Alaska Digest

Posted: Wednesday, November 05, 2003

Mutual fund scandals haven't affected PFD

ANCHORAGE - A scandal-wracked mutual fund company, Putnam Investments, is managing more than $500 million in stocks for the Alaska Permanent Fund Corp., but managers are confident the state's money is safe.

The Putnam scandal did not affect the state's $26 billion oil wealth savings account and couldn't have, said Bob Storer, Alaska Permanent Fund executive director.

The Putnam allegations involve questionable trading in mutual funds, whereas the permanent fund does not invest through mutual funds. Rather, it owns stocks outright, and they are held in a separate account at the Bank of New York, Storer told the Anchorage Daily News.

The separate account is due to the size of the permanent fund's investment, Storer said. It offers the advantages of lower management fees and more control over how the money is handled.

Putnam is one of four investment firms the permanent fund has hired to buy and sell stocks of large, growth-oriented companies.

Taiwan president visits Alaska

ANCHORAGE - The president of Taiwan arrived in Alaska on Tuesday, the last stop on a weeklong trip that also took him to New York and Panama.

President Chen Shui-bian will spend about 24 hours here.

Gov. Frank Murkowski, who recently visited Taiwan, invited Chen, along with other government, civic and business leaders, to see Alaska and talk about economic opportunities.

In 2002, Alaska exported $22 million in products, primarily seafood and wood, to the country. Alaska has a trade representative in Taiwan since 1989.

Taiwan is the United States' eighth-largest trading partner, although the United States has not had official diplomatic relations with Taiwan since 1979.

Man sentenced to jail for logging violations

ANCHORAGE - The Alaska Division of Forestry for the first time has turned over a logging violation to state troopers and obtained a criminal conviction.

Kasaan resident Marty Ensley, 32, was fined $6,000 and ordered to spend 10 days in jail for logging trees down to the banks of Poor Man Creek, a salmon stream on Prince of Wales Island, in fall 2001.

He pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count and was sentenced in September by a state District Court judge in Craig, according to state troopers.

Under Alaska's forest practices law, 66-foot-wide tree buffers must be left on both sides of a stream that bears oceangoing fish such as salmon.

Kasaan is a community of about 55 people on the east side of Prince of Wales Island.

What made Ensley's action so egregious was that a state forester pointed out the salmon streams to the logger during a daylong inspection before any harvesting took place, said Michael Curran, the division's area forester for southern Southeast. Also, Ensley noted the streams on the logging plan he submitted to the state before cutting, Curran said.

Ski teams head south to find snow

FAIRBANKS - America's best Nordic skiers have given up hope for early training in Interior Alaska.

The U.S. and Canadian national ski teams on Monday retreated to someplace where there actually is snow - the Lower 48.

"It's snowing like crazy in Park City," U.S. coach Trond Nystad told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner as the team packed for the redeye flight to Utah.

The six-member U.S. team arrived a week ago for a two-week training camp, just in time to take advantage of two inches of fresh snow that made it possible to ski on trails at Birch Hill Recreation Area and Salcha Elementary School.

While conditions were far from ideal, they were good enough to keep the teams in town, at least until it rained Sunday.

The U.S. Nordic ski team has been traveling to Fairbanks for early season training for more than a decade. This was the first time the team has been forced to leave because there was not enough snow, said John Estle.

Construction jobs among Alaska's highest paying professions

FAIRBANKS - Construction industry jobs were among Alaska's highest paying professions in 2002, according to state labor statistics.

Construction workers earned an average of $50,729 last year, according to the Department of Labor and Workforce Development. In general, that's second only to the oil and gas industry, and 37 percent above the statewide average of $37,101.

It's also no surprise to industry veterans like Conrad Frank, board chairman for Fairbanks general contractor Ghemm Co. Despite some ups and downs, the industry has traditionally provided a good living here, the former Ghemm Co. owner said.

In August of this year, Alaska construction workers earned $28.72 an hour, nearly two dollars more than last year.

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