Williams calls economic planning meeting tonight

Posted: Tuesday, October 17, 2000

Kenai Mayor John Williams has asked the city council to meet tonight to plan an economic development summit for early next year.

"The purpose of the meeting is to strain everybody's mind and decipher from them what may be appropriate economic development sectors to look at," Williams said.

The mayor said he has been frustrated with the lack of business locating in Kenai.

"(It's) because we've not been out there courting the private sector. We've worked toward expanding the public sector and haven't looked at the commercial end of it," he said. "I think it's time to shift our philosophy and move in that direction."

Williams has floated the idea of creating an economic development position in the city to seek out and lure businesses to the city of Kenai. He said the $100,000 it would take to fund such an office for one year could be looked at as seed money toward any project brought to the city.

"Every major project we've had in the city, we've seeded it with $100,000, $200,000, up to $800,000 of our own money," Williams said.

Past projects the city has initiated include the Federal Aviation Administration facility, the Kenai Courthouse, the Visitors and Cultural Center and the Challenger Learning Center of Alaska.

"My plan is to examine regions of potential economic development and set agenda items for discussion at a main forum," he said.

Williams said the city has held economic summits in the past, usually with a hired facilitator.

At this meeting, he said he'd like to have representatives from different industries join in a round table discussion about how Kenai can fit into their plans.

Williams said he would like to have someone from Central Peninsula General Hospital at the meeting; someone from Salamatof Native Association and Kenai Natives Association because he said they have major land holdings and are moving toward quite a bit of economic development; and someone from the visitor industry to talk about the feasibility of a new hotel and convention center in Kenai.

"I want us to take a regional view of all these things," Williams said. "But instead of the council sitting around speculating, I want experts from those regions to give us their view."

Williams said he would like to see the economic summit scheduled for sometime in late January or early February. That time of year is just before the council begins discussion on the next fiscal year's budget and would be a good time to find funding for an economic planner, he said.

The mayor's economic planning meeting is scheduled for tonight at 7 in the Kenai City Council chambers at city hall. It is open to the public.

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