What others say: Implicit value

  • Wednesday, September 23, 2015 8:36pm
  • Opinion

Congratulations to Vigor Alaska, which was named the Southeast Conference’s business of the year last week.

Vigor Alaska was honored for its ongoing work building two new Alaska Class ferries and for its role as an employer in the Southeast Alaska region. (It employs almost 200 people).

Here in Ketchikan, Vigor’s vital role as an employer and generator of economic growth through its operation of the Ketchikan Shipyard speaks for itself.

In the award, we also see an implicit endorsement of the Alaska Marine Highway System, a critically important piece of infrastructure that links Southeast communities — and funnels visitors looking to spend their hard-earned dollars into Alaska.

The state ferry system is facing budget cuts as legislators confront the daunting prospect of billion-dollar budget deficits every year for the near future. Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott declared it “crisis time” for the ferry system at the Southeast Conference. The head of the ferry system, Mike Neussl, warned of the need to cut the size of the fleet at the conference.

No area of the state’s budget should be exempt from the brutal fiscal reality facing Alaska, and the state ferry system is no exception. But it is important to remember that the No. 1 role of the Alaska Marine Highway System is to provide an invaluable service to Southeast Alaska — it is not a traditional business.

As current Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities Commissioner Marc Luiken wrote in 2012, the ferry system “is not, and will not be, a profit generating operation.” The goal instead, as Luiken wrote, is to make the system as efficient as possible.

So, if the ferry system will not generate a straight-up fiscal profit for the state, what does it offer Southeast Alaska and the state as a whole?

Quite a bit.

An analysis of the Alaska Marine Highway System by the Alaska University Transportation Center, Institute of Northern Engineering released in 2012 found the following:

— The AMHS is critical to local economic development, “providing infrastructure necessary to many businesses.”

— The AMHS plays a vital cultural role in Southeast communities, “allowing residents, school groups, and sports teams (to) travel between communities served by AMHS more frequently and with greater safety and reliability.”

— The AMHS is an important tool for funneling visitors into the state. In 2007, about one-third of passengers were out-of-state visitors. Visitors accounted for almost half of the AMHS’ fare revenue.

— The vast majority of the AMHS’ budget is spent within the state. In fiscal year 2007, 80 percent of the system’s budget — $115 million — was spent inside Alaska.

— The AMHS system is an important generator of jobs in the state: The system employed 960 people in fiscal year 2007, and the circulation of AMHS funds generated another 480 jobs throughout Alaska.

There’s no doubt things have changed since 2007, and we all have to face this new reality together.

But as the 2012 report makes clear, the ferry system’s value to Alaska covers a vast socio-economic area.

It’s important to remember that the ferry system is more than a bleak set of numbers on a spreadsheet — the cash spent on the system ripples out into Alaska in numerous ways, and the system’s true value to local communities and local businesses is incalculable.

— Ketchikan Daily News,

Sept. 21

More in Opinion

Alan Parks is a Homer resident and commercial fisher. (Courtesy photo)
Voices of the Peninsula: HB 52 would hurt commercial fishing and community

Upper Cook Inlet fishing families have been hit hard by ongoing politics

WH
Opinion: The buck stops at the top

Shared mistakes of Dunleavy and Biden.

A sign welcomes people to Kenai United Methodist Church on Monday, Sept. 6, 2021 in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
It’s time for a federal law against LGBTQ discrimination

When my wife and I decided to move to Alaska, we wondered if we would be welcome in our new neighborhood.

Terri Spigelmyer. (Photo provided)
Pay It Forward: Instilling volunteerism in the next generation

We hope to have instilled in our children empathy, cultural awareness, long-term planning and the selflessness of helping others

Hal Shepherd in an undated photo taken near Homer, Alaska. (Photo courtesy of Hal Shepherd.)
Point of View: Election integrity or right-wing power grab?

Dr. King would be appalled at what is happening today

Nancy HIllstrand. (Photo provided)
Point of View: Trail Lakes is the sockeye salmon hero, not Tutka Bay

Tutka hatchery produces a pink salmon monoculture desecrating Kachemak Bay State Park and Critical Habitat Area as a feed lot

A map of Kachemak Bay State Park shows proposed land additions A, B and C in House Bill 52 and the Tutka Bay Lagoon Hatchery. (Map courtesy of Alaska State Parks)
Opinion: Rep. Vance’s bill is anti-fishermen

House Bill 52 burdens 98.5% of Cook Inlet fishermen.

A sign designates a vote center during the recent municipal election. The center offered a spot for voters to drop off ballots or fill a ballot out in person. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: The failure of mail-in voting

The argument that mail-in balloting increases voter participation never impressed me

A resident casts their vote in the regular municipal election Tuesday, Oct. 6, 2020 at the Kenai Peninsula Fairgrounds in Ninilchik, Alaska. (Photo by Megan Pacer/Homer News)
Alaska Voices: Break the cycle of failure, debt in 2022

Today, all Americans are coerced, embarrassed or otherwise influenced into one of two old political parties

Most Read