Local residents and business owners are invited to weigh in on the Denali Borough’s new Denali Recovery Plan and to comment on the goals currently set in the plan.

“The initial hope is to gather immediate feedback on what residents and businesses still need to combat some effects they are feeling from COVID,” said Vanessa Jusczak, director of the Denali Chamber of Commerce. “That will address the longterm planning aspect so the powers-that-be have some input and direction to alleviate some of the issues preventing growth, or hindering it, in a situation like this.”

Public comment could change those goals, she said. See the plan at denalichamber.com/recovery.

The Denali Recovery Alliance is a partnership between the Denali Borough and the Denali Chamber of Commerce and includes the Denali Borough school superintendent, business owners and community members.

It was created to examine the best way to help the local economy and tourism industry recover from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, both short term and longterm.

“The future of the 2020 tourism season, as well as the ripple effects to other industries have gone from bright and optimistic, to uncertain and scary,” according to the plan. “There are ways for us, as a community, to not only weather this storm, but to strengthen our community for the future.”

Using a template from the Fairbanks Economic Development Council, the group created what is called a SWOT analysis. SWOT stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. A SWOT analysis is a technique for assessing these four aspects in the borough and helps determine how to make the most of what the borough currently has to work with. All those strengths and weaknesses are listed in the Denali Recovery Plan and available for public scrutiny.

The goals the committee established were to support the growth of the local communities while maintaining community integrity; diversify revenue streams within the borough, to strengthen our economic base; ensure land and housing accessibility, for the growth of services, businesses and residents within the Denali Borough.

Jusczak stressed that strengthening the economic base of the borough does not necessarily mean tax revenue.

“Eventually, there may have to be a conversation about taxes, but that is not the goal at this point,” she said.

Local residents and business owners are encouraged to take the plan’s survey to help determine next steps.


Denali Visitor Center

The Denali Chamber of Commerce is continuing with its plan to create a separate, nonprofit Denali Visitors Center.

“As far as I can tell, we are the only large tourism attraction on the road system that does not have one,” Jusczak said. “It’s high time for that to happen.”

She announced this plan to the Denali Borough Assembly in February and asked for funds from the accommodation tax to help make it happen. Then, the coronavirus hit. She has since scrambled to find other sources of funding.

In the past, the assembly has hesitated to fund the chamber.

“Part of the borough hesitancy was in regards to tourism,” Jusczak said. “They said at some point, something will happen we don’t agree on and the chamber will oppose what the borough is trying to do.”

That proved true during the last ballot measure that called for increasing the accommodation tax and taxing alcohol and marijuana. Both those measures passed, but were opposed by the chamber.

This way, as a separate entity, all funds for the Denali Visitor Center will go directly to marketing and not to advocacy, she said.

Information will be released soon on how chamber members can support the new visitor center, Jusczak said.

“Our goal is to promote the borough as a whole,” she said, from the Denali Highway to the campground at Anderson and everything in between.

Reach columnist/community editor Kris Capps at kcapps@newsminer.com. Follow her on Twitter @FDNMKris.

Community editor and columnist Kris Capps is a longtime resident of Fairbanks and Denali Park. Contact her at kcapps@newsminer.com, in the office at 459-7546 or by cell at 322-6334. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMKris.