A word from the president, January/February 2013

By: Sophie Minich, CIRI president and chief executive officer
MinichPresidentsMessage Photo ENewsDear Fellow Shareholders:

It is a great honor and privilege to present my first president’s message since accepting the position following the retirement of Margie Brown. We are fortunate to have benefited from Margie’s strong, compassionate leadership and her commitment to our corporation. She will be a hard act to follow and we all miss her kindness and keen intellect.

While change can bring uncertainty, CIRI’s Board of Directors and leadership team have made great efforts to ensure a smooth transition and consistency in our strategic focus. You will see that same consistency in CIRI’s business operations, engagement with CIRI’s family of nonprofits and outreach to CIRI shareholders. In our 40-year history, CIRI has grown into a diverse and successful corporation and I look forward to ensuring that growth continues for another 40 years and beyond.

I’m proud to be a CIRI shareholder and, for nearly 20 years, a CIRI employee serving in a variety of positions. My career at CIRI began as a project accountant and over the years I grew with the company in positions of increased responsibility, including overseeing shareholder relations, serving as chief financial officer and most recently as the chief operating officer. For the past eight years, I have benefited from working side by side with Margie fulfilling the Board’s strategic vision and positioning CIRI for future growth.

As we look to the future, I would like to explain some of the areas CIRI is focusing on to achieve greater returns and shareholder benefits. First of all, CIRI’s track record of success can be attributed in large part to the leadership of our strong Board of Directors and the valued employees we have throughout the company. As our corporation grows, it will be important to ensure CIRI maintains appropriate staffing to manage our businesses and make certain we have succession plans, both within CIRI and our subsidiaries, to accommodate personnel changes without interrupting business operations. I am a firm believer in the philosophy that if we hire good people, provide them the tools they need to effectively perform their job and the freedom to unleash their potential – good things will follow.

Through the direction set by the Board, CIRI has evolved into a company with a diverse and strategic combination of operating companies and investments. Going forward, CIRI will continue to expand our footprint in Alaska’s resource development sector. The Cook Inlet Basin is enjoying a renaissance with new explorers in the oil and gas sector and through CIRI’s leadership in renewable and alternative energy sources. My goal is to continue to take advantage of opportunities on CIRI land through strategic partnerships that will position the company for future success. In addition, CIRI will continue to identify opportunities and strengthen partnerships to grow our energy businesses outside of Alaska.

CIRI’s strong balance sheet allows us to evaluate emerging opportunities that fit well with our strategic plan and provide for long-term growth. Given the sluggish U.S. economy and concern about tightening federal spending, with the Board’s guidance, CIRI is exploring new investments with a focus toward consistent and sustainable returns. We recognize the importance of maintaining the liquidity necessary to allow the corporation the flexibility to take advantage of investment opportunities as they arise.

In our 40 years of existence, it is gratifying to see how Alaska Native Corporations (ANCs) have matured into financially strong, sophisticated and influential organizations that not only deliver economic benefits to shareholders and the economy, but also play an essential role in promoting and preserving our cultural heritage. I am committed to working closely with the business community, state and local governments and with other ANCs, villages and tribes to build upon past successes and increase the economic and political strength of the Alaska Native community.

As CIRI embarks on this next chapter, I am particularly excited about working closely with you and will be seeking your wisdom, support and guidance. The success of CIRI depends on shareholders who are engaged and excited about participating in their corporation. We have challenges ahead. CIRI, along with all of the ANCs, is experiencing an aging demographic of shareholders and, as shares are transferred, we will have more shareholders with fewer shares. CIRI will be developing strategies to ensure our corporation remains as relevant to the next generation as it has been to us and those who came before us.

We’ve come a long way together. I have always been impressed with the unparalleled pride CIRI shareholders have in their heritage and corporation. It gives me great confidence that, working together, we will overcome obstacles that come our way and CIRI will continue on the path of prosperity. In some respects, our journey is only beginning.