UA, industry come together, develop course to train Alaskans for jobs in Alaska

Something like half the workers at the Tesoro Alaska Co. refinery in Nikiski are in their 40s and 50s, said plant manager Rod Cason. When they retire, Tesoro will need qualified replacements. That is the sort of need to be filled by a new two-year degree program an industry coalition has arranged with the University of Alaska -- including the Soldotna campus of Kenai Peninsula College."I don’t need to tell you how important it is to have our own people hired for jobs," Holly Norwood, manager of quality control and operations analysis, told the North Peninsula Chamber of Commerce on Feb. 8."I am very interested in making sure Alaskans get hired for Alaska jobs."The university’s process technology program is part of a work force development and renewal program developed by the Alaska Process Industry Career Consortium, which includes partners from the oil and gas, mining and power generation industries, education, government, labor and communities.Norwood said the consortium and the Mining and Petroleum Training Service worked with the university to develop a curriculum that supplements existing petroleum technology, instrumentation and electronics education programs.The process technology program, taught at the university’s Soldotna, Anchorage and Fairbanks campuses, covers topics from pumps and turbines to instrumentation, safety and quality control. It leads to a two-year associate of applied science degree. Norwood teaches a course titled Introduction to Process Technology.She said industry no longer can afford on-the-job training."Development of the computer and advanced technology go hand-in-hand," she said. "Competitive efficiency has become an issue. He who has the best-trained workers is going to be able to make their widgets cheaper."A decade ago, workers simply came and did their jobs, Norwood said.Today, "the worker has to be very knowledgeable about yield structure and how that affects the bottom line," she said.In addition, complex environmental and safety regulations took effect beginning in the early 1990s, and those have produced the need for a more sophisticated work force, Norwood said. She expects that to show in the quality of the workers required for new facilities, such as the experimental gas-to-liquids plant BP is building in Nikiski."You have to have an education in multiple disciplines, plus the environmental and safety ramifications of every decision made," she said.Norwood said she expects 24 students to graduate from the KPC program in December. By May 2002, another 30 graduates will be available, she said. BP already has been quizzing members of the present class at KPC to see how much they have learned.Jack Brown, who represents Nikiski on the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly, praised the program."I have heard from a lot of companies that there aren’t enough trained Alaskans. This will really fill a void," he said.Cason said the training program will bring big benefits."Even with contractors for turnaround (the periodic overhaul and maintenance at the refinery), we end up bringing in people just out of high school that don’t have a lot of training," he said. "This will give those guys some background. They’ll know what an exchanger or a tower is before they show up."The process technology program cannot turn out graduates too quickly.Norwood said Tesoro will need 330 workers for the turnaround scheduled this spring. Some must have skills not available here, but 243 workers could be hired locally.However, Tesoro estimates that construction of the BP gas-to-liquids plant could require 250 workers, and turnaround at the liquefied natural gas plant Phillips Petroleum Co. operates in Nikiski could require 50 workers. Add Tesoro’s need, and the demand is for 543 workers.Tesoro estimates there are just 200 qualified workers available locally.Those are just rough estimates, Norwood said. However, they suggest the industry may have to look elsewhere to fill several hundred peninsula jobs."Tesoro will request workers from contract suppliers," she said.Don Schreiner, Cook Inlet manager for VECO Construction Inc., said VECO can import workers from other parts of the state if necessary.Mark Nelson, president of Alaska Petroleum Contractors, said APC could do the same. But even when APC built processing equipment for the Alpine oil field, it was surprising how much qualified labor was available on the Kenai Peninsula, he said.

Building in the Valley

Problems at Port MacKenzie are causing the new managers of the state’s fastest growing borough to take a step back. Four months ago the Matanuska-Susitna Borough experienced a clean sweep. It now has a new borough mayor, three new assembly members and a new borough manager who all say the honeymoon was a lot shorter than they had hoped. The first sign of trouble came from the very place the previous administration placed the bulk of its energy: Port MacKenzie. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced in November that core samples from the port showed a lack of structural stability. Borough Manager John Duffy said another set of samples is being analyzed by the Corps right now. "The Corps of Engineers told us that initial samples showed the port could not withstand a moderate to large earthquake. The port was supposed to be built strong enough to handle such natural disasters and remain economically viable." Last month the Corps told the borough that its most recent samples suggest that the port is sitting on unstable clays that may be creating a "failure in progress." The report went on to say that the Corps recommends limited use of the port until the investigative team has had a chance to complete its investigation.

Shellfish farmers complain they were locked out of hearing; panel to investigate

State fish managers are taking heat from shellfish farmers and being investigated by the Legislature’s joint Administrative Regulation Review Committee. According to the weekly publication "Laws for the Sea," Rep. Lesil McGuire of Anchorage said the committee will research complaints from persons and groups that they were not allowed to testify via teleconference at department hearings on shellfish regulations.Others said they traveled to Anchorage for the hearing "only to find the doors locked."Farmers have for years criticized state fishery managers’ handling of shellfish farming applications, especially those for giant geoduck clams, both for their slow progress and policy decisions.Ketchikan-based Alaska Trademark Shellfish and other farm applicants sued the department last year for "outrageous and offensive" actions relating to its permit application and policy development decisions. The suit sought $600,000 in damages, but was dropped when the department agreed to complete the permit process on a specified schedule last year. Deadly raysCod spawn in relatively deep water, but their larvae then float near the surface. According to, researchers now believe that at this surface level, the tiny fish are vulnerable to the effects of ultraviolet radiation.Zoologist Michael Lesser at the University of New Hampshire found in lab experiments that 90 percent of Atlantic cod larvae died within 12 days of exposure to UVA and UVB radiation, whereas exposure to UVA radiation alone resulted in 61 percent mortality."These levels of UVB radiation occur at seven to 12 meters in Gulf of Maine waters, where cod embryos and larvae are known to develop," Lesser said.About 99 percent of juvenile cod are thought to be eaten by predators before they can reproduce. Lesser argues that the survival rate could be even lower if rising UV radiation levels are included in the calculation.He believes this "byproduct of ozone depletion and global warming" may be one reason why cod have been so slow to recover in the Northwest Atlantic.Earlier this year, researchers at Britain’s Center for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science also found a link between rising surface temperatures in the North Sea and reduced survival rates of young cod. The number of young cod dying in the waters off Nova Scotia has also doubled in the last 10 years, with no definitive explanation.Cod farmingMore fishermen in Newfoundland are turning to cod farming to make up for slashed quotas. The fishermen are catching cod in the summer and holding them in ocean cages for 100 days while feeding them capelin, herring and mackerel. Once the fish have grown to three times their original weight, they are brought to market.According to the Newfoundland and Labrador Development Corp., grow-out operations in Newfoundland in 1999 sold about 105 tons, or about 230,000 pounds, of cod. Last year, the weight approached 200 tons, or 440,000 pounds.Fishermen initially feared the grow-out industry as a threat to the wild fishery. But when a cod moratorium hit in 1992 and the government began grow-out programs, the industry started to gain acceptance. The training program was available only to fishermen affected by declines in the cod stocks.Jerry Ward, assistant deputy minister for Fisheries and Aquaculture in Newfoundland, expects interest in cod farming to escalate as the industry becomes more sophisticated. There were seven operations in 1999, 18 last year, and there are currently 60 grow-out permits in the province.Observers expect that there will be further development in the industry as the Newfoundland and Labrador Development Corp. invests in egg-to-market facilities in the region. Sea lion studiesInformation from recently completed or ongoing research on Steller sea lions has been compiled for the Alaska Steller Sea Lion Restoration Team by state biologist Lorrie Rea.The following entry focuses on predation by killer whales: "Killer whales have been observed to attack sea lions. The stomach of a dead killer whale that washed ashore in Prince William Sound in the summer of 1992 contained flipper tags from 14 Steller sea lions."A study led by Lance Barrett-Lennard (University of British Columbia) sought to determine whether killer whale predation could significantly affect sea lion numbers. The authors conclude that killer whales did not cause the sea lion decline, but may now be a significant contributing factor."The model suggests that as many as 18 percent of the sea lions that die each year in Alaska are taken by killer whales. What is killing the other 82 percent of the missing Steller sea lions remains unanswered."Kodiak-based free-lance writer Laine Welch can be reached by e-mail at ([email protected]).

