Economic forum, T200 offer chance to learn, have fun

Homer is host to two unique opportunities this week.

The first is the Kenai Peninsula Economic Development District’s Industry Outlook Forum. The event happens today and Friday at Land’s End Resort. 

Those attending will be treated to an impressive lineup of speakers, including Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell, Alaska Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Dan Sullivan, Alaska Department of Revenue Deputy Commissioner Bruce Tangeman, as well as representatives from the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development; the Alaska Department of Commerce and Economic Development; Holland America; the Alaska Travel Industry Association; The Pebble Partnership; Donlin Gold; Homer Electric Association; Enstar Natural Gas; Buccaneer Alaska; Cook Inlet Energy; Hilcorp Energy; and officials from the Kenai Peninsula Borough and communities within the borough.

EDD hosts the forum every year, but this is the first time the event has been held outside the central peninsula communities of Kenai and Soldotna. EDD is reaching out to other parts of the peninsula, recognizing that they, too, are part of the peninsula-wide development district. That’s to be applauded, because every community on the peninsula has unique strengths. Making the most of those strengths in every endeavor, including economic development, makes for a better quality of life for the entire peninsula.

The good and bad news about the forum is registration has been closed. Good, because there’s already a full house. About half of the participants are from Homer; the other half are from other parts of the peninsula and beyond. Bad, because it’s not every day Homer residents get to hear from the experts what’s going on with the economy of the state and the borough, as well as get the scoop first-hand on such topics as gas supplies, oil and gas exploration in Cook Inlet, peninsula utility projects, tourism and mining. 

The forum can be viewed as an Alaska and Kenai Peninsula Economy 101 course, taught by those in the know and packed into two days. With half the approximate 200 participants coming from outside of Homer, the forum also can be seen as an economic boost to Homer in one of the community’s slowest times. The 15 vendors participating in the trade show happening during the event provide still other opportunities to learn and share ideas. It’s going to be an exciting couple of days. We welcome the speakers and other participants to the Industry Outlook Forum. 

The other unique opportunity Homer residents have this week is the chance to cheer on mushers in the Tustumena 200 sled dog race. McNeil Canyon Elementary School is the half-way point of the race, which starts in Kasilof at 11 a.m. Saturday. Teams are expected to start arriving at McNeil about 10 p.m. Saturday. They’ll be arriving all night and leaving Sunday morning and into the afternoon. Today’s technology means mushers will be carrying GPS trackers so fans can follow them online and know when they are getting close to the school and get out there to greet them.

 The T200 is a great peninsula tradition. Mushers last year enjoyed the warm welcome they received in Homer. Let’s make sure that happens again.