Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s message during the State of State was that he wants to make Alaska “open for business.”
The new commissioner of the Department of Commerce, Community & Economic Development, Julie Anderson, promoted this mission, outlining the department’s goals to accomplish it at a joint luncheon with the Alaska Chamber of Commerce and Juneau Chamber of Commerce at Centennial Hall on Thursday.
“The goals of the governor are ambitious, and rightfully so,” she said. “One of my fundamental beliefs is that a healthy economy is essential to healthy people and healthy communities. I am eager to take on my duties with Gov. Dunleavy and work to better Alaska’s economy.”
A chamber member in the crowd mentioned Alaska has a boom or bust economy, referencing the fact that Alaska has higher ups and downs in its economy than most states. But Anderson said she likes to think of it as a cyclical economy.
“I think back to the challenges that Alaska faced in those pre-pipeline, honey bucket days,” Anderson said, drawing similarities between the gumption people had in the state throughout the past and what Alaskans need to have now to grow the economy. They were innovative and visionary, she said, “Just the type of skills we need to turn the economy around today.”
In order to do this, she said, Alaska needs to manage the budget deficit and live within its means.
“Let’s begin by reducing spending, removing spending and at the same time focusing on growing the economy,” she said.
The governor’s administration is working to rollback regulations on companies, she said, and the department has been reviewing thousands of pages of regulations and professional licensing requirements to see which items they can repeal to increase growth.
Main areas the administration is focusing on to grow the economy are tourism, fishing, timber, resource industries and “jobs that generate that first dollar, the primary dollars, that are then the building blocks of the service economy, of health care and education,” she said.
Anderson said she was involved with working on the Trans Alaska Pipeline System (TAPS), a controversial project that creates jobs and generates revenue, but can cause pollution from leakage.
“The true enemy of the environment is poverty,” she said. “That project enabled me to attend college and be the first in my family to graduate with a college degree. It has allowed four generations of my family to pursue their interests. It has raised the standard of living throughout Alaska. I would hope that our current efforts to strengthen and diversify the economy will do the same for at least four more generations.”
• Contact reporter Mollie Barnes at email@example.com or 523-2228.