Will Cooperate on Infrastructure Funding, Energy Costs, Local Government
October 30, 2004
"This was a very cordial, very productive meeting with the leaders' of Alaska Native corporations," the governor said. "We all share a common commitment to providing opportunities for the people of rural Alaska, and I am very pleased at the chance to work with them on issues that are so critical for their shareholders and other Alaskans."
Taking advantage of the annual statewide convention of the Alaska Federation of Natives, the governor met with the executives to listen to their concerns for their regions. High among them were the high cost of energy as a barrier to economic development in rural Alaska, the need for infrastructure development in rural areas, and the fiscal challenges brought on by the cost of public services.
The executives agreed to join the governor's new effort, led by Commerce Commissioner Edgar Blatchford, to coordinate efforts to lower the cost of energy in Alaska, and seek to make villages energy self-sufficient by 2010. That group will include regional organizations such as RuralCAP, Alaska Inter-Tribal Council, village organizations, the University of Alaska, the federal government and the Denali Commission.
Speaking to AFN on Thursday, the governor announced an initiative to provide up financial assistance to help about 120 rural communities meet disproportionately high regional costs for energy. Villages with fewer than 100 residents would receive $25,000, communities with 100 to 600 residents would receive $50,000, and communities with 600 to 1,200 residents would receive $75,000. This assistance is in addition to a bulk fuel loan program that has already provided about $670,000 to villages for bulk fuel loans this year, the governor said.
"I'm very much aware of the difficulties of these communities that have limited funding for local services," the governor said. "The disproportionately high price of fuel has put an almost insurmountable burden on these communities, and the residents as well."
Participants in the meeting also agreed to work with the administration to identify infrastructure projects in their areas that would provide economic stimulus for businesses and employment opportunities for residents, and bring sustainable economic benefits to the regions.
The Native corporation leaders will draw on their experience in public and private financing to help the administration develop strategies to identify and secure funding for a new rural infrastructure development fund to pay for such projects, Murkowski said.
"The natural resources that are the foundation of Alaska's wealth lie largely in rural Alaska," the governor said. "Roads, ports, utilities and other infrastructure must be developed, and the state must join in the infrastructure investment."
Finally, the governor and the executives agreed that they would work together to address the challenge of ensuring that local communities have sufficient revenue to support public services.
The governor said he anticipated continuing to work with the leadership of Alaska Native regional corporations on proposals that can be brought before the Alaska State Legislature this session.
"Alaskans have a tradition of working together to solve common problems, and I believe the combination of the creative energy of these corporations, along with the resources of the state, should allow us to find solutions to the challenges that face the residents of rural Alaska," the governor said.
The participants in the meeting included: Ken Johns, president and CEO of Ahtna Inc.; Dick Jacobson, president of Aleut Corp.; Hjalmar Olson, president and CEO of Bristol Bay Native Corp.; Joe Chythlook, a director of Bristol Bay Native Corp.; Bob Charles, corporate affairs vice president of Calista Corp.; Carl Morgan, a director of Calista Corp.; Orie Williams, president and CEO of Doyon Ltd.; Dennis Metrokin, president of Koniag Inc.; Helvi Sandvik, president of Nana Development Corp.; Chris McNeil, president and CEO of Sealaska Corp.; and Liz Ross, president and CEO of the 13th Regional Corp. Also participating were Blatchford, and Andy Baker of the Alaska Workforce Investment Board.
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