Alaska is perhaps best known as a land rich in natural resources, from massive tracts of oil-rich land to waters teeming with crab and fish. Alaska’s geography has proven to be key to international trade, and so has its geographic position. Located on the edge of the vast Arctic and Pacific, Alaska’s international exporting businesses enjoy proximity to many important Pacific Rim nations, including Japan, Canada, Russia and China. These factors have helped make Alaska an especially exciting locale for students majoring in international business, who look forward to supporting strong international trade partnerships that have been forged over decades, as well as a regulatory environment that is very friendly to business.
According to the International Trade Administration, in 2010 Alaska exported goods and services to foreign markets totaling $4.2 billion. Almost 300 Alaska-based companies were involved in this massive trade, and of those 75% were classified by the International Trade Administration as small to medium sized ventures. Exporting business linked to manufacturing employed over 7% of Alaska’s total private-sector workforce.
Alaska’s largest export is fish products, which made up $1.8 billion of the state’s total exports in 2010. Most of this seafood is not consumed domestically. Rather, it is exported abroad to the booming Pacific Rim markets of China, Japan and Korea. Mineral and ore mining make up another key sector of Alaska’s economy. The total value of Alaska’s ore exports was around $1.3 billion in 2010, up a staggering 56% from the year before. Primary mineral and ore exports include zinc, copper and gold, which are shipped to countries like China, Japan and Canada.
Japan is Alaska’s largest trade partner, accounting for $1.2 billion in exports from the state in 2010. China was close behind, having imported $921 million in goods and materials from Alaska, followed by Korea with $477 million and Canada with $390 million.
International Business Jobs in Alaska
One of Alaska’s largest international businesses is ASRC Energy Services, which is a leading oil and gas company headquartered in Anchorage. ARSC employs over 4,000 workers and is one of the largest oil field service employers in the state. Another large exporting company with operations in Alaska is Colorado-based CH2M Hill, an energy company employing over 4,000 that acquired Alaska-based VECO Corporation in 2007.
Large exporters like these require the services of many different kinds of international business professionals including custom brokers, logistics and supply chain managers and international accountants who provide logistical support and coordinate financial reporting for companies who work across international borders.
Due to its rich resources, Alaska is also home to a number of large U.S. affiliates of foreign-owned firms. According to the International Trade Administration, these firms employed 12,800 Alaskan workers and corporate professionals in 2009, the most current year for which information is available. British Petroleum of the United Kingdom is one of the largest foreign-owned companies with a presence in the state. According to the company’s website, BP opened its first office in Alaska in 1959 and now runs the largest oil field in North America, located in Prudhoe Bay. BP operates 15 North Slope oil fields and employs a workforce 80,000 strong. Other large foreign controlled companies in Alaska include Japanese-owned North Pacific Seafoods, which employs 250 workers at its Kodiak plant during the peak season, and Teck Cominco of Canada with its booming zinc mining operation near Kotzebue.
Multi-national companies such as these hire trade compliance specialists, international business managers and management consultants, among other professionals who secure overseas contacts, anticipate and exploit global trends and work to optimize operations around international trade laws.
Making International Business Contacts in Alaska
The state of Alaska is rich in resources for those seeking information about careers in international business: