Industry Outlook Forum comes to Homer

The Kenai Peninsula Economic Development District’s “Industry Outlook Forum” is coming to town, with a two-day event at Land’s End Resort on Jan. 31-Feb. 1. The forum’s theme is “Cook Inlet — Energy for All Alaska” and it is hosted by the KPEDD and the city of Homer.

Usually held in the central peninsula, this is the first time the annual forum has been scheduled for the southern peninsula.

“The (KPEDD) board felt we should take this on the road to Homer, Seward and the rest of the borough,” John Torgerson, KPEDD’s executive director, said of the decision to have the gathering in Homer. “We’re ‘Kenai Peninsula.’ … We wanted to bring down industry leaders and let them talk about what they have going on, if they’re hiring, whatever. We don’t tell them what to talk about.  … It’s a cross section of the economy.“

Monte Davis, executive director of the Homer Chamber of Commerce, said having the forum in Homer helps broadcast a message that “there is a large contingency of business people in Homer who are open for business and ready for development. Well thought out, cooperative economic development, but development nonetheless.”

The forum serves an educational purpose on many levels.

“It educates people about what kind of industry is going on. Some (presenters) might talk about barriers, some might talk about what they’re doing,” he said. “Homer has a gas line coming and we’re all interested in the future supply of gas.”

The forum includes a variety of topics and speakers that address the peninsula and state of Alaska’s economic outlook. In addition to the presenters, the forum also includes a trade show. It draws a large crowd. As of Tuesday, an estimated 165 people had registered for the free event.

A welcome from KPEDD board secretary Kristine Holdridge, Homer Mayor Beth Wythe and Davis launches the two-day agenda, followed by Alyssa Shanks of the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development with a workforce development and economic overview. The remainder of the morning program includes a community economic outlook provided by Kenai Peninsula Borough Mike Navarre, Wythe, Phil Morris of Kachemak City, Seldovia City Manager Tim Dillon and Ristine Casagrande of the Seward City Council.

Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell is the keynote speaker at the Jan. 31 luncheon. The guest speaker at dinner is John Hendrix of Apache, with recorded messages from Alaska’s congressional delegation, Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Mark Begich and Rep. Don Young. 

Between lunch and dinner, forum participants will be given an update on gas line projects by Dan Fauske of Alaska Stand Alone Pipeline and Mark Morones of the Alaska Gas Pipeline Project Office. Rounding out the afternoon are presentations by Dan Sullivan, commissioner of the Alaska Department of Natural Resources, Larry Hartig, commissioner of the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, and Bruce Tangeman, deputy commissioner of the Department or Revenue.

Updates on peninsula utility projects kick off the Feb. 1 program, with presentations by Brad Janorschke of Homer Electric Association and Jim Sims of Enstar Natural Gas. Providing information on drilling, production and facilities are James Watt of Buccaneer Alaska, David Hall of Cook Inlet Energy and John Barnes if Hilcorp Energy.

Keynote speakers at the Feb. 1 luncheon are Ralph Samuels of Holland America, Ron Peck of Alaska Travel Industry Association and Kathy Dunn of the Alaska Department of Commerce Community and Economic Development.

Mining projects wrap up the forum, with presentations by Ethan Schutt of the CIRI Gasification Project, Mike Heatwole of The Pebble Partnership and Kurt Parkan of Donlin Gold.

Industry Outlook Forums became part of KPEDD’s annual schedule about 12 years ago. The event’s popularity is evident by how quickly people register. Generous donations by sponsors and business leaders mean KPEDD is able to “offer everything at no charge,” said Torgerson, who will speak about the forum at today’s noon meeting of the Homer-Kachemak Bay Rotary.

For more about KPEDD and to register for the forum, visit

McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at