Brian Gabriel: Preserve history while moving Kenai forward

  • By Brian Gabriel
  • Thursday, September 29, 2016 5:07pm
  • Opinion

While contemplating a topic for this op-ed, I thought it would be a good idea to revisit the opinion piece that I wrote when I first ran for Kenai City Council in 2010. That op-ed focused on the village that is the past and how progress and economic diversity turned it into a City.

In 2010 I wrote: “The economic success of our city is a reflection of the well-being of our small businesses. Fortunately, today we are not solely dependent on one industry as in the past. We are unique in the fact that we have a diversified economy which includes oil and Gas, Construction, Tourism, Sport Fishing, Retail, and Commercial Fishing Industries. Our task is to protect and sustain all of these segments of our economy while at the same time capitalizing on our geographical location. The Kenai Airport should be considered the hub of the Kenai Peninsula and Western Cook Inlet. Focusing on developing airport properties that will attract business and commerce through the City of Kenai should be our goal. A stable business environment attracts new investments and opportunities that are prepared and able to adapt to changing economic tides.”

Six years later, I feel the same.

Providing infrastructure and a stable business environment that attracts new investments should always be a priority. Over the past six years there have be no increases to sales tax and a small increase in the mill rate with no reduction in services.

The development of the Airport Industrial Park is a positive step to encourage business investment around the Airport and needs to be promoted aggressively.

Recently approved Council action provides an avenue for long term leaseholders, with substantial improvements outside the Airport Reserve, to purchase their lease property and ensures more certainty for these businesses to plan for their future.

Considering the broad economic and social impacts that the Cook Inlet fisheries provide for our community, convincing the Board of Fisheries to meet on the Central Kenai Peninsula so that small businesses and stake holders can participate in the allocation process is valuable to the City.

In my 2010 op-ed I referenced the Wards Cove Cannery on the south bank of the Kenai River. Although this was a historic fish cannery for many years, at the time that I wrote the op-ed it had become a historical tourist destination with retail shops and an event space where we held our daughter’s wedding reception. The facility has been changed since then into a multi-faceted, forward thinking business that hosts tourists, business people, weddings and concerts while preserving and re-purposing the original building materials, embracing the historic charm of the original cannery.

The ideals that I had in 2010 are the same that I have today. Moving the City forward while preserving the history that is the Village of the past.

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