The Kodiak Economic Development Corporation is expanding its work in the community with new funding awarded by the city of Kodiak.
The city awarded KEDC $45,000 to help develop business opportunities throughout the Kodiak Island Borough and to strengthen existing businesses.
The organization was incorporated over the summer to administer grants to small businesses and nonprofits in need. It awarded more than 300 grants from funding allocated to the city and borough from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act.
The nonprofit is now switching gears and expanding to help grow Kodiak’s business community into the future.
The Kodiak City Council voted to approve a contract with the nonprofit during a regular meeting last Thursday. Councilor John Whiddon, who is a volunteer director for the organization, was excused from voting due to a potential conflict of interest.
The funding will allow KEDC to hire Aimee Williams as an interim executive director until a full-time position can be filled. While working for KEDC, she will also continue her work as the executive director of Discover Kodiak.
“We can start to develop programs and growth in various industry sectors, ultimately to help create more jobs,” Whiddon said.
To help create jobs and develop local industries, KEDC plans to work with regional stakeholders like the Kodiak Area Native Association to help leverage local resources.
The organization plans to incorporate economic analysis and studies on markets, trends and demographics to help increase stakeholder knowledge and understanding about economic and demographic conditions in Kodiak.
“If we are going to look ahead, we need to understand the current status quo and look at emerging potential opportunities,” Whiddon said.
The data will be used to create economic strategies and plans.
According to the contract, the nonprofit will also complete a comprehensive economic development strategy in collaboration with KANA, as well as a strategic economic development plan.
For the development strategy, KANA will interview stakeholders in the community and set up meetings with villages, asking them their top priorities, said WIlliams.
The KEDC will also create a website with demographic information, as well as lists of awards, opportunities and support services for existing businesses.
Williams said one of the goals is to make the website into a resource for people interested in bringing new industries to Kodiak with information on land prices, the housing market and other useful information.
“The idea of KEDC is not only to support local businesses,” she said, adding that the nonprofit also aims to help start new businesses and attract people from off-island.
And while the Chamber of Commerce has always played a part in economic development activities, Williams noted that funding for those programs has decreased over the years because of budget cuts.
“Economic development is a lot of work that you do and you don’t get to see that instant gratification,” she said. “You are planting the seeds for stuff to happen.”
That’s why economic development projects are often among the first programs to be cut, she said.
Looking toward the future, Whiddon said there are many opportunities for growth in Kodiak.
“The city has a public-private partnership. There are huge opportunities for growth there,” Whiddon said, adding that the unused land at Gibson Cove is also an “untapped opportunity.”
The KEDC currently has a volunteer board of directors consisting of four community members from various sectors. However, Whiddon said they plan to grow the board and include industry leaders from inside and outside the community.
Whiddon said that while the new funding is a start, KEDC will need to look for additional funds to hire a full-time executive director. He said that it will cost more to hire someone who is a “mover and shaker” for the position.