A strong industry benefits us all

When we talk about the oil industry and its economic impact, most of the conversation circles around industry profits and state taxes. Around budget time, we might consider the property taxes the industry pays. And we'll talk about jobs in the oil and gas industry, and opportunities for those who work in businesses that support oil and gas exploration and development.

But there's another benefit to having a strong oil and gas industry here on the Kenai Peninsula: When additional personnel are needed for industry operations, they give our local economy a nice shot in the arm. And, frequently, that boost comes at a time when many local businesses aren't as busy as they'll be when the tourism season ramps up.

For example, hotel rooms in Kenai have been booked up for the past month for crews working on maintenance at Tesoro's North Kenai refinery. Duane Bannock at the Uptown Motel, said rooms started filling up early last month, and it's been full ever since. On top of that, motel guests have been eating in the restaurant, and visiting other businesses in Kenai for sundry items.

"By having the hotel full, and the restaurant full, it's like having an extra month of summer," Bannock said.

Indeed, a good economy can fuel its own growth. Crews working turnaround aren't the area's only long-term guests. There have been seismic survey crews here all winter, and with the uptick in interest in the Cook Inlet basin, we expect to see other oil and gas workers with specialized skills coming and going as needed. Some may stay a week or two; others will be in town for months at a time. They bring with them fresh dollars to circulate through our community, paying for not just food and lodging, but other goods and services. It's another way that one strong sector of the Peninsula's economy benefits the rest of us.

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