SalmonState, an Alaska conservation group, has recently criticized the effectiveness of the state’s investment bank, the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority (AIDEA). In a new series of reports, economists Gregg Erickson and Milt Barker, commissioned by SalmonState, scrutinize AIDEA’s primary loan program. Their findings suggest that the program has not significantly increased job creation in Alaska, has managed a substantial endowment with minimal oversight, and has generally yielded poor investment returns.

Tim Bristol, the executive director of SalmonState, stated that the reports reveal multiple shortcomings of AIDEA, including inadequate job creation, poor investment returns, inappropriate credit claims for job creation, and a lack of substantial legislative oversight. The critique comes as AIDEA seeks legislative approval to borrow up to $300 million for various unconfirmed mining projects.

These findings build on a 2022 analysis which highlighted that AIDEA’s spending has cost the state $10 billion over 40 years while delivering lower returns than those of the Alaska Permanent Fund Corp. Unlike the previous analysis, the current reports provide a detailed look at job creation, uncovering that AIDEA’s claims about its impact on employment were exaggerated by 94%.

Despite these criticisms, AIDEA is continuing with plans to develop infrastructure projects, including a controversial highway across the Susitna River and a mining access road in Northwest Alaska. Randy Ruaro, AIDEA’s executive director, disagreed with the findings from the new reports and mentioned that a rebuttal is currently being prepared.

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