ASTF funds projects before disbanding

Posted: Wednesday, July 02, 2003

ANCHORAGE (AP) As one of its last acts, the board of the Alaska Science and Technology Foundation decided to use its remaining money to partly fund some projects.

The foundation was able to fund a 2003 request from a shellfish hatchery in Seward and partly fund a 2003 commitment to Alaska InvestNet, a Juneau-based nonprofit organization that helps Alaska entrepreneurs link up with venture capital investors.

As of July 1, the foundation's $100 million endowment is in the state General Fund where it will be spent as part of the state's 2004 fiscal year operating budget. Executive Director Hans Roeterink's last day on the job was Monday, the end of the state's 2003 fiscal year.

Dissolution of the foundation ends a 12-year experiment in state-funded economic development with an emphasis on technology industries. ASTF was created in 1988 through an initiative pushed by former Gov. Steve Cowper.

Earnings from its $100 million endowment funded grants to private firms and institutions in a wide variety of industries. ASTF grants helped provide early funding for the Kodiak Launch Complex, innovations in fisheries research and processing technology, a process to make a liquid fuel from coal, and technology projects that helped mining firms deal with environmental problems and sawmill operators to sell their lumber in Alaska.

ASTF also helped support a program to train information-technology workers for businesses in the state, and provided grants to wire schools around the state for Internet access. Its endowment also funded certain University of Alaska research programs.

The foundation was cut after Gov. Frank Murkowski decided the state needed the money in ASTF's endowment. The governor said that while the foundation had funded some good projects, its performance over the years hasn't been up to expectations in terms of successful businesses and jobs created.

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