Regardless of the budget deficit challenges going on in Juneau, local business and public officials were optimistic at the annual Industry Outlook Forum hosted by the Kenai Peninsula Economic Development District (KPEDD) at the old Carr’s Mall in Kenai. The two day event featured a variety of Peninsula industries, economists and local public officials who brought their most recent data and projections for the local economy to those in attendance. Rick Roeske is the executive director for KPEDD and said in an interview with the Dispatch that participation was better than last year, “We a couple of good signature moments one of which was a year ago when one of the KPC students stood up during the Q&A and said he was completing his education and wanted to know how to get a job with the company. This year that same student returned and said he was starting his new job with BlueCrest the first of February. He was a thirty year old person with a family and is certainly one of local success stories as is the BlueCrest development at Anchor Point,” said Roeske.
The Peninsula is fortunate according to Roeske in that it has a diversified economy not solely dependent on one industry, “It’s not just oil and gas, it’s fishing, it’s our school district and local government, tourism and health care and as long as those industries public and private keep spending money and those dollars circulate in the economy we’ll get through the current low price of oil,” he said. Regarding the progress of the Alaska LNG project Larry Persily from the Borough pointed out that the mechanical engineering portion of the project is doable and progressing, but that the political structure and the ability to sell gas into the Pacific basin remains a huge unknown.
At a joint Chamber of Commerce meeting following the Industry Outlook Forum, Melissa Houston of the UAA Business Enterprise Institute presented the results of a study conducted for KPEDD on the Peninsula’s economic growth and statistics. “Things are looking good here,” underscoring with data why we are in a better situation than other places in the state, “One of the things that the Kenai Peninsula Borough has going for it is a pretty diversified economic base, compared to other areas in the state like Bristol Bay with fishing or the North Slope with oil or Juneau with tourism, the Peninsula has a little bit of all those things which makes it a good place to be overall. One of the things our study does is collect public feedback and time and time again we hear that the quality of life on the Peninsula is heads and tails above anywhere else and it has a lower cost of living, the cost of buying a house on the Peninsula is so much lower than in Anchorage or Mat-Su that even with paying more for food and fuel you are still saving money living here on the Peninsula,” she said.