With the holiday season in full swing, like many, I reflect on the things in my life that I’m grateful for. Family, friends, good health and a host of other things come to mind, including the great people of Kenai I have the privilege of serving. I’ve called Kenai home for decades and there are few places in the world quite like it. It’s a small community that both balances and benefits from diverse interests and backgrounds.
My family moved to the central Kenai Peninsula from Detroit in 1968 when I was 7 years old (thanks, Mom and Dad). My father was a young man back then and I never asked him what his motivation was for moving to Alaska until recently. His answer was simply that he was a sportsman and he loved the outdoor opportunities that the Kenai Peninsula had to offer. He was an electrician by trade, and the recent discovery and development of oil and gas at that time in the Cook Inlet Basin provided the economic means to support our large family and remain in the area.
That is still the case today. The industry’s presence in our community over the years is definitely a blessing. Hundreds of Kenai families rely on the industry. Let’s face it, we work here to stay here. It has been a reliable source for good-paying jobs for more than 50 years on the Peninsula, and thanks to Hilcorp that remains true today.
It was not that long ago that declining gas production in Cook Inlet was a major concern. For nearly eight years Hilcorp has been part of our local landscape, but back in 2011 the announcement that Hilcorp was buying out Chevron facilities in the Cook Inlet certainly came by surprise. Since then, Hilcorp has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in the Cook Inlet basin. Because of their efforts, the decline in production in Cook Inlet was not only arrested but reversed.
As we look forward to the New Year and consider changes that will take place, I am confident that Hilcorp will continue to responsibly increase production in our oil and gas sectors to the benefit of all Alaskans.
The confidence that I have in Hilcorp is mostly derived from their past performance in Cook Inlet, but more importantly, my interactions with their employees. A litmus test for me is how employers treat their employees, and I can say that every employee that I have spoken to, many personal friends, truly enjoy working for Hilcorp. They feel valued, empowered and respected.
As the mayor of a small town, I hear a lot, I see a lot, and what I’ve seen from Hilcorp and its people is something Alaska needs more of — more investment, more production and more energy, period. Hilcorp has contributed generously to our schools, our seniors and numerous community organizations. It employs hundreds of Alaskans, supports thousands of contractor jobs and continues to increase production here and on the North Slope.
I’m grateful to have Hilcorp in our community. While change can sometimes be hard, I’ll be ringing in the New Year with good cheer for Hilcorp and the many returns they’ll bring for Alaskans.
Brian Gabriel was first elected mayor of the city of Kenai in 2016 and was reelected this year.