Kenai econ still strong

Economists say diversity is key

Posted: Friday, April 29, 2005

At an Agrium-sponsored presentation, economists for the state of Alaska said the Kenai Peninsula's diverse economy equips it to accommodate ups and downs in different sectors of the economy.

"Your economy is looking unique and different from the rest of the state," said Neal Fried, economist for the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development.

Fried talked about the state and the Kenai Peninsula's economy, and Brynn Keith, economist for the Department of Labor, talked about the occupational outlook in the state.

The state of Alaska's economy has added about 100,000 jobs in the last 17 years, making it the longest run of uninterrupted growth in the state's history, Fried said.

On the Kenai Peninsula, despite a decrease in oil production in the region, the economy has grown slowly and steadily in recent years, he said. That growth is defined by the number of jobs, he said.

Employment has grown by approximately 1 percent per year on the peninsula, he said.

"The peninsula has one of the most diverse economies in the state," he said, adding there are other opportunities for people if one sector suffers.

Another factor is that the peninsula is "capturing" more commerce that used to be done elsewhere, he said. There are many things that people used to buy off the peninsula that now are available locally, he said.

Agrium has been working with the Department of Labor to help prepare its employees for the plant's anticipated closure later this year. All told, 230 people with an average salary of $80,000 will lose their jobs when it closes.

The economists made the presentation at Agrium's request. Less than 20 people attended the event.

The event took place at the Challenger Learning Center of Alaska.

Agrium spokesperson Lisa Parker said the company asked the economists to come to help the community understand the state of the economy.

"It's important for the community to know," she said.

John Coston, technician and industrial hygenist hygienist for Agrium, said he was reassured by the presentation.

"Kenai has a very robust economy," he said.

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