Borough's economy not all gloom, doom

Posted: Sunday, April 13, 2003

Finding the balance between looking through rose-colored glasses and viewing the world through a lens of doom-and-gloom is difficult. The optimist appears naive; the pessimist too worldly for anyone's benefit.

Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Dale Bagley, however, found some realistic ground that covered the bad, the good and the hopeful in the borough's economy during a speech last week to the Kenai Chamber of Commerce.

Certainly the bad includes recent cutbacks to the oil industry in Cook Inlet, looming layoffs at Agrium and the closure of the Big Kmart in Kenai. There's also that matter of insurance rates which have skyrocketed for nonprofit organizations, private businesses and government alike -- putting a dent in everyone's pocketbook.

The good includes an anticipated near-doubling of oil production in the inlet, excitement in the commercial fishing industry due largely to the "Kenai Wild" salmon branding project and a borough budget that will hold the line on property tax rates.

On the hopeful side are the tourism industry, new business to fill Big Kmart's place and a gradual turning around of the nation's economy.

The biggest bright spot on the borough's horizon, however, remains the 2006 Arctic Winter Games. While the games are expected to bring an economic boost to the peninsula, the mayor and others are correct when they note the biggest benefit of the games will be the spirit of cooperation and camaraderie they foster as peninsula residents work together to make the 2006 event an unforgettable experience for everyone.

By the way, members of the Arctic Winter Games International Committee will return to the peninsula this week for the official contract signing.

The ceremony will be at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday at Kenai Central High School. Special guests for the occasion will be U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Lt. Gov. Loren Leman.

The ceremony will be followed by a reception at the Kenai Senior Center at 3 p.m. The public not only is invited, but encouraged, to attend both events. After all, it was community enthusiasm for the project that made such an impact on the international committee when they visited earlier this year.

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