Governor calls for Permanent Fund to bring jobs to Juneau

At Juneau Chamber of Commerce, Gov. Bill Walker says Alaska Permanent Fund Corp. could employ more here

In a speech to the Juneau Chamber of Commerce on Thursday, Gov. Bill Walker told the assembled crowd that he believes the Alaska Permanent Fund Corporation should bring more of its investment managers to Juneau.

 

According to figures provided by the corporation, it will spend almost $139 million this fiscal year on fees paid to investment firms that manage portions of the $65 billion fund.

Walker said he wants to see some or all of those fees paid to Alaskans or to firms with offices here.

“They should be here. They should have offices here,” Walker said. “We’re not getting the full benefit out of our money.”

He suggested the corporation should expand internship and local-hire programs to get more Alaskans into the corporation’s ranks.

Walker said he’s “pretty passionate” about bringing jobs to Alaska, and promised the audience, “You’ll be hearing more about that over the next few months.”

In a phone call with the Empire on Thursday afternoon, Walker said he wants to see some of the companies receiving Alaska’s investment dollars to open offices in Juneau.

“The center of our financial wealth used to be Prudhoe Bay, but I’ve got to tell you right now, it’s Juneau,” he said.

At fundraisers and different events, he said he sees the same sponsorship logos of local firms and statewide interests, but he never sees the logos of investment firms.

“Where’s the financial folks? Where are they?” Walker asked.

“I don’t really have an exact plan, but I have a vision of what I’d love to see,” he added. “I’m not trying to get rid of any companies, but I want them to have a presence in Alaska.”

The Alaska Permanent Fund Corporation’s board of trustees has issued statements to similar effect, and the budget request approved by the trustees earlier this year reflects the belief that a mixture of in-house and Outside managers should control the fund’s investments.

The Permanent Fund Corporation has proposed hiring 10 new staff at a total cost of $3.5 million to help manage the fund’s burgeoning assets. The fund has grown by an average of 9.1 percent per year over the past five years.

Even with that increase, the fund expects to spend an additional $11.7 million on investment fees in the coming fiscal year.

Without the new staff, fund managers have said that cost would rise to $20.6 million.

Walker’s pronouncement came as part of what has become an annual visit to the Chamber.

For almost 40 minutes, Walker spoke extemporaneously, without prepared remarks, on a swath of subjects.

He mentioned that a delegation from Hainan Airlines of China will be in Juneau Thursday to discuss the possibility of direct flights between Chinese cities and Anchorage, with connections to other U.S. cities.

Walker suggested it makes sense for Anchorage, instead of Seattle, to become an international air travel hub for Asian-U.S. flights. Doing so, he said, would allow tourists to spend a few days in Alaska before continuing on with their trips.

He received a round of applause from the audience when he told them that he insisted that the president of BP visit him in Juneau, rather than in Anchorage or a Lower 48 city.

The visit was part of Walker’s effort to boost the prospects of a trans-Alaska natural gas pipeline. Walker said his work in that department is continuing.

He also said the state is working with Usibelli Coal Mine near Healy to determine whether China may have any interest in imports of Alaska-mined coal.

Following the end of the speech, Walker took questions from the audience.

Red Dog Saloon owner Eric Forst asked Walker whether he thinks the state capital should be moved from Juneau, as some Anchorage lawmakers have suggested.

Absolutely not.

“The capital is in Juneau, and that’s where it stays,” he said.

 


 

• Contact reporter James Brooks at james.k.brooks@juneauempire.com or call 523-2258.

 


 

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