Several agencies work to drum up business for area

Posted: Tuesday, February 25, 2003

The oil and gas industry has been the prime mover of the Kenai Peninsula Borough's economy for decades, and if fresh supplies of those raw materials can be found, the industry is sure to remain in that position for decades to come.

But the peninsula's economy is fairly diverse, and thanks in part to the efforts of several agencies whose functions are directed at encouraging new business and industry to resettle and develop here, that diversity should expand as well.

Here is a look at some of those agencies and how they function.

Kenai Peninsula Economic Development District Inc. offers a broad range of services aimed at small and start-up companies. Its Business Innovation Center, located on the Kenai Spur Highway, provides small start-ups business space, development counseling and technical support, access to computers and business machines, clerical assistance, parking and office and conference rooms. Currently, the center has 11 peninsula businesses as tenants, said Dee Gaddis, the EDD's administrative and financial coordinator.

The EDD provides gap financing through a revolving loan fund. Since it was created, the EDD has loaned more than $600,000, which has been leveraged to garner over $2 million in additional financing. The EDD's Microloan Fund makes money available to home-based entrepreneurs producing Alaska crafts and artwork.

The agency also helps recruit new businesses to the peninsula and offers strategic business planning through its FastTrac Planning service.

The EDD is funded by the borough and through various grants. Gaddis said the agency received $90,000 from the borough in fiscal year 2003. Among the grants it received were $47,000 from the Alaska Regional Development Organization and $59,000 from the Economic Development Admini-stration of the federal government. Rental income from its incubated businesses has more than doubled in the last year, she said, now amounting to around $55,000 a year.

The Kenai Peninsula Borough Community and Economic Development Division with an office on Kalifornsky Beach Road is a part of the Kenai Peninsula Borough government. Business Development Manager Jack Brown's prime job is to encourage businesses to locate to peninsula and promote economic development projects that will create jobs and more opportunities. The agency also supports community development by leveraging borough and community investments through state and federal grant programs. It also offers access to business and market research.

The division's budget includes $385,535 from the borough. But one of its functions is to secure grants for the borough, its service areas and nonprofit groups. Last year, it found $5 million in federal and state funds, Brown said.

Among the efforts it is currently helping to forward are the Kenai Peninsula Borough's attempt to secure the 2006 Arctic Winter Games, promoting the borough to the aviation industry and creation of a new peninsula timber industry organization, Brown said. Elsewhere, the division will help promote a food fair to be held at the end of July. Tentatively called "Taste of the Kenai," it will be modeled after a similar affair held in Anchorage each March. Brown said it will highlight the peninsula's food industry.

One division project that so far has made progress is Kenai Wild.

"The program includes two interdependent phases," Brown said. One establishes a quality certification program for Cook Inlet salmon, creating a higher value product. The second promotes that product to high-end niche markets, creating higher margins for Cook Inlet processors and fishers.

Located at the same address as the CEDD is the Kenai Peninsula Small Business Development Center, an information resource for small businesses that provides research, Web-based information and training to small business counselors and their clients. Primarily, the agency can assist small businesses with business planning, start-up capital and acquisitions. In the five years he's been director, the agency has helped secure more than $10 million in loans to small businesses, said Mark Gregory.

Businesses fighting uphill battles in the marketplace, entrepreneurs who've been turned down for loans by banks or business plans barely more than ideas all can find the help they need through the small business center, Gregory said.

The development center is part of a nationwide network of centers operated under the federal Small Business Administration. It handles roughly 275-300 cases a year, with about 40 percent of those being clients seen on a regular basis.

The Small Business Develop-ment Center is funded by a $50,000 grant from the Small Business Administration, matched by $50,000 from the borough.

The Kenai Peninsula Tourism Marketing Council is another agency partially funded by the borough. Last year, it got $120,000, an amount the agency matched through sales and membership fees, said sales manager Kiplynne Limberg. The agency's purpose, she said, is to market the peninsula as a tourist destination, focusing primarily on the unincorporated areas of the borough.

This year, together with Tesoro Alaska, the tourism council has purchased a section of the tourist publication The Milepost and will insert a map of the peninsula.

In October of last year, representatives of the council attended the National Tourism Association confab in Los Angeles.

"We promoted the Kenai Peninsula to tour operators from all over the U.S.," Limberg said. "We got a large reaction."

Some tour operators already have contacted the council requesting its annual tourism publication, "The Alaska's Kenai Peninsula Discover Vacation Guide."

The borough also attempts to boost the local economy through its efforts to promote the industry most responsible for the health of that economy -- the oil and gas industry. In recognition of its importance in terms of investment and direct and indirect jobs the borough last year created a new position -- oil and gas liaison. Former Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly member Bill Popp holds that job.

While Popp's job involves acting on behalf the borough with regard to various industry projects, he has focused much of his attention on the promotion of a natural gas pipeline spur project that one day may bring North Slope natural gas to the peninsula.

According to borough figures, the borough has appropriated more than $200,000 toward promoting Nikiski as a terminus for that pipeline. Popp's position has been funded through those appropriations.

While efforts toward a pipeline have yet to show tangible results, Popp has said the borough is "in a competitive situation." Valdez also is under consideration as a terminus for a gas pipeline, as is a pipeline route down the Alaska Highway. A spur line from either of those projects remains a possibility.

Popp also has been tasked to deal with any oil and gas policy issues that affect the borough, including proposed federal Outer Continental Shelf leasing programs and working with the industry, state agencies and the Legislature on streamlining the state's permitting process. He also provides a clearinghouse of information for smaller, independent oil and gas companies concerning permitting agencies and petroleum support industries available on the peninsula.

"I've also been working diligently to address short-, midterm and long-term gas supply issues and how borough needs to address them," Popp said.

