New Bristol Bay chief executive hailed as 'next generation'

PASSING THE TORCH: Native shareholder takes helm.

January 13, 2009 

For the first time, a "second-generation" Alaska Native shareholder is taking the helm of a regional Native corporation.

Bristol Bay Native Corp. appointed Jason Metrokin, 36, as its new president and chief executive, the company announced Tuesday.

Metrokin, who is part Aleut, was born after 1971, the cut-off year for Alaska Natives to enroll in the new Native corporations that Congress created that year. He inherited his shares in the Anchorage-based corporation when his grandfather died, according to an interview he gave in the book, "Growing up Native in Alaska."

Other Native executives hailed the news as a significant "passing of the torch" event in the history of the 1971 Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, which created the 12 regional corporations and seeded them with land and money.

"It's the evolution process. Now, these young educated professionals are starting to run these companies and it is filling the original intent of the Native claims act," said Sheri Buretta, board chair of the Chugach Alaska Corp.

The new post is a promotion for Metrokin, who grew up in Anchorage and began working for Bristol Bay in 2005. He is also a board member of the corporation. He will also be the state's youngest regional Native corporation chief executive. Until now, Thomas Mack, 39, who heads the Aleut Corp., was the youngest.

Mack, a graduate business school classmate of Metrokin's, said he was pleased about the news. "That's awesome," he said Tuesday.

Metrokin's new job will start Friday. He is replacing Hjalmar Olson, who retired from the chief executive post and from the board of directors in November. Olson, a Bristol Bay commercial fisherman, served on the board since the 1970s and was the top executive for 16 years.

Metrokin, until now, was Bristol Bay's director of shareholder and corporate relations.

Previously, he served as a vice president of development at the First Alaskans Institute and he worked as an assistant vice president at the National Bank of Alaska before Wells Fargo bought it. He is a founding member of the Alaska Native Professional Association.

His father, Dennis Metrokin, grew up in Naknek and Kodiak and previously headed Koniag Inc.

Bristol Bay board chairman Joseph Chythlook said, "Having such a well-prepared young professional at the head of our corporation represents the promise and potential of all our shareholders."

Bristol Bay's shareholders include Natives who live in or came from the Bristol Bay region, including Aleuts, Yupik Eskimos and Athabascans.

The company is one of the state's largest Native corporations, generating more than $1 billion in revenue for the past two years in a row. It is one of only two Native corporations that have hit the $1 billion mark. In recent years, Bristol Bay's biggest revenue gains have been from its Pacific Northwest fuel sales and government and business contracting.

Find Elizabeth Bluemink online at adn.com/contact/ebluemink or call 257-4317.

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