FAIRBANKS — It is not just about jobs; it’s about better jobs. It is not about creating quality of life; it’s about creating better quality of living. At the Fairbanks Economic Development Corp., we work to accomplish these goals. What we aspire to is simple — make our home, the Fairbanks North Star Borough, a better place to work, play and raise a family.
It starts with the recognition that all of us, not just FEDC, are responsible for our community’s success. It is not about waiting for oil producers, tourism companies or construction giants to bring the next project to Alaska. It is not about hoping the federal government continues to invest in Alaska infrastructure so we don’t have to, and it is not about focusing on the problems. It is about defining problems and focusing on solutions.
How do we define a problem and focus on a solution? At FEDC, we use the Interior Issues Council, a Fairbanks-based think tank that uses community resources and talents to analyze issues ranging from the cost of energy and the impact of climate change to an analysis of in-state gas line options.
The work by these groups of volunteers has helped move our community forward in several areas. Examples include the state’s energy plan that came from a model developed by an Interior Issues Council group, as well as an in-depth analysis of the options to bring gas to Interior Alaska. Work done by the Interior Issues Council is worth millions of dollars. That is maximizing local talent and expertise and finding solutions together.
FEDC works closely with the University of Alaska Fairbanks, and the relationship has resulted in UAF hiring a director of university economic development and initiating a program of virtual business incubation.
Economic growth for our community is imperative. We are lagging behind national and Alaska averages when it comes to income and standard of living.
How does FEDC help? Our budget last year was about $600,000. An estimate of the economic impact we helped create in Interior Alaska is almost $10 million. That is more than 15 dollars back in the community for every 1 dollar invested in FEDC.
FEDC has several ongoing projects that are working to increase wages, jobs and dollars in our community. Here is a sample of our efforts:
• Superior Pellet Fuels is open and has more than a dozen employees earning approximately $50,000 per year. The plant general manager said, those jobs — and the
$2.5 million dollars of economic impact — would be in Wasilla if it were not for FEDC.
• Hyundai, Ford, Nissan and Volkswagen will do cold weather testing in the Interior this winter thanks to the efforts of FEDC staff. The economic impact in our community is approximately $7 million.
• Military efforts help insure we maintain or increase our community’s military missions.
• A study, funded by the borough and federal governments, on a coal gasification plant could create millions of dollars in economic impact and create dozens of jobs while stabilizing the cost of fuel for our communities.
• The Certified Bush Friendly program promotes and increases the amount of business done between Fairbanks and rural communities.
When it comes to using local talent to identify economic solutions and increase the knowledge of our community, and when it comes to creating higher-paying jobs and a better quality of living, FEDC works at it every day. But we are only a part of the solution and cannot do it alone. We are blessed to have significant investment from the city of Fairbanks, the borough and Alaska’s businesses.
We would not be able to accomplish half of what we achieve without time investments from volunteers like our board of directors and Interior Issues Council members. To all those who work with us and help us — thanks. Because of your efforts, it is easy to call the work FEDC does a success.
Jim Dodson is president and CEO of the Fairbanks Economic Development Corp.