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KEDS seeks public's ideas

Working group drafts development strategy for economy

Posted: Friday, January 07, 2005

The Kenai Economic Development Strategy, or KEDS, working group says a draft of the economic development strategy calling for, among other things, a town center is complete and now community input is needed.

On Feb. 5 the KEDS working group will host a public forum for input on the plan. It begins at 10 a.m. and takes place at the Kenai Visitors and Cultural Center.

"What we are soliciting is your input," KEDS board member Barry Eldridge said at Wednesday's Kenai Chamber of Commerce luncheon, as he requested the community's presence at the public forum.

The KEDS group is a broad section of community members representing various community interests, said Tim Navarre, co-chair of KEDS. The committee started last January creating an economic development strategy, he said.

An AmeriCorps VISTA grant to the city of Kenai has funded a full-time staff person to help facilitate and implement the program.

The plan identified five target areas: education and work force development, quality of life, business development, infrastructure and tourism.

n Education and work force development will focus on matching the city's various employment training programs to meet the business community's needs, Eldridge said adding that this will help the community have a trained work force.

n The quality of life portion of the plan will improve upon and develop new business and community programs to help people enjoy work and play in the community, Navarre said.

n The business development portion will encourage new local business as well as attracting outside investment, Eldridge said. He said it is important to foster cooperation among economic development groups, as well.

n To enhance Kenai's infrastructure, the plan calls for stabilizing the bluff and taking advantage of the riverfront among other things, Eldridge said. In addition, he said it is important to allow for sewer and water expansion in certain areas to promote future economic development.

n Kenai needs to brand itself as a destination to attract tourism, he said. It is important to promote the city's unique cultural heritage and environment, he said.

The strategy also has a visual element called Millennium Square, Navarre said. This is a 21.4 acre of land overlooking the Kenai River off of Bridge Access Rd. adjacent to the senior center. The plan calls for shops with a common area in the middle, a hotel, coastal trails, a Native cultural center, picnic area and a convention center. In addition, he said the bluff overlooking the river would be repaired to prevent further erosion.

Navarre said Wednesday that Kenai has a perfect opportunity to be a convention destination for those who want to have their event outside of Anchorage.

After the public forum, the draft plan calls for a steering committee to implement a final plan, Navarre said. He said this group will help execute and steer the groups that have been enlisted to champion portions of the project.

"I think it's great," said Kenai Mayor Pat Porter of the strategy. She said the city council is completely supportive of the the KEDS group's efforts.

A copy of the economic development strategy can be viewed on the Web at www.ci.kenai.ak.us. A free hard copy can be picked up at Kenai City Hall, 210 Fidalgo Ave.



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