When Alaska Seaplanes began flying regularly to Whitehorse earlier this year, it opened up a much easier way for people from the two sister cities to fly to each other.
This month, a group of Juneau representatives and business owners took advantage of that flight. The Juneau Economic Development Council organized the first Whitehorse Economic Development Visit, which connected economic leaders from the cities during a visit to Whitehorse.
Alaska Seaplanes General Manager Carl Ramseth said the flights have made it much easier for meetings like this to happen.
“One of the things that’s come out of this is an opportunity to provide a link for our communities that are targeted around events that are happening that are of interest to Yukoners and Juneauites,” Ramseth said.
The trip went from Sept. 16-18 and included 11 people from Juneau, including representatives from Alaska Glacier Seafoods, Eaglecrest Ski Area, University of Alaska Southeast and more. JEDC Executive Director Brian Holst said the biggest goal of this trip was to see what kind of partnerships and commerce possibilities could form between the two cities.
Juneau representatives on the trip were: Mary Berry, Alaska Glacier Seafoods; Ramseth; Dave Scanlan, Eaglecrest; Charles Herrington, Eaglecrest; Holst; Keith Comstock, Juneau Hydropower; Barbara Burnett, Juneau Sister Cities Committee; Liz Perry, Travel Juneau; Jim Powell, UAS; Jerry Burnett; and Heather Ramseth.
Perry said she plans to work with the Whitehorse TIA to embrace their cities’ common traits to promote them together. Perry said she hopes they can collaborate on packages or excursions.
“(Tourists) come to Whitehorse because they also want to come to Alaska,” Perry said, “so let’s get them to our part of Alaska before they dash right off to Denali.”
A number of other partnerships are already forming. Herrington and Scanlan met with representatives from the Mount Sima ski area in Whitehorse, exchanging ideas. Herrington said via email that Mount Sima does an excellent job of providing mountain bike trails and other amenities that keep it as a destination year-round instead of just in the winter. He said mountain bike design company Gravity Logic is coming to Juneau next week to evaluate whether it’s feasible to have mountain bike trails at Eaglecrest.
Holst said it’s a challenge to ship products back and forth between the two cities, but JEDC is going to work to coordinate between businesses in both cities to try and work out ways to make trade possible.
He said that if other business owners or others are interested in coordinating partnerships with Whitehorse businesses, they can reach out to JEDC at 523-2300.
Juneau and Whitehorse became sister cities with an Oct. 2, 1989 resolution that was signed by Mayor Bruce Botelho. The resolution stated the two cities had quite a bit in common, including being the two capital cities of the far northwest region of the continent, mining development, tourism industry, a government employment base and a local branch of a university.
In an emailed statement to the Empire, Whitehorse Mayor Dan Curtis said the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce organized many of the events while the group from Juneau was in town. Curtis also said locals have enjoyed the fact that Seaplanes flies from Juneau to Whitehorse in the summer now.
“We look forward to many more meetings together and to discussing ways of improving economic opportunities between our beautiful communities,” Curtis said.
Powell agreed with Curtis, saying he hopes there are many more events like this in the future.
“This was just the start,” Powell said. “It was really the beginning of something, I think, that could be growing.”
• Contact reporter Alex McCarthy at 523-2271 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @akmccarthy.