Photo by Rashah McChesney/Peninsula Clarion  Kyle Boyles and David Fink work on a portion of the Soldotna airport expansion project Thursday July 4, 2013 in Soldotna, Alaska.

Photo by Rashah McChesney/Peninsula Clarion Kyle Boyles and David Fink work on a portion of the Soldotna airport expansion project Thursday July 4, 2013 in Soldotna, Alaska.

Soldotna sees steady growth

  • By Kelly Sullivan
  • Monday, February 23, 2015 1:51pm
  • Business

Soldotna is an evolving municipality.

The population is expanding steadily, by the hundreds each year, said the city’s Director of Economic Development Stephanie Queen.

“The one thing all employers need is a skilled workforce,” she said. “One way communities can attract or retain this type of talent, is to make sure we are a great place to not only work, but to live, raise a family, play, and grow old.”

Residential and commercial construction projects were at an all time high in 2014, Queen said.

Some of the city’s larger projects include the specialty clinics at Central Peninsula Hospital, aircraft hangars at the Soldotna Airport and newly opened private retail stores and restaurants.

Soldotna residents are also heavily involved in the state’s oil and gas industry. The city is ranked third in the state for number of residents employed in the industry, Queen said.

“This renewed development pressure comes at a time of increased oil and gas activity in Cook Inlet,” Queen said.

Soldotna’s economy remains viable because it is well diversified, Queen said. Education and tourism are in periods of growth as well, she said.

“We have many natural advantages in this area, from great recreational opportunities, housing options, low property taxes, quality schools and health care,” Queen said. “While these things on their own do not create jobs, we’re going to continue to support them because they provide the underlying conditions which allow our private sector to thrive.”

Another area of growth is the local tourism industry which brings millions in tax revenue each year.

According to Soldotna’s 2015 fiscal year operating budget, sales tax accounted for $7.85 million of the city’s revenue.

Former Executive Director of the Soldotna Chamber of Commerce Michelle Glaves said the reason for the continued success of the local tourism industry was the ability of local residents to diversify their offerings.

Guided tours were focused solely on the fishing industry for so long, Glaves said. As the fisheries dwindle, companies are expanding their services, she said.

“It is a huge boon to everyone’s pocketbook when we have other people in town,” Glaves said.

Maintaining a competitive edge keeps these companies viable, she said.

The vast majority of local businesses are considered small businesses, meaning they employ fewer than seven staff members at any given time.

The second element to a flourishing economy is putting effort into the off-season consumers, Glaves said.

“The city’s economic strategy is two-fold, make Soldotna a place to raise a kid and grow old, and at the same time encourage commercial development,” Queen said. “We do that by assisting existing local entrepreneurs.”

It is the city’s job to make it easier for interested investors, Queen said. This effort has included beautification of the downtown area. One of the city’s main roadways, Binkley Street, received three mini-roundabouts last summer.

In a business confidence survey given to members of the Soldotna Chamber, layout of a city is considered “overwhelmingly critical,” Queen said.

“We also know people are tired of talking about it and want to make it start happening,” Queen said. “These things all bode well for Soldotna’s future, not just in quality of life for our residents, but for our economic stability moving forward.”

Reach Kelly Sullivan at