economy

The Kenai Peninsula weathered the COVID-19 pandemic a little better than other areas of Alaska, according to the latest data from the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development.

The Kenai Peninsula Economic Development District is working on updating the borough's Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy for 2021 to 2026, to aid in planning for the next five years. This helps in directing policy, obtaining and distributing governmental funding, attracting new businesses to the borough, identifying roadblocks to development and, ideally, bettering the quality of life in our neck of the woods.

To require 14 days of quarantine or not to require 14 days of quarantine — that is the question state officials might answer today. While many of the state’s COVID-19 health mandates have been rolled back as Alaska re-opens for business, the mandate requiring arrivals to the state to self-isolate for two weeks is in effect until June 2. That requirement is particularly challenging for Alaska’s tourism industry.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy in a virtual town hall Thursday, said state officials are trying to balance public health with easing impacts to the economy.

“We’re working on some protocols to be able to try to have some outside folks come to Alaska to help with the very business that we’re talking about today that are seasonal, that are tourist-related, fishing-related, etc. We’re going to do our best to this thread this needle where we keep Alaskans safe but also try to get our economy back up off its knees,” Dunleavy said.


 

AK LNG

Since the state announced Nikiski as the chosen site for its liquefied natural gas plant project about six years ago, Kenai Peninsula residents have had an ear to the ground for developments. The project would use an 807-mile pipeline from the North Slope to deliver natural gas to a plant in Nikiski, where it would be liquefied and shipped out to international markets, all for a price tag of about $45 billion.

Since 2017, the state has been heading up the project alone through the Alaska Gasline Development Corporation. The project partners, including ConocoPhillips, BP and ExxonMobil, shied away from it after a number of international LNG plants came online, pushing down prices and making Alaska’s project too expensive to be competitive. But the state has pressed on, gathering permits and information. On Thursday, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission gave the state the green light to build and operate the project.

Now it’s just a matter of how to pay for it. This is the last year the state is going to go it alone —it’s either find other sponsors or sponsors or sell the assets.

Now that the Alaska Legislature and governor have come to an agreement about how federal COVID-19 relief funds will be distributed on the Kenai Peninsula, the final details are being worked out to get that money passed through to communities.

Just under $290 million will be made available to small businesses and certain nonprofit organizations through Alaska CARES grants. The Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority will be the umbrella organization overseeing the grant program and Credit Union One was selected to be the financial institution processing applications and making payments. 

The Kenai Peninsula Economic Development District is tasked with public outreach about how the program will work.

“I know folks have been kind of frustrated over the last couple of months about what was going on and when moneies will become available,” said Tim Dillon, executive director of KPEDD. “For the $290 million that will be out there for small business relief, that is statewide and it’s all in grants. There’s no loan with the potential of it being a grant, it is a straight grant right from the beginning. So we’ve been working through the polices and procedures. And everybody had their ideas on what they thought should happen. And the bottom line was there was a variety of us that said, 'We need to get money and we need to get it to our small businesses and we've got to get it to them ASAP without nine million strings attached to it.'”

Phase II of the state of Alaska's plan to scale back COVID-19 restrictions goes into effect today. If you want to go out and have a beer to celebrate or watch a movie at a theater, that is now allowed.

Not all businesses are choosing to participate but there are some new options on the central Kenai Peninsula.

Bars are allowed to open to 25 percent capacity. The Vagabond Inn on K-Beach Road plans to be open until 11 p.m. or midnight, depending on patronage.

"Even though the bar was closed, we had a lot of people call and come up and try to patronize, (want to) come in and have a drink. I don't know if they weren't aware of the situation or not. But a lot of people would like to get back in here. And I think it's just the social aspect, people are missing that," said owner George Bowen.

Bowen is excited to get the bar back open and bring his staff back to work. The Vagabond includes a liquor store, which stayed open during the shutdown, but Bowen says sales have been down about 70 percent.


