Peninsula economy gives reason for optimism

  • Saturday, February 13, 2016 6:15pm
  • Opinion

While there’s plenty of concern over the state of Alaska’s economy, it’s important to note that it’s not all gloom and doom.

Certainly, the impacts of $30-per-barrel oil ripple throughout the economy. While the petroleum industry accounts for a relatively small percentage of the Alaska workforce, resource extraction remains a large part of the economy.

Here on the Kenai Peninsula, we’ve been fortunate to have a more diversified economic portfolio, which has helped us weather some of the highs and lows that more significantly impact other communities. Oil and gas is a large part of the economy, but other sectors are growing, too.

Health care is one of the fastest growing industries on the peninsula, led by continued growth at Central Peninsula Hospital. Commercial fishing remains viable. Tourism and recreation have rebounded since the recession. Small businesses that have found their niche are doing well. Agriculture on the Kenai Peninsula is growing by leaps and bounds. Just as importantly, local governments have sustainable budgets and stable revenue bases.

The peninsula also continues to benefit from a stable housing market. In a presentation at the recent Kenai Peninsula Economic Development District Industry Outlook Forum, state economist Alyssa Rodrigues noted that while the average home price is slightly lower in Fairbanks, once the cost of utilities is factored in, the Kenai Peninsula has the most affordable housing in the state.

We don’t want to give the impression that the peninsula’s economy doesn’t have its challenges. As we said, the low price of oil has ripple effects throughout the economy, particularly when it comes to state spending, which is another big piece of the equation. High-paying jobs aren’t just growing on trees, and we need to continue to develop a well-trained workforce to take advantage of the opportunities that do arise.

But while there are challenges ahead, the Kenai Peninsula is well situated to face them.