Last week, the City of Adak and the Adak Community Development Corporation bought $2 million worth of fish processing equipment at auction. Now, they’re looking for someone to operate it.
The equipment was up for sale because Icicle Seafoods pulled out of Adak earlier this year. City Manager Layton Lockett says in an ideal world, another seafood processor would have swooped in and bought it up. Instead, the apparent high bid was from a scrapper that wanted the equipment for parts, so Lockett stepped in.
“Last few seconds, I made the decision to do it.”
The auctioneer disputes this version of events — he says it wasn’t a scrapper, but rather a seafood processor that placed the almost-winning bid. Either way, the city won.
The purchase is a big gamble for the 12-year-old city. Even with a $385,000 contribution from the Adak Community Development Corporation, it pretty much wiped out the municipality’s reserves. But Lockett sees it as a necessary investment.
“So that we have an economic future. Which is based in fisheries. Everything here is related to fisheries.”
The city’s economic future doesn’t just depend on the equipment though — it depends on that equipment processing fish — and the city has no interest in doing that. Instead, it’s looking for a seafood processing company to take over the venture.
“The number one goal is to get it operating again. If a processor wants to buy it, great, absolutely. If a processor wants to lease it, we’d need to discuss, just like we would need to discuss purchase, but the idea is to keep it open.”
Complicating matters is the fact the equipment is housed in a building owned by Aleut Enterprise, a subsidiary of the Aleut Corporation. Any potential operator would need to work out a deal with them as well.
Nevertheless, Lockett is optimistic that the plant will be back up and running by next January.He says a few companies have already made inquiries.
“I mean I can’t mention who they are this point, but we have gotten a few. If they want to mention it… great!”
For now, there’s no rush — the city is operating within its budget, and Lockett says there won’t be any cuts resulting from the equipment purchase. But in a typical year, the city derives 30-40 percent of its revenue from fisheries taxes, and now that the reserve has been spent, the pressure is on to reopen the fish plant, and get Adak back in business.