President-elect Donald Trump’s pick to head the Commerce Department, Wilbur Ross, is a billionaire investor, a specialist in distressed industries. If confirmed by the Senate, he’ll be the face of American business. But does this New Jersey–born Floridian know anything about Alaska?
Yes, according to U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan. Sullivan met with the Commerce nominee last week. The senator says he found out Ross has been to Alaska many times.
“He was an investor in Wien Airlines,” Sullivan said.
Wien, founded in Fairbanks in the 1920s by aviation legend Noel Wien, was for a time Alaska’s largest airline. (In the 1980s, it ran TV ads featuring a goose in the cockpit.)
“Given the number of times (Ross) was up in Alaska on business, he was actually in Anchorage during the 1964 Earthquake,” Sullivan said.
A 1990 New York Times profile on Ross (which discusses his relationship with Trump) says 1964 was the year Ross went to work at a Wall Street brokerage house as an airline analyst.
The Commerce Department is important to Alaska primarily because of its role in fisheries and science. The Commerce Department includes the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the National Weather Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service.
Sullivan said he and Ross spent about half an hour discussing fisheries, including “NOAA’s role, Magnuson-Stevens Act, the North Pacific Fisheries (Management) Council, who’s in it, who’s on it, personnel issues (and) the importance of the industry to Alaska.”
Sullivan has met with several of Trump’s potential cabinet members, including those chosen for the Pentagon and the EPA, as well as Commerce.
“When you have a connection to a place, it matters,” Sullivan said. “And the nominee for the Department of Commerce secretary has a connection to our state.”
Sullivan is a member of the Senate Commerce Committee, which is scheduled to hold a confirmation hearing for Ross on Thursday.