Bristol Bay Native Corporation
Providing for its shareholders
Bristol Alliance Fuels truck at the 2.95 million gallon tank farm in Dillingham.
Photo courtesy of Bristol Bay Native Corporation
“We set a goal for ourselves about five years ago to double our shareholder hire and double our shareholder wages, and in that period of time we’ve more than doubled our shareholder hire. We’re at about 160 shareholder workers today, and we’ve tripled our shareholder wages. We’ve paid out about $13 million in wages annually to shareholders,” says Jason Metrokin, president and CEO of Bristol Bay Native Corporation (BBNC).
BBNC’s mission statement is “Enriching our Native way of life,” and Metrokin says it is accomplished through a number of ways. BBNC has followed a goal of paying 35 percent of its net income to shareholders in the form of dividends. Its first dividend paid to shareholders was $0.25 a share in 1978, and in the current fiscal year BBNC anticipates paying $32.40 a share, most recently averaging $17 million in shareholders dividends annually.
“What sets BBNC aside from our counterpart ANCs [Alaska Native Corporations] is that we’ve paid those dividends consistently and predictably since 1978, so our shareholders can count on the BBNC dividend every quarter and count on it increasing over time,” Metrokin says.
The dividend on average grows about 2.5 times the rate of inflation, he says.
In addition to dividends, BBNC works to provide employment, training, and educational opportunities for its shareholders, Metrokin says. Since 1986 the BBNC Education Foundation has provided scholarships for higher education and vocational training. BBNC’s endowment for its Education Foundation is nearly $20 million annually today, providing it with a strong foothold on which to operate and provide scholarships well into the future, Metrokin says.
Power of Mentorship
Metrokin saw the importance of not only higher education, but also cultural education from elders through a mentorship under Alaska Lieutenant Governor Byron Mallott, whom he met when Mallott was the president and CEO of the First Alaskans Institute.
“Growing up in an urban setting like Anchorage, I learned a lot about rural Alaska through my experiences with National Bank of Alaska and First Alaskans Institute, and then working for Byron exacerbated my experiences learning through him.”
Becoming a shareholder himself through BBNC shares passed on from his late grandfather, Metrokin became the first non-original shareholder of an Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act corporation to become president and CEO.
Metrokin was born and raised in Anchorage, with a father from Kodiak Island and Bristol Bay and a mother from Massachusetts. He earned a bachelor’s in business administration from Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts and an MBA from Alaska Pacific University.
Metrokin knew he wanted to pursue business in college and gained valuable financial skills from his experience at National Bank of Alaska (now Wells Fargo Bank). He was exposed to rural issues through his role at the bank by being responsible for introducing communities across Alaska to banking, he says.
“Whether it was lending, deposits, or other banking services, I was one of the individuals who helped a lot of our rural communities gain access to institutional banking. I traveled a lot and basically went to every nook and cranny in Alaska,” Metrokin says.
Metrokin started his career in banking, but forged his passion for Alaska Native issues working for First Alaskans Institute, a nonprofit aimed at advancing Alaska Natives through community engagement, research, and leadership development.
“[Jason Metrokin] is quick with a genuine smile, quick with a handshake, and quick to reach out. You can tell upon meeting him that he is a person who exudes energy in ways that lead you to believe that here is a guy going somewhere; and with not a sense of ambition, but a sense of desiring to be engaged, to move down the road and make a difference together. That’s something I noticed in him early on,” says Mallott.
Metrokin originally approached Mallott while in a leadership program to learn from his vast experience in state and local government and Alaska Native corporations.
“I didn’t know Byron [Mallott] at the time, but I reached out to him and saw him as somebody who knew what he was doing. He was the president and CEO of Sealaska, was the mayor of his hometown of Yakutat, and later Juneau. I asked him to be my mentor and he agreed,” Metrokin says.
