Economic report slams AIDEA’s investment decisions

The report claims the authority has cost Alaskans $10 billion
The report claims the authority has cost Alaskans $10B
Published: Sep. 27, 2022 at 7:31 PM AKDT
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JUNEAU, Alaska (KTUU) - An independent economic report released Tuesday criticized the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority, claiming that AIDEA’s investment decisions were less investments and more “politically-driven gambles.”

The report by advocacy group SalmonState utilized data from two earlier evaluations, AIDEA Cost and Financial Performance - A Long, Hard Look by economists Milt Barker and Gregg Erickson, and Ginny Fay’s Alaska Megaprojects Update.

“I don’t think any of us, individually, realized just how much money had been wasted throughout the years,” CEO of SalmonState Tim Bristol said during a press conference. “The money that is spent by AIDEA is Alaska’s money.”

The report suggests that state funds appropriated by the legislature for AIDEA would have been better spent in the state’s permanent fund. According to the report, AIDEA has received a net total of $301 million in public funds, earning an average of 3.8% on investments compared to the Permanent Fund’s 9.4% rate of return.

Executive Director and CEO of AIDEA Alan Weitzner — who was blindsided by the release of the report — said Tuesday afternoon that contrasting AIDEA’s mission to the Permanent Fund’s is a defective comparison.

“They’re looking at return opportunities that builds their portfolio base and is able to make distributions on the PFD, and they’ve done a phenomenal job,” Weitzner said. “AIDEA’s focus is job growth and economic diversity for the state of Alaska, so our opportunity in our statutory limit for investment is within the state of Alaska.”

He also argued the report was pointed and full of inaccuracies, saying collaboration with AIDEA would have been welcomed and more beneficial for Alaskan’s interests.

“If anyone is really putting something together like this, with a focus on attention to the benefits of Alaskans, they need to be working with the organization that they’re talking about to really make sure that they have the facts that are correct,” Weitzner said.

According to the economists, their studies found that AIDEA’s investments have cost Alaskans $10 billion in lost returns over the years and called for a set of third-party audits of AIDEA’s performance.

“Particularly to flush out the benefits, and who has benefited from AIDEA’s activities,” Barker said during the press conference.

Weitzner argued that AIDEA’s investments have always been transparent and in the interest of Alaskans.

“Our financial information is audited every year,” Weitzner said. “It’s available on our website, it’s available to the public, anyone can take a look at it.”