The death of Dan Foley two weeks ago left an empty spot in the hearts of his family and friends. But as the owner of Pacific Star Seafoods, it left many concerned about the fate of Foley's company, its employees and its impact on the seafood industry.
According to Lynn Tree, a supervisor at the processor and close family friend, Foley's wife, Michele Foley, will continue to run the business this season and into the future.
If the plant did not reopen "it would have a huge impact on the city of Kenai," Tree said. "It's going to be tough, but (the plant) will run."
Michele Foley was not available for comment Tuesday.
Mark Powell, president of Alaska Salmon Purchasers Inc., said Pacific Star handled his fish last year. He plans to continue supporting the company in the future.
Powell, also the president of Cook Inlet Salmon Brand, the owner of Kenai Wild, said Dan Foley was an innovator in the seafood industry. He was the dominant producer of Kenai Wild, a trademarked brand of salmon aimed at increasing the quality and value of Cook Inlet fish. Foley also did a large amount of custom processing, as well as handling fish from around the state, Powell said.
"He was a visionary in his desire to embrace the new generation of higher-value fish," Powell said.
In the last 10 years, the Kenai Peninsula has seen a drop in the amount of seafood processors, he said. From Nikiski to Homer, there currently are six processors down from about 10 a decade ago, he said.
Each processor has a huge impact on the local economy, he said. Each one provides a lot of business to area equipment and food vendors, to name a few, Powell said. Each time a processor closes, it reduces the ability of the remaining processors to handle the heavy parts of the fishing season, he said.
Also, more processors provide more competition for the fish, which can help boost the prices fishers are paid for their catch, he said. Powell said he is glad Pacific Star is not going to close.
"I'll put the full support of Alaska Salmon Purchasers behind (Pacific Star)," he said, adding that the operation is important to Kenai Wild.
Dan Foley owned and operated the processor for 12 years, Tree said. Every year between 100 and 150 workers flocked to the business for a summer job and there were about 60 fishers providing fish for the company.
Tree said he had worked there with his wife, Norma Tree, for the past 10 years. While the company is his livelihood, it also is a way of life, he said. He said he was always impressed at how good Foley was at remembering his employees' names.
"The processing plant Dan Foley ran was more of a family," Tree said. "I want everybody to know how much Dan's going to be missed. This was a big loss for the whole community."
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