Business leaders pool funds to plan Anchorage economy

Anchorage government and business leaders hope a report now being compiled will provide ideas to add jobs and diversify the city’s economy.

This summer authors of the economic development plan are conducting research and interviews for a final report due in September.

A 36-member committee of Anchorage business leaders hired Chabin Concepts of Chico, Calif., to conduct research in the city and compose an economic-development strategy.

Using the final report’s recommendations, business and city leaders can endeavor to help existing businesses to grow and attract new businesses, said Rick Morrison, committee chairman. Another goal is to add jobs paying above-average incomes in Anchorage, he said.

Committee members aim to build a sustained Anchorage economy rather than one dependent on federal funds or major projects, said Morrison, a 28-year resident who owns EERO Volkswagen and Saturn of Anchorage.

"If we can create a compelling vision for it, this could be the biggest thing since discovering oil because we could come up with ways to create business," he said.

The committee started the effort with help from the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce, the Anchorage Economic Development Corp. and the Municipality of Anchorage.

AEDC contracted Chabin Concepts to compile the report under a $225,000 contract, Morrison said. That figure includes $125,000 from the city plus private donations, he said. Overall, the committee has raised about $300,000 in private donations, Morrison said. Besides the cost of the report, the committee expects to spend up to $150,000 for marketing and other costs, he said.

In May, Chabin Concepts released the first of seven reports, which will be followed by a final economic development plan. The consulting firm interviewed Alaska business people and studied federal and state statistics. Chabin Concepts’ 26-page findings show that dominant industries like oil and seafood are now declining.

Other findings include:

Anchorage accounts for almost 40 percent of the Alaska population and nearly 50 percent of state jobs. Manufacturing jobs in Anchorage represent fewer than 2 percent of total jobs; nationally, manufacturing jobs account for about 14 percent of all jobs. In the municipality, one in 15 jobs is with the military. Government is the city’s largest employer, followed by services and retail trade. Enrollments and degrees awarded at the University of Alaska Anchorage are declining. Alaska’s innovative capacity and investment trails other states with a low number of patents, venture capital, and science and engineering graduate students per capita.Upcoming reports will analyze and list Anchorage’s strengths and weaknesses, competing cities, target industries and a marketing strategy.Leslie Parks, a Chabin Concepts partner, said the company conducted 40 interviews with public and private sector organizations involved in economic development. Focus groups discussed issues related to business and industry, environment, international, logistics and transportation, high-technology and work-force education.Chabin Concepts wrote a similar plan for Honolulu, which is now using those ideas, Parks said.Parks is now preparing a report for Portland, Ore., which is looking to diversify its economy, once dependent on natural resources such as timber, akin to Alaska. However, unlike Anchorage, Portland lacks a major university, she said.The final report should be completed in mid-September, said Larry Crawford, AEDC president and chief executive. The idea for the project started more than a year ago, and the committee first met in November, Morrison said.So far one major result has been uniting committee members, he said.Crawford agreed. The report can show how city groups can work together to boost business, he said. For example, if AEDC is trying to attract a certain industry, then the group could work with the Anchorage Convention and Visitors Bureau to book conventions from that industry, Crawford said.Results also can chart a course for economic development groups in Anchorage."Certainly AEDC will take the report and factor it into our future direction," Crawford said.Morrison anticipates the final report should show potential for developing airport and logistics operations.
06/02/2002 - 8:00pm