Special section notes changes in economy

Posted: Thursday, February 26, 2004

What a difference a decade can make.

In 1994, the Peninsula Clarion published its first special section related to the economy. It was called "Oil and the Kenai Peninsula," reflecting the oil and gas industry's dominance in the borough's economic picture.

Included in today's newspaper is the 11th edition of the Clarion's annual economic report on the economy. It's called "Changing Times on the Kenai Peninsula," reflecting the importance of the diversity of the peninsula's economy, as well as its changing nature.

As Spencer Johnson, author of "Who Moved My Cheese?" might say: The Kenai Peninsula's cheese definitely is moving.

Tidbits from that first section in 1994 and from today's special section reveal some of the changes the peninsula has undergone in a decade's time.

From 1994:

This time last year Arco and Phillips had just spent a record $65 million in Cook Inlet, sparking excited rumors about the start of the next oil boom in the Kenai Peninsula Borough. This year, lousy oil prices, a halted oil and gas lease sale and disappointing news about the Sunfish discovery have dampened the excitement.

Economic statistics show that the role of oil in the Kenai Peninsula's economy is so prevalent that there is little hope of weaning the borough from the oil industry without suffering serious economic repercussions.

The top 10 businesses in the borough pay 40 percent of the taxes the borough receives. And nine of the top 10 are oil companies.

Barring any new discoveries and not including Sunfish because its size is still unknown ... oil and gas production will continue into the year 2000 and maybe as late as 2015.

From 2004:

Statistics show that about 250 oil and gas extraction jobs disappeared between November 2002 and November 2003 in the Alaska's Gulf Coast region, which includes the Kenai Peninsula Borough, while 100 jobs were added in education and health services and 150 were added in leisure and hospitality.

Nine of the top 10 taxpayers in the borough remain related to the oil and gas industry.

The number of employees at Central Peninsula General Hospital is now 400, nearly double what it was 15 years ago.

The best estimates of known natural gas reserves in the Cook Inlet Basin suggest that unless significant new sources are found and tapped, the gas supply will dry up in 10 years.

The top three employers in the borough are government related. The Kenai Peninsula School District is the largest employer with 1,325 employees; the state of Alaska is the second largest employer with 888 employees; and the federal government is the third largest employer with 429 employees.

While residents likely are familiar with the changing times being experienced by the mainstays of the peninsula's economy oil and gas, commercial fishing and, more recently, tourism they may be less aware of the changes in the work force. The trade and health-care industries are facing worker shortages. As a result, the industries are teaming up with education to make sure students are aware of the opportunities that exist for them here and to help them get a head start on the training they need.

Other bright spots include entrepreneurs who are seeing opportunities to give new life to pieces of history. Plans are under way, for example, to turn the old Ward's Cove cannery in Kenai into a trendy resort.

The bottom line is: While everything isn't rosy, the peninsula's economy continues a slow and steady pace of growth. Peninsula residents aren't content to mourn the loss of what some perceive as "the good ol' days." And that's good news.

We hope readers enjoy and learn something from this glimpse into the area's economy. We believe the "Changing Times on the Kenai Peninsula" contains valuable information about the place we live and do business. As always, your comments are appreciated.

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