BYLINE1:By HAL SPENCE

BYLINE2:Peninsula Clarion

The oil and gas industry has been the prime mover of the Kenai Peninsula Borough's economy for decades, and if fresh supplies of those raw materials can be found, the industry is sure to remain in that position for decades to come.

But the peninsula's economy is fairly diverse, and thanks in part to the efforts of several agencies whose functions are directed at encouraging new business and industry to resettle and develop here, that diversity should expand as well.

Here is a look at some of those agencies and how they function.

Kenai Peninsula Economic Development District Inc. offers a broad range of services aimed at small and start-up companies. Its Business Innovation Center, located on the Kenai Spur Highway, provides small start-ups business space, development counseling and technical support, access to computers and business machines, clerical assistance, parking and office and conference rooms. Currently, the center has 11 peninsula businesses as tenants, said Dee Gaddis, the EDD's administrative and financial coordinator.

The EDD provides gap financing through a revolving loan fund. Since it was created, the EDD has loaned more than $600,000, which has been leveraged to garner over $2 million in additional financing. The EDD's Microloan Fund makes money available to home-based entrepreneurs producing Alaska crafts and artwork.

The agency also helps recruit new businesses to the peninsula and offers strategic business planning through its FastTrac Planning service.

The EDD is funded by the borough and through various grants. Gaddis said the agency received $90,000 from the borough in fiscal year 2003. Among the grants it received were $47,000 from the Alaska Regional Development Organization and $59,000 from the Economic Development Admini-stration of the federal government. Rental income from its incubated businesses has more than doubled in the last year, she said, now amounting to around $55,000 a year.

The Kenai Peninsula Borough Community and Economic Development Division with an office on Kalifornsky Beach Road is a part of the Kenai Peninsula Borough government. Business Development Manager Jack Brown's prime job is to encourage businesses to locate to peninsula and promote economic development projects that will create jobs and more opportunities. The agency also supports community development by leveraging borough and community investments through state and federal grant programs. It also offers access to business and market research.

The division's budget includes $385,535 from the borough. But one of its functions is to secure grants for the borough, its service areas and nonprofit groups. Last year, it found $5 million in federal and state funds, Brown said.

Among the efforts it is currently helping to forward are the Kenai Peninsula Borough's attempt to secure the 2006 Arctic Winter Games, promoting the borough to the aviation industry and creation of a new peninsula timber industry organization, Brown said. Elsewhere, the division will help promote a food fair to be held at the end of July. Tentatively called "Taste of the Kenai," it will be modeled after a similar affair held in Anchorage each March. Brown said it will highlight the peninsula's food industry.

One division project that so far has made progress is Kenai Wild.

"The program includes two interdependent phases," Brown said. One establishes a quality certification program for Cook Inlet salmon, creating a higher value product. The second promotes that product to high-end niche markets, creating higher margins for Cook Inlet processors and fishers.

Located at the same address as the CEDD is the Kenai Peninsula Small Business Development Center, an information resource for small businesses that provides research, Web-based information and training to small business counselors and their clients. Primarily, the agency can assist small businesses with business planning, start-up capital and acquisitions. In the five years he's been director, the agency has helped secure more than $10 million in loans to small businesses, said Mark Gregory.

Businesses fighting uphill battles in the marketplace, entrepreneurs who've been turned down for loans by banks or business plans barely more than ideas all can find the help they need through the small business center, Gregory said.

The development center is part of a nationwide network of centers operated under the federal Small Business Administration. It handles roughly 275-300 cases a year, with about 40 percent of those being clients seen on a regular basis.

The Small Business Develop-ment Center is funded by a $50,000 grant from the Small Business Administration, matched by $50,000 from the borough.

The Kenai Peninsula Tourism Marketing Council is another agency partially funded by the borough. Last year, it got $120,000, an amount the agency matched through sales and membership fees, said sales manager Kiplynne Limberg. The agency's purpose, she said, is to market the peninsula as a tourist destination, focusing primarily on the unincorporated areas of the borough.

This year, together with Tesoro Alaska, the tourism council has purchased a section of the tourist publication The Milepost and will insert a map of the peninsula.

In October of last year, representatives of the council attended the National Tourism Association confab in Los Angeles.

"We promoted the Kenai Peninsula to tour operators from all over the U.S.," Limberg said. "We got a large reaction."

Some tour operators already have contacted the council requesting its annual tourism publication, "The Alaska's Kenai Peninsula Discover Vacation Guide."

The borough also attempts to boost the local economy through its efforts to promote the industry most responsible for the health of that economy -- the oil and gas industry. In recognition of its importance in terms of investment and direct and indirect jobs the borough last year created a new position -- oil and gas liaison. Former Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly member Bill Popp holds that job.

While Popp's job involves acting on behalf the borough with regard to various industry projects, he has focused much of his attention on the promotion of a natural gas pipeline spur project that one day may bring North Slope natural gas to the peninsula.

According to borough figures, the borough has appropriated more than $200,000 toward promoting Nikiski as a terminus for that pipeline. Popp's position has been funded through those appropriations.

While efforts toward a pipeline have yet to show tangible results, Popp has said the borough is "in a competitive situation." Valdez also is under consideration as a terminus for a gas pipeline, as is a pipeline route down the Alaska Highway. A spur line from either of those projects remains a possibility.

Popp also has been tasked to deal with any oil and gas policy issues that affect the borough, including proposed federal Outer Continental Shelf leasing programs and working with the industry, state agencies and the Legislature on streamlining the state's permitting process. He also provides a clearinghouse of information for smaller, independent oil and gas companies concerning permitting agencies and petroleum support industries available on the peninsula.

"I've also been working diligently to address short-, midterm and long-term gas supply issues and how borough needs to address them," Popp said.



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