Golden opportunities: Native village corporations demonstrate increased success and share wealth with shareholders and employees.

Author:Liles, Patricia
 
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Alaska's economy is benefiting from a new and diverse financial force that has matured in recent years-the 173 Native village corporations that call the Last Frontier home.

Created in the early 1970s along with the 13 Native regional corporations, Alaska village corporations are designed to provide shareholders with a management structure and ultimately, a positive economic return, on the financial and land assets conveyed by the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act.

Some village corporations, located in resource-rich areas, developed into large corporations employing hundreds of people, such as the Barrow-based Ukpeagvik Inupiat Corp. UIC reported revenues of $267.1 million in 2005, employing 486 people in the myriad of subsidiaries, many related to the oil and gas industry.

Other village corporations have found substantial success in the federal contracting arena, such as the Chenega Corp., headquartered in Anchorage with cultural roots in Prince William Sound. Insolvent in 1983, Chenega bounced back in the late 1980s and early 1990s, landing considerable contractual work in the aftermath of the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill.

That contracting work has grown for Chenega and its subsidiaries. Doubling its business volume for the past two years, Chenega reported $643 million in revenues for 2005. Only 70 employees work in Alaska for the Native village corporation. According to the company's Web site, Chenega subsidiaries service more than 70 federal contracts in more than 33 states and in seven overseas countries.

JOINING FORCES

Some of the smaller village corporations have chosen to merge, forming a larger and more powerful entity. The Kuskokwim Corp. in Southwest Alaska is one such entity, formed in 1977 when 10 ANCSA village corporations in the middle region of the Kuskokwim River joined forces.

In recent years, TKC found partnering with an Anchorage-based real estate development company to be profitable. TKC has invested in several large properties in both Fairbanks and Anchorage. About one-third of the corporation's assets-$5.8 million-is invested in real estate, generating more than $850,000 in revenue in 2005, according to the company's Web site.

Initially, more than 200 village corporations were created. Mergers and restructuring has cut that number down to 173. Today, many of the remaining village corporations have found their footing in the financial world and are evolving as a financial force in Alaska's economy, providing thousands...

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