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Soldotna area keeps growing

Borough economist shares-by-the-numbers look at city

Posted: Thursday, February 14, 2008

Of all the cities on the Kenai Peninsula, Soldotna is the only one that has shown a growth in population since the 2000 census, a borough economics expert told Soldotna business leaders on Tuesday.

Setting aside Homer's 2002 annexation, which increased that city's population by 38.2 percent, Soldotna is the only area that grew, said Jeanne Camp, Kenai Peninsula Borough economic analyst. Soldotna went from 3,759 to 3,807 people.

In a brief 30-minute presentation, Camp packed nearly 70 slides full of Kenai Peninsula demographic, economic and labor statistics, particularly as the information pertains to the Soldotna area.

Grouped by the state as the "Greater Soldotna" economic impact area are Soldotna, Clam Gulch, Cohoe, Funny River, Kalifornsky and Kasilof. Greater Soldotna now has 13,422 people.

"Kalifornsky Beach is now the largest economic impact area (in terms of population)," Camp said, adding Kenai is no longer in first place. Her slide showed Kalifornsky with 6,914 people, and Kenai with 6,864 as of 2006. Soldotna's population was listed as 3,807 and the total population of the Kenai Peninsula Borough was 51,350.

In terms of population change, Camp said it is interesting to note that between 1990 and 2000 years of the U.S. census Soldotna had a 110 percent increase in the age group 65 and older. Only Homer showed a similar surge in elder population at a 90 percent increase. Camp said the figures do not include snow birds, only people who remain for more than six months of the year.

With regard to taxable sales among peninsula cities, "Soldotna takes the lead," Camp said.

Divided out by goods producing, service providing and government, Soldotna's 2006 taxable sales were $11,103,325, goods; $215,026,532, service; and $958,451, government, for a total of $227,088,308.

Kenai led Soldotna in 2006 gross sales in the "goods producing" category at $130,676,357, compared with Soldotna's $102,731,833. Manufacturing such as oil and gas production, and wholesale sales, such as commercial fish, accounted for a large part of Kenai's larger gross sales figure. Soldotna had the highest gross sales in the "construction" and "real estate, rentals and leasing" captions. Expansion of Central Peninsula Hospital added significantly to construction gross sales in Soldotna.

A pie chart showing who owns the land in the Kenai Peninsula Borough held some surprises for the Soldotna business owners.

Of the 24,737 square miles in the borough, Camp said 65.5 percent is owned by the federal government. Another 21.2 percent is owned by the state of Alaska, and Native organizations own 9.8 percent.

Private ownership is represented by only 2.4 percent of the pie.

"And who bears the burden for property taxes?" Camp asked rhetorically.

Based on market value, property in Soldotna went up 8 percent in 2006, Camp said. Only Homer showed a greater increase in assessed value in the year at 15.3 percent. Boroughwide, the assessed value of real property went up 12.1 percent.

Of Soldotna's total work force, the greatest number of people work in education, health and social services at 20.4 percent. Retail workers account for 17.5 percent of the work force. The third largest group of workers in Soldotna makes up the arts, entertainment, recreation, accommodations and food services sector.

Eight of the 10 largest employers in the borough are in Soldotna including the Kenai Peninsula Borough and School District, the state of Alaska, Central Peninsula Hospital, Safeway, Frontier Community Services, Alaska Petroleum Contractors and Fred Meyer.

Camp told the business leaders, complete economic statistics are available in the borough's annual "Situations and Prospects" publication produced by her office. The information is also available on-line at the borough's Web site.

Phil Hermanek can be reached at phillip.hermanek@peninsulaclarion.com.



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