After emerging from bankruptcy in 1989, BSNC operations were based primarily in Nome. Because of the difficulties associated with the bankruptcy, the Board of Directors entered this new period with a cautious approach to business development and investment. During this period, other Alaska Native Corporations were becoming involved in the SBA 8(a) program, which provided specific incentives for federal contracting by small and disadvantaged businesses. BSNC avoided entering the 8(a) program early on, instead focusing on building solid ventures in Nome.
In the early 1990’s BSNC began a car rental service through Stampede Ventures. Construction of a new office building, purchase of the Old Federal Building and the construction of the Aurora Executive suites in the mid 1990’s enhanced BSNC’s real estate portfolio. In 1999, the Aurora Inn construction was finalized and it now serves as the center for hotel rooms and car rentals in Nome.
Other business ventures in Nome were established during the early and mid-1990’s, and Bering Straits Development Company (BSDC) has grown since that time and now provides electrical and construction services throughout western and northwest Alaska, as well as general construction. BSDC has had a number of projects in the region’s communities including housing, daycare and clinic construction as well as alternative energy projects throughout western Alaska.
Sound Quarry Inc. (SQI) and Cape Nome Products (CNP) have provided rock for the sea walls in Shishmaref, Unalakleet and Nome and the causeway/port of Nome. Throughout the late 1980’s and 1990’s the BSDC, SQI, CNP, Aurora Inn and Stampede Ventures successfully expanded and they continue today as solid regional businesses that have significant shareholder and descendant hire.
BSDC was Bering Straits Native Corporation’s first entry into 8(a) contracting, becoming certified in 1994. One of the first 8(a) projects was an environmental cleanup on Anvil Mountain in the mid 1990s.
In 2003, Inuit Services became BSNC’s initial 8(a) subsidiary. Since that time, BSNC has developed subsidiaries and partnerships to secure a strong position within the contracting sector. Based on the success of Inuit Services, BSNC has continued to add numerous successful small business and 8(a) contracting companies, including Bering Straits Information Technology, Global Support Services and Bering Straits Logistics Services. We continue to look at new opportunities to grow these subsidiaries to bring value to shareholders.
Land prioritizations continued as BSNC worked with the Bureau of Land Management to secure final patent for village lands and lands selected by BSNC under Section 14(h) of ANCSA. The corporation selected all of the lands surrounding Salmon Lake, but the State of Alaska also selected the property. Due to a regulatory requirement, BLM rejected BSNC’s selection. The Board decided that the area of Salmon Lake was indeed a priority and appealed the BLM ruling to the Interior Board of Land Appeals (IBLA). It was at this time that Senator Murkowski introduced legislation that would accelerate land conveyances for Native Corporations and the State of Alaska. In the legislation (P.L. 108-452, Dec. 10, 2004), a provision allowed negotiations with BLM to rectify competing claims. BSNC and the state entered into discussions in 2004 and reached an agreement with BLM on the disposition of the lands surrounding Salmon Lake on July 18, 2007 (Salmon Lake Area Land Ownership Consolidation Agreement). Congressional Legislation ratified the agreement and the president signed the Salmon Lake Land Selection Resolution Act (P.L. 112-133) on June 15, 2012.¹
BSNC continues to work with BLM and the region’s village corporations to finalize conveyance of all ANCSA lands. Towards this end, all but Unalakleet, Shaktoolik, Sitnasuak (Nome) and Inalik have received the final patents for their ANCSA lands. BSNC still has some outstanding 14(h) acreage to be conveyed, a number of historic and cemetery tracts (14(h)(1)) and the remaining 14(h)(8) selections (surface and subsurface for BSNC).
One of the last ANCSA land selections BSNC is actively pursuing is the property at Point Spencer (Port Clarence).² Because of the potential for increased marine traffic related to offshore oil and gas development and shipping through the Northern Sea Route and the Northwest Passage, it is critical that BSNC secures the property and position necessary for insuring that the benefits of these trends are realized by our coastal communities. Of equal importance is the need to prepare for the negative impacts that could come with economic development along our Arctic shores. Legislation has been introduced by Congressman Don Young (H.R. 4668) which will expedite the transfer of Point Spencer and will distribute the lands there to the State of Alaska, the Coast Guard and BSNC. The division of the land is necessary to insure that the needs of the Coast Guard are met and to provide BSNC the real estate necessary to begin, with partners in industry, the phased build-out of infrastructure for spill response and shipping support. Through the acquisition of lands at Point Spencer, BSNC will be able to use the experience and capabilities we have gained through our multi-faceted business ventures. Moving forward into the Arctic future we will continue to work towards increasing BSNC’s value while maximizing economic independence in our region and communities.
¹ The Agreement and Act also conveyed lands in the Agiapuk River delta and Windy Cove areas on Imuruk Basin to BSNC.
² Congressional action will be necessary because of the competing State and BSNC claims, and the need to expedite the transfer to meet the growing need for facilities along the Arctic coast.