Native Corporations Help Shareholders Through Nonprofit Organizations.

Author:STRICKER, JULIE

From jobs to medical care to cultural preservation, Native nonprofits provide for shareholders.

In 1998, Sunshine Ludecker landed a job at the Coho Cup, one of two Anchorage bistros set up by Cook Inlet Regional Inc.'s Welfare-to-Work/Bridge-to-Success program.

The bistro is a place where people with no resume, no work experience at all, can learn job skills and how to manage money, says Amanda Rothbarth, public relations coordinator for CIRI. "They work there and train there and move on to other jobs," Rothbarth says. In fact, 70 percent of participants find other jobs after leaving the Coho Cup.

Ludecker never left, but for a good reason. She's now a full-time manager at the Coho Cup, whose program has won accolades from Alaska's Gov. Tony Knowles.

CIRI is one of the most successful of Alaska's 13 Native regional corporations, which were formed in 1971 under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act to settle aboriginal land claims delaying construction of the trans-Alaska oil pipeline. Under ANCSA, the regional corporations divided 44 million acres and nearly $1 billion to seed their business operations. Today, they're major players in the Alaska economy with nearly $1.97 billion in combined revenues in 1999.

The corporations have another mandate besides profit-making, which is to preserve traditional cultures, improve the lives of their shareholders and provide social services. To meet these demands, the regional corporations turn to their nonprofit counterparts, which provide scholarships, health care, housing, job training, substance abuse treatment and many other services. The nonprofits have created thousands of jobs and oversee programs that funnel hundreds of millions of dollars into Alaska

In the Interior, two Fairbanks-based Native nonprofits are on the state's top 100 list of Alaska employers: Tanana Chiefs Conference and Fairbanks Native Association. Together, they employ nearly 900 people and provide services for Alaska's vast Interior.

"We are a vital part of the community," says Annette Freiburger, FNA executive director.

Three other Native nonprofits, all centered on health care, also are ranked as top employers in Alaska, according to the Department of Labor. The Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium, affiliated with Sealaska Corp.; Calista's Yukon Kuskokwim Health Corp.; and CIRI's Southcentral Foundation employ hundreds of people and are economic engines in their respective regions.

"Health care is growing almost everywhere," says Neal Fried, an economist with the state Department of Labor. "The health care side is one of the most dynamic sectors of our economy."

Often, the largest employers in the smaller communities are either the school district or the...

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