Mallott says he saw leadership qualities in the beginning through Metrokin’s desire to understand and learn the issues that faced Alaska Natives and the state’s rural communities.
“He had a sense of responsibility and an obligation to make Alaska a better place for all of us,” Mallott says. “At the time he had just begun his family with his first child, and it was clear that in the taking of his parental responsibilities—seriously as parents do—he was also very clearly focused on the future he wanted for our state.”
Peak Oilfield Service Company employees cleaning a truck for Peak’s Cook Inlet Area trucking operations in Kenai.
Photo courtesy of Bristol Bay Native Corporation
BBNC has seen success in providing financial dividends to its shareholders through profits stemming from its five distinct business lines including oilfield and industrial services, government contracting, petroleum distribution, construction, and tourism. To achieve one of its latest goals of boosting shareholder hire in the region and within the state, BBNC acquired Peak Oilfield Service Company, an energy support services company, primarily operating on the North Slope, Cook Inlet, Valdez, and North Dakota in 2013.
“We had a lot of growth within the government contracting world at the time, but we wanted to diversify and maintain a balance on the commercial end, so we invested back into Alaska with [Peak]—seeing lots of opportunities on the North Slope,” says Scott Torrison, senior vice president and chief operating officer of BBNC.
BBNC’s most recent acquisition has kept the company within its business line of petroleum distribution but has also given it a chance to grow within its own region of Bristol Bay. In July BBNC purchased Bristol Express Fuels, Inc., Bristol Alliance Fuels LLC, and certain assets of Bristol Commercial Properties LLC, located in Dillingham.
BBNC’s new wholly owned subsidiary of Bristol Alliance Fuels—a consolidation of the assets acquired—will operate a 2.95 million gallon tank farm, a marine fueling facility, and the Bristol Express retail gas station and convenience store. It offers diesel, regular unleaded gasoline, aviation gasoline, Jet A, and propane, Torrison says.
“We’re starting to see [the Dillingham] market equalize down to a level that is more competitive which will benefit the area in terms of energy costs, and from our due diligence before acquiring the business, we know we’re going to be able to both drop our prices and maintain a good investment for the shareholders going forward,” Torrison says.
BBNC operates as a diversified holding company with many of its operations in the Lower 48. Metrokin says adding another leg to its stool of Alaska-based operations will not only benefit the corporation through profits but also its shareholders through employment and training opportunities, as well as the state economy.
“As an Alaska Native Corporation we’re really looking at the extreme longterm. It’s not five or ten years, its decades if not hundreds of years out,” Metrokin says. “We always have to be mindful of how BBNC is going to be successful, how we’re going to live up to those expectations that we’ve created on behalf of our shareholders for generations into the future. And by investing here in Alaska, I think that’s going to be helpful for us longterm.”
Metrokin says BBNC is always looking for ways to evolve while holding to its roots of culture, heritage, and land. He says it’s akin to walking in two worlds.
“We have a tremendous amount of respect for those who founded the corporation, our elders, our lands, and our resources, and we’re never going to lose sight of who we stand for, but at the same time we can’t do business in a way that is stuck in the past,” Metrokin says. “We have to evolve, we have to progress, we have to compete, we have to promote ourselves, and we have to be relevant in today’s business world.”
Some of the state’s largest industries are oil and gas, mining, construction, transportation, and tourism, and many Alaska Native Corporations participate in these business sectors. Metrokin says Alaska Native Corporations like BBNC are at a new phase in their more than forty year history as part of Alaska’s economy.
“Many of us started out small, and it took us a while to learn what it meant to be a corporate entity—and a profit-making corporate entity at that,” Metrokin says. “The next phase of Alaska Native Corporations is really to take the corporation to the next level financially and to promote ourselves as Alaskan companies, as Native corporations, and as our own sector of the state’s economy.”
Russ Slaten is an Associate Editor at Alaska Business Monthly.
This article first appeared in the October 2015 print edition of Alaska Business Monthly.