years ago this week Anchorage Times Jan. 28, 1981 Prudhoe revenue estimated to be more than $1 trillion By John Knowlton Times Writer The oil and gas that will flow from Prudhoe Bay in its 36-year life span will cause a whopping $1.1 trillion to flow into the coffers of Alaska, say the federal government and the oil companies that own and produce the hydrocarbons. Nearly one-third of that mind-boggling sum, $327 billion, will go into Alaska’s treasury in the form of oil industry income taxes, severance taxes and royalties. By way of comparison, that would be about $817,500 per man, woman and child in Alaska if the state were to pass the money directly to residents. The $327 billion figure also is enough to operate state government for more than 100 years at the level proposed for next fiscal year by Gov. Jay Hammond. Anchorage Times Jan. 29, 1981 Greater role urged in marketing state seafood The Associated Press JUNEAU -- Alaska’s fish harvest has more than doubled over the past six years, but marketing efforts have not kept pace with the increased production, lawmakers were told Wednesday. Marketing problems are the single biggest handicap facing the state’s fishing industry, Rodger Painter, executive director of the United Fishermen of Alaska, told the Senate Resources Committee during a briefing on fisheries. State investment in fish marketing is a wise investment, Painter said, because fish will be around until long after the state’s oil wealth is depleted. The seafood industry is now the state’s largest private employer, added Painter, who heads the state’s biggest fisherman’s organization. ... Pointer strongly urged long-term legislative financing of the Alaska Marketing Institute, which is now working under a $1.2 million loan from the Alaska Renewable Resources Corp. to develop markets. 10 years ago this week Alaska Journal of Commerce Jan. 28, 1991 Oil giants list plans for 1991 By the Alaska Journal of Commerce BP Explorations (Alaska) Inc. has earmarked a capital budget of slightly more than $575 million for 1991, for plans including a much-accelerated well-fracturing program, a top BP official says. Most of the budget increase, up about $150 million from 1990, is due to preliminary work on GHX-2 and to add a fourth drilling rig at Prudhoe and a second at Kuparuk, said Julian R. Darley, president of BP Exploration (Alaska) Inc. "It’s difficult to be precise at this point of the year, but it appears we’ll be spending between $250 million and $300 million of our capital budget in Alaska, with drilling being the biggest single component," Darley said Jan. 19 in a speech before the "Meet Alaska" conference sponsored by Alaska Support Industry Alliance. Alaska Journal of Commerce Jan. 28, 1991 Dock gets closer look By the Alaska Journal of Commerce A multipurpose dock planned for the end of Ship Creek Point will get more scrutiny from Anchorage officials after a study that seriously questions the economic feasibility of the dock. "Based on cost estimates and additional engineering that had to be done, we have found there is a significant increase in that part of the project," said Ed McMillan, head of the city’s department of public works. "If we can go ahead, we are going to have to appropriate additional money, and from what the report has told us, I seriously doubt we are going ahead with that portion of the project." Three years ago, city residents approved a $7.5 million bond issue to help finance the project. -- Compiled by Ed Bennett.  

Babbitt postpones Beaufort Sea Lease Sale 176

Former Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt announced Jan. 18 that he has deferred proposed oil and gas Lease Sale 176 in the Beaufort Sea with one day left before he was to leave office. The sale originally was scheduled for early 2002.The decision to defer the lease sale was based upon insufficient time to complete a thorough review of an environmental analysis, Babbitt said. Areas under consideration for Lease Sale 176 are adjacent to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, near Teshekpuk Lake and in areas of Alaska Native interest.Potential impacts to these sensitive areas need a thorough scientific review, Babbitt said. According to the Department’s current 5-year leasing plan, the environmental analysis process needed to conclude prior to June 30, 2002.Although this planning area will not be included in the current schedule, it will be available for leasing consideration by the incoming administration in its preparation of a new 5-Year Program for the period beginning July 2002 and ending July 2007.

