An opinion regarding the financial responsibilities of ANCSA corporations.
Since 1971, the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) has proven to be one of the most unique systems of governance amongst Alaska Native people. Continually, it has created friction with not only other governing bodies like federally recognized tribes, but also boroughs and municipalities over surface, subsurface rights, and infrastructure development. Besides the occasional friction, the development of the 12 regional corporations is paramount to Alaska’s economy. In 2016, ANCSA Corporation’s provided over 15,000 in-state jobs, and contributed a total 80.7% of their net income in the last five years towards scholarships, cultural preservation, economic development, and more importantly, dividends.
Dividends in ANCSA corporations are generated through various business ventures within the company. These revenues are carried out mostly through the Small Business Administration’s 8(a) Business Development Program. 8(a) revenue has been subjected to a continuing decline over the last five years due to 8(a) graduation rates, and federal government changes in the rules surrounding 8(a) contracting. Since 2011, government contracting revenue has taken a heavy toll on ANCSA corporations. A total -35.7% has impacted many ANCSA corporations in their ability to financially succeed and provide purposeful dividends. But how can we get there?
Diversification. The gold-standard among ANCSA regional corporations is to merely collect 7(i) funding. The 7(i) provision of ANCSA is a unique agreement among all ANCSA corporations to share the earnings from natural resource development. This system of relying on each others resource development is nice, but this idea that we should remain dependent on the 7(i) earnings, is without saying, poor business practice. We should excel above and beyond 7(i) earnings, and become more proactive in business development in our rural communities. The lands allotted to Alaska Native people serve a purpose at preservation, economic development, and should be utilized to its fullest potential.
Our villages are forgotten. Like many under the umbrella of my regional corporation (The Aleut Corporation) we see communities either relocate, or are barely sustaining themselves. Our fiduciary duty as representatives of ANCSA corporations are to always put shareholder interests first. When speaking to shareholders from rural communities, their number one reason for departing has usually been a lack of opportunity. These, “opportunities,” are often generalized as: jobs, viable economies, and affordable long-term living. Investing in our villages is incumbent upon our regional and village corporation board of directors. Because without representation from those in the villages, the issues of those in rural communities will not be heard. Living costs will rise. Airfare will only continue to skyrocket. Our communities will be the next lost villages.