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Viewpoints: Letters / Opinions

KGB Assembly report on Southeast Conference

By Austin Otos, Grant Echohawk and Jeremy Bynum


September 30, 2022

We recently had the opportunity to attend the 2022 Southeast Conference which was held in Ketchikan from September 13th through September 15th. Many organizations from the community attended the event including: KGB and City government staff, Forage and Found, Tongass Federal Credit Union, Tessa Axelson (AFA), Patti Mackie (KVB), The Landing Hotel and Restaurant, GROW Ketchikan, Ketchikan Evergreens, Representative Dan Ortiz, AML, Seagrove Kelp, Vigor, and Ward Cove Group. The conference started with highlighting the theme of “Charting the Course Ahead”. This was selected due to COVID disheveling all private and public operations starting in 2020 and the need to reset the course back to normalcy. Both Mayor Kiffer and Dial followed by KIC President , Trixie Bennet, and Tlingit and Haida President, Richard Peterson, who all conducted the opening ceremony of the event. The conference showcased various topics that are important around the Southeast region including updates on: AMHS operations, state and local projects from the new “infrastructure bill”, a snapshot of the seasonal visitor industry, expanding broadband capabilities, new economic industries (mariculture), and addressing ongoing electrification, workforce development, and housing issues.

During the natural resource panel we heard from industry heads in timber and mining. Ucore is still in the process of building a facility in Ketchikan for first stage mineral separation that has been postponed till 2024. On the whole, timber jobs have been down for the year but a shift towards second/young growth harvesting, which was recently announced by the Forest Service, could help alleviate the industry transitioning out of old growth logging. The marine transportation panel celebrated the Inter-Island Ferry Authority (IFA) 20-year anniversary and their future outlook on building new vessels. The AMHS system has been modernizing its operations with the creation of the state Marine Transportation Advisory Board, which allows for long-term planning outside of DOT operations. Both the AMHS and IFA are looking into new battery and electric technologies to improve vessel range efficiency and capability. AK Airlines also announced the building of new airline infrastructure in outdated terminals in Petersburg, Wrangell, and Sitka.

Since Alaska is one of the states that will be benefiting the most from the federal infrastructure bill, Southeast Conference focused mainly on the work that is being done by the Alaska Municipal League (AML) operating as a resource guide for local government to access the infrastructure money. The key take away is local and state governments need to know their infrastructure priorities and plans in order to apply for federal funds. The infrastructure bill has contributed to expanding broadband capabilities in the region with Alaska Power and Telephone (AP&T) applying for grants that have brought in tens of millions of dollars in new underwater broadband fiber to rural communities on POW. Our own public utility company, KPU, plans on partnering with the community of Metlakatla to install an underwater fiber and electric line to interconnect the two communities. A major advancement in the visitor industry this year was highlighted in investments by tribal organizations at new cruise ship facilities in Klawock on POW and a private company investment in expanding the cruise ship port of Whittier. The greatest highlight of the conference was the announcement of a $49 million investment through the federal government to bolster the regional mariculture industry, which will aide in building upon Alaskan value added products and increasing domestic manufacturing.

Austin Otos
Grant Echohawk
Jeremy Bynum
Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly Members
Ketchikan, Alaska




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Received September 29, 2022 - Published September 30, 2022

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