Dividend spurs spending spree

Posted: Monday, October 09, 2000

KENAI (AP) -- This year's Alaska Permanent Fund dividend is giving a billion-dollar boost to Alaska's economy.

Even some businesses that might seem unlikely to benefit from the dividend spending spree are seeing a cash infusion.

''We had quite a few bills here that are now being paid,'' said Robin Fritz, receptionist for Aardvark Pumping, a septic tank business in Soldotna. ''I've had quite a few calls from people who want to set up pumpings, and now that the Permanent Fund dividends are out, they know they can pay for it.''

About 585,800 Alaskans will receive a payment this month of $1,963.86 from the state's oil wealth savings account, said Larry Persily, deputy commissioner of the state Department of Revenue. For about 385,000 Alaskans, the dividend was automatically deposited into their bank accounts last Wednesday. The state began mailing the rest on Friday, Persily said. Most people should have checks in hand by Oct. 24.

Alaskans waste little time in taking advantage of the windfall.

''October is our biggest month of the year -- above Christmas or any other holiday,'' Mike Keeney, manager of Bailey's Furniture in Soldotna, said Friday.

''It's probably 30 percent above any normal month. The last three days, we've been going as fast as we can. There's an espresso booth in front of my store. Because people are out spending, their business goes up (too).''

Dave Keating, owner of Freedom Realty in Kenai and Soldotna, said the dividends boost real estate sales.

''There's no doubt that during the summer months people are scheduling purchases of residences or land, and they usually time them for closing around the time the dividends come out,'' he said.

Terry Rahlfs, director of Fred Meyer in Soldotna, said traffic in his store is up strongly .

''We have apparel, home electronics, home fashion and home improvement departments,'' he said. ''That's where business is up the most. It tends toward the extra things -- electronics, VHS, DVDs or TVs.''

Charlotte Legg, owner of Charlotte's Restaurant in Kenai, said her business has been very busy since the dividends came out. Restaurant owners learn to expect certain trends, she said.

''About a week before the permanent funds come in, it slows down quite a lot,'' she said. ''It's in between paychecks. Money is tight. A lot of people have spent their dividends already. Then when they do get them, they like to go out and celebrate.

''We pick up a lot of business and a lot of $100 bills. Instead of credit card sales, its a lot of $100 bills.''

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