Bush foresees 'a lot of selling' to open ANWR to oil drilling

WASHINGTON -- To win the centerpiece of his energy plan, President Bush will have to change some minds among seven Republican senators who staunchly oppose oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. That’s in addition to penetrating an almost solid wall of Democratic opposition, plus counteracting intense lobbying from environmentalists who have made protection of the refuge their top priority, people on both sides of the issue agree. "We’ve got a lot of selling to do," the president acknowledged recently. Bush, a former oilman, has made drilling in ANWR the focus of his campaign to boost domestic energy production, arguing that drilling and wildlife preservation can go hand in hand. But some members of the president’s own party have made clear their distaste for exploitation of the refuge. Republican Sen. Bob Smith of New Hampshire is among the lawmakers bracing for a high-powered pitch from the White House. He says he won’t be swayed. "I’m trying to change their minds," he said in an interview. A Republican energy bill, scheduled for introduction this month in the Senate, will include, as its core proposal, development of the refuge’s 1.5 million acre coastal plain. Geologists believe as much as 11 billion barrels of crude oil may be beneath the surface there. Democrats already have indicated they’re prepared to filibuster, if necessary, on any legislation that includes the refuge issue. "It’s kryptonite and will kill the energy bill," predicts Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore. Congress set aside ANWR’s coastal plain for protection 41 years ago. Oil companies have been lobbying to gain access to the tundra starting about 60 miles east of the Prudhoe Bay oilfields ever since. Environmentalists view it as a national treasure not to be disturbed, citing the annual migration of caribou and numerous species of birds to the area along the Beaufort Sea. While Bush’s victory in November gave new impetus to lifting the congressional ban, Senate elections the same day made it more difficult. Six Republicans and one Democrat who favored development of the refuge either lost their bids for re-election or retired. Two of them -- Attorney General John Ashcroft and Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham -- are now part of the Bush Cabinet. All seven were replaced by Democrats opposed to drilling. On the other hand, all but one of the eight anti-drilling Republicans are back, showing little sign of shifting sides. Along with Smith, they are Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine, James Jeffords of Vermont, Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, Peter Fitzgerald of Illinois and Richard Lugar of Indiana. The lone GOP drilling opponent who lost -- Delaware’s William Roth -- was defeated by a Democrat with the same stance. Only in Nevada and Virginia did the pro-drilling forces make gains with the election of two GOP senators -- John Ensign and George Allen -- who are likely to be in their camp. Three Democratic senators have made clear their support for developing the refuge: Daniel Inouye and Daniel Akaka, both of Hawaii, and John Breaux of Louisiana. Last year, pro-drilling forces won a narrow 51-49 symbolic vote on drilling in the refuge as part of a budget bill. With the changes produced by last November’s election, that vote now would be 54-46 against drilling. Public attitudes, according to various surveys, indicate voters prefer that the Alaska refuge be protected. A recent poll by The Associated Press showed 53 percent of those responding were against oil drilling there, while 33 favored development. "I don’t think the case has been made," said Collins, the Maine senator, in an interview. "We need to look at other ways to increase production and conserve more energy and develop alternative energy sources." Sen. Frank Murkowski, R-Alaska, who will guide energy legislation through the Senate and for years has been a staunch advocate for drilling in the refuge, says he thinks he can win some anti-drilling senators to his side.  

O'Malley's remodels its dining room

Alyeska Resort, owner of O’Malley’s on the Green, has completed renovations of the banquet facility at the Anchorage Golf Course.Most of the work called for remodeling the 3,100-square-foot dining room, which will allow more flexibility for meetings, said Alyeska Resort spokeswoman Cella Baker. The remodeling removed multilevel areas and increased diners’ view of Mount McKinley, she said.Other renovations included new carpeting and paint for other banquet rooms.The project cost at least $30,000, and the Municipality of Anchorage is sharing expenses to support the adjacent Anchorage Golf Course, she said.Work, which began in late November, was completed in early January, she said.The upgrades help prepare the facility for the winter banquet season, she said. O’Malley’s on the Green hosts golf tournaments which will also benefit from the remodeling, she said.Alaska Club expandsOperators of The Alaska Club recently completed an expansion of the South Anchorage exercise facility. The $4 million expansion added 22,000 square feet to the existing 17,000-square-foot building, company officials said.The Alaska Club South project featured a five-lane, 25-yard lap pool plus an attached wading pool and waterslide. The expansion also added a climbing wall, a full-size gym, youth lounge, a Nautilus Express circuit, a co-ed whirlpool bath, family locker rooms and expanded adult locker rooms and cardio area.The facility, located at 10931 O’Malley Centre Drive, is one of eight exercise facilities owned by The Alaska Club in Anchorage, Eagle River ad Wasilla.

