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ANC Subsidiary Growth

Integrating and innovating business models


Bowhead Transport Company barges loaded with cargo for the Arctic.

© Sean Hochanadel, courtesy of BTC

From sea to land to sky, Alaska Native Corporation subsidiaries are integrating the latest technologies, most innovative business models, and talented managers to achieve notable success despite a struggling state and national economy.


They Deliver, Ice or no Ice

Bowhead Transport Company­Ukpeaġvik Iñupiat Corporation

When the subject of development in the Arctic surfaces in legislative committees and international forums held in Alaska and abroad, an integral facet of the deliberation is transportation within such a harsh and fickle environment.

Bowhead Transport Company is a subsidiary of Ukpeaġvik Iñupiat Corporation (UIC) within its marine services division. Bowhead, named after the behemoth Arctic whale that is culturally and geographically tethered to subsistence (and second in size only to the blue whale), is a marine company that delivers to and ships from Alaska’s Arctic region.

It was in 1973 that UIC, the Barrow village corporation, officially incorporated. From stores to construction to insurance, by 1982 the thriving corporation targeted much needed Arctic barging services by forming Bowhead for operations in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas. Considered a leader in marine industries and logistical hub support, Bowhead transports general and sensitive cargo.

Bowhead continues to grow in a burgeoning market, most recently forming a joint-venture with Crowley Marine Services (UIC Bowhead-Crowley), centering on oil and gas development, specifically from Point Thomson to Wainwright.

Bowhead owns or charters ocean-going and lighterage vessels of all sizes. Bowhead has nine administrative employees year round and up to thirty-two employees in the summer, including UIC shareholders, for terminal and cargo operations and the marine crews during the open water season. A salient feature to its delivery service is in August and September when back-hauling hazardous waste, contaminated soils, scrapped steel, and demobilized equipment out of Alaska. Over the last three years, between two thousand and four thousand tons of waste materials have been removed from Alaska by Bowhead and facilitated through remediation companies.

In the last year, Bowhead crews found that in some areas of delivery the loss of ice and erosion is phenomenal. Approximately one hundred feet of beach recently disappeared between Camp Lonely and Point Lonely that used to be a shallow approach but is now a cliff. That means one hundred feet of waterfront is gone because of the higher sea state.

In the Arctic shipping industry, shippers either acclimate to changing conditions or moor their vessels and close shop. Bowhead is meeting environmental challenges by building a new 150-foot landing craft aimed at being the backbone of its lighterage operations, launching it in 2014.

The launch of a new and re-designed website will also help to modernize the company’s digital and online information and messaging.


Aerial of Eklutna’s Powder Ridge residential subdivision that is adjacent to the site of Phase 1 of Power Reserve, another development of homes.

Photo courtesy of Eklutna, Inc.

Just Around the Corner

Eklutna Real Estate ServicesEklutna, Inc.

When one hears the name Eklutna, either the potable glacial lake in Chugach State Park, or the new Eklutna Generation Station under construction by Matanuska Electric Association might come to mind, but for the most part Eklutna Village Dena’ina and its village corporation Eklutna, Inc. are the synonymous namesakes for the culture and people that bear the name.

An expanding subsidiary of Eklutna, Inc. is Eklutna Real Estate Services, LLC (ERES). Led by Greg McDonald, the broker and general manager, ERES oversees property management and leasing of the commercial properties Eklutna owns and asset manages the Eklutna ground leases throughout the Municipality of Anchorage. Many Alaskans don’t realize how many properties are owned and leased by Eklutna.

Eklutna owns the Centerfield building in Eagle River; the FBI Annex on Fifth Avenue and A Street; the ground that the FBI headquarters and Office Depot are on between Fifth and Sixth Avenues in downtown Anchorage; and the office building at 3335 Arctic Boulevard. The company also owns the ground the Spenard Builders Supply store sits on in Eagle River (lease land) and the Spenard Builders Supply truss plant in Birchwood and has plans to broaden its commercial real estate holdings in the Chugiak and Eagle River communities.

A new project recently announced is a Three Bears Alaska store, planned for construction on a property at the North Birchwood exit, which will include in its fifty-thousand-square-foot building: a full line of groceries, household goods, sporting goods, outdoor equipment, a liquor store, pharmacy, and gas station.

There’s no lack of momentum for the company. Some of the other projects ERES is currently pursuing include Eklutna Plaza, which is a seventy-thousand-square-foot mixed-use (office, medical, retail, and restaurants) development located at the intersection of the Old Glenn Highway and Northgate Road in Eagle River. Designs are currently being drawn by an architect, with groundbreaking targeted for spring 2014.

Another new project is the Birchwood Industrial Park that is on a 160-acre site. Final grading should be completed by year’s end, with the last three years requiring gravel removal to create a flat parcel. This development is adjacent to the Alaska Railroad Satellite Yard and Birchwood Airport. ERES will start leasing over the winter and into next spring. The industrial park is in a foreign trade zone (similar to the Ted Stevens International Airport and Port of Anchorage). McDonald says the foreign trade zone designation means there is a tremendous opportunity for companies to manufacture goods and then ship internationally, taking advantage of tax and tariff implications.

