Homer population, business sales up in 2016

Editor’s note: This article has been updated to clarify that population and business sales in Homer rose in 2016.

Homer’s population and gross business sales have been on the rise, though there’s still a ways to go in that regard to reach past sale levels.

Kenai Peninsula Economic Development District Executive Director Tim Dillon presented a portion of this year’s Situations and Prospects Report to the Homer City Council at its Aug. 28 meeting. The nonprofit located in north Kenai compiles and publishes several economic reports detailing the Kenai Peninsula, and pursues areas of economic development, such as with its business incubation center.

For the first time this year, Dillon said KPEDD has created individual summaries of the reports specific to the four major towns on the peninsula: Kenai, Soldotna, Homer and Seward.

“This is the kind of document that, if you have local groups — especially nonprofits that are trying to apply for grants — this is where they can find a lot of the little pieces of information that will help them an awful lot,” Dillon said.

According to the situations and prospects summary specific to Homer, total gross business sales within the city were up 2 percent from 2015-2016, but down 4 percent over five years from 2012-2016.

“Homer and Seldovia were the only places on the peninsula where gross business sales were higher in 2016 versus 2015,” Dillon said.

Some business types saw gains during those same time periods, according to the report, such as arts and entertainment, the hotel industry, transportation and warehousing, and public administration. Areas that saw losses include construction contracting, health care and educational services.

Dillon cautioned, however, that because the business type categories are compiled by the state and are subject to editing, the numbers can sometimes be skewed. Council member Tom Stroozas asked specifically about the manufacturing sector, which on the report showed a 41 percent decrease from 2012-2016.

“These business types are not ours, they’re the state’s. And periodically they change what they’re including and how they’re including it,” Dillon answered. “They went through and changed some of the fish processing, and they call some of it manufacturing still (and) they’ve broken things down differently.”

The peninsula overall is up by 376 people. Homer saw an influx of 111 people from 2015-2016, Dillon said, while Kenai lost 126.

“The Kenai Peninsula Borough is one of the only places in the state that increased in census numbers (in terms of) population change,” he said.

In addition, 36 new homes were built in Homer in 2016, and 58 homes were sold, with an average sales price of $245,572. Homer’s median household income is $55,849.

“Over the last decade, Homer led every year in new home construction for all peninsula cities, except in 2010 when it was (second) to Soldotna,” the report states.

When it comes to the commercial fishing industry, 73 percent of the total commercial catch harvested by peninsula residents in 2015 was made by Homer fishermen, according to the report. Homer residents caught 2 percent of all commercial fish harvested in Alaska that same year.

Find the Homer summary and the full situations and prospects report at kpedd.org.

Reach Megan Pacer at megan.pacer@homernews.com.