Arctic Slope Regional Corporation History

Address:
1230 Agvik Street
Barrow, Alaska 99723
U.S.A.

Telephone: (907) 852-8633
Fax: (907) 852-5733

Website:
Private Company
Incorporated: 1972
Employees: 3,000
Sales: $887.51 million (1998)
NAIC: 211111 Crude Petroleum and Natural Gas Extraction; 32411 Petroleum Refineries; 213112 Support Activities for Oil and Gas Operations

Company Perspectives:

Inupiat values have enabled our ancestors to survive successfully in the harsh Arctic environment for many centuries. ASRC embraces both Inupiat and Western cultural values to compete successfully in tomorrow's global business environment. The Corporation, our subsidiaries, all our employees, and shareholders are part of the Inupiat extended family. We respect our rich history, culture, and language and instill in our growing family of business enterprises such traditional Inupiat Values as: respecting the knowledge, wisdom, and guidance of our Elders; honoring the philosophy of cooperation and sharing; developing our lands and resources by means that respect Inupiat subsistence values and ensure proper care of the environment, habitat, and wildlife. Key Dates:

Key Dates:

1971:
President Richard Nixon signs into law the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act.
1972:
Arctic Slope is created.
1985:
Houston Contracting Co. is acquired.
1990:
Company declares goal of reaching $1 billion in annual revenues by the decade's end.
2001:
Revenues expected to eclipse $1 billion.

Company History:

Arctic Slope Regional Corporation (ASRC) was established following the passage of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act in 1971 as one of 13 regional corporations created to administer and to manage settlement benefits to native Alaskans. Owned by the Inupiat Eskimos, Arctic Slope controls dozens of subsidiaries involved in aerospace, construction, manufacturing, engineering, communications, oilfield services, capital financing, and petroleum refining and distribution businesses. The northernmost and the largest of the 13 regional corporations, ASRC obtains 40 percent of its revenues from oilfield services, a business managed by the company's subsidiary, Natchiq Inc., the largest oilfield service contractor in Alaska.

Origins

Statehood for Alaska in 1959 promised to usher in a host of changes, marking a momentous transition for its citizens. Some of the changes would be welcomed, but for the Native Alaskan groups who had occupied the land for countless generations, the change in status was accompanied by one overriding fear. The Native Alaskan groups feared state and federal encroachment upon their traditional lands, anxiously aware that they lacked the legal documentation to support their claims of ownership. When U.S. Secretary of State William Seward purchased Alaska from Russia in 1867, the transaction failed to acknowledge the ownership rights of those who had lived there for 4,000 years, largely because Native Alaskans' concept of land ownership had nothing in common with the shared precepts of ownership observed by Russia and the United States. The issue, begging an inevitable confrontation, festered for years, eventually becoming a matter that required resolution once federal and state legislators assumed their seats of influence.

In 1966, Native leaders banded together and formed a statewide organization named the Alaska Federation of Natives, or AFN. As an organized body, the AFN lobbied the U.S. Congress, seeking a resolution to the thorny issue of land ownership. The struggle to find a solution endured for five years after the formation of the AFN, as the clash of two contrasting cultures and the interests of oil companies and environmental groups combined to create a complicated debate. Negotiations ended on December 18, 1971, when President Richard Nixon signed into law the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA). Under the terms of ANCSA, Native Alaskans exchanged their claims to land ownership for roughly one-ninth of the state's land and $962.5 million in compensation. Approximately 80,000 Natives were enrolled under ANCSA, entitling them to settlement benefits that would be administered by 13 regional corporations. The northernmost of the regional corporations, formed in 1972, was Arctic Slope Regional Corporation, owned by the Inupiat people.

Through ANCSA, the Inupiat were given five million acres on Alaska's North Slope, including 92,000 acres on the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge Coastal Plain. Arctic Slope was established to manage the Inupiat's land, a corporation formed to develop the land and its natural resources according to Inupiat beliefs. As a commercial concern, ASRC pursued the usual corporate objective of generating a profit for shareholders, but it also pursued another, equally important objective: employing its shareholders. As ASRC developed through the years, it would prove to be adept at performing both functions, perhaps better than any of the other regional corporations established after the promulgation of ANCSA. Initially, however, the regional corporation's executive officers were charged with administering the provisions laid out in ANCSA.

With few exceptions, ASRC's activities during its first months in operation were related to the interpretation, dispensation, and implementation of the conditions included within ANCSA. The company was involved in the organization of village corporations, providing assistance to village corporations, and determining which businesses could best engender profit and shareholder employment. Considering that the regional corporation was based in the oil-rich North Slope Borough, its foray into oil and into businesses that supported the local oil industry was not surprising. At first, ASRC delved into construction activity geared toward developing North Slope infrastructure for oil-related activities, an ideal business area because company shareholders could immediately be put to work without much preliminary training.

