The Kenai Peninsula is home to a diverse population that has strong roots in the oil and gas industry, commercial and sport fishing, tourism and a strong retail trade. What’s exciting for longtime residents of this part of Alaska is the jobs pipeline that is being created and will spur tremendous opportunity for future jobs through the Pebble Mine project.
Right now, more than 600 people are employed as a result of the Pebble Project from environmental scientists to drilling technicians. Of the 600-plus who found employment through Northern Dynasty in 2005, 457 were Alaskans and 112 were residents of the Iliamna-Bristol Bay region, a region sorely in need of good, family-supporting jobs.
As a businessman, I know how important new sources of jobs are, whether you’re the local banker, grocer or car dealer, the trickle-down effect is enhanced when your friends and neighbors receive good wages they can then spend on their families and homes.
Recently, Northern Dynasty announced the company will spend even more than expected in 2007 between $30 and $45 million, according to COO Bruce Jenkins. The company has already spent $128 million on the project, including environmental studies and exploration.
What’s exciting for those of us who reside on the Kenai is the incremental growth through each of the three phases of the project. During the study and permitting phase, the company plans to add a few hundred employees to their payroll each year leading up to construction. During construction, about 2,000 workers will be hired and approximately 1,000 jobs will be created during the 30- to 60-year operations phase.
Alaska has often been called America’s resource treasure chest. We are fortunate to have oil and gas resources, mineral resources, sweeping vistas that attract more than a million visitors, a healthy fishing industry, and a multifaceted support industry for each of our major economic sectors.
As someone who loves the peninsula and the lifestyle we are afforded, I would urge my fellow Alaskans to look at the Pebble Project objectively. There have been a well-financed vocal minority opposed to this project who are working to stop any progress before it’s been given a fair shake. From my perspective, the over-the-top shots being are nothing more than an attempt to instill fear and uncertainty.
The opponents fail to note the project must go through an extensive local, state and federal permitting process before any development can occur. Alaskans will have an opportunity to comment on any aspect during this multiyear permitting process. According to the commissioner of Natural Resources, Alaska has the most stringent permitting process in the nation.
They have also failed to look at the major economic benefits outlined above through jobs and economic spinoff to communities throughout Southcentral and the state.
Potential development of the Pebble Project will be a process that ultimately could provide solid, year-round employment.
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