Calendar February 18, 2001

Confabs The Association of Information Technology Professionals is sponsoring a Basic Java Programming class from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Feb. 19-23 at the University of Alaska Anchorage Diplomacy Building, Room 420. The cost is $1,200. Registration is required. For more information, contact Debi Smith at 907-248-3580. The University of Alaska Anchorage Procurement Technical Assistance Center and the Associated General Contractors of Alaska are sponsoring a Build Alaska Series workshop entitled "Bonding" from 8:30 a.m. to noon Feb. 20 at the AGC office, 4041 B St. Insight on obtaining bonding capacity required to perform federal contracts will be given. A Build Alaska series workshop entitled "Cost Estimating" is scheduled from 1:30 to 5 p.m. Feb. 20 at the same location. Each workshop costs $60 for members and $75 for others. For registration, call 907-561-5354. The Mat-Su Borough Small Business Development Center and Carney & Associates are offering a seminar entitled "Payroll 101" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Feb. 20 at the SBDC office, 201 N. Lucille St., Suite 2-A, Wasilla. The fee is $30. Registration is required. For more information, call 907-373-7232. The Alaska Hospitality & Food Service Expo is slated for Feb. 20-21 at Egan Civic & Convention Center in Anchorage. The event features exhibits, demonstrations and workshops about new technology and equipment, food and beverage products and industry trends. For additional details, call 907-277-7469. The Greater Fairbanks Chamber of Commerce is holding a new chamber member orientation at 11 a.m. Feb. 20 at the Westmark Fairbanks. The general membership luncheon follows the chamber overview and networking opportunity at noon. Gov. Tony Knowles is the featured speaker. The luncheon cost is $11.25. For more information, call 907-452-1105. The Anchorage Chamber of Commerce human resource brown bag lunch is scheduled for noon Feb. 20 at the chamber office, 441 W. Fifth Ave. Bill Evans, a labor and employment attorney for Dorsey & Whittney LLP, will provide an overview of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s new ergonomics standard. The cost for members is $5 and $10 for others. For additional information, call 907-272-2401 or visit ( The Greater Soldotna Chamber of Commerce is holding its weekly meeting at noon Feb. 20 at the Riverside House, 44611 Sterling Highway. Chuck Pierce, vice president of Unocal Alaska Oil & Gas, is the scheduled speaker. For more information, call 907-262-9814. The Greater Wasilla Chamber of Commerce is holding its Must Be Tuesday luncheon program at noon Feb. 20 at the Mat-Su Resort, 1850 Bogard Road. Rob Shoaf, Alaska State Chamber of Commerce chairman, will provide a state chamber update. Program fees are $3 for members and $5 for others. For more information, call 907-376-1299. The Homer Chamber of Commerce is holding its monthly luncheon at noon Feb. 20 at the Homer Elks. Tina Lindgren, president and chief operating officer, and Anne Adasiak, director of member services, both from the Alaska Travel Industry Association, will discuss the benefits and services of the statewide program. For more information, call 907-235-7740. The Kenai Peninsula Small Business Development Center is sponsoring a seminar on developing a business plan from 1-4 p.m. Feb. 20 at the Kenai Peninsula College Kachemak Bay campus in Homer. The fee is $15. For more information, call 907-262-7497. The Alaska Women’s Resource Center board of directors is holding its regular monthly meeting at 5:30 p.m. Feb. 20 at 813 D St. The meeting is open to the public. For more information, call 907-279-6316. The Northwest Arctic Borough and the North Slope Borough are presenting the 2001 Arctic Economic Development Summit entitled "Together: Shaping and Sharing Our Future" from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Feb. 21-22 at the Piuraagvik Center in Barrow. The conference combines rural and urban audiences, and addresses future development issues. For registration or more information, call 907-852-0200. The Mat-Su Borough Small Business Development Center is offering free Internal Revenue Service counseling Feb. 21. Counseling is by appointment only. For details or an appointment, call 907-373-7232. The Alaska Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America is holding a luncheon program about planning and managing a successful news conference from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Feb. 21 at the 4th Avenue Theater. Virginia McKinney, National Education Association-Alaska communications director, and Heather Seacrist, KTUU Channel 2 News anchor and producer, are scheduled speakers. For reservations, call 907-566-0717. The Chugiak-Eagle River Chamber of Commerce is scheduling its luncheon forum at noon Feb. 21 at the North Slope Restaurant, 11501 Old Glenn Highway. Jeff Pokorny, Anchorage Economic Development Corp. research director, will present an economic forecast. For reservations, call 907-694-4702. The Crime Prevention and Safety Committee of the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce is holding an informal brown bag seminar on "Loss Prevention" at noon Feb. 21 at the chamber office, 441 W. Fifth Ave. Kim Castle of Wal-Mart will give a presentation on making businesses less vulnerable to shoplifting and petty theft. For more information, call 907-272-2401. The Kenai Chamber of Commerce is holding its weekly meeting at noon Feb. 21 at the Old Town Village Restaurant, 1000 Mission Ave. Jennifer Beckmann of Central Area Rural Transit System Inc. is the scheduled speaker. For more information, call 907-283-7989. The Greater Palmer Chamber of Commerce is holding its weekly meeting at noon Feb. 21 at the Palmer Moose Lodge, 1136 S. Cobb St. Mollie Boyer of Valley Community for Recycling Solutions is the scheduled speaker. The cost is $9. For additional information, call 907-745-2880. The University of Alaska Anchorage Procurement Technical Assistance Center is sponsoring a free workshop entitled "Meet the Prime: Kiewit Construction Co." from noon to 1 p.m. Feb. 21 at the Anchorage Small Business Development Center, 430 W. Seventh Ave. Shawn Lannen, area manager of Keiwit Construction, will discuss what types of subcontracting are routinely procured to include published purchasing plans, current and upcoming projects for 2001 and projected purchasing schedules. For registration, call 907-274-7232. The University of Alaska Fairbanks Small Business Development Center is presenting a workshop on self-employment retirement plans from 6-9 p.m. Feb. 22. The fee is $25. For more information, location and registration, call 907-456-7232. The Alaska World Affairs Council is presenting a Great Decisions Topic program at noon Feb. 23 in the Hilton Anchorage Hotel. Ray Cesca, former managing director of world trade for McDonald’s Corp., will discuss the topic "Trade and Globalization." Program lunch fees are $17 for members and $20 for others. For more information, call 907-276-8038. The Anchorage Chamber of Commerce is planning an e-commerce brown bag lunch at noon Feb. 23 at the chamber office, 441 W. Fifth Ave., Suite 300. Kelly Lawrence, manager of business customer relations for the U.S. Postal Service, will discuss drawing people to a business Web site. For more information, call 907-272-2401.  