Movers & Shakers January 28, 2001

Alaska Association of Housing Authorities’ members have elected Blake Kazama as president. Kazama is executive director of the Tlingit-Haida Regional Housing Authority of Juneau. Kazama will serve a one-year term as head of the professional organization that represents the state’s 14 housing authorities. Max Garner has become a member of the firm of Birch, Horton, Bittner & Cherot. Garner joined the firm as an associate in 1999 and has been practicing law in Alaska since 1990. Garner’s practice focuses on commercial and construction litigation. Peter Nosek has joined Birch, Horton, Bittner & Cherot as an associate. Nosek has been practicing law in Anchorage since 1995. Nosek’s practice focuses on general litigation with emphasis on representation of management in employment-related matters. The 2001 Special Olympics Alaska board of directors has elected Paul Landes, vice president of marketing for General Communication Inc., as president. Other members elected to the 2000 executive committee include: president-elect, Mike Flanigan, director of sales and marketing for the Hotel Captain Cook; treasurer, Cynthia Matson, associate vice chancellor of budget and finance for the University of Alaska Anchorage; secretary, Rebecca Logan, owner of O’Brady’s Burgers & Brew; and immediate past president, Scott Miller, a partner of KPMG LLP. Newly selected directors include: Mary Jane Michael, chief executive of Anchorage Neighborhood Housing Services; Michael Porcaro, owner of Porcaro Communications; Michael Koropp, orthodontist; and Kathleen Shepro, administrative coordinator for the UAA College of Arts and Sciences. Landye Bennett Blumstein LLP has hired Kevin J. Anderson as a new associate at its law firm’s Anchorage office. Anderson has more than 14 years of experience, and has spent five years as an attorney with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. in San Francisco and Washington, D.C. Anderson’s practice focuses on business formations and transactions, real estate acquisition and development, and bankruptcy, collections and foreclosures. The Challenger Learning Center of Alaska has chosen Steve Horn as its first executive/program director. Horn will oversee the dissemination of Challenger programs statewide including the Alaska Distance Learning Program. Horn most recently was employed by Wells Fargo Home Mortgage and has more than 20 years experience working in the private and public sectors. The Anchorage Estate Planning Council has elected Allen Bingham president. Bingham, a certified public accountant with Mikunda, Cottrell & Co., is an accredited estate planner. Other officers include vice president, Brian Durrell, attorney; treasurer, Tonja Woelber, attorney and Jill Reitz, trust officer at First National Bank. Jay-r Kalugin has joined SprocketHeads as animator and text designer. Kalugin is spearheading the firm’s new animation and text design department. Kalugin most recently worked as technical director and animator for Technoids, and previously worked for Aadland Advertising as a production artist. Era Aviation has hired Philip Bray as its director of fixed wing operations. Bray will oversee all fixed wing aircraft and flight crew operations for Era. Bray retired from the U.S. Army and since November 1997, has held positions in the aviation industry similar to his new appointment. Chester Troxel has been promoted to director of maintenance, rotor wing division. Troxel has 19 years experience in aviation maintenance and has worked for Era since 1989. Realty Executives, an Anchorage-based company, has added Jeff Glaser to its commercial real estate staff. Glaser has a background in advertising and marketing, including nine years of sales experience and eight years in various management positions. Kyle W. Parker of Patton Boggs LLP has been elected to the partnership. Parker is a member of the public policy practice group and concentrates his practice in environmental law and litigation. Parker formerly served as State of Alaska assistant attorney general of the oil, gas and mining section.  

Lowe's to add South Anchorage store

Officials from Lowe’s Home Improvement stores have purchased property in South Anchorage and plan to begin building the retailer’s second Anchorage store this spring. The Wilkesboro, N.C.-based chain completed its acquisition Jan. 9 of 21.5 acres at the southwest corner of the Old Seward Highway and O’Malley Road, said company spokeswoman Suzanne McCoy. "We anticipate construction could begin in May," she said. The store is expected to open in January 2002, she said. A new $15-million Lowe’s store should total about 150,000 square feet, including 28,000 to 30,000 square feet for a lawn and garden center, McCoy said. Stores of this size typically employ 175 to 200 people with 85 percent of those employees working full time, she said. Loyal customers at the current store prompted the company to consider a second store in the market, she said. This store will be the first Alaska Lowe’s designed after company models, she noted. Lowe’s acquired Eagle Hardware and Garden, including its Midtown Anchorage store, in April 1999. After the acquisition, Lowe’s made alterations to Eagle stores. "For Lowe’s it’s an opportunity to have a Lowe’s prototype store in the market," she said. Lowe’s prototype stores are designed to look less like a warehouse store and feature wide aisles and bright lights, McCoy said. The stores also include a home decor section with specialists who can assist in design, she said. Competitor Home Depot, based in Atlanta, also plans to build its second Anchorage store this year in East Anchorage. Construction could begin this year and the store could open in late 2001. The new Anchorage retailer will weigh in at 133,000 square feet and include a 15,000-square-foot garden center. Alaska Sales and Service buys Wasilla dealership Anchorage-based car dealership Alaska Sales and Service has purchased Valley Pontiac /GMC in Wasilla. The deal, completed Jan. 1, allows the 56-year-old dealership to build a presence in the fast-growing Matanuska-Susitna valleys market, company officials said. "We’re the oldest dealership in Alaska, and we have many customers in the Valley," said Alaska Sales and Service general manager Diana Pfeiffer. "It is going to allow us to work more closely with customer relationships we do have as well as develop new ones." The purchase permits Alaska Sales and Service to sell Pontiac and GMC vehicles in the Wasilla area, she said. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. The acquisition includes a three-acre lot at Mile 38.5 of the Parks Highway, plus assets and inventory. Alaska Sales and Service plans to continue employing existing staff, Pfeiffer said. Existing personnel at the Wasilla dealership total 30 full-time staff, said Lynn Harriman, general sales manager in Wasilla. "As we grow the business we’ll probably have more employees," said Harriman, who has worked 20 years for Alaska Sales and Service. Valley Pontiac/GMC now operates as Alaska Sales and Service Inc. - Wasilla.  

