Last year, oil major ConocoPhillips (NYSE:COP) was named the Real America Stock for Alaska despite having its headquarters in Texas. That’s because oil pretty much is the economy of Alaska.
This year, General Communication (NASDAQ:GNCMA) makes the list. This company provides businesses and consumers with access to wireless and landline telephone services, along with data and Internet access. And most importantly, its Managed Broadband segment provides connectivity to Alaska’s rural school districts, hospitals and health clinics.
As a nice coincidence: It’s also the 30th anniversary of this company serving Alaska.
It’s easy to see why a company like General Communication is crucial to the economy of Alaska in this digital age. As for its reflection on the broader American economy, it’s true that entrenched telecoms like AT&T (NYSE:T) and Verizon (NYSE:VZ) hold the lion’s share of the telecommunications market. But regional providers like Alaska’s GNCMA often provide access to underserved or remote markets, and are increasingly important as reliable communications systems are crucial in a digital age.
General Communication admittedly is small, trading only a few hundred thousand shares daily and with only 41 million total shares outstanding. At the end of 2011, it showed total cash flows from operating activities of just $134 million — compared with $7.5 billion for AT&T.
But in America, small companies like this often can better speak to the health of the broader economy. They are agile enough to ramp up quickly when opportunities arise, and they are not as entrenched and don’t have the same deep pockets and scale to rely on in troubled times.
For all these reasons, Alaska’s General Communication seems an apt selection for the state and as a bellwether for regional telecoms across the U.S.
Check out the complete list of Real America Index components, along with an interactive map of short-term and long-term returns.
Jeff Reeves is editor of InvestorPlace.com. As of this writing, he did not own a position in any of the stocks named here. Follow him on Twitter via @JeffReevesIP and become a fan of InvestorPlace on Facebook.