GCI wins battle to offer local service in 2 cities

JUNEAU -- In another reversal in a see-saw telecommunications battle that has lasted nearly four years, a Superior Court judge has refused to stay an interconnection order calling for local phone competition in Juneau and Fairbanks. Agreeing with General Communication Inc. that a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision doesn’t overrule the order from the Regulatory Commission of Alaska, Anchorage Judge John Reese rejected a plea by Alaska Communications Systems to halt work immediately on the interconnection."Competition goes forward," GCI senior vice president Dana Tindall said after receiving the judge’s two-sentence ruling Feb. 9."This was just a request for an expedited proceeding," said ACS President Wes Carson, playing down the long-term significance of the ruling.The court still must hear arguments about whether ACS’ "rural exemption" under the pro-competition U.S. Telecommunications Act of 1996, terminated by the RCA last year, can be reinstated. That would force GCI to start the state regulatory process all over again.ACS, which does business in Juneau as PTI Communications, moved for the stay after the U.S. Supreme Court decided on Jan. 22 not to review a federal appeals court ruling in an Iowa case. The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals last July threw out federal regulations placing the burden of proof on the incumbent local service provider to show that competition would imperil universal, affordable access.Because the Supreme Court declined to review the 8th Circuit ruling, ACS contends that the issue is settled and the burden is now on GCI to show that it wouldn’t cause rate hikes for some "high-cost" consumers who are being subsidized. But Reese, stepping in for District Court Judge Sigurd Murphy, who had been handling the case, said the 8th Circuit decision did not compel the stay and was not "persuasive."GCI had insisted that the Alaska Supreme Court has held that the Alaska courts are not bound by the interpretations of federal law by the federal circuit courts.Tindall of GCI said the remaining legal issues could take six months to a year to sort out. In the meantime, GCI intends to be offering local telephone service in Juneau and Fairbanks, she said, first by buying and reselling ACS services and later by leasing "unbundled network elements" from the incumbent to offer new packages to consumers.

Chefs show Alaskans they have heart

Chefs from two popular Anchorage restaurants are showing their hearts for Alaskans whose health requires careful nutrition habits. Glacier BrewHouse and Ristorante Orso, run by the same operator, plan to host a cooking demonstration this month along with Alaska Regional Hospital dietitians for people with heart conditions.On Feb. 21 Glacier BrewHouse chef Scott Hoskinson will lead a free demonstration from 6-7:30 p.m.Ruth Townsend, director of Alaska Regional’s health management center, asked the restaurant operator to consider leading programs for hospital patients. So far, two programs have been held."Our diabetic patients felt like nice restaurants were off limits because they were watching their diet," she said. "We wanted to show them restaurants do not have to be off limits."Townsend, along with the restaurants’ executive chef Farrokh Larijani and marketing director Marion Hurst, coordinated the sessions. The first cooking demonstration, in November, addressed the nutritional requirements of people with diabetes and featured a seafood stew called cioppino, Townsend said.January’s session covered healthy eating in general for people who resolved to make eating changes in 2001. The chef prepared halibut for the participants to sample, Townsend said.For Larijani, the demonstrations are part of the community service his company encourages. He also works with the University of Alaska Anchorage Cuddy Center and the Anchorage School District King Career Center.The demonstrations also benefit the restaurant since participants could be potential patrons who once considered eating at the restaurant taboo, he said. After the January demonstration, five to six participants made reservations in the dining room, he said.Larijani reports that he and his staff are learning from the Alaska Regional dietitians."No. 1, it opens up your eyes to be more sensitive to guests’ needs," he said.The chefs also are learning more about food chemistry and the amount of carbohydrates people need, he said."For me personally, it’s a lesson for my own diet," Larijani said.Diners with special diet needs have an advantage at restaurants where food is made to order rather than pre-cooked, Townsend said.During the demonstrations, Larijani and the chefs have recommended ways to modify menu items to meet the needs of diners who have health concerns, Townsend said. For example, if vegetables are typically sauteed in butter, the chef can steam them instead."We get special requests all the time," Larijani said.The chef encourages diners to carry a laminated index card listing possible food allergies or restrictions. Diners can give the card to the server who can pass it to the chef so he can recommend menu items appropriate to the person’s health condition.The card can be important for people who are serious about their diet, especially people with diabetes, he said.Alaska Regional’s Townsend hopes to plan additional cooking demonstrations for this spring. The sessions might take a break for summer since Ristorante Orso and Glacier BrewHouse are typically busy at that time, she said.According to Townsend, patients have enjoyed the cooking demonstrations. "It’s been a great hit. Everybody loves it."Sessions are limited to 25 participants. Reservations are required and can be made by calling Townsend at 907-264-1823.

Providence adds dining, activity space to extended care center

Work has been completed on an addition and renovation to Providence Extended Care Center in Anchorage. The seven-month construction project added space for resident dining and resident activities. One new feature is the Forget-Me-Not Village Great Room, which was designed to add a homelike element for residents and to be easily accessible from residents’ rooms.The great room features windows with lower sills to allow improved views for wheelchair-using residents, facility officials said. The area also has six dining tables seating four people each as an alternative to the dining room. An entertainment center also is part of the room. An adjacent nursing support area allows ready care.The 224-bed facility is the largest long-term care facility in Alaska.Valley installs new MRIValley Hospital Medical Center in Wasilla began serving patients in January with a new magnetic resonance imaging system. The Phillips Intera MRI replaces the former system, which was purchased a decade ago, hospital officials said.The Wasilla hospital announced plans to acquire the new system last spring, and the MRI was installed in late 2000.MRI scans use computers and magnetic fields to create pictures of the human anatomy similar to X-rays but without radiation, hospital officials said.The hospital also has purchased other imaging equipment for the Wasilla campus, including a new General Electric nuclear medicine unit and new ultrasound equipment. In February, patients will be served by a new Lunar Bone Densitometer, which aids in the diagnosis of osteoporosis and osteoarthritis.State opens new public health facilityAlaska officials have opened the new state public health laboratory and office of the state medical examiner in Anchorage. The Department of Health and Social Services christened the facility in late January.The 37,500-square-foot, $18.4 million facility replaces previous facilities, which were unsuited to tasks performed by the lab workers and the medical examiner. Anchorage-based firms provided design and construction work.Workers at the Alaska Public Health Laboratory will help investigate, control and treat disease outbreaks. The new state-of-the-art facility improves the department’s ability to detect, diagnose and control communicable diseases in Alaska. It also has a biosafety level three suite, which enables infectious disease specialists to safely work with highly contagious diseases like tuberculosis and botulism.The medical examiner’s office supports the justice and public health surveillance by providing forensic pathology services to determine cause of death in suspicious or unattended deaths. The new facility provides a safer and more efficient work environment and will reduce stress on family members of the deceased by providing video-viewing capabilities.New emergency entrance opensValley Hospital in Palmer has completed remodeling and relocated its emergency department. The new area features a larger waiting room and more confidential admitting areas. The new design separates patient services and public corridors so walk-in patients will enter separately from trauma patients arriving via ambulance.The relocated emergency department opened Feb. 13. The new entrance is the same one used to enter the Family Birthing Center and includes a covered drop-off area.

