Friday, August 05, 2005

Economic Development Projects in Alaska

This article about Economic Development Administration projects keeps getting threaded around. It just points out the need, in the seafood industry, for analysis of industry news by an industry insider. The projects listed in the article; Metlakatla cold storage revamping, St. George processing plant, Kodiak travel-lift, are great additions to Alaska's fisheries infrastructure.

But they didn't magically appear on the radar after the Secretary of Commerce showed up in Alaska as the article implies. I'm sure he paid a visit to Bernie Richert, the EDA Representative in Alaska, in Anchorage. And a year before that the proponents of these projects were getting their ducks in a row to apply to Bernie last fall.

Then Bernie works with these and a dozen other proponents to winnow the list down to the ones that are solid. I've been looking at the unwinnowed lists for years. And Bernie has been at it a lot longer there and knows how to develop a criteria list that fits the Alaska scene. Not that it's easy for him, it's not. You can never forsee all that can go wrong with a project either. 100% of the time, the proponents have not had such a project before either. There is a learning curve to make them successful, once built.

So, I guarantee it's pure coincidence that the EDA announced these awards "as soon as the Secretary got back from Alaska." I appreciate all different kinds of seafood industry news stories and we need them. We just need them tweaked for industry consumption, as opposed to general consumption. Industry might get the idea from the above referenced article that these EDA projects are spit out at the push of a political button.

You have to be a municipality to get an EDA grant. There has to be a good chunk of matching money, usually from the state on projects like these and plenty of sweat and tears on the part of the proponents, in addition to anything esle they can afford to throw in the mix.

The harbor project that was recently announced in False Pass started at least 14 years ago. False Pass had hired a ED director within a year of me meeting up with her at the State Office Building in 1990. Petersburg was looking at ways to get more water about that time and it took until 1998 or 1999 to get a dam and waterline built with EDA help.

As you see, even a years lag time would be a miracle of greased skids.

But keep in mind that municipalities aren't necessarily the most up to date on the needs of the industries in their boundaries. Often it is a knee jerk reaction, like in Petersburg, when they had two dry summers in a row.

And St. George has been wanting a processing plant since 1990 too. They had just finished their breakwater and harbor when I went out to the Pribilofs to look things over. You could write a book on the development of those two islands development efforts. And here's some final bonus material.

In the last hurricane to hit the Gulf of Mexico, they detected a 91 foot wave, as measured by pressure sensors on the sea floor. The article said what we know about Alaska storms. That the next biggest waves recorded happen on a regular basis in winter storms in the North Pacific. That they are truely hurricane force storms. Hence the saying, that in Cold Bay, if the wind ever stops blowing, everyone would fall down. And of course, the biggest wave recorded was a 1740 footer, as recorded by the trees being sheared off up to that height in Lituya Bay. Another story.


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