Inside Alaska Business
The Waterworks
The winner of the US Small Business Administration’s 2024 State Small Business Person of the Year for Alaska is the owner of The Waterworks, Kali C. Bennett. The company, with two locations in Anchorage and Eagle River, sells hot tubs, spa tubs, swimming spas, and sauna equipment. Bennett’s parents started the company in the ‘70s, and Bennett recently completed the Small Business Administration’s executive training program, T.H.R.I.V.E. Emerging Leaders Reimagined. As Alaska’s State Small Business Person of 2024, Bennett was invited to the National Small Business Week awards ceremony held in Washington, DC, late last month.

ARG Industrial
The thirteenth location for ARG Industrial extends its reach to a new state. The Anchorage-based supplier of hoses, rope, and rigging products opened a shop in Hayden, Idaho—less than an hour’s drive away from the company’s Spokane, Washington branch. “The area is experiencing rapid growth north of Coeur d’Alene along the Highway 95 corridor,” says president and CEO Mike Mortensen. “This branch is strategically positioned to meet the region’s increasing demands for the products and services we provide.” The employee-owned company has grown by acquisitions throughout Alaska, Washington, and Oregon.

IGA Food Cache
Shoppers in Delta Junction have a local market again, two years after the old grocery store’s roof collapsed. The rebuilt IGA Food Cache opened in March, a few months after the owners opened a new Subway franchise and gas station mini-market. Ed Larson, who owns the Independent Grocers Alliance store #158 in Delta Junction, called in his son Jeff, who manages a produce wholesaler in Seattle, to help coordinate the reconstruction amid shortages of materials, equipment, and contractors.

Designing production modules to be trucked to the Pikka project on the North Slope has big advantages for Santos. Instead of sealift by barge, transporting the 90-ton units by truck up the Dalton Highway spreads work over a longer season. It also saves about $200 million to $300 million, Santos SVP of External Affairs Joe Balash told state legislators in February. Around the same time, Santos CEO and Managing Director Kevin Gallagher said pipeline construction might wrap up in two winters instead of three, hinting that Pikka could produce first oil in 2025 instead of 2026.

A state-held North Slope unit is back in private hands. On February 29, the Alaska Division of Oil and Gas approved a change of control for Mustang Holding and the Mustang Operations Center from the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority to Finnex Operating. Mustang is a field in the Southern Miluveach Unit, and it was in production for one month in 2019 under Brooks Range Petroleum. Finnex submitted plans to restore production from a pad about 4.5 miles west of ConocoPhillips Alaska’s Kuparuk Unit.

Chugach Electric Association
Member-owners of Chugach Electric Association could buy into a community solar project planned for the utility’s South Anchorage substation, along the railroad tracks just north of 100th Avenue. The Regulatory Commission of Alaska approved a three-year pilot project, which would install 1,280 solar panels generating about 500 kW. The project is meant for Chugach customers unable to install solar panels on their own property. Construction is expected to be finished by summer 2025.

Alaska Small Business Development Center
What capabilities do new computer tools based on machine learning offer to businesses? The Artificial Intelligence Resource Center (AIRC) would know. The Alaska Small Business Development Center at UAA launched the AIRC in March as a point of contact for entrepreneurs curious about new technologies. Executive Director Jon Bittner describes AIRC as the first of its kind in the country.

Port of Alaska
Since the new Petroleum and Cement Terminal opened last spring, the Don Young Port of Alaska has been busier than ever. Nearly 2.3 million tons of petroleum products flowed through the port in 2023, the most ever handled in a year. Nearly 155,000 tons of cement moved across the docks in Anchorage, a surge since the year before and the most since at least 2007. The vital building material arrived on five ships, up from the usual four.

The sale of Anchorage-based fiber optic cable company Quintillion to a global investment firm is complete. Grain Management formally acquired QSH Parent Holdco, the holding company for Quintillion. The company has an ambitious plan to connect east Asia with Europe via the Arctic Ocean, starting with a subsea cable that links coastal villages from Nome to Utqiaġvik. Bank Street Group served as Quintillion’s financial advisor and Morgan, Lewis & Bockius was the legal advisor, while Cooper Investment Partners and Alston & Bird advised Grain.