Saturday, September 08, 2012

Localnomics: A Tribute to Jim Poor

Jim Poor was not only an iconic fish processing figure in the Cordova/Prince William Sound area, but a visionary in seafood economic development. The stuff he worked on just plain worked; processing plants in Kodiak and Cordova, numerous other Cordova businesses, and ocean ranching of salmon to kick-start the salmon industry after the Exxon Valdez oil spill. I hope he got more mention somewhere than about five column inches in the Alaska Magazine.

I didn't know Jim, but knew many of his peers in Alaska. My father was cut from the same cloth in a way. These plant managers lived year-round in the towns they ran plants in. Unlike the majority of the plants in Alaska that closed in the fall and were typically left in the hands of a watchman and his dog. In fact, a cocker spaniel of the litter from my first dog ended up at the old cannery in Hawk Inlet. I spent one winter in the apartment at the now Ocean Beauty plant in Petersburg. The kitchen window of which was nearly pierced by the point of the bow of a Alaska State ferry  this year when it tried a 180 degree turn in the shipping channel and ploughed into the cannery dock.

My point though, is that there used to be fishing industry leaders in Alaska who stayed and cared about their communities. They cared about the health of the fisheries and they cared about family. My father turned down a job in Kodiak as the king crab fishery there started to boom. He didn't want to uproot us kids from the Petersburg school system. Both he and my mother served on the School Board there off and on. Dad never became a mayor like Jim Poor did, just enough City Council duty to learn how easy it is to piss off potential fishermen/business associates.

They pretty much stayed in one area of the state to build on previous work to improve the place. I have to categorize that: nowadays, by saying they did it for the people there and not for some corporation. The latter seems to be the norm these days. Just look at the CDQ group in Nome.

They instinctively knew that a strong economy starts at home. Especially in the fishing industry in Alaska. Wow, is that the farthest from the goal these days. But the money doesn't go as far away as it used to. Even Trident seafoods uses it's $50 million jet in Alaska on occasion. They even flew a band over to Petersburg, from Norway, for the Little Norway festival. In Nome, the CDQ group keeps pouring all the people's money down a rat hole, with nice commissions for themselves extracted first, of course.

In my last post, I mentioned that the City Managers in Alaska should pick up the slack in watching out for the communities. Then a few days later, Time Magazine runs this article about Localnomics. Their fifth main rule is that local leaders must step up. Well, there ya go. You can't count on the politicians at all anymore. Guys like Tim Smith in Nome are living this philosophy, yet they get beat down at every turn. The CDQ group's attorneys besmirch him in the most profane ways. They know the law is on Tim's side, yet the money men serve only their money.