This week, the Clarion published its annual look at the economy of the Kenai Peninsula. While there is certainly a fair amount of discouraging economic news, we’re pleased to see that there’s also some bright spots when it comes to the current economic environment.
The low price of oil is having an impact around the peninsula. Obviously, the oil industry accounts for a large portion of the state’s revenue, and we are starting to feel the cuts, with more still to come over the next couple of years. And while the industry itself accounts for a small portion of the Kenai Peninsula’s work force, it remains a large part of the economic picture.
However, explorers in the Cook Inlet basin continue to move forward with plans — good news for the region’s economy as well as the region’s energy security.
Also benefitting the Kenai Peninsula is a more diverse economy than in other parts of the state. We don’t have all of our eggs in one basket here. The tourism industry, for example, is seeing a rebound on the peninsula as visitors come from the Lower 48, where the economy has recovered from the recession. And love them or hate them, the personal-use fisheries are a huge draw for in-state visitors.
Commercial fishing continues to be a crucial part of the economic picture. News this week that projected improvement in king salmon returns will allow managers to open the commercial season with fewer restrictions provides a boost for the industry, which has weathered its own challenges over the past few seasons.
The peninsula’s health care community also continues to grow, providing additional employment opportunities. Small businesses that are able to find their niche are doing well. The housing market on the peninsula also is stable, and housing costs are among the most affordable in the state. And local governments have a strong record of careful, cautious budgeting.
We know it’s not all rainbows out there. There have been layoffs, and some local businesses have closed their doors. It’s a tough market right now.
But it’s also not entirely gloom and doom. There are good opportunities on the peninsula — and plenty of bright people ready to take advantage of them.