Brief description of business: Promech Air is a year-round floatplane operation based in Ketchikan. Promech operates four turbine Otters and six Beavers serving cruise ship passengers with flightseeing tours to Misty Fjords National Monument and bear tours to the Neets Bay Salmon Hatchery. We also operate scheduled service to outlying communities for passengers, mail and freight. Waterfall Resort is a remote, world-class fishing resort with 92 beds and 27 charter boats.
First Involvement in visitor industry: I moved to Ketchikan in June of 1980 as the controller for several businesses, including the development of Waterfall Resort. My partners in Waterfall and I began purchasing those businesses in 1982.
Start with cruise industry: Waterfall is only accessible by floatplane or boat. There wasn’t enough lift on the Ketchikan waterfront to accommodate our needs so my old boss and Chuck Slagle formed Westflight Aviation in 1981. Westflight serviced Waterfall and offered flightseeing tours to cruise ship passengers. That operation was eventually sold to Temsco Aviation. In 1992, Chuck and I formed Seaborne Aviation, which operated twin otters in Ketchikan, Haines and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Seaborne’s Ketchikan operation was sold to Promech in 2000. In 2005, Marcus Sessoms and I bought back Promech and now operate in Ketchikan and Key West, Fla.
Best part of my job: My education/training is in accounting and finance. However, as managing partner, I find it important to do as much quality control work as possible. Consequently, I get to do a lot of fishing and flightseeing!
Best cruise passenger story: After over 30 years in the industry, I think the funniest tourist questions are the best. It exemplifies how unique and, possibly misunderstood, Alaska remains to the rest of the world. Best questions from tourists while standing on the dock in Ketchikan: “When did we enter fresh water?”, “Who landscaped all of these islands?” and “How far down do the islands go?” The best experiences are the looks on passengers’ faces when they experience Misty Fjords National Monument on a perfect day or watch half a dozen black bear feeding on salmon out of the creek at Neets Bay.
What Alaskans should do to support cruise industry: Get involved and get educated. Several years ago a group of us got together and formed the Alaska Alliance for Cruise Travel. We formed the organization to provide advocacy for the cruise industry and education about the industry. AACT was a driving force in getting the cruise ship head tax reduced and we continue to stay involved in emission control and wastewater issues. A huge problem for cruise ship-related tourism businesses in Alaska is the new Emissions Control Area. The cost of these new regulations in higher fuel prices could easily drive many ships from Alaska. Take the time to study the issues and become involved. It is your business that will benefit!