Alaska Business Insider

Alaska’s economy never stands still. One minute the oil industry is booming while tourism companies are tottering, and the next the construction industry is laying down its hammers while fishermen are enjoying strong catches.

In this blog we’ll track those highs and lows, resource development disputes, new ventures and many other topics. We’ll rely on our own reporting as well as bring you relevant news from other media or any other source that has information of interest to people following Alaska industries, from mining to retail to real estate.

We encourage your comments on our posts, but please keep them courteous and on topic. If you violate the ADN comment policy, your posts will be deleted.

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Imagining Alaska's economy without oil - 3/10/2011 4:54 pm

Nine local women added to ATHENA Society - 3/1/2011 10:02 am

Alaska tribe takes coal mine concerns to UN - 2/25/2011 1:22 pm

Missed deadlines on North Slope gas line - 2/24/2011 4:42 pm

Pat Galvin's new job - 2/24/2011 4:24 pm

Sport groups pressure EPA on Pebble - 2/24/2011 3:27 pm

Study highlights Arctic drilling's economic impact - 2/24/2011 1:46 pm

Muni changing wireless, Internet providers - 2/23/2011 9:06 pm

Calista pays $300 elders' dividend

From Bill White --

Calista Corp. is paying a $300 special distribution to elder shareholders this week, the company said.

“Elders carry additional financial burdens, particularly in this economy,” said Calista Board Chairman Art Heckman.

Shareholders approved an elders’ benefit program at the 2007 annual shareholders meeting.

To qualify, individuals must be at least 65 years of age as of Dec. 3, be an original Calista shareholder, and be alive currently, the company said.

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State seeks extent of North Pole refinery spill

The Associated Press --

FAIRBANKS — The Alaska environmental commissioner says the state could know by February the extent groundwater has been contaminated by a chemical solvent spill decades ago at a refinery in North Pole.

The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reports that Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Larry Hartig also said a team of agencies that has worked with the Flint Hills Resources refinery to study the issue is talking to national experts.

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Kensington mine operator to pay $170,000 fine

From Elizabeth Bluemink --

Coeur Alaska Inc., operator of the Kensington gold mine near Juneau, has agreed to pay a $170,000 fine for unpermitted pollution discharges that came from a construction site, federal regulators announced Wednesday.

Coeur discharged sediment and acidic stormwater into a pond and creek near the mine site between 2006 and 2010, the Environmental Protection Agency said. After the problem was discovered by regulators in 2008, the company began treating the pollution but it still lacked a permit for the discharges.

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Mixed ruling for Conoco project in NPRA

From Elizabeth Bluemink –

Federal regulators have issued a mixed ruling on Conoco Phillips' embattled plan to access a proposed drill site on its oil leases in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska.

The drill site would be a satellite of the oil company’s Alpine oil field near Nuiqsut. If developed, it would be the first commercial oil production from NPRA.

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Towarak steps down as Bering Straits president; Schubert gets added duties

From Bill White --

Nome-based Bering Straits Native Corp. has promoted Chief Executive Officer Gail Schubert to president and CEO.

The company presidency came open when Tim Towarak resigned to avoid any conflict of interest with his new position as chairman of the Federal Subsistence Board, the company said.

Schubert has been chief executive since last December. Before that, she was executive vice president. She also has been on the Bering Straits board since 1992, the company said.

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Environmentalists sue over coal-bed gas permit

The Associated Press --

FAIRBANKS — An Alaska environmental group has filed a lawsuit challenging state approval for a Usibelli Coal Mine plan to look for coal-bed methane near Healy.

The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reports the Healy-based Denali Citizens Council is concerned about what it says is the state's failure to protect sensitive public lands they want exempted from the permit.

The group objects to a June decision by the Alaska Department of Natural Resources allowing Usibelli to explore inside a 200,000-acre perimeter.

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Leisnoi shareholders lose appeal on annual meetings, financial reports

From Bill White --

The Alaska Supreme Court today ruled against shareholders of Leisnoi Inc., a Native village corporation for Kodiak’s Woody Island, who demanded the company hold annual shareholder meetings and distribute audited financial reports every year.

The court upheld a 2008 state Superior Court ruling in the case.

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Shell, Wikileaks & Nigeria

From Elizabeth Bluemink --

At least one of Alaska’s oil lease holders is under scrutiny abroad due to Wikileaks revelations.

Shell Oil told U.S. diplomats it knew when the Nigerian government wasn’t telling it the truth about potential oil and gas concessions for China because Shell’s own people were working inside the government, says the Guardian newspaper in London, quoting a U.S. diplomatic cable published by Wikileaks.

