The Kenai Peninsula Borough Economic Development District is taking a new tack for writing a comprehensive economic development plan.
"I want it to be very community-based," said Betsy Arbelovsky, the EDD's new director. "We're shifting the focus to supporting and helping the communities to come up with their own economic development plans."
The first step is the Kenai Peninsula 2000 Economic Outlook Forum, which will be held Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Soldotna Sports Center.
"Hopefully, people will come away understanding how our economy works and how interdependent we are," she said.
After that, Arbelovsky said, there will be planning meetings in every community in the borough.
"The local community sessions will clarify local economic values and what they want economic development to be. I don't think it will be the same for every community," she said. "They'll look at what they value in their communities, what they want to protect, what they want to enhance and what they want to change. They will come up with their own strategic goals."
Kenai has scheduled its meeting for Feb. 3, she said. Nikiski plans a meeting sometime in February. Plans for other communities have yet to be made.
Arbelovsky said the Economic Development District, a nonprofit corporation separate from the borough government, is required to do strategic economic development planning under the contracts by which it receives borough, state and federal funding.
It will use what it learns at the community meetings to write a Kenai Peninsula Borough Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy. That is an important document, she said, because when area groups apply for grants and funding, agencies and foundations often weigh whether their proposals fit the strategic plan.
Sponsors of Friday's meeting include the EDD, Sen. John Torgerson, R-Kasilof, Phillips Alaska Inc., Homer Electric Association, First National Bank of Anchorage, the Alaska Support Industry Alliance, the city of Soldotna and the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District.
Luncheon speakers are Scott Jepsen of Phillips Alaska Inc., Deborah Sedwick, commissioner Alaska Department of Community and Economic Development, and Mark Hamilton, president of the University of Alaska.
Other Friday speakers include borough and city mayors and former Borough Mayor Mike Navarre, representing a borough group that favors Nikiski as the terminus for a pipeline to export North Slope natural gas. Representatives of Kenai Municipal Airport, Agrium Inc., Alaska Communications Systems and sport and commercial fishing groups will speak. So will representatives of state and federal agencies, Kenai Peninsula College, the Alaska Vocational Technical Center and the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District. Representatives of area Native corporations will describe their economic plans.
That is the educational part, Arbelovsky said.
"The planning comes at 3:15, when people will break into small groups," she said. "People will brainstorm our assets, opportunities and obstacles and maybe come up with some business ideas, or ideas on how we can decrease imports to the borough and replace them with local goods or services."
The Friday forum can be viewed with a two-hour delay at www.kpedd.org on the Internet. The video will be available there for the next six months, Arbelovsky said.
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