TOP 49ers
The Top 49ers Choose Growth
Question mark illustration

ll of the data for the Top 49ers is submitted through an annual survey. As part of our surveying process, each year we ask the responding companies to answer a question related to our theme, which this year is “Choose Adventure!”

The question we asked for 2022 is:

As your organization looks at the path forward, what opportunities are you excited about? What “adventure” is your business poised to embark on?

It shouldn’t be a surprise that an overwhelming theme among the responses is growth—even for the company dominating the top of the list. According to Arctic Slope Regional Corporation (ASRC), which has led the Top 49ers for twenty-plus years, “Despite the pause taken in 2020 and 2021 in response to COVID-19, the Corporation invested $115.3 million in capital projects and smaller strategic acquisitions. The Corporation plans to pursue additional acquisitive growth in the future. ASRC remains committed to delivering value to its shareholders and is focused on the long-term health of the Corporation. To that end, the Corporation will strive to thoughtfully grow and diversify its operations to support sustainable dividend increases.” In addition to recognition on our own ranked list, in 2021 ASRC is ranked 131 on Forbes’ annual list of the largest private US companies.

Ukpeaġvik Iñupiat Corporation (UIC) hit a milestone this year, as 2021 marked the first time its revenue exceeded $700 million. According to the village corporation, “We will continue with this growth trend and expect UIC’s revenue to cross the $1 billion mark by 2025, or earlier.” Urban corporation Goldbelt also had a stellar year of growth, almost doubling its revenue year over year, and it sees more in the future: “Goldbelt Incorporated will continue to build upon its financial success in federal contracting for the betterment of shareholders and the community of Juneau.”

Expansion and Acquisitions
Other Top 49ers are growing specific business lines, looking at acquisitions, or expanding their physical footprint. Doyon, Limited is “is excited about expanding our tourism business pillar,” and retailer Three Bears Alaska is adding stores throughout the state. It says, “Growing our company has naturally meant opening more and more stores in Alaska. And we look forward to continuing to grow and scale Three Bears—including doing all the ‘behind the scenes’ work—in order to bring Three Bears stores to many more communities throughout Alaska. Sterling is opening very soon, and Saxman/Ketchikan and North Pole are on the way. And that will bring us to twenty stores—and we have even more on the drawing board.”

According to Bering Straits Native Corporation (BSNC), “Construction continues to be one of BSNC’s fastest-growing segments and will continue to be a focus area for growth in future years, as BSNC intends to leverage the company’s existing contract vehicles and government contracting advantages to accelerate the growth of the newly acquired companies and their related complementary capabilities. The Company’s recent acquisitions and reinvestments made into our existing businesses favorably position BSNC to carry on the growth momentum from prior years as we strive toward reaching our next level of success.”

Specifically through its Yulista holding line, Calista Corporation “is excited to build upon our strengths by offering a comprehensive, unparalleled customer experience for our partners in the aerospace and defense industries.” Acquisitions of companies Troy7, StraitSys, and Demil Transport Services fits the corporation’s strategy to “expand its technical services offering and brings a well-rounded set of capabilities.”

Koniag is expanding through existing business lines, acquisitions, and physically. The company says, “We are excited to be searching for acquisitions in industries in alignment with our business strategy and expertise but stretch us in new and interesting ways. While our operating companies continue to thrive and we focus on next level performance, we are particularly excited to be re-kindling our investment in commercial real estate. Koniag has active commercial real estate developments in Texas.”

Innovation & Technology
Technology never stops evolving, and Koniag is investing in that industry, as well. “Our commercial IT sector is breaking new ground in cloud-based services, application development, and cybersecurity to meet the evolving needs of our customers with innovative and cutting-edge technology.”

Financial services increasingly drive IT innovation. According to Alaska USA Federal Credit Union, “We are identifying mergers, emerging technology, and innovative products to ensure that Alaska USA continues to provide quality financial services to members everywhere.” Another financial 49er, First National Bank Alaska, is looking back over 100 years of operations at how it has and will continue to evolve. “Over the course of a century, First National Bank Alaska has remained relevant by embracing change and innovation. That philosophy is part of who we are today. We have the demonstrated the foresight to see opportunities and challenges in the road ahead, the resources to respond to those challenges, and the flexibility and innovation to deal with the unexpected. As the bank looks ahead, we see that customers will demand the latest technology to allow them to continue to bank safely, securely, and efficiently. Our focus has been and continues to be staying ahead of the curve in providing that technology however it may change over the next 100 years. What won’t change is our commitment to Alaskans. As First National celebrates 100 years of serving Alaskans, we’re excited about the adventure of starting our second century of helping shape tomorrow for a brighter future for all Alaskans.”

Cape Fox Corporation is using the past to inform the future, as well. “We are looking at the past to create our vision for the future. We are recording and detailing many of the cultural histories that make the Tlingit of Saxman unique. In addition, we are expanding with advancing technology offerings through the new Cape Fox Innovation Hub. The Innovation Hub will bring emerging and smart technology to strengthen the Ketchikan and Saxman community through healthcare, education, and much more.”

