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ASMI defends Seattle, but drafts plan for all-Alaskan future

Top executive argues for a longer timeline to make the move, however.

In a response to the January Alaska State Legislature Finance Committee meeting, during which lawmakers cranked up the pressure on Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute (ASMI) Executive Director Alexa Tonkovich to shutter the Seattle office, she responded with a plan of action to transfer the six Seattle positions to Juneau by the end of 2019.

While Tonkovich stressed that "the organization should maintain Seattle-based staff for these critical domestic marketing programs," and provided a page-long defense to keep the office open, she also presented a plan to gradually transfer the positions to Alaska, as the committee had requested.

The plan involves moving one position from Seattle to the Juneau headquarters during fiscal year 2017, which ends June 30. The position would be the one left vacant when longtime Retail Director Larry Andrews departed ASMI in late 2015 and the group merged his position with outgoing Foodservice Director Claudia Hogue's position and hired Victoria Parr as the domestic director.

"This position would be assigned to the Domestic Marketing Program to help liaise with the current domestic staff in Seattle to help ease the transition and loss of institutional knowledge/relationships," the proposal states.

With the plan, another position would transition from Seattle to Juneau during the 2018 fiscal year, likely a position from the Sustainability Program, since it's a standalone program. Finally, the proposal asks for the remaining positions to be transitioned during fiscal year 2019, rather than by the beginning of fiscal year 2019 as the legislature previously asked, "in order to accommodate the lease on our Seattle office and to allow for a smoother transition to minimize program disruption as much as possible."

Tonkovich's proposal stressed the additional costs of transitioning all of the positions to Alaska, including the need to relocate the Juneau office, which is currently at capacity. In addition, she noted, airline ticket costs to US destinations from Juneau are 27 percent higher than from Seattle, which, if airline travel remains the same, would increase by $31,700 annually.

"The ASMI Board recognizes the importance of maximizing employment and income for Alaska residents," the proposal states. "At the same time, with regard to the Seattle positions, the ASMI Board strongly advocates for a phased approach with an extended timeline. ASMI is actively developing options for restructuring its operations to increase in-state employment. However, immediate closure of the Seattle office will leave the organization without a functioning Domestic US Marketing Program, the consequences of which are likely to have negative financial impacts on fishing families, processors and state revenues."


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