SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


Open Letter: Economic Development
By Kurtis R. Morin


January 03, 2011

I understand that certain members of the Ketchikan Assembly have expressed a preference for confining the borough's economic development program solely to infrastructure projects.

I am writing this letter to tell you that other economic development activities such as industry support and assistance are absolutely essential to the growth of Ketchikan. We have seen great success from current efforts of the Economic Development Manager, Deborah Hayden, who has worked tirelessly with the shellfish industry to help us to be a big part of South East Alaska and Ketchikan's economy. We spent many years trying to bring our ideas forward mostly running into innumerable dead ends, road blocks and diversions.

It wasn't until Deborah came to work at the Borough and assisted us that we began to make progress. At our beginning, the pace was slow. This was due to our lack of knowledge of how to work within the structure of government and its mass of paperwork, protocol and maze of departments.

Deborah spent many, many hours guiding us along the process of learning the ins and outs of government permits, licenses, funding sources, business structures, business plans, forming a Cooperative organization, helping us incorporate, by-laws and a hundred other things that we needed to do and learn to progress the industry forward.

Actually I am amazed at her patience and understanding as well as her vast knowledge and the skill to teach and guide us down the correct path. So where are we on that path.? Well two years ago we were ready to give up. Of the 17 people who started with me on this project to create a shellfish mariculture industry in Alaska, only 7 people are left. Out of the 27 Geoduck farms that started, only 22 are left. At first glance this sounds like we are failing, no, far from it!

All of the farms still active have seed planted, over half of them will have mature product to harvest in the coming year, which is quite the accomplishment since Geoducks take 6 years to grow.

Today we have a Cooperative called the Shellfish Growers Cooperative. This cooperative has an agreement with Ocean s Alaska to lease and operate the new Research facility they are right now building. This new facility will be an enhanced nursery that will produce up to 2 million geoduck seed a year for planting on Southeast Alaska farms. The availability of seed has been the final barrier to success of the Mariculture industry. With this local seed source the industry will prosper and grow.

The forecasted seed production has a market value of $400,000 annually. That seed planted on the farms will grow up over six years assuming a 50% mortality to become $90,000,000 worth of product. The industry s production goal is 1 million lbs of Geoduck clams annually, a gross value of $15 million a year. From that, the industry pays the fisheries tax of 3% which would total $450,000 a year. I believe 50% of that tax goes directly to the community the fish is landed in, in this case, Ketchikan.

We believe this industry will provide jobs for 21 divers working from six vessels with two crew each harvesting and planting, a nursery staff of six and with a minimum of two processing plants having crews of at least 6, plus shipping and handling people; we should be contributing a minimum of 50 new jobs to Ketchikan. In the future as the industry grows and additional shellfish species are added , these numbers could multiply as many as tenfold.

We also believe we can help the limited entry fisheries by hiring their divers who have the skill, training and equipment we need to insure our product has its full value to our customers; additionally we hope to supply seed to the limited entry fisheries to enhance the clam beds they have been harvesting repeatedly for many years.

Without all of Deborah's hard work there would be no shellfish farming industry! I ask that the Assembly have patience as we begin to demonstrate the effectiveness of the work that has been done by the Borough Economic Development Manager. Growth takes time, especially when first you must learn how to grow before you begin to take the steps necessary to do so. It is imperative to have this kind of economic development assistance available.

Kurtis R. Morin
Shellfish Growers Cooperative
Ketchikan, AK


About: "I am the person who started the Geoduck farming industry in Alaska. I own Alaska Shellfish which has four farms, and Alaska Shellfish Nursery LLC the current nursery source of Geoduck seed in Alaska.

I am a commercial diver with over 25 years experience. I am Ketchikan, Alaska born and raised. "

Received December 30, 2010 - Published January 03, 2011


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