Photo courtesy of ASRC
Twenty-two AGC of Alaska members make the Alaska Business Top 49ers list
By Rachael Kvapil
Photo courtesy of ASRC
Photo courtesy of ASRC
Twenty-two AGC of Alaska members make the Alaska Business Top 49ers list
By Rachael Kvapil

fter the personal and professional disruptions of 2020, the languishing difficulties in 2021 often left businesses wondering if the glass was half full, half empty, or if they should just be grateful to have a glass. This is when tradition shines best because it not only gives us a reason to celebrate, but often gives us a benchmark that adds clarity during uncertain times. For Alaska businesses, that benchmark is the Top 49ers list published every year by Alaska Business. The Top 49ers list consists of locally owned businesses ranked by gross revenue. Each Top 49er must be at least 51-percent Alaskan-owned (i.e. headquartered in Alaska with continuous operations in Alaska). For the purposes of ranking the Top 49ers, assets or assets managed are not calculated into gross revenue.Another reason for celebration: Of the forty-nine companies on the list, twenty-two are Associated General Contractors of Alaska, or AGC, members.

So, what does a Top 49er company look like? Several AGC companies who have appeared regularly on the list share with us the business philosophies that have guided them over the years and allowed them continued success even through a pandemic.

(Rank #1) Gross Revenue: $3,420,602,000

Arctic Slope Regional Corporation, or ASRC, takes a long-term perspective when it comes to its operations. From the outset, ASRC focused on building stability through wise investments, which helped ASRC combat the uncertainty caused by the pandemic. Like all businesses, ASRC officials say they felt the negative impacts of the pandemic. However, the company leaders’ dedication to the health and safety of its employees, in tandem with its commitment to maintaining economic stability, allowed the corporation to weather the storm.

“We are incredibly grateful and proud of ASRC’s resilience over the past fifty years and especially during the past eighteen months,” says Rex Allen Rock, Sr., the president and CEO of ASRC.

ASRC was incorporated in 1972 following the passage of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act of 1971, known as ANCSA. Despite the Arctic Slope region being the only region to cast the dissenting vote to ANCSA, the corporation’s early leaders immediately went to work to meet the mandates outlined in the legislation. ANCSA created twelve Alaska land-based regional corporations and more than 200 village corporations to provide and promote financial and socio-economic benefits for their shareholders. The act also conveyed to Alaska Native corporations roughly 44 million acres of land and nearly a billion dollars as compensation for land lost.

In 1972, ASRC’s original shareholder base was approximately 3,700. Nearly fifty years later, the corporation represents roughly 13,000 shareholders and is the largest Alaskan-owned and operated business in the state—a title it has held for twenty-seven consecutive years.

“We are proud of the growth our company has seen in the past five decades,” says Rock, “but it is only the beginning.”

ASRC has six major business segments. It provides energy support services through ASRC Energy Services, which performs an array of oil field engineering, operations, maintenance, construction, fabrication, regulatory, permitting and other services to some of the world’s largest integrated oil and gas companies throughout Alaska and the Gulf of Mexico. It also refines and markets petroleum through Petro Star Inc., which provides mid-end distillates such as heating oil, diesel, and aviation fuels for homes and businesses. Construction services are provided through ASRC Construction, which manages and builds government and commercial projects of all sizes and scopes in Alaska, the Lower 48, and select international markets. Resource development happens through its ownership of nearly 5 million acres on the North Slope, the largest hydrocarbon province in North America. ASRC provides industrial services through ASRC Industrial Services, which provides cost effective, quality, safe, and innovative services to industrial, commercial, and government customers. And finally, ASRC performs government contract services through ASRC Federal Holding Company, which delivers engineering, information technology, infrastructure support, professional, and technical services to civil, defense, and intelligence agencies.

“Our early leaders played a major role in the success ASRC enjoys today,” says Rock. “They took the long view when building our corporation, keeping in mind that decisions made would have long-term impacts. More acutely, ASRC’s stability at the board level creates an environment to attract and retain talented leadership dedicated to the mission of ASRC.”

