Effort to move HQ fails

Attempt to relocate to Anchorage had zero trustee support

Posted: Thursday, August 09, 2007

In a surprise attempt during a spring meeting, the chairman of the Alaska Permanent Fund Corp.'s Board of Trustees tried to move the corporation's headquarters from Juneau to his hometown of Anchorage.

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No trustees supported the motion to move, and it failed for lack of a second.

The move attempt happened on March 1 at the board's regular meeting in Juneau. The issue had not been on the board's agenda, and no reporter was present. The motion was first reported in the latest issue of the Alaska Budget Report, after the meeting minutes came out in June.

Board Chairman Carl Brady said then that if the corporation "is going to be a world-class organization, which it has the capability and potential of being, Juneau is not the place for it to be headquartered."

"It should be in Anchorage, but if not there, then somewhere else," he said.

Brady was unavailable for comment Wednesday.

Brady's action angered Sen. Kim Elton, D-Juneau, who said it had been tried before.

"This is not an isolated incident," he said earlier this week.

Elton said Brady, who runs a business in Anchorage, wanted all of the corporation's board meetings and managers to be closer to his home. That's happened with other agencies as well, he said.

"They're deciding for the convenience of themselves - not the agency, but themselves - that they would rather be somewhere else," Elton said.

Brady told the trustees that the financial impact on Juneau would be "minimal," and it would open up a better pool of applicants for jobs with the corporation.

That was disputed by a staff member, Jim Parise, manager of Fixed Income Investments, who said he moved from Chicago for his job with the fund and loved Juneau and its way of life.

"People are not clamoring to get to Anchorage any more than they are clamoring to get to Juneau when they come to work for the permanent fund, so the headquarters move will not open up the hiring pool," he said.

Elton said that everything the fund does can be done at any location, but is best done in the state capital and near the state's top policymakers.

The corporation already has an office in Anchorage for the use of board members and corporation staff when they are in that city, said Mike Burns, the corporation's executive director. That office is not staffed, but has meeting and work spaces, along with electronic connections.

Burns said there would be benefits to the corporation being in Anchorage, greater benefits in Seattle, even greater ones in San Francisco, and New York would be the best possible place to be.

The board's top financial advisor, Callan Associates, is based in San Francisco, and manages to be a top investment advisory firm without being located in New York, Elton said. The Permanent Fund Corp. can do and does good work in Juneau, he said.

Trustee Jim Duncan, a former state representative from Juneau, likened moving the fund headquarters to the capital move issue.

"It's the very same argument: Let's take it and give it to Anchorage," he said.

Moving to Anchorage would likely cost the corporation some of its professional staff, which would be difficult to replace, he said.

Brady's motion to begin the move failed for lack of a second, even after being endorsed by former trustee Eric Wohlforth.

Though Brady had not asked Burns to include the topic on the March 1 meeting agenda, he had let Gov. Sarah Palin know of his plans ahead of time, he told the board.

Palin spokesperson Sharon Leighow confirmed that the governor had heard of Brady's plan, but said she had no response then or now.

"The governor hasn't looked into the proposal," she said.

Elton said he feared it wasn't dead.

"I'm sure that Mr. Brady is going to make the same suggestion in the future," he said.

• Contact Pat Forgey at patrick.forgey@juneauempire.com.

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