Whatever innovations the future holds, they will require reliable and responsible energy, and many of the Top 49ers are positioning themselves to be a critical part of local, national, and international energy landscapes. Colville, for example, is “revamping our newly acquired assets in Deadhorse to be prepared for the Willow and Pikka projects.” Airport Equipment Rentals (AER) sees the same opportunity for its bottom line, saying, “AER is preparing for the possibility of the Pikka and Willow projects being developed.”

Vitus Energy’s goal is to deliver exactly what its customers need through “discovering what our customers want when they stop in for fuel.”

Instead of fuel, Matanuska Electric Association (MEA) is in the business of delivering electricity, but it’s also looking at what its customers are asking for. “MEA is working with other utilities and stakeholders to continue to diversify its energy mix. Future energy projects include additional solar projects and electric vehicle charging along with large scale energy storage and a wind resource study with our partner utilities.”

Another player in Alaska’s robust energy picture is Usibelli Coal mine, which “has a long history of providing a reliable, affordable fuel for heat and power to Interior Alaska.” According to the family- and Alaskan-owned mining operation, “As coal continues to be a vital part of the Interior’s energy mix now and into the future, Usibelli Coal Mine is proud to lead the industry in innovation and responsible operations.”

Both Colville and Airport Equipment Rentals are looking forward to continuing development on the North Slope (Prudhoe Bay is pictured below), particularly the Willow and Pikka projects.

Judy Patrick | Alamy

Colville and Airport Equipment Rentals
Both Colville and Airport Equipment Rentals are looking forward to continuing development on the North Slope (Prudhoe Bay is pictured below), particularly the Willow and Pikka projects.

Judy Patrick | Alamy

Economics and Opportunity
There are always opportunities, but it’s the companies that are open to them and prepared to take advantage of them that find success. Olgoonik Corporation says, “We are tuned in to what’s happening with Arctic development. On behalf of our Iñupiat shareholders, we maintain a seat at the table where discussions are happening about development in the changing Arctic. We are excited to be part of the new blue economy.”

The Arctic will likely continue to open, and the federal government is dispersing funds slated for development over the next several years. As H C Contractors puts it, “Infrastructure spending increase brings opportunity to Alaska,” opportunity it’s clearly prepared to take advantage of.

Everts Air Cargo & Everts Air Alaska has a high view of what’s coming and is making necessary adjustments: “Given the changes to industry, business environment, trends, and growth, Everts Air conducted a market analysis and adjusted our business strategy. These tweaks (which include changes to our aircraft fleet) will position us to remain nimble and poised to respond swiftly in the dynamic airline/transportation industry.”

There’s been a lot of discussion around how every industry is looking for the right people, and that need is not likely to change in the future. The Kuskokwim Corporation (TKC) has a plan: “As TKC’s Lower 48 businesses thrive, we are now able to invest in the Middle Kuskokwim River communities. TKC’s newest venture, the Arviiq Economic Development and Training Center in Aniak, aims to sharpen workforce skills of rural residents as well as serve as an economic development engine for the entire area.” This movement of resources from Outside Alaska to the state is one of the reasons we celebrate the Top 49ers year after year.

The First Five Decades
Few companies excel at drawing money to the state as the corporations established by the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, which became law at the tail end of 1971. The fact that Alaska Native corporations make up roughly half of the Top 49ers is a testament to how these companies have found success; they’re at a natural moment of reflection as they celebrate their golden anniversaries.

According to Chugach Alaska Corporation, “[This year] represents Chugach’s 50th year in business and ushers in a new chapter for our organization. Our anniversary theme—Honoring the Past; Navigating the Future—is an apt touchstone for how we’re approaching our business operations for the next fifty years and beyond.” The corporation continues, “2022 will undoubtedly be a challenging year for all businesses. The lingering effects of COVID-19, coupled with the impacts of inflation, economic volatility, supply chain disruptions, and increasing competition within our markets, have combined to create unprecedented headwinds that our organization is now facing. Despite this volatility, however, we remain optimistic in both our short and long-term outlooks because we have a solid growth plan in place and a tenacious workforce who consistently adapts and rises to meet challenges head-on.”

According to Ahtna, “We would not be where we are today without the wisdom and guidance of our elders and early leaders. They instilled in our minds that our lands are our corporation’s most precious gem. Respect and care for the land, and it will provide.” Ahtna has produced a video that looks at how far the corporation has come titled “Ahtna 50th Anniversary: Our Past, Our Future,” which can be viewed at

As Bristol Bay Native Corporation also celebrates fifty years of operations this year, it states, “We are poised and ready for the next fifty and more. We have come a long way but have work to do. Our shareholders, lands, cultures, and heritage will continue to be our focus while our companies and employees strive to ‘Enrich our Native way of Life.’”

To read about another corporation on a growth trajectory, choose this article.

For other Alaska companies innovating information technology, choose this article.