Alaska businesses and workers struggling with impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic might soon have help on the horizon. Gov. Mike Dunleavy announced Thursday a variety of efforts to help support Alaska’s economy and workers.

“This is a government-induced situation because of the health issue and we believe that government needs to be involved in this particular case. This is not something that occurred because it was a bad business deal or one sector was not doing well. This is widespread across all sectors and, so, we are going to do everything we can to stabilize the economy,” Dunleavy said.

In March, Alaskans can expect to find a census questionnaire in the mail. It takes 10 minutes to fill out and is only done once every 10 years.

The consequences for an individual of not completing and returning their census are, really, pretty minimal. The worst that will happen is you’ll get reminders in the mail and a census worker might — politely — end up at your door.

But the consequences for state and local governments of not getting an accurate count could be costly.

Much of the federal funding that is distributed to states is divvied up based on population.

“It does matter to Alaska’s economy — $3.2 billion of annual federal funding allocation is determined by our census data. The federal funding comes into over 70 local programs in Alaska,” said Jenny Carroll, with the city of Homer, who is part of a Complete Count Committee for the Kenai Peninsula Borough to help facilitate the 2020 census.


Online shoppers on the Kenai Peninsula can expect to pay a little extra for their purchases soon, as the Kenai Peninsula Borough and communities move toward a system of collecting sales taxes from online sales.

The city of Kenai passed a resolution at its meeting Wednesday that paves the way for collecting taxes from online sales.

The Alaska Remote Seller Sales Tax Commission was formed to create a centralized way to collect sales taxes when Alaskans shop online. Collected taxes will be distributed to the borough, which will keep its share and divvy out the amounts due to the cities of Kenai, Soldotna, Seward and Homer.

When you think of economic drivers on the Kenai Peninsula, the manufacturing sector probably doesn’t jump first to mind. But it’s a broader category than you might think and has been holding steady even while other areas of the economy saw a downturn.

Alyssa Rodrigues is the director of Alaska’s Manufacturing Extension Partnership. She gave a presentation at the Kenai Peninsula Industry Outlook Forum held in Seward earlier this month.

She said that manufacturing in Alaska held its own during the recent recession.


Borough looking to expand agriculture on the Peninsula

Jan 15, 2020
Alaska Department of Natural Resources

 

Last week, the annual Industry Outlook Forum took place in Seward. The Kenai Peninsula Economic Development District organizes the event each year to showcase the latest trends and players in the local economy. The typical industries like oil and gas and fishing are well represented, but the point of the forum is to see what else is going on. And this year, agriculture is high on that list.

 

 


 

 

ECON 919 - Protecting coastal infrastructure

Dec 20, 2019

 

This week, keeping the boats moving safely in and out of alaska’s many harbors. Communities all along Alaska’s coasts are joining in the call for help funding local infrastructure projects. Both the borough and the city of Kenai recently adopted resolutions urging legislative action.

 


ECON 919 - Mayoral candidates talk taxes, annexation

Dec 6, 2019

 

This week, the city of Soldotna will hold a special election for mayor on December 17th. The election comes a little more than three months after the unexpected death of former mayor Dr. Nels Anderson. Two candidates are in the race, former mayor Pete Sprague and Charlene Tautfest. They took on a range of local economic questions at a forum this week sponsored by the Soldotna Chamber of Commerce. 

 

 


Assembly rejects veto of tourism funding

Dec 5, 2019

Funding for tourism marketing has become something of a political football in recent years. Just two years ago, the Kenai Peninsula Tourism and Marketing Council was the beneficiary of $300,000 in borough funding. That number was initially zeroed out for the most recent budget.

Redoubt Reporter

It’s no secret that a good amount of commercial fishing revenue generated in Alaska doesn’t stay here. A new study from UAA took a look at how much commercial fishing does contribute to local economies, and where that income goes when it doesn’t create jobs at home.


