Recently I addressed the Sitka Chamber of Commerce to update business and community leaders on the work being done to grow Southeast Alaska’s economy.  The recently-adjourned 27th Alaska Legislature accomplished a great deal for our region. We invested in vital energy infrastructure, enhanced state savings, passed legislation to improve our fisheries, and secured funding for a new generation of state ferries.      

This past session, in my role as Co-Chair of the Senate Finance Committee, I worked with colleagues and the administration to put together a Capital Budget that provides jobs, improves infrastructure, and enhances the quality of life for Alaskans.  For Sitka, this included several long-standing community priorities including:

– Katlian Bay Road – $14 million
– Sawmill Cove Bulkhead – $7.5 million
– City and State Road Improvements – $6.7 million
– Kettleson Library Upgrades – $5.7 million
– Alaska Native Brotherhood Harbor Improvements – $4.25 million
– Centennial Hall and Museum Improvements – $4.5 million
– Community Hospital Roof Replacement – $1.2 million

These projects and others will keep our economy growing and help ensure Alaska doesn’t experience the drastic economic downturn that has faced the Lower-48.  Southeast Alaska has never fully recovered from the collapse of the timber industry and we need to be proactive in finding solutions to sustain our communities and stem the declining population in our region. 

Capital projects and infrastructure improvements can be a bridge to new industries that will create jobs.  Whether lowering the cost of energy or providing access to our region’s resources, these investments can make Southeast an attractive location for industries such as the mining and maritime trades.      

With future development of Arctic energy resources, coastal communities like Sitka could have a substantial role in providing the support services needed to further oil and gas exploration.  Sheltered, ice-free coves like those found in Southeast are ideal for winter moorage for vessels and energy development equipment.  This support-center model has been a mainstay for the economy of the Gulf of Mexico region and can play a role in the future of Southeast Alaska’s economy as well. 

I enjoyed the chance to discuss these accomplishments and opportunities with the Sitka Chamber of Commerce and look forward to working with them to advance Southeast Alaska’s economy in the future.  You can listen to a radio story on my Chamber address here.

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