With 20 commercial building permits with sticker prices more than $100,000 each, Soldotna is in the middle of a boom, according to Soldotna Mayor Dave Carey.
"We in Soldotna are experiencing the greatest growth since incorporation," Carey said at Tuesday's Soldotna Chamber of Commerce luncheon. "There is a huge amount of growth going on commercially."
He said the sticker price for the 20 building permits filed this year totals more than $60 million.
Carey said he arrived at this conclusion by asking the employees at city hall, who pointed to a large number of building permits.
In an interview, he said he believes communities often start off with lower paying service sector jobs. When communities grow, higher paying jobs often come with it, he said. Carey said he believes Soldotna is at the threshold where there will be more middle class jobs.
"That improves the quality of the community," he said.
To ease into his points at the presentation, Carey started off by relaxing the audience with jumbo-sized Mr. Goodbar candy bars.
"By feeding students with candy, it changes the whole atmosphere," he said.
Then the recently retired school teacher handed out a "test" with a blank space, building permit numbers, addresses and a sticker price for the cost of the building project.
He challenged the audience to match the name of the business with the information provided to test their knowledge of building projects in the community. And by the way, he added, no cheating.
Carey, who is known for distributing candy at public meetings (with a particular fondness for red licorice), handed out flowers and a tomato plant as prizes.
Sandy Kass, a public works clerk for Soldotna, said the growth can be attributed to quality of life and good schools. Plus, the city has beautiful parks, the Kenai River and shopping, she said. However, the growth has its drawbacks too, she said.
"There's just too much traffic," she said.
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