A committee formed to advise city officials on economic development met for the first time over the weekend. The committee ended the two-day meeting with a consensus to pursue short-term projects while concurrently developing a long-term economic development program.
The newly formed Economic Development Committee spent a total of five hours on Friday and Saturday discussing the current state of the Kodiak economy. Wanetta Ayers, an economic development consultant contracted by the city, led the discussions.
Topics of discussion ranged from encouraging downtown residential development, to promotion of Natives of Kodiak development at Swampy Acres, to maintaining fisheries.
“I think the last two days have been good, but right now I’m left thinking, ‘What is the next step? Where are we going from here?’” said committee member Rebecca Skinner during closing comments.
“We have good groundwork. I just don’t want to lose that,” she said, adding that she would like a clear deliverable to be established.
Committee member Alan Austerman echoed her concerns.
“I sat here the last couple days a little conflicted on what I’m doing here, and so a more defined vision of what the city’s expecting would be better for us to move forward,” he said.
Ayers said the committee should be considering “parallel tracks” of what should be done for development and the organizational structure needed for long-term development.
She said identifying and clearly defining priorities will be essential to getting support from potential funders of a program.
“You’ve had multiple times where you’ve contracted for economic development services and not had the specific deliverable,” Ayers said.
According to John Whiddon, committee co-chair, the long-term program could take a number of forms, including an ongoing committee, development of an economic development corporation or public-private partnerships.
He said the ongoing discussion will also need to focus on identifying potential funding sources, as the city is currently struggling to bridge a $2.8 million budget gap.
Skinner asked that goals be separated into short-, medium- and long-term timelines ahead of the next meeting.
“My concern is that we’re going to get stuck in the projects we can do now and we need the bigger picture thing, if it’s a corporation or whatever it is,” Skinner said.
The next meeting of the committee is scheduled to occur on Dec. 15.