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Making tracks: the five fastest growing companies.

ONLY ONE OF THE FIVE FASTEST growing New Forty-Niners this year saw the majority of its sales traffic in Anchorage, the automobile dealership Alaska Sales and Service. The four businesses that posted the biggest increases in 1988 sales over 1987 performance - Gaston and Associates, South Coast, Harbor Enterprises and Peninsula Airways - operated more far-flung operations, covering wider geographical areas.

Topping the list of the fastest growing firms is Gaston and Associates Inc., whose revenues grew an amazing 191 percent from 1987 to 1988. The Anchorage-based general construction firm specializes in public works and bonded construction. Jobs that contributed to its $14 million in revenues for 1988 included improvements at the Anchorage International Airport domestic terminal, hangar door installation at Fort Wainwright in Fairbanks, work on an addictive behavior treatment center in Fairbanks and school projects in Kodiak.

According to Sam Gaston, president of Gaston and Associates, installing metal roofing and rain gutters - work done under the business name Wesco Products - contributes between 4 and 5 percent to overall sales. He expects 1989 to be another good year for the construction firm, but adds, "Luck had a lot to do with it."

In particular he feels the firm has benefited from landing successive jobs to smooth out the valleys of inactivity between major projects. Gaston notes another boost has been an increased bonding limit, which allows Gaston and Associates to handle more jobs and larger projects.

The Forty-Niner with the second fastest growth in 1988 revenues is South Coast Inc. of Ketchikan. The firm's revenues leapt from $16.8 million in 1987 to $26.2 million in 1988.

Owner Don Thornlow describes South Coast's specialties as heavy construction and rock work. The firm has carved its niche in road construction and logging and mining projects. Increased mining activity in Southeast has created a great deal of work for the firm, which uses its own barges and tugs to move heavy equipment to remote sites. Last year, projects included an access road to the Jualin gold mine and an exploratory tunnel for the Kensington gold mine. The article on page 78 takes an in-depth look at this firm's recent accomplishments.

Harbor Enterprises Inc. of Seward was the third biggest gainer. Tenth ranked this year, the firm reported $68.2 million in 1988 revenues, an increase of 53 percent over 1987 revenues of $44.5 million.

Rapid growth is the habit of Harbor Enterprises, whose revenues leapt 15 percent from 1986 to 1987 and 49 percent from 1985 to 1986. The firm made its debut in Alaska Business Monthly's 1986 New Forty-Niner issue ranking the largest Alaskan-owned, Alaska-based businesses according to 1985 revenues. With $26 million in 1985 revenues, Harbor Enterprises was recognized as the fastest growing firm for its spectacular 225 percent increase over 1984 revenues of $8 million.

Marketing and distributing fuels and other petroleum products under the trade name Petro Marine Services, Harbor Enterprises is Alaska's largest independent petroleum marketing firm. From 1984 through 1986, it acquired or built bulk facilities in Dutch Harbor, Kodiak, Nikiski and Seward.

In 1988, Petro Marine Services opened a 180,000-gallon-capacity bulk lubrication oils plant at the Port of Anchorage. Says Dale Lindsey, owner and president of Harbor Enterprises, "The firm's capital expansion program was designed to efficiently accommodate our predominately marine customer base." The business' rapid growth again in 1988 affirms that accomplishment, as well as reflecting increased demand for petroleum products due to the booming bottomfish activity in Southwest Alaska.

The fourth highest revenue increase was reported by Peninsula Airways Inc. The Anchorage-based airline saw revenues surge 39 percent in 1988, rising from $10.1 million in 1987 to $14.1 million.

This business, too, is benefiting from the increased commercial fishing activity in Southwest Alaska. The carrier, which already serviced several communities with strong ties to the fishing industry - such as King Salmon, Dillingham and Kodiak - added Dutch Harbor to its itinerary in 1988. Owner and President Orin Seybert credits Dutch Harbor traffic with pumping up last year's revenues.

The airline is expected to grow considerably more slowly in 1989, but should continue to benefit from the increasing need for air carrier services in Southwest. For more information on how this company evolved, read the article on page 88.

Alaska Sales and Service of Anchorage enjoyed a 34 percent jump in sales in 1988. Gross revenues rose from $68 million in 1987 to $91 million in 1988.

Executives of the company regard the higher sales as an indicator that Anchorage residents are overcoming their fear of spending and are feeling more comfortable with prospects for the economy. Also, because sales in 1986 and 1987 fell off due to reluctance to spend, pent-up demand for automobiles contributed to sales volume.

The dealership carries Chevrolet, Pontiac, Buick, Oldsmobile, Cadillac and GMC trucks. This is its 45th year in business.
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Title Annotation:The New Forty-Niners
Author:Griffin, Judith Fuerst
Publication:Alaska Business Monthly
Date:Oct 1, 1989
Words:806
Previous Article:The New Forty-Niners; the largest Alaskan-owned, Alaska-based companies.
Next Article:Peninsula Airways Inc.: 1988 revenue: $14.1 million; employees: 135; rank: 47.
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