The list goes on for this busy subsidiary with diverse and thriving properties scattered across the municipality. There is a five-acre light industrial commercial development on Artillery Road and Mausel in Eagle River. There is land for planned development adjacent the Matanuska Electric Association Eklutna Generation Station, east of the Village of Eklutna, recently approved by Municipality of Anchorage’s Planning and Zoning Commission to rezone for light and heavy industrial services. The company is also starting Phase 1 of Powder Reserve, which is a residential development that has already sold out.


From Fuel to Water, Keeping the Machine Moving

NOSI—NANA Oilfield Services, Inc. NANA

When it comes to Alaska Native corporation subsidiaries, age is relative. Some subsidiaries are fledgling and barely past their genesis, while others are decades old and still blossoming.

On the senior end of the spectrum, in 1975 the NANA Regional Corporation subsidiary NANA Development Corporation subsidiary NANA Oilfield Services, Inc. (NOSI) was established. Offering a menu of support services to oil exploration and development companies on the North Slope, its primary capabilities are bulk fuels, potable water, Chevron lubricants, and long haul trucking.

Led by its president, Brad Osborne, who has been with NANA for more than fourteen years and has been president of NOSI for two years, the subsidiary has an 11.1 acre operations facility in Deadhorse along with a 1.2 million gallon tank farm and offers in-state full tanker load delivery. The operations facility was completed in 2010 and expanded in 2012. The 140-by-80-foot facility houses six bays.

NOSI’s niche is bulk fuels, marketing diesel, ultra-low-sulfur diesel, and unleaded gasoline. Its access is 24-hour/365-day-a-year availability. Critical to camps and exploration sites, the fact that the company delivers across the North Slope is of importance to clients. Aviation fuels, methanol, and remote fuel tank set up are additional customer incentives highlighted in its branding.

NOSI just opened a new trucking division out of Fairbanks, which transports fuel from Fairbanks to Deadhorse. Those who have heard of ice road truckers and the popular reality show with the same name are acquainted with NOSI’s “bread and butter.”

A typical workday for a NOSI trucker begins in Fairbanks driving a semi-truck and pulling a ten thousand gallon tanker to a refinery in North Pole. Once the ultra-low-sulfur diesel is loaded, it’s a twelve to fourteen hour journey on the Dalton Highway, depending on road conditions and Mother Nature, to the Deadhorse tank farm. As customers need the fuel, NOSI dispenses from its tank farm and via line haul trucks.

NOSI previously relied on third-party contractors for some of its services but now handles all functions effectively in-house. Osborne adds that consolidation of services is an example of the substantial support NOSI, as a subsidiary, receives from its parent company NANA Development.

Those in the Arctic who enjoy drinking and using water for daily living can attribute access to this basic necessity to NOSI and its water trucks. The company supplies millions of gallons of water each year to the camps run by companies like Arctic Slope Energy, Afognak Leasing, and State of Alaska facilities around the Deadhorse vicinity.


Bob Johnson at GeoNorth works on a map.

Photo courtesy of GeoNorth, LLC

Shooting for the Stars


All Alaska Native corporation subsidiaries don’t stay rooted to the ground.

When it comes to Geographical Information Systems (think GoogleEarth) and web application integration, GeoNorth, LLC is eponymous in Alaska, and it’s looking to the sky for expansion. It was in 1994 when Brian Minster and two partners formed GeoNorth, a company providing GIS, database management, web design and development, and mobile applications.

As a full-service software provider, for almost twenty years GeoNorth has witnessed and benefitted from the evolution of geo-mapping technology. In September 2010 The Tatitlek Corporation, a corporation for the Village of Tatitlek located in northeastern Prince Williams Sound and thirty miles south of Valdez, purchased the company. A year later, GeoNorth acquired Motznik Informaton Services. Motznik opened in 1974 and has been the signature political and marketing data information provider in the state ever since, recently expanding services into national background-checks and Alaska public records searches.

GeoNorth has more than two hundred employees with more than 25 percent based in Alaska. Its headquarters is in Anchorage, with offices in Portland, Oregon; Orlando, Florida; Arlington, Virginia; and a new office opening in Fairbanks in 2014.

In light of hundreds of GIS assessments already completed, and an abundance of GIS systems architecture development on its resume, GeoNorth is particularly proud of designing and implementing its own web-based mapping solution called MapOptix.

To add to the success, on September 12 GeoNorth announced the launch of a new business line focusing on remote sensing services. Partnering with Astrium Services, GEO-Information Services and the Alaska Satellite Facility at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, GeoNorth will be establishing a Direct Receiving Station for optical and radar satellite imagery. GeoNorth will handle tasking and downlinking of optical and radar telemetry for Astrium satellite constellations including SPOT, Pleiades, and TerraSAR.


Bottom Line

As integral as Alaska Native parent corporations are to the state’s economy, there’s no doubt that the hundreds of dynamic subsidiaries sprinkled throughout Alaska and nationally are making an equally positive impact in services, products, and modern technology offered to customers. From sea to land to sky, these remarkable subsidiaries are ensuring the state’s vibrant business climate continues and Alaskans are the benefactors.

Tom Anderson freelances from Alaska.

This first appeared in the December 2013 print edition of Alaska Business Monthly magazine.
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