Warm weather, maintenance knock down Slope's January output

Alaska North Slope petroleum production, hampered by warmer-than-average weather and cutbacks for maintenance, fell an average of 17,000 barrels per day in January. Overall output totaled 1.021 million barrels per day for January, down 1.7 percent from 1.038 million b/d in December, according to Alaska Department of Revenue officials. Last month’s ANS petroleum production also reflected a long-term downward spiral, dipping 40,000 b/d below January 2000 production of 1.061 million b/d.Natural gas liquids output in January averaged 52,615 b/d, up slightly from 52,065 b/d a month earlier. However, the NGLs output showed a long-term decline, dropping nearly 22 percent from 67,031 b/d in January 2000.Crude production fell 1.8 percent in January to 968,457 b/d from 986,000 b/d in December. Average crude output in January also lagged year-ago production of 994,000 b/d.Production at the three smallest North Slope gathering centers rose in January, while Prudhoe Bay, Kuparuk and Lisburne reported lower output.Two days of maintenance work at Prudhoe Bay mid-month hurt average production in the North Slope’s largest field in January. Output of crude oil and NGLs fell about 22,000 b/d to 552,840 b/d from 575,204 b/d in December. It also reflected more than a 50,000 b/d drop from 609,066 b/d in January 2000. Prudhoe Bay is operated by BP Exploration (Alaska) Inc.Average crude production at the Phillips Alaska-operated Kuparuk River field fell in January by nearly 12,000 b/d to 224,688 b/d from 236,476 b/d a month earlier. Production at BP-operated Lisburne also fell slightly in January to 87,857 b/d from 88,579 b/d in December.Phillips’ Alpine field posted average output of 67,211 b/d in January, up more than 12,000 b/d, or 22.5 percent, from 54,848 b/d in December. Though production continued to seesaw throughout January at Alpine, the field set a one-day production record Jan. 30 of 86,926 b/d, after rebounding from a low of 31,123 b/d Jan. 8, state Revenue economist Denise Hawes said Feb. 5. "I know they had shipping pump problems earlier in the month," she added.Average output at BP-operated Milne Point rose slightly in January to 50,885 b/d, compared with 50,104 b/d a month earlier.Endicott, another BP-operated gathering center, reported slightly higher average crude output of 37,591 b/d in January, up from 37,303 b/d in December.

Alaska Regional, Providence increasing security for newborns

This year the state’s two largest hospitals, both in Anchorage, are boosting their security systems monitoring newborns. Alaska Regional Hospital will be operating an electronic infant security system called Hugs by summer. The system is manufactured by Instantel Inc. of Ontario, Canada.Providence Alaska Medical Center began operating its system in mid-February.Alaska Regional is installing the system this year in conjunction with renovations to its maternity unit. The security system should be operating by June, said Kjerstin Lastufka, Alaska Regional’s director of marketing and public relations.Lastufka said a dollar figure for the infant security system was unavailable. The project is part of a $26 million hospital renovation started last fall and due to be finished in 2002. Renovations will relocate and update the lobby, add operating rooms, expand the radiology department and expand the labor and delivery unit with new, larger rooms.Currently, entrances at Alaska Regional’s maternity unit have alarms, she said. Also, unit staff have distinctive identification cards and colored scrubs to differentiate them from someone who may try to abduct an infant.The hospital has not had any such incident involving babies, she said.Providence, too, has not recorded an abduction, but more than two years ago a mother took her own baby out a hospital window, said Jo Danner, clinical manager of maternity services. Windows on the unit are now sealed shut, she said.Providence began considering installing a system like Hugs a year ago, Danner said. Cameras were installed nearly two years ago to monitor the maternity unit’s exits, as well as in the Children’s Hospital on the third floor. Providence officials wanted a more efficient security system with tags to track babies, she said.The Hugs system features a two-way transceiver tag that the baby wears on its wrist with a bracelet. Receiver stations on the 30-bed unit monitor the infant’s location and can lock all exit doors if the baby is taken beyond the system perimeters, said Newton Chase, director of facilities. Alarms also sound if a baby’s Hugs bracelet is cut, Danner said.The system cost $90,000 and was installed by Engineered Fire Systems Inc. of Anchorage, he said. The Hugs system was more expensive yet more effective than others Providence reviewed, he said."What’s important is the feeling it brings," Chase said. "Moms and dads feel safe. We’re going to a much greater degree to keep kids safe."Video cameras will still be in place at the unit, along with others monitoring staff parking at night, he said. "This is a 24-hour operation, and it’s like a small city," said Chase, describing the hospital’s need for security.Security systems for maternity units are increasingly common for U.S. hospitals because incidents have occurred at large and small facilities, she said. Some hospitals outside Alaska limit the number of visitors allowed or issue a swipe card to monitor access to the maternity unit, she said.Babies receive two identification bracelets, coordinating with ones worn by the parents, she said. After the baby’s first bath, the Hugs bracelet is secured, she said.Parents, who had not complained about video camera monitors, also have voiced approval for the new system, according to Danner.Providence is Alaska’s level three neonatal intensive care unit, handling premature births or problem pregnancies from around the state, she noted. Danner sees the new security system as another business advantage for the facility."If I am going to choose (a facility for the birth), it’s going to be some place where the baby will be the most secure," Danner said.

529 Plan great education savings tool

Alaskans have a new and extremely flexible estate-planning tool available. The 529 Plan allows parents, grandparents or any other interested custodian the ability to set up an account for education with the advantage of tax-deferred growth. If the beneficiary’s needs or desires change, the gift can be revoked or the beneficiary can be changed. Few understand the full potential of this powerful investment tool that actually gives investors more control over their estate.College benefitsThe 529 Plan is a method of saving for college, tax-deferred. There are no income limits, and investors may choose options that best suit them. If the money is to be used for higher education, the beneficiary is taxed at the beneficiary’s rate and then only on the investment growth. Couples can open an account with as much as $100,000 or as little as $250.Estate planningFor estate planning purposes a five-year lump sum of $50,000 per child or grandchild ($100,000 for couples) is allowed. These contributions are separate from the investor’s estate, and the investor maintains control of investment decisions and distributions.Those concerned about losing control when gifting need not be afraid; if money is needed at a later date for an emergency, it is still available. Should this occur, a 10 percent penalty is assessed on the distributed gains. This provides a great investment vehicle for investors wanting to gift money from their estate, but who are concerned it may be needed for an emergency or health care later.Custodial accountsThere are some problems with custodial accounts that are not found in the 529 Plan. The tax-sheltered 529 Plan is not subject to the annual income and capital gain tax that a custodial account is. Also, custodial accounts have a greater impairment on students receiving scholarships and loans.If a student is the beneficiary of a custodial account he is penalized by 35 percent of the value of his account in determining eligibility for financial need, but if the investor has used a 529 Plan the student only has a 6 percent offset.Investors are not permitted to change the beneficiary of a custodial account once the account is set up, and the most alarming factor is the minor receives total control of the money when he or she comes of age regardless of intention to obtain higher education. Custodial accounts can be transferred to 529 Plans as well, but the rules differ, and you should talk to your financial adviser on this.There are different 529 Plans available, some of which are more limited than others. Please do your research before investing.Robert Sackerson is an investment executive for Wedbush Morgan Securities. He can be reached at 907-273-2312.

