The Value of Alaska's Marine Highway in 25 Stories
February 19, 2016
“The Value of Alaska’s Marine Highway in 25 Stories” was recently published by five of the state’s regional development organizations in order to show how AMHS impacts residents in communities big and small.
“It’s a compelling narrative,” said Shelly Wright, executive director of Southeast Conference. “There has been so much talk about the bottom line when it comes to marine highways. This publication speaks to the value of the ferry system in a personal way, community by community. To me, this publication lets people understand that the marine highway, whether they know it or not, touches every single person in Southeast Alaska. These Alaskans’ stories weave together to form a single tale: Transportation is the lifeblood of coastal communities, and a strong ferry system is essential to local economic development, quality of life, and community well- being.”
AMHS serves as an economic engine for the 35 coastal communities that it provides service to in Alaska. Each year, it ferries more than 300,000 people, generating thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars in commerce across Alaska. Since the extent of these impacts has never been fully measured, Alaskans who benefit from the state’s ferry system were asked to describe its value. The stories shared came from mayors, tribal leaders, business owners, tourism directors, fishermen, economic development experts and other community leaders.
A recent report, prepared by the Juneau-based McDowell Group, found that the state-run ferry system generates a return of more than $2 to the state for every $1 invested. Alaska’s general fund investment of $117 million in 2014 resulted in a total return on investment of $273 million.
“Angoon has no road connection, no barge service and no runway,” says former Angoon Mayor Maxine Thompson in the publication. “... It is the lifeblood of the villages.”
“The Lituya is our direct line to Ketchikan in any weather. It gives us access to the hospital. It can be life and death in terms of medical travel. A box of Cheerios here costs $9. To make their dollars stretch further, a lot of people go grocery shopping in Ketchikan because the prices are a lot better there. The Lituya plays a huge economic role between Ketchikan and Metlakatla. Ketchikan’s economy is infused with dollars from Metlakatla. And Metlakatlans enjoy the savings they get in Ketchikan. The Alaska Marine Highway is our highway. It’s our trade route.” Gavin Hudson, Tribal Council Member Metlakatla commented in the publication.
People who experience the marine highway’s benefits were asked first hand to describe its value: the mayors, tribal leaders, business owners, tourism directors, fishermen, economic development experts, and other community leaders. These Alaskans’ stories weave together to form a single tale: Transportation is the lifeblood of coastal communities, and a strong ferry system is essential to local economic development, quality of life, and community well-being. There are 35 ports spanning 3,500 miles that are connected by Alaska’s state ferries.
This publication, developed by Juneau-based Rain Coast Data, was a collaborative effort by Southeast Conference, the Anchorage Economic Development Corporation, the Southwest Alaska Municipal Conference, the Kenai Peninsula Economic Development District and the Prince William Sound Economic Development District.
Each of these Alaska Regional Development Organizations (ARDORs) involved in the publication supports economic development in their respective communities and businesses, and understands the economic importance of transportation.
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Edited by Mary Kauffman, SitNews
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