Calling it "an opportunity to bring people together," the Kenai Peninsula Economic Development District will host a summit next month in an effort to spur economic development around the peninsula.
"What we want to do is bring people from all over the borough and all aspects of the economy," said EDD Director Betsy Arbelovsky, organizer of the event. "Not just government, but businesses and Native organizations."
The day-long summit will begin with breakfast and entertainment at 7:30 a.m. on Dec. 8 in the Soldotna Sports Center, followed at 8:30 a.m. with presentations.
Arbelovsky said Sen. John Torgerson, R-Kasilof, suggested the summit and will be the first speaker.
"Then our president of the board, Tom Boedeker, will speak, and we'll hear from all the mayors on the peninsula to learn what their economic aspects are and what's holding us back," Arbelovsky said. "The more we hear about how we're all connected, the better."
After the government officials speak, representatives from for-profit Native corporations and other business people will take their turn. Deborah Sedwick, commissioner of the Alaska Department of Com-munity and Economic Develop-ment, will be the keynote speaker.
Arbelovsky said there are many aspects to developing the economy.
"Economic development isn't just bringing up a new business and a new smokestack," she said. "We're going to ask businesses what goods and services that they now import that could be done by businesses on the peninsula."
The people attending then will break up into 20 smaller groups to do "brainstorming," Arbelovsky said.
Breakfast, lunch and snacks will be provided by area businesses, and the Skyview swing choir will perform during the lunch break. All the meals will feature area products, such as smoked salmon, berries and halibut. There will be no admission charge, but nonparticipants will have to pay for their lunch. Arbelovsky asked that anyone interested in lunch call her at 283-3335.
"I think it's important not to charge (to attend) because people will be working hard from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.," Arbelovsky said.
She added that there will be travel scholarships available for folks in outlying communities who are unable to drive to Soldotna for the meeting.
The economic summit is just the first step, as area communities will be charged with organizing local forums.
"We don't expect values to be the same in Nikiski and in Homer," Arbelovsky said. "But it's really important for folks to understand how interconnected our economy is, and what issues go across the borough."
Kenai's forum is being organized by Kenai Mayor John Williams and is set for Feb. 3. A Nikiski forum is scheduled for sometime that same month.
"I"m really excited to get the communities involved," Arbelov-sky said. "Economic development has to come from communities. They need to drive their own economic plans."
One of the EDD's responsibilities is arranging periodic summits like this, although it hasn't been done lately, Arbelovsky said.
"I am really excited. There is so much potential in our area and so much need," she said. "The Economic Development District wants to be successful in advancement of our economy.
"It's going to be a lot of fun and real productive."
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