Providence chief of staff sees future, hurdles in telemedicine

Alaskans’ work developing telemedicine technology and practices is creating opportunities across borders, but telemedicine faces some hurdles, according to an Alaska expert. Dr. Jerome List, chief of staff for Providence Alaska Medical Center, is involved with telemedicine efforts in Alaska. Providence has worked with health care providers on Sakhalin Island via telemedicine or using telecommunications and the Internet to relay a medical condition or advice."We’ve shown we have the technology. I think the opportunities are endless," he said."Alaska is particularly positioned to work with Far East Russia," List told members of the World Trade Center Alaska on Feb. 7. He spoke during the group’s monthly luncheon at National Bank of Alaska headquarters at C Street and Northern Lights Boulevard.List, who speaks Spanish and Russian fluently, studied at the University of Costa Rica, where he has also practiced medicine, and at the First Medical Institute of Leningrad. Today he also handles otolaryngology/head and neck surgery in private practice at Alaska Ear Nose and Throat Inc. in Anchorage.Maintaining a healthy work force is important to production around the globe, he said. However, healthy workers are less important than a manufactured product, he noted. In 1974 List served as a resident in St. Petersburg working with Russian doctors."They have some talented, bright people," but lack the resources needed for some health care services, he said. Unlike manufacturing in Russia in the 1970s, health care was not given the emphasis it deserved, List said.Telemedicine can operate beyond borders to help solve this problem. Yet some barriers still hinder the service, he noted.One such issue concerns the application of professional health care services from people who are licensed in other states or countries, List said. So far state officials have not ruled on this issue, he said.Expected improvements and competition in telecommunications technology should help telemedicine efforts, List said.Another major barrier for telemedicine is defining payment for physicians, List said. So far models have not been developed, and many doctors have provided their expertise out of enthusiasm for telemedicine, he said."I do a fair number of consultations and triages from the U.S. and abroad, and I haven’t charged a cent," List said.However, it is difficult to persuade some doctors to do telemedicine work without a reimbursement plan in place, he said.Telemedicine procedures also could be affected by the federal Health Information Portability Act, designed to regulate and protect medical records transmitted electronically, he said. The legislation could be implemented in 2002, List said.

Endangered species concerns likely to delay Unalaska project

In addition to jeopardizing Alaska’s big pollock and cod fisheries, lawsuits by environmental groups under the federal Endangered Species Act are also creating problems with public works projects in coastal communities. Former Unalaska Mayor Frank Kelty, now a natural resources analyst on the city’s staff, told state legislators in Juneau on Jan. 30 that his city may have to do a formal environmental impact statement on a much-needed small boat harbor project because of lawsuits by environmental groups over Steller ducks, a threatened species. Doing an EIS rather than a more streamlined environmental assessment will delay the project and add costs. The harbor, badly needed in Unalaska, will provide space for 70 medium- to small-size vessels, Kelty said. Two hundred of the ducks overwinter near Unalaska’s harbor, which is an intensely used marine industrial facility, he said. Unalaska has been the nation’s top fisheries port for more than a decade, Kelty told a luncheon gathering of lawmakers, according to data compiled by the National Marine Fisheries Service. Another city project that could face problems is a planned 500-foot extension to the existing 1,200-foot city dock in Unalaska. The extension is needed to accommodate Coast Guard, National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration and state ferry vessels. Building the extension will require that the city fill in two acres of wetlands. As mitigation, the city may have to adopt an alternative construction design that will cost three times that of the design now planned and which would lose the access to upland shoreline acreage that would be valuable rental space for the municipality, Kelty said. One positive development is that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the agency with jurisdiction over spectacled and Steller eider ducks, has backed away from an earlier proposal to designate 25,000 square miles of lands in Western Alaska critical habitat for the ducks, Kelty said. On Jan. 12, the agency announced it would reduce the proposed critical habitat by 93 percent, instead designating 2,800 square miles as protected habitat.  

This Week in Alaska business History February 18, 2001

Editor’s note: "This Week in Alaska Business History" revisits events that shaped our past."Those who cannotremember the past arecondemned to repeat it."-- George Santayana, 1863-195220 years ago this weekAnchorage TimesFeb. 18, 1981Share-the-wealth plan airedBy Dave CarpenterTimes Juneau BureauJUNEAU -- The Hammond administration and former House Speaker Terry Gardiner have begun to push the Legislature to adopt a new share-the-wealth plan that would make every Alaskan a part-owner of the vast Prudhoe Bay oil and gas stores and other state riches.Gardiner, D-Ketchikan, and a top Hammond aide told House lawmakers Tuesday night that their Portfolio of Alaska Citizen Enterprises program -- called PACE -- would transfer Alaska’s wealth to its rightful owner -- residents.And that, they said, will make Alaskans less dependent on government to properly handle the state’s oil billions.Anchorage TimesFeb. 21, 1981Gas line work still set for 1982By Dave CarpenterTimes Juneau BureauJUNEAU -- In-state construction on the Alaska Highway natural gas pipeline still is scheduled to begin in the summer of 1982 with completion targeted for the winter of 1985-1986, a federal pipeline official said Friday.Mo Mathews, deputy federal inspector for the Alaska Natural Gas Transportation System, told the Senate Resources Committee that the key to the fate of the pipeline is "on Wall Street, where the financing plan is." He said he didn’t know how the plan was faring."You know as well as I do the difficulties of financing a multibillion dollar project in a year of 12-20 percent inflation," he told the panel.Construction of the Alaska segment of the line, being handled by the Northwest Alaska Pipeline Co., has been estimated at $7.9 billion.10 years ago this weekAlaska Journal of CommerceFeb. 18, 1991UPS agreement comes at right time for airportBy Ray TysonFor the Journal of CommerceWith international passenger flights in Anchorage down by 20 percent, a new interim agreement allowing United Parcel Service and two Japanese carriers to begin all-cargo operations between the United States and Japan couldn’t have come at a better time.The agreement, effective Feb. 13 to March 2, is boosting weekly refueling stops at Anchorage International Airport by 20 a week and potentially 28 if disagreements between the two countries can be resolved."This is the biggest new injection of business we’ve had in a long time. It’s absolutely needed right now," said Anders Westman, marketing director for the Alaska International Airport System.Under a landmark trade agreement, UPS in October was selected for an all-cargo route into Tokyo’s Narita Airport, while Japan Air Lines and Nippon Air Cargo were given landing rights in Chicago.Alaska Journal of CommerceFeb. 18, 19911991 looks good -- probablyAlaska Journal of CommerceWith millions of dollars in projects planned or under way, employment prospects for Western Alaska appear to be shaping up fairly nicely for 1991. The deciding factors, though, will be the fishing season and summer tourism."Last year was good and there is no reason to believe this year will be any different," said Neal Fried, labor economist with the Alaska Department of Labor. "But we never know what the price of fish will be like, or what the volume will be."One of the largest ongoing projects for Western Alaska is the Red Dog Mine, a partnership of Cominco Alaska Inc. and NANA Regional Corp., which employs more than 300 people, 60 percent of them NANA shareholders, according to Willie Hensley, president of NANA Development Corp.-- Compiled by Ed Bennett.