Japan interested in Alaska's natural gas, tourism, official says

Alaska’s relationship with Japan, the state’s largest trading partner, holds much promise for the future, but also some areas of concern.Consul-General Yoshinori Tsujimoto of Japan offered that assessment Jan. 10 at an international forum of the World Trade Center Alaska. Tsujimoto, who is completing three years as Japan’s consul-general in Alaska, said the state’s natural resources continue to offer important trade opportunities, but maximizing those opportunities will require mutual trust and understanding.Japan is now coming out of an economic tailspin it entered during the 1990s, particularly in its financial and construction industries. Looking ahead to 2010, Tsujimoto said Japan faces serious challenges, including a slowly recovering economy, a rapidly aging society and a declining population. In 2015, for example, 25 percent of Japan’s population will be 65 or older. That compares with only 12 percent of the U.S. population entering that age group that year.For Japan to resume growing at a projected 2 percent average annual rate, most economists say there is no quick fix. Instead, the country must use technology and deregulation to enhance its competitiveness and increase productivity, Tsujimoto said."In much the same way, Alaska must become proactive in promoting its economic growth," he observed.The existing Japan-Alaska trade relationship cannot be taken for granted, the consul-general explained. Japan is Alaska’s largest trading partner, purchasing 51 percent of the state’s exports. But Alaska products represent only 0.4 percent of Japan’s overall imports, which means Alaska is one of many trade options for Japan, he said.Alaska’s large trade sectors of seafood and timber appear to be losing ground for various reasons, including competition from farm-raised fish and regulations that restrict or prohibit harvesting. Alaska’s energy, minerals and tourism sectors, however, have potential for significant growth, Tsujimoto said.Japan needs to reduce its 87 percent dependence on Middle East crude oil imports, and natural gas could be substituted as a cleaner, more efficient energy source, Tsujimoto said."Developing Alaska natural gas is important to Japan," he said. He noted that an international consortium is now working on a trans-Alaska natural gas pipeline project that would export gas as liquefied natural gas, and a Japanese trading company is a member of that consortium.Tsujimoto also said the route following the Alaska Highway that Gov. Tony Knowles recently endorsed for construction of a gas pipeline to ship raw gas to the Lower 48 "doesn’t seem to conflict" with the consortium’s plans to market Alaska gas as liquefied natural gas in Asia.That’s because a spur could be built to transport natural gas to Valdez or Nikiski, where it would be converted into LNG and exported to Asia."In 2010, if Alaska natural gas is to be exported to Japan, it could have nothing but a positive effect on the Japan-Alaska relationship," Tsujimoto said.In hard-rock mining, Tsujimoto said Sumitomo Ltd. has invested in the Pogo gold mine southeast of Fairbanks. "The success of Pogo could encourage additional mineral development in Alaska," he said.Tourism also should continue to flourish because "Alaska’s beautiful wildlife and landscapes are fascinating to the Japanese people," Tsujimoto said. "Direct flights between Anchorage and Japan will play a key role in making Japan-Alaska tourism flourish," he said. "Direct flights could double existing numbers of visitors by 2010."Because interpersonal relationships are a fundamental part of Japanese society, Japan-Alaska trade can flourish only if ongoing cultural interaction between members of both communities are nurtured.Toward that end, the Consulate General of Japan announced the formation of the Japan-American Society of Alaska in November 2000. The society is a private, nonprofit, nonpartisan organization established to improve communications and enhance commercial, educational and cultural relations between Japan and Alaska.

HeathSouth hosts Games clinic

HealthSouth’s diagnostic center in Anchorage will host a medical care clinic for the 2001 Special Olympics World Winter Games. The clinic at 4001 Lake Otis Parkway will be staffed around the clock Feb. 28 through March 12.The event runs March 4-11, drawing an expected 2,750 athletes and coaches from 69 nations for several winter events.The Games Organizing Committee also will offer a communications network for sharing medical information between the venues and the clinic. A base radio, telephone and fax will allow the clinic at HealthSouth to maintain constant communication with the sites. Computers at the clinic and venues will have access to the network with instant access to all athlete medical records.HealthSouth and Providence Alaska Medical Center are donating medical supplies for the event.About 600 medically-trained volunteers will donate more than 20,000 hours during the event. Medical stations at 10 athlete villages will be staffed 24 hours a day, and medical personnel will be on site at all competition and non-competitive venues.

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