Usibelli honored as UAF business leader of the year

a man stands holding an award, flanked by a woman and a man
Photo by Gabriel King
Business Leader of the Year committee co-chair Ashley Plys, recipient Joe Usibelli Jr. and committee co-chair Gavin Meggert pose at the BLOY event on Friday, Nov. 18.

The University of Alaska Fairbanks College of Business and Security Management celebrated Joe Usibelli Jr. as its 44th Business Leader of the Year during a sold-out dinner and award ceremony in Fairbanks on Friday. The presenting sponsor was Construction Machinery Industrial LLC. 

A lifelong Alaskan, Usibelli is the president of Usibelli Coal Mine, where he has worked for over 40 years. He graduated from the University of Alaska Fairbanks in 1981 with a degree in civil engineering and a minor in business. Joe worked at the mine while pursuing his education. After graduation, he advanced through various positions with the company, including superintendent and vice president of operations. He became president in 1987 at the age of 28. Usibelli is only the third leader of UCM, following his father, Joe Sr., and his grandfather, Emil. 

Usibelli Coal Mine is the only operating coal mine in Alaska and is committed to innovative technology and long-term involvement in clean coal technology. In addition to leading the mine, Usibelli is active in other business initiatives, including Aurora Energy LLC, Usibelli Investments LLC and Usibelli Development Inc. He also participates in several family-owned business interests, including Aurora Denali Lodge, Black Diamond Resort and Usibelli Vineyards.

Usibelli has built a solid record for environmental stewardship at the mine. Nearly one million trees have been planted as part of UCM’s effort to restore mine lands to natural habitat, a program the company started years before reclamation was required by law. 

Usibelli cultivates a family-friendly workplace, allowing time for employees to care for sick family members and participate in activities during work hours, such as parent-teacher conferences and youth sports. A third of the mine's full-time employees belong to the second, third and even fourth generations of their families who have worked at the company.

Usibelli joins a legacy of father-and-son Business Leader of the Year recipients, including Paul (1977) and Dan (2012) Gavora, Cliff and Rob Everts (both 2018) and Joe Usibelli Sr. (1978).

“Receiving the Business Leader of the Year is quite the honor, and it brings my UAF involvement full circle,” Usibelli said. “As a student, I was a member of the Associated Students of Business and actually co-chaired this event. I am very proud of the relationship Usibelli Coal Mine has with the university.”

Joe and his wife, Marilyn, are lifelong residents of Healy, along with their daughter, Lexi, who is a business administration student carrying on the family tradition of attending UAF.


ADDITIONAL CONTACT: Mary Ernst,, 907-474-6518