Inside Alaska Business

Oil production declines at Prudhoe Bay have flattened thanks to “hundreds of fairly small projects,” according to Hilcorp. The company finished its first full year of operating BP’s former North Slope assets by announcing enough production to bend the decline curve. Jill Fisk, senior asset team leader at Prudhoe Bay West, says repairs to current drill sites and revival of older sites increased production from 271,000 barrels per day in 2019 to 299,000 in 2020 and 304,000 in 2021.

Parker, Smith & Feek

A Washington-based insurance firm with a strong presence in Alaska is now part of a much larger brokerage. Parker, Smith & Feek was acquired by IMA Financial Group. The 330 associates add to IMA’s nearly 1,400, doubling IMA’s healthcare specialty and significantly growing its construction practice.

Yuut Elitnaurviat
The only training program in Alaska to certify licensed practical nurses (LPNs) is opening in Bethel. Alaska Pacific University in Anchorage is providing faculty and a two-semester curriculum for classes at the Yuut Elitnaurviat workforce development center. LPNs are one step below an associate degree in nursing, capable of recording medical information, taking vital signs, giving injections, and readying patients for exams or procedures. They receive more intensive training than Yuut Elitnaurviat’s six-week program for certified nursing assistants. The program is meant to address a shortage of LPNs, especially in rural Alaska.
What’s the biggest cash crop in Alaska? No, not hay. Not barley or potatoes. Add up all the agricultural crops and livestock raised by Alaskan farmers and the total does not equal the value of cannabis. A study by Leafly, a marijuana hub website, found Alaska’s twenty-one metric ton cannabis harvest from 356 licensed growers had a wholesale value of $104 million in the fiscal year ending June 2021. That dwarfs the $9 million for hay, $1 million for barley, and about $30 million for all other farmed commodities. Cannabis is also the top cash crop in Colorado, Massachusetts, Nevada, and Oregon, according to the study.
Mt. McKinley Meat & Sausage
Local livestock farmers will continue to have access to an Alaskan-owned, in-state slaughterhouse. The state’s largest pork producers, Todd and Sherrie Elsberry of North Pole, purchased Mt. McKinley Meat & Sausage in Palmer for an undisclosed price, facilitated by the state Division of Agriculture. Originally built in the ‘30s, the slaughterhouse was abandoned by private-sector owners in 1986 then operated by the State of Alaska until 2016. Another private owner took over until 2020. The Palmer facility is the largest of three slaughterhouses in Alaska inspected and approved by the US Department of Agriculture and the only one capable of serving commercial customers.
Matanuska Glacier Park

Private road access to Matanuska Glacier saw a record number of visitors in 2021 despite an increase in prices. Bill Stevenson, who owns the only road to one of Alaska’s most accessible glaciers, counted about 40,000 visitors. He says MICA and NOVA glacier guides, which offer their own tours, also saw record numbers. Stevenson’s Matanuska Glacier Park now requires guided tours, ending self-guided access for the 2021 season, and he says the result is fewer slip-and-fall accidents and better experiences overall. His fee rose from $25 for residents to $35, and $100 for non-Alaskans. The price includes safety helmets.

Royal Caribbean
Alaska is the destination for Royal Caribbean International’s next President’s Cruise. The annual events bring the company’s most loyal passengers into close contact with top executives, including Royal Caribbean CEO and President Michael Bayley. The last such cruise was in 2019, in the eastern Caribbean Sea; the 2020 cruise in the western Mediterranean was cancelled, and none was scheduled for 2021. Bayley said in a webinar with travel agents that he’d be sailing to Alaska in June or July, but it wasn’t clear at the time if he would be aboard Ovation of the Seas or Quantum of the Seas, departing from Seattle, or Radiance of the Seas or Serenade of the Seas out of Vancouver.