FAIRBANKS (AP) -- About 140 rural residents arrived in Fairbanks Wednesday for a conference on how to create jobs back home.
Organizers of the Rural Economic Development Forum are hoping they can help. The conference at the Chena River Convention Center runs through Friday.
''It's great if one business is started,'' said Valerie Mundt, an economic specialist at Tanana Chiefs Conference. ''If that could be in every village, then we're on our way.''
The delegates spent time discussing what natural resources, such as minerals or scenery, could be developed in their communities. The group also identified people that had special skills, such as sewing, small engine repair or storytelling.
Alaska's rural communities have high unemployment rates and correlating poverty rates. Villages attract little industry because of lack of access or infrastructure. Government provides a few jobs at the school, post office or tribal office, but there isn't enough to go around.
The delegates were working to identify village assets and possible markets for new rural businesses.
Delegates heard speakers from the Tanana Chiefs Conference's Minority Business Development Center, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Department of Environmental Conservation, the Small Business Administration and the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension.
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