By RICK WHITBECK | POWER THE FUTURE
This state agency is self-sufficient and profitable, returning nearly half a billion dollars in dividends to the State of Alaska throughout its history.
This year’s dividend was announced this week at $17.046 million, a nearly 18% year-over-year increase.
The same state agency has provided hundreds of loans for micro-economic and entrepreneurial ventures across the state, leading to employment for thousands of Alaskans, who may not have had the chance otherwise.
And yet, this agency – misunderstood by most Alaskans – receives regular criticism for secrecy, working against Alaskans’ interests, bad investment decisions, and wasting money.
As I’ve gotten to know The Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority (AIDEA) over the past few years, I’ve seen with my own eyes that these allegations are misguided and false. It is long past time to give credit to AIDEA for its wise business practices over the years, and its leadership in helping to secure jobs for generations to come.
Let’s start with the elephant in the room: While any investment firm will tell you that a perfect track record is unrealistic, AIDEA has made some poor investments over the years. The Alaska Seafood International plant in Anchorage – now ChangePoint Church – was notable for its size and amount (a $20 million loss) in the early 2000s, and there have been other investment losses detractors could take exception with. However, AIDEA’s overall performance is significantly net-positive to the state and economy, with many more “hits” than “misses.”
AIDEA was involved in the early stages of the Red Dog Mine in the Northwest Arctic Borough, the nation’s largest zinc producer, and a job-creating giant for Borough residents. They invested in the Ketchikan Shipyard, which has been a boon for the Southeast community and helped launch industrial opportunities throughout the region.
Its investment in the Bonanza fuel farm in Nome, the More dock in Homer, a FedEx hangar at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport and the Skagway Ore Terminal are all examples of AIDEA making wise decisions with its investment dollars. These projects are paying back, not only with monthly and annual payments, but with increased jobs and opportunities across the state. Plus, the total income generated from these family-supporting and long-term jobs far outweighs the amount of dollars from investments that haven’t had a positive return.
AIDEA’s Board of Directors is tasked with overseeing the mission and overall scope of the agency. It includes some of Alaska’s most successful business leaders, as well as the Commissioners of Commerce and Community and Economic Development, and Revenue. Having attended the majority of AIDEA board meetings the past two years, I’ve heard the discussions and have seen the thoughtful deliberations. AIDEA takes its charge seriously.
This week, they announced a new Executive Director in Randy Ruaro, formerly Governor Dunleavy’s Chief of Staff, and an accomplished attorney and businessman. I’m excited to see AIDEA’s future with Ruaro at the helm, especially as it continues down the path with three investments that could pay huge dividends for the state.
AIDEA is the only current leaseholder in the Coastal Plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), having bid on and contracted for seven tracts, totaling just over 365 thousand acres, from the December 2020 initial lease sale. Although the area has been ruled off-limits by the Biden administration – in stark contrast to the Congressionally-approved development plan – the leases remain relevant to an overall energy plan for America, and AIDEA’s decision to plug ahead with plans to turn the leases into jobs and revenues down the road is commendable.
AIDEA is also leading the way for investment in two roads to resources – something Alaska desperately needs – as both the Ambler mining district and West Susitna development areas hold tremendous promise for strategic and critical minerals, copper and other deposits necessary for the U.S.’s plans to transform our nation’s energy mix. The two projects would allow world-class environmental stewardship to work hand-in-hand with world-class mining technologies and strategies; bringing jobs to rural Alaska, revenues to the state and establish a domestic supply-chain for what industry and eco groups alike are clamoring for.
Alaska, I hope you’re more aware of the positive impact AIDEA has had on our economy with this article. Now, it’s time for you to get involved. The Board and staff need Alaskans to stand up and provide support for AIDEA’s ongoing efforts, as its enemies in the environmental and ‘let’s shut down Alaska’ movements are regularly lambasting the agency. Their Board meets every month, with a public comment opportunity as the place for you to have your say. The 2023 schedule can be found here.
Join me in supporting an agency that has been – and will be – a job and revenue creator for Alaska’s bright energy future.
Rick Whitbeck is the Alaska State Director for Power The Future, a national nonprofit organization that advocates for American energy jobs. Contact him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @PTFAlaska.