In its pursuit of business opportunities, ASRC had to strike a balance between profitability and shareholder employment. The company could not create employment at the expense of entering into money-losing ventures and neither could it forsake its obligation to employ shareholders. Pursuing these twin objectives presented the company with a perennial challenge, but during the early 1970s a more difficult task loomed as ASRC directors had to decide which businesses to enter. They lacked the expertise to plunge headlong into one business area through an acquisition, which forced them to employ a different strategy. During its formative years, the company developed its business interests by forming a joint venture with an experienced partner in a particular business. As an organization, ASRC then gradually learned how to manage and operate the business in question, using its joint venture partner as a tutor. Once the company learned the nuances of a joint venture, it bought out its partner, creating a wholly owned subsidiary that management had the confidence to operate on its own.

ASRC's development strategy became a pattern during the company's formative years. In one of the company's early deals, a joint venture was formed with an established construction firm named SKW Clinton. Along with SKW Clinton, ASRC pursued public works projects beginning in the mid-1970s. After several years, ASRC gained the confidence and talent to run the business on its own, leading to the buyout of SKW Clinton and to the formation of a wholly owned subsidiary named SKW/Eskimos, Inc. in the early 1980s. There were exceptions, however. One of the first business ventures undertaken by ASRC occurred through a direct acquisition. In the early 1970s, the company purchased a Barrow, Alaska-based fuel company. The acquisition eventually steered the company into oil-field service work, performed under the name Eskimo Oilfield Services. From there, Arctic Slop entered into the construction of state-owned facilities under the banner Inupiat Builders.

Although the company did enter into businesses on its own, the tendency to establish a joint venture first and take over the business on its own at a later date was unmistakable. ASRC adopted this approach when it entered the oil patch construction business. The company formed a joint venture with Alaska General and later bought out its partner, creating a new wholly owned subsidiary named Arctic Slope/Alaska General. A similar path was taken to develop interests in design consulting. Beginning in 1977, Arctic Slope formed alliances with companies specializing in petroleum and cold region design, then used the management experience it gained from the joint ventures to form a wholly owned subsidiary, Arctic Slope Consulting Engineers, in 1982.

Development in the 1980s

Eventually, the company gained the expertise to make decisive moves into particular businesses on its own. None was more important than the acquisition of Houston Contracting Company. In 1985, Arctic Slope purchased the established pipeline construction firm and formed Natchiq Inc., which would rank as the largest Arctic Slop subsidiary a quarter-century later. Natchiq served as a holding company for several oilfield service and construction enterprises. Natchiq's interests included Alaska Petroleum Contractors, formed in 1987, and GSL Oilfield Service, a contractor with experience in offshore oil exploration that was acquired several years later. Other Natchiq-controlled businesses included VRCA Environmental Services, a specialist in oilfield clean-up services, and Entech, an incinerator manufacturer.

The addition of Natchiq helped spur robust growth for ASRC. Between 1985 and 1989, ASRC both doubled its revenues and its number of employees, aided by a 20 percent increase in revenues that pushed the company past the $100-million-in-sales mark to $112.8 million in 1989. Growth became decidedly more vigorous as the company entered the 1990s. In 1990, revenues leaped 94 percent, reaching $218.3 million, while earnings shot up 76 percent to $25.5 million. The increase in profitability, one half of ASRC's success equation, was coupled by a 50 percent increase in employees, as the company's payroll swelled to 1,500.

By all measures, ASRC entered the 1990s as the prime example of the benefits a regional corporation could deliver to its shareholders. It ranked as the largest of the 13 regional corporations, comprising 14 wholly owned subsidiaries and 20 operating divisions. After establishing itself in the northern reaches of Alaska, the company expanded throughout the state and into the contiguous United States. Geographic expansion was coupled with diversification, as ASRC branched out into tourism, engineering, architectural design, lodging, transportation, communications, environmental services, and petroleum refining. Behind these businesses were more than 3,700 Inupiat Eskimo shareholders whose ranks were expected to swell by 2,500 in 1991, when ASRC was scheduled to issue new stock to children born to shareholders since the signing of ANCSA in 1971.

Pursuit of $1 Billion in Revenues in the 1990s

The company's success was not lost on its leaders, whose confidence and expertise had grown enormously during the company's first 20 years. 'We've gained the experience needed to make direct acquisitions,' ASRC's vice-president of international business declared in an October 1990 interview with Alaska Business Monthly. No longer forced to forge alliances to make its way in the business world, the company had developed the organizational structure and managerial acumen to act as the conglomerate it was, enabling an aggressive corporation to emerge. As the company's leaders set their course at the start of the 1990s, their aim was to reach $1 billion in revenues by the decade's end. The pursuit of this lofty goal transformed an experimental commercial concern into one of the largest privately held corporations in the United States.

