One of the challenges that a place like SW Alaska face, located a long distance away from any markets and hindered by astronomical transportation costs, is how to develop a diversified economy. Right now, the region is totally dependent upon the fishing industry.
One of the sessions at the SW Alaska Economic Summit dealt with the Oil, Gas and Mining development. One of the mine projects discussed would employ more people than currently live in the entire borough (a county in the lower 48).
The North Aleutian Basin is projected to have reserves of 8.6 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and possibly as much as 22.3 trillion cubic feet. Of less importance are the oil reserves, calculated at 750 million barrels, up to 2 billion barrels. A liquefied natural gas transportation port would take 5,000 people to build and 600 to 700 employees to run.
The issue of meshing extractive industries with the natural habitat of fishing came up several times. The 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster, which resulted in an 11 million gallon oil spill, was mentioned several times.
Changing technologies in transportation and communication could make SW Alaska a less remote area, allowing for a growth of more entrepreneurism in the area. The unduplicatable beauty of the area holds even more potential for the long term. There is potential for tourism and attracting people leaving the rat race for the untamed beauty of Alaska. Today’s technologies will allow them to develop and run businesses from remote areas like this.
When I returned home one of my team members told me, “My Dad would love to move to Alaska, if he could only talk my mother into it.” I’m convinced that there are a number of baby boomers out there who would love to try their hand at an adventure in SW Alaska.