December 18, 2020 — The Association of Pacific Ports takes great pleasure in welcoming Northern Economics Inc. as our newest Associate Member. Led by President and Principal Economist Marcus Hartley, M.S., Northern Economics has, for over 35 years, lived by the mission of “helping society make better decisions.” Proficient in the areas of economics, financial feasibility analyses, business planning, demographics and population studies, resource economics, market research and socioeconomic impact assessments, Northern Economics applies their experience and expertise to a broad range of industries. In speaking to the APP, Mike Fisher, Vice President and Principal Consultant, provided an overview of the company’s strengths as well as the trends in projects they’ve been seeing in sectors such as port and harbors, transportation, fisheries, energy and mining, tourism and infrastructure, and much more.

A key factor in Northern Economics’ success has been the expertise of team members and the all-encompassing approach to projects that, by their nature, require overlapping disciplines. A feasibility study for a port will need to factor in market conditions for such things as energy and mining, fishing, or resource development. Likewise, a project related to a resource industry will need to consider transportation logistics. It is this diversity and broad range of expertise that speaks to the strength of the company.

A quick review of the background of principal and project consultants bears out the expanse of their expertise. Marcus Hartley, for example, has a Masters in Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics and has focused on issues involving fisheries and fisheries infrastructure as well as significant involvement in natural gas and LNG pipeline projects. Mike Fisher holds graduate degrees in Business Administration and Project Management and has worked on a wide variety of projects, ranging from feasibility studies for Alaskan ports and harbors to statistical analyses, market studies and business plans. Also on staff:

  • Leah Cuyno, Senior Economist, who holds a doctoral degree and a master’s degree both in Agricultural and Applied Economics with a specialization in environmental economics. Dr. Cuyno is a leading practitioner of economic analysis tools such as IMPLAN and REMI.
  • Don Schug, Ph.D., Socioeconomic Analyst, has more than 30 years of experience performing analyses of the economic and social aspects of fisheries and fisheries management at community, national, and international levels. He also has particular expertise preparing environment reviews under the National Environmental Policy Act, including evaluation of economic, social and community, and environmental justice impacts.
  • Brock Lane, Project Consultant, has a background in Applied and Resource Economics as well as a Bachelor of Science degree in Mining Engineering.

Supporting staff are equally qualified in their disciplines – Terri McCoy, Publication Specialist and Proposal Coordinator has over 15 years of experience in editing and formatting technical reports; and Diane Sauer, Office Manager, holds the entire team to account with budgets, financial reporting, and human resource management.

As for the type of projects that clients bring to Northern Economics, again, the variety and range speak to the reputation that they have built.  Clients have included numerous cities and boroughs, state and federal government agencies, native and tribal entities, public organizations, and private-sector firms, seeking assistance with projects like feasibility studies, benefit-cost analyses, business planning, market analyses, grant assistance, regulatory compliance, rate studies, surveys, and land use assessments.

Giving just one recent example of work, the Department of Transportation and Public Facilities engaged Northern Economics to create a data-driven model to estimate impacts of 11 options to reshape the Alaska Marine Highway System. The goal of the project was to assess options that would reduce the operating subsidy of the system while maintaining acceptable levels of service. The analysis included econometric modelling of travel demand in response to changes in prices and to changes in the frequency of port calls. The analysis considered changes in the ownership structure and examined the impacts of changes in daily operating hours as well as the impacts of lower wages. “Coastal transit is a major part of the Alaska transportation network,” said Fisher. “Governments around the world are challenged to determine the level of subsidy required for ferry systems and the question becomes, what level of government support is required to offset user fees. I know of only one system in the U.S. that actually covers costs from operations.”

When asked about trends over the last year and the priorities of ports and harbors, Fisher noted that most were focused on the long-term outlook. “What we’ve seen lately is a lot of positioning for the future,” he said. “A lot of ports are pursuing grant opportunities around activities where they think there will be growth, and rate studies, again, trying to be positioned well for the future.”

While headquartered in Alaska, the focus of much of their work, Northern Economics has a presence in Seattle, Washington, as well which provides backing for additional projects throughout the Pacific Northwest. Not stopping there, the company has also taken on contracts all over the U.S. – for example, their recent work with NOAA Fisheries which required their specialized talents in considering the socioeconomic changes associated with fisheries management in areas that included Hawaii, Puerto Rico and U.S. territories in the western Pacific and Caribbean.

“Our mission statement is to help society make better decisions,” said Fisher, “and that, along with our values – integrity, collaboration, playing a positive role in our clients’ abilities to make decisions, excellence, balance, objectivity, and joy – guide us in our approach to all our projects. “

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