Rock says ASRC leadership is humbled and honored to be recognized on the Top 49ers list. They credit the Top 49er honor to the hard work and dedication of ASRC’s employees as the reason the company is able to continuously return financial benefits to its shareholders.

“This recognition is not taken lightly and inspires us daily,” say Rock. “While we continue to grow both inside and outside the state, Alaska will always be our home. We commend the other Top 49er businesses for their investment in our great state. Together, we will build a stronger future for Alaska.”

Calista Corporation subsidiary Brice Environmental conducted a project for the Alaska District of the US Army Corps of Engineers

Calista Corporation subsidiary Brice Environmental conducted a project for the Alaska District of the US Army Corps of Engineers to determine if any remaining fuel has been released associated with World War II military activities at Cold Bay. Calista ranked seventh on Alaska Business’ Top 49ers list and owns eleven subsidiaries that are AGC of Alaska members.

Photo courtesy of Calista Corporation

Calista Corporation
(Rank #7) Gross Revenue: $732,937,000

Calista Corporation is another unique Alaska business entity that mixes cultural stewardship with economic stability. Its focus on nine core values—such as integrity, respect, and diversity—elevates the corporation’s shareholders in a way that makes them more like family than simply a stockholder in an Alaska Native corporation. Calista Corporation seeks to create increased shareholder benefits and economic opportunities and, in-turn, shareholders engage in Calista activities and voting at the corporation’s annual meeting. At the same time, Calista continues to demonstrate its business savvy with repeat appearances on the Top 49er list. This year, Calista ranked seventh.

Calista’s origins are similar to other regional corporations. A year after Congress signed ANCSA, village leaders of the Yukon-Kuskokwim, or Y-K, region voted to establish Calista Corporation as their regional ANCSA Corporation.

Over the past fifty years, Calista has invested in business opportunities that support shareholder distributions, jobs, scholarships, charitable donations, and other benefits. Calista Corporation owns more than thirty subsidiaries in defense contracting, construction, real estate, environmental services, natural resource development, marine transportation, energy and oilfield services, and heavy equipment sales, service, and rentals. Their Bilista Holding Line is comprised of eleven construction and construction-related services companies working throughout Alaska, the United States, and internationally. Likewise, the companies in their Bektuq Holding Line invest heavily in the construction of energy service equipment and facilities which support North Slope energy operations. Calista Corporation and ten other Calista-owned businesses are AGC members.

Calista’s diverse investments have paid off for its Yup’ik, Cup’ik, and Athabascan shareholders. In addition to $89.3 million in dividends and distributions, another $8.2 million have been apportioned via the Elders’ Benefit Program. Calista officials say the Elders’ Benefit program highlights both their corporate value of service to shareholders and their cultural value of supporting Elders.

Maintaining traditional values is extremely important to Calista. In 1980, the corporation formed the nonprofit Calista Education and Culture, Inc., which provides college and vocational scholarships, culture camps, and other educational programs to shareholders and their descendants as a way of promoting self-determination grounded in traditional values.

Organizers say Calista’s diversification in its business portfolio and workforce, mixed with innovation, growth, leadership, partnership, execution, and financial discipline, has allowed them to fulfill their mission to increase benefits and economic opportunities for their shareholders.

“We feel the success of our business is intrinsically linked to our values rooted in our Yup’ik, Cup’ik, and Athabaskan cultures,” says Calista Corp. Board Chair Robert Beans.

The pandemic affected both Calista’s business and the welfare of its shareholders. Many faced hardships including illness and bereavement, social isolation, and difficulty in accessing internet-based services. The instability of economic and financial markets created uncertainty and increased risks that affected the corporation’s workforce, customers, and supply chains. Company officials say construction employees in their Bilista Holding Line faced unique travel and quarantine requirements for projects that increased time away from families and home.

“Office closures necessitated unique collaboration methods to support ongoing operations,” says Calista Corp. President and CEO Andrew Guy. “The pandemic took the definition of teamwork to a whole new level.”