ECON 919 - Cutting regulations to court investment

Oct 18, 2019

 

This week, Governor Mike Dunleavy was in Homer Thursday to speak to the Alaska Homebuilders Association. His talk highlighted not just what he sees as Alaska’s best economic opportunities, but also the hurdles in accessing some of those opportunities. But the big question, he said, is about politics.

 

 


ECON 919 - Feds get latest AK LNG paperwork

Oct 4, 2019

 

The public comment period for a draft environmental impact statement on the AK LNG project closed this week, but not before the Mat-Su borough filed yet another motion asking federal regulators to again review the possibility of locating the terminus of the cross-state natural gas line at Port MacKenzie.

 

 


Cannabis business hours lengthened in Kenai

Oct 4, 2019
KDLL

 

Nearly three years after the first retail cannabis store opened in Kenai, the city council is still working to tailor local rules to the local market.

 

 


Murkowski talks tariffs, trade at AML

Aug 15, 2019
Shaylon Cochran/KDLL

 

Senator Lisa Murkowski was in Soldotna Wednesday to speak at the Alaska Municipal League conference. Addressing borough and city leaders from around the state, she touched on a wide range of issues, from cannabis to infrastructure to the ongoing trade war with China.

 


ECON 919 - Peninsula Tourism

Jul 3, 2019

 

If you hadn’t noticed, they’re here. And with the Kenai river dipnet fishery set to open next week, the flow of tourists through the central peninsula  will get a lot bigger.

 

 


Econ 919: Soldotna Annexation

Jul 13, 2018

 

The city of Soldotna has looked at expanding its footprint at various times over the years. The most recent effort goes back almost two years and has potential economic implications for residents, businesses and the city.

 

 


Though the state's finances are in a bit of a mess now with low oil prices and relatively low production, there are opportunities ahead. Creating a foundation to take advantage of those opportunities, however, is no easy task. This week, we talk to former borough mayor and current Commissioner of the Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development Mike Navarre about how the state can transition away from an oil-based economy and the policy and political hurdles that will need to be cleared along the way.

Econ 919: Junior Achievement helping drive the economy

Mar 2, 2018

 

By and large, kids have little direct impact on the economy. Oh sure, Mom and Dad spend a lot on them, but with little disposable income of their own, school kids’ spending power is limited.

This week on Econ 919, Jay Barrett tells us how the people at Junior Achievement are training today’s kids to be tomorrow’s financially responsible and productive members of society.


This week, on Econ 919, Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Charlie Pierce has been touting his plan to cover the borough’s $4 million-plus deficit this year with no new taxes. But a part of that plan means asking for administrative fees from the borough’s service areas. KDLL’s Shaylon Cochran has more.


Kenai Conversation: Landing Kenai's future

Jan 26, 2018
City of Kenai

The Kenai city council recently approved changes to leasing policies for airport lands. And that's just a beginning step in a long-range plan to put the city's considerable land assets to better use for development. 

Econ 919: Baker Hughes tracks pulse of industry

Jan 26, 2018

The city of Kenai is looking to grow its economic base. That begins with one of the city’s more abundant resources — land. Shaylon Cochran has more on the plans to catalog and encourage development around the city:


Kenai Conversation - Kenai Mayor John Williams

Jan 17, 2018

On this week's Kenai Conversation, former Kenai city and borough Mayor John Williams returns to discuss the issues of the day with host Jay Barrett.

Alyssa Rodrigues, development manager with the Alaska Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development, gives a crystal-ball look into the economic future of Alaska.

Econ 919: New CDL licensing drives opportunity

Jan 12, 2018

In this first episode of Econ 919, we take you to the recent Economic Outlook Forum and introduce you to one of the newest players in the central Kenai Peninsula's economy. And we wrap up with some potentially encouraging news about your PFD.


Courtesy Charlie Pierce

Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Charlie Pierce speaks about the budget deficit and economic development in the borough.

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