In the wake of the Alaska Native corporation’s 2013 fiscal woes, Sealaska is attempting to invest more close to home, said CEO and President Anthony Mallott at Thursday’s Juneau Chamber of Commerce luncheon.
The corporation announced $35 million in losses for 2013 in May, attributing $26 million of it to projects in Hawaii. But, without the help of $21.9 million in 7(i) income from other Native corporations, the company lost $56.7 million that year, the Empire reported. The corporation has lost nearly $80 million since 2009.
“We had a pretty tough year last year,” Mallott said.
He said the way to turn that trend around is to start downsizing in places far away from Southeast Alaska — such as Miami, Denver and Iowa — and buying companies close by, with an emphasis in Southeast. Sealaska previously owned companies all over the world, including one in Guadalajara, Mexico — a factory that made plastic caps for cleaning products.
Having a huge spread of companies “was much too great a task,” Mallott said. He said that Sealaska has recently sold the companies it owned in Miami and Iowa and is looking at selling another. Selling has diminished Sealaska’s revenue and employees for the time being, but that’s only temporary, Mallott said. He hopes to bring on employees who know how to perform mergers and acquisitions.”
“We’d like to do business close to Alaska ... to find industries that do provide significant operating income,” he said. “It’s not buying a company in Miami where we have 10 shareholders; it’s buying a company in Seattle where we have 5,000.
“Very likely within six months you’ll see investment in Southeast,” Mallott said.
One person in the audience asked Mallott how many people Sealaska currently employs in Juneau. He said the number is “close to 50.” The number used to be about 80 but has “diminished over the last few years,” he said.
Jim Wilcox Sr. asked Mallott if Sealaska had any plans to invest specifically in Juneau. Years ago, when Sealaska was worldwide, there was only one Sealaska-owned business in town, he said.
Although Mallott didn’t mention specifics, and said that Sealaska is mostly focusing on investing in villages around Southeast, Juneau is home to about 16 percent of Sealaska’s 22,000 shareholders.
“That’s our whole focus,” he said.