Calista was able to mitigate many of the pandemic’s impacts within its own diverse operations and remain profitable. The construction employees in its AGC member companies made personal sacrifices and persevered to get work done under ever-changing pandemic conditions that continue today. Just as importantly, Calista looked to its home communities in the Y-K region and worked to support the families by donating nearly 20,000 adult and child face masks, coordinating the shipment of donated PPE items, and more.

Company officials say inclusion in the Top 49ers list shows that Calista is achieving its vision to be a world-class corporation that exemplifies corporate responsibility, cultural stewardship, and economic stability. By providing more benefits and opportunities to elders and shareholders, corporation leaders feel the people of the Y-K Delta can look to them to guide the future of business through the lens of tradition and culture.

Davis Constructors & Engineers, Inc.
(Rank #34) Gross Revenue: $94,270,117

Davis Constructors & Engineers, Inc. has a long history in Alaska. Founded in 1976, the owners and officers of Davis are Alaska residents who are active in the firm. In its 45-year history, the company has completed approximately 550 projects in Alaska, totaling around $2.5 billion dollars. Davis offers a full range of services including preconstruction, new construction, renovations, master planning, and tenant improvements. They also provide several delivery methods for organizing and financing, designing, and building a project.

“We custom tailor each project team and each proposal to focus on what the client needs,” says Luke Blomfield, president of Davis Constructors. “This ensures that we use the right approach and allocate the necessary resources to a project.”

Davis is no stranger to the Top 49er list, as the firm has appeared consistently for more than a decade. This year Davis ranked #34, which illustrates the company’s ability to anticipate and mitigate the pandemic so it continued to thrive during the economic downturn. Blomfield says the safety of employees has always taken top priority, and Davis leaders immediately created separate space for people working in the office and advocated for people to work from home when possible. Likewise, Davis leaders proactively discussed the impact of the pandemic with labor union members and worked with them to find solutions.

Davis Constructors and Engineers, Inc. completed the University of Alaska Fairbanks Combined Heat and Power Plant project in 2019

Davis Constructors and Engineers, Inc. completed the University of Alaska Fairbanks Combined Heat and Power Plant project in 2019. Davis ranked 34th on Alaska Business’ Top 49ers list.

Photo courtesy of Davis Constructors & Engineers, Inc.

“We have to be a team,” says Blomfield. “Clients have projects that need staff, but we need to keep that staff safe. Opening a dialog with organized labor groups allowed us to do that.”

With employee health and safety successfully managed, Davis is now dealing with the economic impact of the pandemic. Supply chain issues have delayed or cancelled projects. To avoid timeline issues, Blomfield says they’ve had to start procurement earlier than usual. This means a quicker review of submittals to ensure materials are ordered right away. Even then, meeting the timeline isn’t always achievable given the high quantity of backorders and unpredictable delivery schedules. Blomfield says it’s best to be transparent with clients about procurement, issues with the supply chain, and volatile material costs.

As an Alaska-based company, company leaders have always prioritized community involvement. In 2007, Davis leaders established an endowment with the Alaska Community Foundation to support local causes. On an annual basis, the Davis Board of Directors and qualifying employees review nominations and determine the best way to distribute grants from the Davis Constructors & Employees Fund. The fund is currently valued at $1 million, with $408,296 distributed to 122 organizations that focus on arts and culture, education, solving homelessness, mental health, housing, women and children shelters, and more. Davis and its subsidiaries have also participated in fundraisers, such as Relay for Life, Alaska’s Barefoot Mile, and Providence Hospital Toy Drive, and donated services to Safe Harbor Inn.

Though Davis has repeatedly appeared on the Top 49ers list, Blomfield says making it on the list prompts a moment to reflect on the way Davis does business. Blomfield says long-term relationships are key to Davis’ success. Everyone at Davis is proud that they are able to maintain their position on a recurring basis.

AGC of Alaska continues to make a strong showing in the Top 49ers list. While business models vary, and their approach to daily operations are specific to the needs of their customers, AGC members on this list share ingenuity and the desire to give back to the communities that make up the state.

Rachael Kvapil is a freelance writer who lives in Fairbanks.