FAA grant funds study of Anchorage's general aviation needs

A $450,000 grant by the Federal Aviation Administration to the state Department of Transportation and Public Facilities to study the patterns and use of general aviation facilities in the greater Anchorage area is under way. "This study will include all general aviation, including (ultralights)," said Patty Sullivan, an FAA airport planner.The study, called the Area General Aviation System Plan, is to identify future needs for general aviation facilities and services in the Anchorage area and is to be finished in 18-24 months, according to FAA and state DOT officials.The two agencies and consultants are seeking input from pilots and aircraft owners, as well as managers and owners of businesses at airports in the Anchorage area.Alternatives will be developed and evaluated to handle future general aviation needs. They will then be put into an implementation plan that will determine how to fulfill the needs, according to Diana Rigg, a transportation planner for the state DOT.The system plan was initiated in early 1998 with a survey of 2,000 area general aviation pilots by DOT.Last November a technical advisory committee was assembled, composed of representatives from DOT, FAA, Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport, Merrill Field, Birchwood Airport, the Municipality of Anchorage, the military, aircraft owners, pilots, airport users and other interested parties, as well as other government agencies.Sullivan, Rigg and Carl Seibe, a state transportation department airports engineer, made presentations at an introductory meeting Jan. 31. Increased aviation activity at all area airports is driving the study, according to Rigg.Airspace use, runway conditions and construction, additional float ponds for seaplanes, increased use at airports like Birchwood and Campbell Creek Airstrip, and additional float tie downs at Lake Hood were discussed.At the meeting, John Sanders, a consultant with Aires Consultants Ltd., a California-based firm specializing in airport and aviation planning studies, laid out the plan for the study."What we hope to do is take your input, along with an inventory of the local facilities and their environmental condition and come up with plan to make improvements to the current infrastructure," Sanders said. Public input by all users is necessary for the study to work, added Sullivan."There is a six-month to a year waiting list for a slip at Lake Hood. If we had two more floatplane facilities in Anchorage, that would not be enough," said Bob Miller, a Cessna 185 floatplane pilot. "They are going to hear more from me."To voice your ideas and needs, contact Diana Rigg, Anchorage area planner, P.O. Box 196900, Anchorage, AK 99519-6900. Her phone is 907-269-0515, fax is 907-269-0521 and e-mail is ([email protected]).

Oregon dealership buys Johnson Chrysler/Jeep for $2.8 million

Lithia Motors Inc. of Medford, Ore., in late January completed the acquisition of its first Alaska dealership, Johnson Chrysler/Jeep dealership in Anchorage. Lithia officials said the company’s net investment in the dealership, which totaled $2.8 million, was paid in cash. The new operators told investors in the public company they expect revenue from the Anchorage dealership could add $35 million annually to Lithia operations. Lithia operates 113 franchises -- or vehicle brands -- in Alaska, California, Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, South Dakota and Washington. The company sells 26 brands of new vehicles at 53 stores and via the Internet. Lithia also sells used vehicles, arranges financing to buy vehicles and provides parts and repair services at its locations. In 1999 Lithia sold 52,485 new and used vehicles, and for the first nine months of 2000 the company sold 64,645 new and used vehicles. According to company officials, Lithia’s current annualized revenue run rate, including all completed acquisitions, exceeds $1.7 billion. "Anchorage, Alaska, represents a new target area for Lithia Motors," said Sid DeBoer, chairman and chief executive. "This is the kind of market where the combination of Lithia’s operational focus and community involvement has been successful in the past. In 1999, Lithia was recognized as being the Northwest’s fastest growing public company, and this store will be a good fit with the other stores we have in that region." The company may consider other acquisitions in Alaska, said investor relations manager Dan Retzlaff. The former owner of Johnson Chrysler/Jeep is no longer with the dealership, but Lithia retained the general manager and other employees, Retzlaff said. New Anchorage eatery eyes March opening Operators of Wayne’s Original Texas Bar-B-Que, now under construction in Midtown, expect to open the restaurant in March. Work on the eatery is about 75 percent complete, said Wayne Bond, president of restaurant operator Kodiak Foods. For a handful of months the restaurant has sold take-out orders from a trailer at its construction site. "We’re doing more business (on an annualized basis) than the average restaurant," he said. Wayne’s Original Texas Bar-B-Que will total 6,800 square feet and will be able to seat 250 people, Bond said. Bond once ran the original Anchorage Taco Bell restaurants and led a Fairbanks location to a top franchise ranking. The restaurant will employ about 45 full- and part-time workers, Bond said.  

Pipeline competitors face off

Competing pipeline builders Alaska-based Yukon Pacific Corp. and Foothills Pipe Lines Ltd. of Calgary, Alberta, squared off in Juneau earlier this month. Yukon Pacific has permits and rights of way for a natural gas pipeline from the North Slope to Valdez and for a liquefied natural gas plant near Valdez. Foothills holds rights of way and permits for a gas pipeline from the North Slope through Interior Alaska and Yukon Territory along the Alaska Highway. In several legislative hearings, Jeff Lowenfels, president of Yukon, said that U.S. and Canadian laws enacted in the 1970s, as well as a U.S.-Canada energy treaty from that period, are specific in their requirements for an Alaska Highway pipeline. Costs of building a pipeline to those specifications make it uneconomic, he said. In addition, pipelines from Alberta to the U.S. border are full. "There is no room for Alaska gas," Lowenfels said. That means new pipelines will have to be built, adding to costs. Yukon Pacific has, meanwhile, updated its cost estimates and feels it can land Alaska gas in Japan for $3.50 per million British thermal units, well below the $5 per million Btu now being paid for LNG from the Phillips-Marathon plant near Kenai, and the $5.50 per million Btu being paid for LNG from Indonesia. Lowenfels also said Yukon Pacific’s new cost estimates show it can deliver gas to Southcentral Alaska through a 16-inch spur pipeline from the main pipeline near Glennallen for the same price Enstar Natural Gas Co. pays to buy gas from Cook Inlet producers. Enstar is the regional gas utility for Southcentral Alaska. Rebutting Lowenfels, John Ellwood, vice president of engineering and operations for Foothills, said the existing permits and regulatory approvals for the Alaska Highway route provide considerable flexibility. This has been demonstrated in Canada where southern sections of the pipeline intended to go all the way to Alaska were built and are now in use. These have been modified and expanded over the years, he said. The permits allow for the use of new technologies, which will be incorporated into a new Alaska Highway pipeline, Ellwood said. As for the existing Canadian pipeline being unable to carry Alaska gas, "this is nonsense," Ellwood said. It’s standard practice in the gas pipeline industry to add compression to accommodate additional supplies, he said. When the system reaches the point where additional compression costs rise sharply, additional sections of pipe are installed at certain points along the system. Then the cycle starts over again, he said, with additional compressors added and eventually new lengths of pipe, until what is essentially a new pipeline has been built. Ellwood cited an example of a single pipeline built originally from Alberta to the U.S. Midwest being gradually expanded until it is now six pipelines.  