During the 1990s, one of ASRC's primary objectives was to develop an oil producing arm to its operations, the one missing facet of an otherwise fully vertically integrated oil company. One likely source, reputed to contain the last remaining substantial oil field in North America, was on the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge Coastal Plain, abutting 92,000 acres of ASRC-owned village land. The U.S. Congress, however, forbade all exploration and development on the land, diminishing the chances that the company would find oil on its land. ASRC was forced to look elsewhere to complete its portfolio of properties, but even without an oil production subsidiary to its name, the company recorded robust growth as it pursed its aim of $1 billion in revenues by the decade's end. Led by Natchiq and its two operating subsidiaries, Houston Contracting and Alaska Petroleum Contractors, which accounted for a third of ASRC's revenues, the company generated $468 million in revenues in 1995. The total was nearly twice the amount recorded two years earlier, making ASRC the largest Alaska-owned company in the state.

The company's progress during the latter half of the 1990s was marked by the need to broaden its operations beyond Alaska and to secure a presence in global markets. Although the company continued to add to its operations in Alaska, the state's oil exploration activity began to subside as companies moved elsewhere to develop oil fields, particularly to South America. ASRC's geographic expansion included the addition of Omega Service Industries, a Louisiana-based oilfield construction and fabrications company that became part of Natchiq. The company also acquired Oregon-based Puget Plastics Corp., a leader in injection-molded plastic parts, a diversification that was complemented by the formation of a Mexican manufacturer of plastic injection molding components. Additionally, the company acquired Correa Enterprises, a telecommunication and systems engineering company based in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and formed a subsidiary to seek contract work in Venezuelan oil fields.

The extension of ASRC's geographic base helped contribute to animated financial growth during the late 1990s, driving the company closer toward its goal. In 1998, revenues increased from $700 million to $887 million, while earnings swelled 77 percent. Natchiq and its oilfield services companies, which accounted for 40 percent of total sales, accounted for much of the growth, but another important factor contributing to the company's success was its astute and stable management. Individuals such as ASRC's president and chairman, Jacob Adams, and its first vice-president, Lands Oliver Leavitt, had held leadership positions since the company's inception in 1972. Other members of the company's top management had been with the company for more than 20 years. Thanks largely to management's ability to successfully diversify while fulfilling the company's commitment to shareholder training and hiring programs, ASRC exited the 1990s tantalizingly close to the goal it had been pursuing for a decade. The anticipated date for reaching $1 billion in revenue was pushed back to 2001, by which time the company expected to generate $60 million in annual profits and have 10,000 shareholders on record.

Principal Subsidiaries: Alaska Growth Capital Bidco Inc.; Arctic Slope Construction, Inc.; Arctic Slope World Services, Incorporated; ASRC Aerospace Corp.; ASRC Parsons Engineering, LLC; Entech Corporation; Kodak Oil Sales Inc.; Natchiq Sakhalin, Inc.; Petro Star Inc.; SKW/Eskimos, Inc.; Tundra Tours, Inc.; APC/Wood, LLC; Arctic Slope Native Association, Ltd.; ASCG Incorporated; ASRCCommunications, LTD.; Barrow Cable TV; Alaska Lube and Fuel; Arctic Education Foundation; Arctic Slope Technical Services, Inc.; ASCG Inspection Services; ASRC Contracting Company, Inc.; Correa Enterprises, Inc.; Houston Contracting Company-Alaska, LTD.; Natchiq, Inc.; Omega Service Industries, Inc.; Puget Plastics Corp.; SPN de Venzuela C.A.; Western Arctic Coal.

Principal Competitors: Nobel Drilling Corporation; Nabors Industries, Inc.; Halliburton Company.

Further Reading:

  • Berger, Michael, 'Arctic Slope Regional Corporation,' Alaska Business Monthly, November 1993, p. 29.
  • Griffin, Judith Fuerst, 'Arctic Slope Regional Corp.,' Alaska Business Monthly, October 1990, p. 59.
  • 'Latin American Deals Appeal to Alaska's Arctic Slope,' Knight-Ridder/Tribune Business News, February 14, 1998, p. 214B0934.
  • Patkotak, Elise, 'Still No. 1--Still Growing,' Alaska Business Monthly, October 1996, p. 72.
  • Ragsdale, Rose, 'Aggressive Alaska Native Corporations Take Investments Out-of-State,' Knight-Ridder/Tribune Business News, August 17, 1998, p. OKRB98229088.
  • Stricker, Lulie, 'The 13 Regional Native Corporations,' Alaska Business Monthly, September 1999, p. 70.
  • Tyson, Ray, 'Slippery Slopes: Native Firms Adapt to Changing Oil Industry,' Alaska Business Monthly, November 1992, p. 34.

Source: International Directory of Company Histories, Vol. 38. St. James Press, 2001.