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Public input sought on Shell's Beaufort drilling plans

From Elizabeth Bluemink --

Federal regulators said this week they are seeking public input this month on a couple aspects of Shell Oil’s plan to drill an exploration well next summer in the Beaufort Sea.

One item up for public review is the company’s updated spill-contingency plan, which can be read here. Comments are due on that document on Dec. 23.

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Anchorage hotel room sales rebound from dismal 2009

From Bill White --

Anchorage’s hotel business appears to have picked up somewhat this year after last year’s plunge.

New figures from the municipality, which collects a tax on hotel room rentals, show $134 million in room sales from April through September this year. That compares with $120 million during the same two quarters of last year.

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Alaska Communications opens flagship store in Midtown

From Bill White --

Alaska Communications has opened a new flagship retail store at 600 E. 36th Ave. in Anchorage.

The 4,000-square-foot store includes mobile broadband test stations featuring iPads, iPods and eReaders; smartphones; Android devices and quick-messaging devices, the statewide telecom company said.

It also features an area for small and medium business customers, featuring videoconferencing demonstrations, smartphone expert nights and other customer events, Alaska Communications said.

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Canadian firm acquiring Bristol Bay seafood processor

From Elizabeth Bluemink--

A Canadian seafood company is purchasing Leader Creek Fisheries, a major Bristol Bay seafood processor that specializes in sockeye fillets.

The press release from the Canadian Fishing Company is attached below. To read the news coverage so far, go to Wesley Loy’s Deckboss blog and the Bristol Bay Times.

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AIDEA, Northrim team on mini-storage loan

From Bill White --

The board of the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority has approved participating in an $8.925 million loan so that Tudor Storage can purchase two four-story mini-storage buildings at 3521 E. Tudor Road in Anchorage.

The state lending agency will lend $8.032 million for 25 years. Northrim Bank will lend $893,000 for 10 years, AIDEA said.

Tudor Storage is owned by local businessman Art Davidson, who owns other mini-storages in town.

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ASRC urges Obama to tread carefully on ANWR

From Bill White --

The Arctic Slope Regional Corp. has a stake in the fight over whether Congress opens -- or the government closes -- ANWR’s coastal plain to development, as it owns oil and gas rights to 92,000 acres on the plain next to the federal land.

As some environmentalists and members of Congress this fall have lobbied to declare the wildlife refuge a national monument or a wilderness or otherwise declare it offlimits to oil development, Arctic Slope weighed in with a letter of its own to President Obama.

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Mat-Su continues to add jobs

From Bill White --

Mat-Su remains one of Alaska’s most robust economies, despite the state’s economic slowdown, the state Department of Labor says.

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TransCanada might lack pipeline agreements by year's end

Becky Bohrer, The Associated Press --

JUNEAU — TransCanada Corp. says it might not meet its target of securing binding agreements by year’s end for a multibillion-dollar natural gas pipeline in Alaska, but the company remains optimistic about the prospects for its project.

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AIDEA board declares record dividend to state treasury

From Bill White --

The state business-lending agency plans to pay a record $29.4 million dividend to the state general fund out of its fiscal year profits.

The Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority approved paying the dividend to the state treasury for next budget year, the agency said.

The dividend represents 50 percent of AIDEA’s revolving fund profit last year, the agency said. AIDEA has been paying half of these profits as dividends since 1996, with the combined dividends declared over time totaling $304 million.

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Two national conferences slated for Anchorage

From Bill White --

Two Washington, D.C.-based groups plan to hold future conferences in Anchorage, according to the Anchorage Convention & Visitors Bureau.

The National Indian Health Board will hold its annual consumer conference in town next Sept. 12-15. The conference is expected to bring 500 delegates to the city, the convention bureau said.

Separately, the Commissioned Officers Foundation will hold the U.S. Public Health Service Scientific & Training Symposium in town May 19-25, 2012. About 1,200 people are expected to attend, the convention bureau said.

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UIC announces record shareholder dividend

The board of Barrow-based Ukpeagvik Inupiat Corp. has declared a record $15-a-share dividend, payable Dec. 17 to shareholders of record on Dec. 10.

A typical stockholder with 100 shares in the Native village corporation will receive $1,500. The total payout will be over $3 million, the company said.

“UIC is proud to announce that despite tough economic times we were able to declare the highest dividend distribution to date for our shareholders,” said Chris Morgan, chief financial officer.

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National Geographic takes on Pebble

From Bill White --

National Geographic magazine this month offers a feature article on Alaska's Pebble mine controversy.

The article is generally empathetic with the crowd that opposes development of the massive copper and gold deposit in Southwest Alaska, upstream from Bristol Bay.

An excerpt:

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