Kenai hires new economic director

Posted: Tuesday, August 12, 2003

Like kids and plants, economies need a little nourishing to grow, as well.

Aug. 4, the city of Kenai's administrative team brought someone on board specifically to help the city's economy flourish.

Casey Reynolds is the new economic development director for the city. Reynolds, 26, has been hired by a grant through the AmeriCorps Vista program a federal program with focuses on community economic development.

The grant provides funding for the economic director position for three years. Reynolds will be with the city for a year at least, and possibly two or all three, he said.

In his time here, he has several goals to work toward. The first is developing a long-term strategic economic development plan for the city.

"I'd like to bring about a more coherent plan of where the city's heading and how to get there," he said.

Some work already has been done by the city to this end, so Reynolds will pick up where previous efforts have left off.

"The city has had several economic development-type meetings and out of those have come some interesting dynamic discussions," said City Manager Linda Snow. "But what has never come from that is we've never had the staff to make an economic development plan actually happen."

Reynolds will organize further town-hall meetings and gather input from community, borough and state agencies, citizens and business and civic leaders to develop the plan.

"The major facet of it is ... getting input from people on what they'd like to see in the next 20-year period so we can write a plan in line with what the public wants," he said.

Reynolds also will respond to economic inquiries and seek out and encourage new businesses and industries to come to the area.

"I would love to bring a couple businesses into town, that would be a feather in my cap," he said.

Having a staff member to do nothing but look after the economic interests of Kenai is a welcome addition to the city.

"The city of Kenai has really relied so much on Mayor (John) Williams and the council (for bringing new businesses to town)," Snow said. "There hasn't been anyone to do that, and we have wanted somebody for years whose task it is to deal with that."

From what Snow has seen so far, she said Reynolds is an excellent choice for the job.

"I think he's the best-qualified applicant that we had," she said. "I have a lot of confidence in him, and I am really excited about developing (the economic plan)."

Reynolds was born in the Lower 48 and grew up in Anchor-age. He has bachelor's degrees in political science and economics from the University of Alaska Anchorage and has worked with the Anchorage Economic Devel-opment Corp., World Trade Center Alaska and Alaska Legislature's Office of International Trade Policy.

He took the position in Kenai because he wanted to do a year of service in either the Peace Corps or AmeriCorps after his graduation from college, he said. The job also gives him a chance to be closer to his family in Sterling and to continue following his interest in Alaska economics.

"It gave me an opportunity to do a year of service and pursue my goal to do economic development work in the state of Alaska, so it was kind of a win-win all the way around," he said.

After his stint in Kenai, Reynolds said he hopes to still work in economic development in Alaska, in either a community- or statewide basis, and someday move back to Anchorage.

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