Offices work off each other

Posted: Monday, March 07, 2005

In an economic development forum at Wednesday's Kenai Chamber of Commerce luncheon, Jack Brown, business development manager for the Kenai Peninsula Borough Community and Economic Division, and John Parker, executive director of the Kenai Peninsula Economic Development District, said each of their offices each serve a distinct purpose in spurring economic development in the borough.

"We all do our thing," Parker said. "We don't trample on each other's toes."

He added that sometimes the offices work together on projects.

The borough is designated as an economic development district qualifying the EDD for federal money to operate. Their annual budget is $200,000 Parker said. A quarter of that comes from the borough, a quarter from the federal government, $60,000 from the state and the rest from revenue the district generates, he said.

Parker said the EDD works with cities around the borough to develop economic plans that need to be updated every year.

Many of the district's programs are aimed at assisting the small business community, he said. There are two separate funds for the district to provide loans to small businesses. One is a revolving loan fund for up to $50,000. The other one is up to $20,000. Those funds came from the federal government.

The EDD has an incubator program that helps start-up and struggling businesses make ends meet. On the EDD's premises there is 30 acres of industrial land, 13,000 square feet of office space and 5,000 square feet of warehouse space. Any business and community group can apply to use these facilities, Parker said.

The primary difference between the two offices is that the CEDD is project-oriented and the EDD focuses on long-term strategic planning, Parker said.

The economic development division works for the borough mayor and the borough government on specific projects the mayor and government designate, Brown said.

In the CEDD office, Bill Popp also works as the oil, gas and mining liaison to facilitate new resource development in the Cook Inlet basin.

Bonnie Golden, the grant manager for the borough, works on writing and administering grants for the borough and its service areas, and Jeanne Camp is the economic analyst.

The CEDD started the Kenai Wild program and secured the bid for the Arctic Winter Games, Brown said, adding they have assisted many small businesses. And there are new projects on the horizon, as well, he said.

"The city of Kenai is going to see a resurgence in capital investment," he said.

Major projects on the horizon involve new commercial fishing ventures and a resurgence in the timber and aviation industry, he said.

As far as combining the two offices, Brown said that is a policy issue that needs to be decided by the assembly and mayor.

"Certainly I see wisdom in that," he said. But he also said there is flexibility in having both.

This year, the CEDD requested about $450,000 from the borough.

Gary Superman, borough assembly president, said as the borough examines the budget, he intends to look at combining the two entities to avoid duplication of tasks. He said he realizes each one serves a distinct function.

"We've got to have some sort of economic development entity here in the borough," Superman said. "We're in a transitional state."

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