Alaskans and Outside residents who may wish to move to Soldotna should find their questions answered more easily after a visit to the city’s Chamber of Commerce from now on.
A relocation guide assembled by chamber staff in May arrived there earlier this month packed with information on Soldotna jobs, real estate, health care, education, taxes, climate, public safety and a host of other information meant to assist prospective Central Peninsula residents in making their decision.
Robyn Sullens, the chamber’s project coordinator, said the idea to publish a relocation guide started gaining traction last September and said the work was worth it.
“We’re very proud of this book,” Sullens said.
Demand dictated the decision to pursue the guide’s publication, she said. When visitors to the chamber’s Web site send e-mails requesting information on the city, they are asked if their request is based on a desire to visit, to relocate or both. The same query is made on questionnaires at the chamber’s office.
Some of the information contained in the relocation guide was available in years past by printing off information and stapling it together in packages for those making the request. With increasing numbers of Web site and chamber visitors choosing the “thinking of relocating” option, such measures no longer stack up, Sullens said.
“Over the past two years our numbers continued to grow, so we decided we needed something a little more substantial than a stack of paper,” Sullens said.
New information available in the guide includes relocation-friendly facts and figures from Central Peninsula General Hospital, the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District, the Peninsula Job Center, local utility providers and city government.
Such information is useful, Sullens said, but the main question she said Outside residents have about moving to Soldotna is about the temperature.
“They want to know, ‘How do people live here in the winter?’” she said. “Some people still have the idea that we live in igloos.”
Sullens said some who inquire about the city are surprised to learn that options for recreation and culture go beyond summer fishing.
“We’re glad to tell them we offer everything that people have come to expect in the states,” she said.
Those things include dance classes, soccer and baseball clubs or post-secondary education options at Kenai Peninsula College. Sullens said residents from fast-growing Alaska areas like Wasilla and fast-growing Outside areas like California make up many of those requesting information.
“Those were two that really jumped out at us,” she said. “I think people still want that hometown feel.”
Job opportunities at Central Peninsula General Hospital are a major selling point, too, she said.
Jobs and hometown feelings have played a major role in relocation for Tom and Adel Bearup’s family. Tom, a career law enforcement officer born and raised in Phoenix, moved to Soldotna in the late 1970s to see a faraway location. Between 1979 and 1980, he was Soldotna’s mayor, but moved back to Phoenix when an opportunity for a job with President Ronald Reagan’s administration came available.
Bearup said he’s wanted to move back for years.
“It was basically the decision to say ‘It’s time to go,’” Bearup said of his return, a move initiated in September that he and his wife had been seriously considering for four years.
“Once you plant some roots, it can be difficult to just pick up and go,” he said of the lag time in Phoenix.
When the pair finally did pick up and go, they didn’t get everything they needed to Alaska in one trip. As they searched for accommodations, other members of his family made the move.
“My kids said ‘We’ll never move to Alaska,’ and now most of them beat us here,” he said.
In the past year or so, two of the couple’s daughters and two of their sons have moved to the area, and one daughter now lives in Anchorage. That makes five out of nine Bearup children now calling Alaska home.
The quality of the school system, access to pristine wilderness and the low crime rate that drew the five may soon draw at least two more to the state, he said.
“It’s simply the opportunity to drive down the road without having to worry about someone hurting you,” he said.
Job opportunities help, too, he said. One of his daughters, Rebecca Bearup, moved to Anchorage last fall but found a job in Kenai within a week of moving closer to mom and dad.
Bearup and his family used the chamber’s Web site extensively for his relocation needs, and said the relocation guide further cemented his positive feelings for the community.
“It just resold us on the idea that it was time to come back,” he said.
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