Southeast Conference Releases Three Regional Economic Reports
September 17 2015
Southeast Conference’s annual regional economic publication - Southeast Alaska by the Numbers 2015 - tells two stories about the regional economy: a positive tale of five-year trends, and a more sobering one-year analysis and future forecast.
Over the last five years the region grew by 2,600 people and 1,500 jobs. Total workforce earnings increased by $275 million, with most of that coming from the private sector ($209 million).
With the exception of government, nearly every sector flourished. New jobs and investments occurred in the areas of seafood, tourism, mining, construction, healthcare, maritime, and energy.
However, data from the last year especially indicates an economic contraction. Between 2013 and 2014 there were few areas of growth, and many indicators trended slightly downwards.
The regional population declined by 30 people. Jobs fell by 300, mostly in the areas of government, construction, and health care. There were 34,000 fewer cruise and ferry visitors to the region. The value of seafood harvested in the region fell by $92 million. The price of gold fell by 10%. Early 2015 job reports show more losses on the way.
The most concerning signal is the long-term strength of our government, which accounts for more than a third of all workforce earnings in the region. The 16-page overview provides analysis on demographics, employment, and earnings; the maritime, visitor, seafood, mining, timber, and health care industries; along with public sector developments.
In the summer of 2015, 416 Southeast Alaska business owners and top managers from 29 communities in the region responded to the Southeast Alaska Business Climate Survey, answering 45 questions about their experience operating businesses in the region.
The Business Climate Survey takes the “pulse” of southeast's local business community and the economy, and was last completed in 2010. Industry leaders were asked to predict the economic future for their industry or business.
Survey respondents as a whole were slightly more optimistic than they were five years previously: 38% expected the outlook for their business or industry to improve, compared to 34% five years ago.
The only industry in which the majority of business leaders responding expect the economic outlook of their industry to become “better” or “much better” is the visitor industry.
On the other end of the spectrum, business leaders from the timber, construction, and healthcare sectors are pessimistic about worsening economic conditions for their industries.
The survey included questions about traditional barriers and benefits to business operations. Elements which business leaders were most likely to call barriers included the overall cost of business, with 82% of all business leaders surveyed calling business costs a moderate or significant barrier. Other top barriers included transportation costs - both the costs of transporting freight and people; the cost of real estate - in terms of business real estate and the high cost of housing for employees; and the availability of a skilled professional workforce. Business leaders identified the top benefit of operating businesses in Southeast Alaska as overall quality of life in the region, followed by recreation, culture, and the arts.
Southeast Conference also released a discussion document as part of their efforts to develop the Southeast Alaska 2020 Economic Plan. Through workshops and strategic planning meetings that have been underway since March, Southeast Conference members and the Central Council Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska have developed a list of six economic development goals along with 60 associated objectives in the areas energy, marine industries, mining, timber, food security, transportation, fisheries, communications, and other.
The document - Southeast Alaska 2020 Economic Plan, a Call for Economic Plan Action Items - does not purport to the draft region plan (a draft of the full plan won’t be released until March of 2016), it is instead a call for input. “We want this to be your regional plan” the document reads. “What is missing? To submit an objective, just fill in the blanks at the end of each sector. Or you can edit an existing objective to improve it.” In order to make it easier to collect input, Southeast Conference has posted a word version of the document on their website.
You are asked to email your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org so that Southeast Conference can take your thoughts and priorities into account as they continue to develop an economic plan for the region.
All three documents were prepared by the firm Rain Coast Data on behalf of Southeast Conference. Its membership now includes nearly every community in Southeast Alaska.
Edited by Mary Kauffman, SitNews
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