Permanent fund may look into a new location

Posted: Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Alaska Permanent Fund Corp.'s trustees this week will hear a proposal for studying a move of the fund's headquarters from Juneau to Anchorage. The trustees are meeting in Anchorage today and Thursday, and will hear the proposal Thursday.

Carl Brady of Anchorage, former chairman of the board of trustees, has urged a move to Anchorage, and Commonwealth North, an Anchorage-based public policy group, has criticized the fund's Juneau location.

Vice Chairman Bill Moran of Ketchikan earlier this year asked Executive Director Mike Burns to bring information about a location study back to the board.

Moran said his request to seek an outside consultant to study the move was to prevent staff bias from influencing the recommendations.

Burns on Thursday will describe how real estate advisory firm Jones Lang LaSalle would go about studying the relative merits of Juneau and Anchorage as permanent fund locations.

Juneau Sen. Kim Elton questioned why a real estate firm was being asked where money management would be best done.

"The question is 'can it be done better someplace else?'" he said.

"I think the answer to that is no, and I think maybe that's why they were selected," he said.

Elton called it a "misguided notion" to look at the office location question based on real estate data instead of where the fund could be best governed.

The Jones Lang LaSalle proposal would include a look at factors such as real estate, taxation, labor, quality of life, business climate, infrastructure, transportation and utilities in determining whether Anchorage offers a "smarter, long-term cost and condition location solution," according to materials to be presented to the board.

It's not clear why the proposal appears to favor Anchorage over other possible locations closer to financial markets, such as New York or San Francisco.

Burns was traveling and unavailable for comment Monday. The fund staff withheld information about the proposal for several days following a request from the Empire.

Permanent fund communications director Laura Achee said that refusing to comply with the Empire's request for meeting documents until one business day before the meeting was intended to prevent press coverage of the meeting issues before they were before the trustees.

She said the Fund's action was in compliance with long standing policy and were in technical compliance with the state's public records and meetings laws.

Jones Lang LaSalle's job would be to deliver a "stay/go" recommendation, along with a possible migration plan if needed, according to the meeting documents.

Bill Luttrell, Jones Lang LaSalle vice president for strategic consulting, declined to comment on what his firm was being asked to do, and how often it recommended moving or not moving.

"I'd rather not answer any questions without the fund's permission," he said.

If Luttrell was to recommend a move to Anchorage, Jones Lang LaSalle's task might also include additional work in site selection, real estate negotiations, move coordination and Juneau property disposition, his proposal said.

The permanent fund employs 32 people at headquarters, according to its Web site.

Commonwealth North started the most recent discussions with a report last December that suggested a headquarters move as a way of improving the fund's management.

"Despite the positive performance of the permanent fund through its management and board, its office location presents obstacles to continued success," Commonwealth North said.

Burns' presentation to the board Thursday is written as an informational, not an action, agenda item, but Luttrell's information is presented as a proposal and it is not clear what action the board may take or needs to take.

Cost information is not presented in the agenda materials.

• Contact reporter Pat Forgeyat 523-2250 or e-mail patrick.forgey@juneauempire.com.



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