Family makes beauty salon a place of beauty

Operating a family owned business has its risks, both to the family and to the business. Many people have tried to run a family business; some have succeeded, while many have failed. The owners of Marie’s Beauty Salon & Supply seem to have found a formula for success in a family run operation. Since 1988 this business has been on a track for growth, and the company is healthier than ever. The founder, Maria Neubauer, a licensed cosmetologist and instructor, determined that most salons were not meeting customer needs for beauty supplies and services, so she decided to start a business. Joined by her husband, Joe, daughter Diane Holzschuh and her husband, Phil, they formed a corporation to operate Marie’s with a goal of providing high quality salon services and beauty products, with primary emphasis on customers. They determined that in order to be successful, they had to maintain their focus on the business. Here is their formula: * Focus on customers. This was the primary goal when starting the business, and it continues to be the major priority. The customer comes first at Marie’s. That message comes from the top down. It is communicated regularly to all employees. "We try to exceed expectations," said business manager Diane Holzschuh, "and we expect our employees to have that approach to our customers." * Focus on balance. In a family owned business, it is difficult to get away from either the family or the business problems. It is necessary to maintain balance. Family time is sacred. The owners try to balance business needs with family priorities. * Focus on strengths. Each family member contributes unique strengths to the business. Neubauer and Holzschuh run the day-to-day operation of the business. Neubauer takes responsibility for personnel, ordering and the salon management. Holzschuh’s business and accounting background make her a natural to manage financial and marketing duties. The husbands both have other businesses, but are active in the major decisions for the corporation. Phil Holzschuh’s computer skills help with inventory and accounting systems, while Joe Neubauer contributes marketing skills. Regular family business meetings update all owners on the responsibilities of each. * Focus on employees. Marie’s has an excellent staff, and Holzschuh says that good communication and continuing education play a key role in maintaining good employees. "We like to hire good people and keep them happy," Holzschuh said. The company uses graduates from local beauty schools when possible. They also have bi-weekly staff meetings to communicate information about new services, products and company policy. * Focus on marketing. "We want our marketing effort to be proactive rather than reactive," said Holzschuh. "A regular, planned approach using primarily radio has been successful for us." The company recently began using a marketing firm. According to Holzschuh, the timing was right. "The marketing firm helped us with fresh ideas and creativity," she said. "It also made time available to devote to other business needs." * Focus on banking relationships. Five years ago, when the company wanted to expand, its lender, National Bank of Alaska, used a program of the Small Business Administration to help with the financing. SBA’s loan guaranty program helped the bank overcome factors the bank considered more risky than it wanted to take without the guaranty. The SBA guaranteed loan enabled Marie’s to expand its retail space, add privacy rooms for facial, pedicure and waxing services, and improve lighting throughout the store. "The SBA provided an important tool for the bank in providing the financing for our expansion," said Holzschuh. "We have an excellent relationship with NBA," she said, "and we take full advantage of the services they offer for our business." The company was able to pay off the SBA loan ahead of schedule. Since the expansion in 1996, the company has nearly doubled its sales and has added seven employees. "Compete with yourself" has become a company motto, empowering the owners and employees to focus on making Marie’s the best that it can be, constantly evaluating products, services, staff and facilities, to give the customers the level of service they desire. That’s a good formula for success in a family owned business. Ron Veltkamp is the business development officer for the Small Business Administration’s Alaska District.   

KAKM makes leap to digital TV early, to broadcast four channels

Anchorage’s public television station, KAKM, is gearing up to quadruple its programming, bringing Anchorage fans four separate channels at once.The change, designed to coincide with the advent of high definition television, comes as part of a federally mandated conversion of television broadcasting to digital technology.Commercial stations nationwide must switch to digital broadcasting by May 2002, while public stations are required to convert by May 2003."It’s the first major change in television transmission in 50 years," said Susan Reed, president of KAKM’s owner, Alaska Public Telecommunications Inc.Current broadcasts use analog technology, but Congress aims to free up bandwidth on the broadcast spectrum for other uses like cellular telephone service. Moreover, the conversion brings with it advantages for television."With the same bandwidth now used for one analog TV station, we will be able to offer four channels of programming," Reed said.Known as multicasting, this process will provide KAKM viewers with a 24-hour-per-day children’s channel, two education channels with adult Public Broadcasting Service programs and telecourses from the University of Alaska Anchorage and the Anchorage School District as well as a business channel with continuing medical education courses and other training opportunities.Viewers also will be able to download additional information, some interactive, on their own computers that corresponds with the televised PBS programming. This datacasting will include course materials, software, transcripts, photos and information related to topics covered in the broadcast programming.KAKM is joining Anchorage’s other television stations in sharing a single broadcast tower for DTV, a move that will save each station at least $1 million. But it also means KAKM must complete its conversion on the commercial television timetable, Reed said.The switchover will cost APTI an estimated $6 million, of which half will come from government and private sources. The nonprofit broadcaster hopes to raise the remaining $3 million in a capital campaign that began Feb. 4, Reed said.In addition to space on the broadcast tower, the money will pay for a new automated programming retrieval system at KAKM that can be used to download and store nearly 3,000 hours of video programming. The system also can record and play back seven video programs simultaneously and access stored programs within one minute, paving the way for "video-on-demand" services within a couple years, Reed said."We expect to save $70,000 to $80,000 a year in operating costs with the new digital video disc server," she added. KAKM also will house Alaska’s only public DTV production center and share the facility with public television stations in Fairbanks, Juneau and Bethel, she said.Northrim Bank chief executive Marc Langland and Jim Palmer, head of external affairs at BP Exploration (Alaska) Inc., will co-chair the capital campaign. Former Gov. Walter J. Hickel, his wife, Erma Lee, and Lowell and Tay Thomas will serve as honorary co-chairs, Reed said.BP has already committed $300,000 to the campaign, and the Thomases also contributed a $300,000 gift. Reed said APTI will be seeking other large donors as well as government and foundation grants, but the ability to offer four channels of programming also will mean "lots more opportunities for program underwriters and sponsors."The fund-raising campaign will include direct mail appeals to KAKM’s 10,000 members and to other Alaska leaders. The TV station also will conduct informational tours every weekday during the noon hour throughout the month of February and an open house Feb. 24 from 1-3 p.m. For more information, call 907-563-7070.


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