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Viewpoints: Letters / Opinions

Southeast Conference Annual Meeting 2020

By Rep. Dan Ortiz


October 04, 2020
Sunday PM

Last week, I had the opportunity to attend the online Southeast Conference Annual Meeting. The organization has a long history of advocating for our region’s people and economy. Did you know that it originally started as a group to promote the creation of a transportation system in Southeast, which went on to become the Alaska Marine Highway System? Of course, since then, it has grown to include all industries pertinent to Southeast, such as mining, timber, tourism, and fishing and mariculture.

Overall, the economic numbers for Southeast Alaska are a bit bleak. Ketchikan, Wrangell, and Metlakatla all had fewer jobs in 2019 than in 2018, and the 2020 numbers are expected to be even less because of COVID.

This drop is primarily from the loss of state jobs (because of a continuously cut state budget) and state jobs being transferred to other places. One example of ‘capitol creep’ is the proposed Public Safety Dispatch Center; Ketchikan currently houses an emergency dispatch center that serves Southeast, but the Department of Public Safety is attempting to consolidate it to an Anchorage-area center.

Although the numbers for tourism are low this year (once again, unfortunately due to COVID), Southeast Conference is focused on finding solutions so that the numbers will bounce back sooner rather than later. Everyone in the state is very aware of how important the tourism industry is to the economic health of our communities.

There were some positive economic numbers! Specifically, jobs in our mining and timber industries have increased, although they are still some of our smallest sectors. There was also a lot of exciting conversation about the future of our mariculture industry.

Southeast Conference highlights the importance of our region to stick together. We can advocate better for our communities when we work as a unified region. I feel particularly strongly about the need for combined advocacy when it comes to our ferry system. Southeast Conference has been a vital driving force in protecting the Marine Highway.

Thank you to Robert Venables, Southeast Conference Executive Director, and his team for gathering our industry and community leaders for the conference. We were able to hold the event virtually, and I’d say it was an all-around success. If you are interested in more information, Southeast Conference published “Southeast Alaska by the Numbers 2020” on their website. You can also email me anytime at or call my office at 907-247-4672.

Rep. Dan Ortiz
Ketchikan, Alaska


Editor's Addition:

Southeast Alaska by the Numbers 2020 - Click on the graphic to download and read the full 16 page report. (pdf)

jpg Southeast Alaska by the Numbers 2020 pdf


Editor's Note:

The text of this letter was NOT edited by the SitNews Editor.

Received September 30, 2020 - Published October 04, 2020

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