This Summer’s unusually warm weather has delivered some of the state’s hottest days on record. As a result, ocean temperatures have also risen and have had a noticeable impact on migratory birds and marine mammals in our Region. Many of us are feeling the effects of climate change. Food security for Our People remains an important aspect of BSNC’s mission, which we carry out through the protection of our lands and our commitment to the preservation of our culture and heritage. I encourage our subsistence hunters and fishers to stay safe and be aware, as the changing climate can affect animal migration patterns and sea ice conditions on the rivers or ocean. We have lived through and experienced difficult conditions for many generations, and our collective strength and tradition of sharing have and will continue to ensure our survival for many more generations.
I am pleased to report that overall shareholder benefits, including dividends, the Elder distribution, bereavement payments, the Summer Internship Program and contributions to the Bering Straits Foundation, increased by 25 percent in fiscal year 2019 over the prior fiscal year. Recently, the BSNC Board of Directors declared a record-high dividend of $7.00 per share to be issued in December, an increase of 40 percent more than the 2018 shareholder dividend. The Board also voted to declare a 2019 special Elder dividend distribution of $1,500, an increase of $500 more than the 2018 special Elder distribution. BSNC strives to continue to return overall shareholder benefits to our shareholders and descendants, and we appreciate your continued support.
Shareholder hire at BSNC continues to increase and remains a strong priority for BSNC’s Board of Directors and management. One of BSNC’s in- Region contracts is comprised of 100% shareholder hire. BSNC subsidiary Eagle Eye Electric will oversee the design-build of the upgrades and repairs to the city power distribution system for the City of Diomede. This project is managed by BSNC shareholder employee Cliff Johnson. Additionally, wholly-owned BSNC subsidiary Sound Quarry Incorporated (SQI) has begun operating the Cape Nome Quarry located 12 miles east of Nome, with an 88% shareholder, descendant and shareholder spouse hire rate.
BSNC’s 2019 Summer Internship Program was a success and provided 10 interns the opportunity to gain valuable work experience and skills in Nome and Anchorage. The program is important to me and the Board, and I am pleased that our executive team and management were very involved in mentoring the interns. In addition to gaining knowledge about BSNC through the departments in which the interns were placed, they attended weekly trainings and informational luncheons that provided in-depth information about BSNC’s history and corporate structure, the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, financial security, government contracting, board training and Alaska Native policy matters. I believe that our program is one of the best in the state, and I encourage shareholder and descendant students to apply in January when recruitment for a new class of interns begins.
In closing, I’d like to highlight the importance of the 2020 Census. Participating in the Census benefits our communities because it helps determine where $3.2 billion in federal funding will be spent. Alaska has been historically undercounted by at least 8%, which means less funding for critical infrastructure, Head Start, Medicaid, hospitals, public housing, Low Income Energy Assistance and many other federal programs. The Census also determines the boundary lines of voting districts. In terms of representation in the State Legislature, your participation in the Census count is much needed. You can also help your community by applying for a temporary 2020 Census job. The pay is competitive, you will be paid weekly and the hours are flexible. The U.S. Census Bureau is recruiting now. Apply online at 2020census.gov/jobs.
I hope everyone enjoys the remainder of the Summer season and has a safe and productive Fall.
Gail R. Schubert
BSNC President & CEO