Maybe next year he'll get an award for not showing up.
It was hoped that U.S. Sen. Frank Murkowski, R-Alaska, would be able to speak at Saturday's North Peninsula Chamber of Commerce, but instead the senator stayed in Washington to aid the Kenai Peninsula in a different capacity.
Sen. Murkowski had been asked to speak at the event as a guest speaker, but was unable to commit to the annual awards banquet in order to work on securing a natural gas pipeline from the North Slope. If a pipeline idea comes to fruition, it could mean a multitude of jobs for north peninsula residents.
"If they can get a gas line from the slope, it's more than worth it," said outgoing chamber president Marty Anderson, referring to Murkowski's no-show.
Oil and gas were the main topics of discussion, as the evening's keynote speaker, Neil McCleary, head of British Petroleum's Prudhoe Bay business unit, discussed several aspects dear to the area's economic interests. McCleary discussed the importance of innovation and efficiency in the oil and gas industry, as well as BP's commitment to Alaska's economy.
McCleary pointed out that BP is set to spend $700 million in Alaska in the upcoming year, with a significant portion of that money to be spent on the peninsula.
McCleary also discussed BP's need to redevelop business models in Alaska's changing economy.
"More competition means more business; more business means more jobs," said McCleary, underlining the need for business owners to streamline and innovate in the oil and gas industry.
McCleary pointed to the new Nikiski gas-to-liquids plant, and the 200 peninsula residents employed by the company as evidence of the company's continuing commitment to the area. He also paraphrased astronomer Carl Sagan in pointing out the possibilities for Alaska's oil and gas reserves.
"There's billions and billions (of oil) out there, we just need to access them," he said.
Following McCleary's remarks, the chamber presented its annual awards for business and community service. The chamber also honored two outgoing officers.
A community service award was presented to Audrey Johnson, in part for her tireless efforts to improve the conditions of the peninsula's road system.
"That's one I expected to hear some hoorays for," said Anderson announcing Johnson's award to those assembled, who obligingly erupted into applause.
Denver Copeland and John Henry received community service awards for, among other endeavors, supporting the children's breakfast program in Nikiski schools.
Two businesses were honored, as Unocal took the industry award, while Udelhoven Oil Field System Services received the Business of the Year Award.
Outgoing chamber officers honored were former chamber treasurer Susan Wilcox and former secretary Teri Carter.
Carter, who served eight years as secretary, was praised by Anderson for her tireless dedication.
"I've only been here one year, so I know how long eight years can be," Anderson said before presenting Carter with a small wooden rocking chair as a symbol of her time spent with the chamber.
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