A former Haida Corp. chief executive officer takes the helm of the Kootznoowoo Corp. today, ushering in what Angoon's village Native corporation hopes is an era of prosperity.
Carlton Smith, former CEO of Kootznoowoo, chose not to renew his contract with the corporation. Robert Hamilton former CEO of Haida Corp., will take his place as president and general manager.
Kootznoowoo, with 982 shareholders, used to be in the aviation and timber business but currently deals in real estate and investment.
Smith, under a directive from the corporation's board of directors, last year eliminated the chief executive and financial officer positions as a cost-saving measure.
"My three-year contract is up in August and I chose not to renew it. Also we no longer have any operating companies so we don't need a CEO," Smith said. "We've settled the liquidation of Taquan Air and liquidated our computer training corporation in Juneau. We reduced our staff from 22 to four. This is the last step in the process for our new management structure."
Smith said the board had to make some tough decisions with the loss of timber revenue in the late 1990s. Officials eliminated most positions in the corporation, replaced them with contract employees, liquidated companies owned by the corporation and restructured the corporation into a holding company. Smith said the corporation has saved nearly $125,000. He wouldn't reveal Hamilton's salary but said, "it is on average on the lower end for these types of positions."
Last year the corporation came away with a $506,000 profit despite putting $1.3 million in escrow to finalize the liquidation of Taquan Air and settle related financial obligations, Smith said.
Hamilton would not give specific reasons why he left Haida, a Native corporation for the village of Hydaburg. "Some corporations realize there is an end to this timber pot of gold and begin to diversify early. Some do not. I will leave it at that," he said.
Hamilton said he will continue the board's goals of "keeping costs down, diversification and profitability by 2003."
Keeping costs down may include reducing the size of the board of directors from nine to seven later this year, he said. Shareholders will vote on this issue.
Further, he said the corporation will continue to diversify through investments and real estate that meet its criteria. This may not include land in Alaska, Smith said. He said part of the criteria is acquiring property "in a market where national and regional tenants want to be."
Kootznoowoo already owns commercial real estate in Albuquerque, N.M., Nashville, Tenn., and Juneau.
Shareholder Judy George said she doesn't mind the corporation looking for land outside of Alaska as long as there is a sound management plan in place. George also said she was pleased with the proactive role the board has taken to watch the budget in a nationally slowing economy.
Hamilton said though the corporation may go out of town for land purchases, the profits from these ventures come home to the shareholders through dividends. Kootznoowoo shareholders haven't received dividends since 1997.
Hamilton also said Kootznoowoo will continue to develop the 8,000 acres of its forest land as a tourist attraction while preserving the land set aside in this area for subsistence. He also said the corporation will continue to pursue a hydroelectric power project north of Angoon.
Profitability by 2003 is a goal, Hamilton said. But he said he has no hard numbers in mind and said he hopes watching costs and procuring new land and investments will make his third goal a reality.
"Going forward, this is one of the corporations that will grow and prevail," Smith said. "We will be able to provide benefits because of these tough choices we had to make. That is the legacy."
Melanie Plenda can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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