Foreign or local dollars?

Posted: Tuesday, May 16, 2000

I am writing this letter in response to Robert Reges' letter that recently criticized the ``imperialism'' of ``foreign'' corporations, who spirit dollars out of here as fast as they can be extracted from the wallets of tourists. In particular, I wish to respond to his inclusion of Little Switzerland in his list of culprits.

Little Switzerland is ``foreign,'' if Mr. Reges means incorporated outside Alaska, but it is U.S.-based. As to sending dollars out of town as fast as electronic transfers will allow, I don't think so.

We entered into a lease with Little Switzerland in 1995. The electrical service to our building was inadequate for their needs, as was the roof structure above the store. These repairs they agreed to pay for, as well as an expensive renovation of the retail space they now use. They spent a lot of money with a local architect, local contractors, a local engineering firm, local building supply companies and other local businesses. They even threw a couple hundred at a local legal firm to draw up a lease (so much for the lawyers).

With a good lease we were able to turn an unprofitable real estate enterprise into one which impressed a local bank enough to loan us money to build another building on our property. We built in 1997 using a local architect, a local contractor, local employees and a loan from a local bank, etc. It also impressed the local tax assessor to add a million dollars to our valuation over the last five years.

During the period of our lease with Little Switzerland, their stock has gone from more than $7 to as low as 24 cents a share. Currently, their stock is now around 80 cents. I'd be willing to bet Mr. Reges a couple of hours of his billing rate that Little Switzerland, after paying for the cost of the products it sells, has left the rest of its tourist-extracted dollars right here along with a lot of assets of its unhappy shareholders (who don't live here). So much for electronic transfers.

Instead of the shareholders (Little Switzerland is publicly held), it has been the local people, businesses, government and my partner and I who have benefited from Little Switzerland's efforts in Juneau. I get to travel a little more than I used to using Alaska Airlines - yet another ``foreign'' corporation.

Jerry Buckley B&C Building Co. Juneau



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