Native corp. profits shoot up

Report shows sharp rise in revenue and shareholder equity in last 10 years

Posted: Tuesday, April 03, 2001

ANCHORAGE - Alaska Native regional corporations saw their revenues grow by 250 percent over the past decade, a new report says.

The 12 regional corporations were established by Congress under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act. They generated $2 billion in 1999, up from $570 million in 1990.

Profits and shareholder equity also were up dramatically over the same period, the report said. Profits grew by 98 percent, and shareholder equity ballooned by 100 percent.

The report is entitled "Native Corporations: Building a Foundation for Alaska's Economic Destiny." It was prepared by the Association of ANCSA Regional Corporation Presidents and chief executive officers.

The report was presented in Juneau recently by Carl Marrs, head of Anchorage-based Cook Inlet Region Inc.

"It tells the people of the state that these companies are economic engines," Marrs said. "We not only worry about the social and economic well-being of our shareholders, but because we do a lot of business and hiring in the state, combined with the investing we do outside the state, we bring a lot of dollars back into Alaska."

The study examined the financial performance of the dozen regional corporations and the three village corporations that grossed the most revenue - Ukpeagvik Native Corp. of Barrow; Klukwan Inc., based in Juneau; and Tikigaq Corp. of Point Hope.

Combined, those corporations contributed $8.6 million in charitable donations in 1999. They employed more than 10,000 people and paid $49.5 million in dividends and $392 million in payroll within Alaska.

"They absolutely control the economic destiny of this state," said Michael J. Burns, district president of KeyBank.

Another prominent Alaska banker said Native corporations are becoming a big factor in economic development.

Richard Strutz, president of National Bank of Alaska, said he's doing more and more business with Native corporations.

Fifteen years ago, Native companies made up about 5 percent of NBA's activity. Now the figure is more like 20 percent, Strutz said.

"What accounts for it is that the corporations are investing in Alaska. They will continue to be strong in oil field development.

"You could see them becoming more involved in property and mineral

development because they own a lot of land. And they continue to buy a diverse range of businesses," Strutz said.

The 15 Native corporations surveyed directly employed 10,234 people in 1999, the report said. But when you take that total payroll and then add the dividends distributed to Native shareholders, it's more like 14,203 jobs created.

That's a bit of a stretch, according to Steve Colt, a University of Alaska Anchorage economist who's a specialist in Native corporations.

"A lot of what they do is basic economic activity that would probably be occurring anyway. Many of these jobs would exist even if the Native corporations didn't. But what Native corporations have been able to do is to steer the existing jobs to their own shareholders by using the leverage of ownership," Colt told the Anchorage Daily News.

Of the 10,000-plus jobs Native corporations say they've created, nearly 2,500 are held by Alaska Native shareholders, the report said.

Perhaps the most significant thing about Native corporations is the status they've created for the Native community, Colt said.

"A huge part of the benefit of ANCSA corporations is that they serve as a means of political empowerment for Natives," he said.

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