Industry Outlook Forum packs Challenger Learning Center

Posted: Tuesday, January 26, 2010

On the 14th & 15th of January, the Kenai Peninsula Economic Development District (KPEDD) and the Kenai Peninsula Chapter of the Alliance hosted an Industrial Outlook Forum titled: "Looking Forward to the Next Decade." According to KPEDD executive director John Torgerson, the purpose of the forum was to offer an opportunity to a variety of speakers and topics, some 45 in all, to discuss the economic outlook for municipalities, Borough and State with regards to oil, gas, mining, gas pipeline projects, and overviews by Native Corporations with impacts on the Kenai Peninsula. "The two day event was open to Borough residents at no cost. It included economic overviews from the University of Alaska ISER program and Department of Labor, the borough and city mayors, with updates from the Governor's office, U.S. Senator offices, Congressman Young's state director, as well as the president of the state Senate, and speaker of the state House of Representatives.

"One of the things I felt was important in this conference," said Harold Heinz, CEO of Alaska Natural Gas Authority (ANGA), "was to hear the connection being made between the people who are producing gas here, the people who are in manufacturing - whether you think of it as LNG or the refineries, and the way they are working with each other for the benefit of the overall industry. The other thing that there was consensus about, was that we need to find a way to get this information around the state more. The people on the Peninsula recognize the importance of the industrial component here in terms of jobs and tax base, and the community benefits they have realized for decades. But most of the people elsewhere in the state don't really understand how important this area is to the whole State of Alaska, and that its this area here that is going to provide the basis to build an industrial anchor for getting North Slope gas spread throughout the state. This is sort of ground zero, and there are a lot of things that need to happen here to accomplish that," Heinz told the Dispatch. According to Heinz, ANGA is concerned about keeping the Cook Inlet area active for future benefits and diversification for the entire state.

Dan Clark, ConocoPhillips Cook Inlet manager, said he felt most of the people at the conference seemed to be concerned about future development in the Cook Inlet and what it might take for future gas supplies to come on line. "I don't believe there is any single silver bullet that will grow the industry, and that's why various options are being discussed here. Whether it's a pipeline from the Slope, LNG imports, or anything else, these are difficult issues to evaluate. But after 40 years of having gas here in the Inlet, that was a result of looking for oil here in Cook Inlet, we have reaped the benefits. But short of a major discovery, which no one is expecting, there is nothing on the horizon other than grappling with these various options. We've spent almost $150 million dollars in the last two years to drill for gas and we plan to continue development here this year and evaluate projects going forward," said Clark.

The mining industry was represented by Joe Lucus, V.P. PacRim Coal, Mike Heatwole, government relations for the Pebble Partnership, and Dan Fleichmann, manager of the OARMAT, geothermal project at Mt. Spurr. Over 180 people packed the meeting room at the Challenger Learning Center for the two day conference.

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