Adding a new industry to the Kenai economy is something everyone can appreciate.
The more than 3,000 people who attended this year's Industry Appreciation Day in Kenai on Saturday were treated to a pleasant surprise when Rep. Ken Lancaster, R-Soldotna, announced that European Aeronautic Defense and Space Company, an international defense company, has finalized plans to build a new 25,000-square-foot facility in Kenai.
The announcement came during the presentation of several awards honoring more established Kenai-area businesses.
"This was a combined effort of many individuals -- local, state and federal," Lancaster told the crowd, who cheered throughout the announcement.
"Working with members of the Kenai City Council, Sen. Ted Stevens, Sen. Frank Murkowski, (Kenai Peninsula Borough) Assembly President Tim Navarre and myself, we have seen the first step of what should a be a long and prosperous relationship for our area."
With the announcement, several years of negotiations to bring EADS to Kenai came to fruition. By the fall of 2003, the company plans to have its production facility up and running at the Kenai Airport.
The facility will be used for assembly, testing and maintenance of the company's HELLAS helicopter laser obstacle warning and avoidance system.
Both Alaska senators were on hand for the announcement, though it took some prompting from Alaska's junior senator to pull Stevens from the crowd.
"I guess Sen. Stevens is looking for some ice cream," joked Murkowski as Stevens made his way to the stage for the announcement.
Stevens wasn't the only one in need of some cooling off Saturday, as temperatures reached the mid-60s and the sun shone down throughout most of the day's festivities, making for a festive atmosphere.
Although the community welcomed a new member to its industrial ranks, the day centered mainly around established Kenai industries -- oil and gas, fishing and tourism.
People line up for watermelon from the Soldotna Chamber of Commerce.
Photo by M. Scott Moon
The fishing industry was notably represented with the public debut of Kenai Wild, a new program designed to provide top-quality Cook Inlet salmon to buyers around the world. The program was honored with the Outstanding Fishing Support Business Award. This was the program's first season.
It appeared Saturday that the award was well deserved, as people lined up for hundreds of feet, hoping to get a first taste of Kenai Wild salmon. Most were impressed, including many of the dignitaries on hand for the event.
Murkowski's wife, Nancy, had a few bites, smiling and nodding approvingly as she took a bite of fresh grilled sockeye salmon.
Such smiles were common, as most people seemed happy to be out enjoying a day among friends and neighbors.
By all accounts, the 10th annual Industry Appreciation Day was deemed a success.
"It's a great turnout. We're really happy," said event coordinator and co-founder Jack Brown.
Kenai City Council member Linda Swarner agreed that the event was a rousing success.
"This is just a great, great thing for the city," she said.
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