Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The Haines Economy Is Like A Garden - Updated 2013

Our Haines economy is like a garden. You reap what you plant and it appears Haines has still not planted any economic seeds and nothing is growing. Our economy appears to contracting not expanding. Our Assembly has lots of words written on paper from studies but nothing has been implemented to prepare Haines for the future. It appears Haines is getting left further behind our SE neighbor communities every year.
Sounds like a doomsday message? Sound too negative? But how does Haines compare to other SE Alaska communities? Where and what are our strengths? How do we fit into the economic scheme within our own geographical area? (The Chamber Economic Development Committee compared and produced a comparison 3 year ago).
A current review of our public assets: We still do not have year round surplus power, no year round manufacturing or industrial manufacturing or production, no developed industrial park, a small port facility with virtually no staging area to handle material such as mining concentrates, we are experiencing fewer independent travelers and do we really have a ready and able workforce? Our cruise ship business is slowly deteriorating and our fish processing is barely afloat (most done in Juneau).
What has been done to create a reason for our youth to remain in Haines after graduation? Low paying tourism jobs?  What other employment opportunities do we provide? Not much has emerged in recent memory!
Members of our community are challenged to evaluate, identify and develop a workable plan to improve the economic climate in Haines and provide employment and business opportunities for our residents and graduates.

Haines largest employer is reported to be Ocean Beauty in Excursion Inlet, which is located about 90 miles from town and seasonal, the next largest employer is our Borough with 63+ employees. I believe State workers are the next largest employer providing local jobs and then probably our non-profit sector followed by seasonal workers or employers.

The real question is can Haines survive with more austere budget changes in Washington DC and a continuing decline oil production from the North Slope here in Alaska?
Of significant equal impact to our local economy occurred during the last election when Rep Bill Thomas was replaced by Sitka Democrat Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkinsed. Haines majority voted in favor of Kreiss-Tomkinsed, lead by our local environmental group, and the result?  NO SINGLE CONSTRUCTION PROJECT IS ON THE TABLE IN THE FORESEEABLE FUTURE AFTER BILL THOMAS'S CURRENT PROJECTS ARE COMPLETED (HIGHWAY IMPROVEMENTS, ROADS, SIDEWALKS AND VETERANS ASSISTED LIVING QUARTERS). Our new Representative has been unable or unwilling to generate any projects for our community or region. 
During a 2011 Chamber luncheon, our Representative Bill Thomas, thought that if Alaska received the go-ahead to begin building a gas pipeline it would take at least 5 years to complete the task. Five years during which our North Slope production continues to decline at 6% per year, equates to another 30% reduction in oil royalty's. 85%+ of our States budget comes from oil revenue, can Alaska survive a 30% reduction in revenue before any natural gas money (if feasible) ever flows down the pipe? (UPDATE: North Slope oil production has been reduced by 18% just in past 3 years and proposed gas pipeline deemed economically unfeasible).

According to State Legislature records in 2011 our State budget was predicated on $74 per barrel oil! To maintain our current State budget with a 48% decline in production would require the price of oil to hold at approximately $106 per barrel.

Alaska has been lucky during the past 23 years that the price of oil has escalated to the highest historical levels and has benefited directly, but how many remember the 1980's when the price of oil dropped to $8 and a rumored 50,000 folks left Alaska? 

We do not have oil, but we do have mineral rich deposits which could be mined, jobs developed and year-round employment provided and help stabilize and diversify our community. Of course we have local environmentalist who will fight to prevent this from happening up until they lose their jobs or their trust funds run out.

But what happened to free enterprise in Haines? Apparently our Assembly still feels they can control it when it comes to winter activities and based on their current negotiations are willing to only allow 2 or 3 local businesses to have access to Heli-Skiing or any winter related "tours". Why not return to American values and permit anyone to apply for the right to start a business and perhaps bring new "outside" money into Haines to develop a full-fledged ski lodge and ski resort type enterprise.

However, only allowing 2-3 local businesses does enable those entities to increase their corporate value and they could sell to the highest bidder and these monopolistic controls certainly prevents any big player with entering the market without buying out one of the 3. None of the 3 local entities have the capital necessary to develop our area into a world class ski area without huge infusions of capital and our Borough certainly does not have the financial resources unless of course they return to the "public trough" for more grants.

Our local infrastructure is crumbling as we have a waste treatment facility (to mention one of many) that maintains a waiver because we cannot meet State effluent standards and our Assembly seems unwilling to address the $30 Million dollar shortfall required to build a facility that would meet our community waste requirements. 

I believe in America's private enterprise system.

Haines seems more and more like a Village rather than a City when it comes to the American free enterprise values!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Haines Beautification Project



Our downtown planting project became memory lane on Saturday May 21, 2011

Joyce Simons drove from 33 Mile to be the 1st to arrive and was digging her own apple tree hole by 8am. (Jack Smith showed up shortly thereafter and dug holes for our trees along Main Street). Joyce planted her tree and then came back later to attach a tribute in memory of her dad. (Nice touch, Joyce!)

Burle Sheldon/Elliot Wilde and Tara Bicknell/Shaye Otten – Big Brothers & Big Sisters members each planted their own “memory” tree.

Brooke Messerschmidt and Lucy Southern heard about the project on KHNS and arrived to make their contribution and together planted #6.

Andy and Gladys Hlavace continued their efforts to make our town special and more beautiful. Andy planted apple trees for the school garden project and the Haines Community Gardens. (unfortunately, we lost Andy last year)

KC O’Conner and her Haines Daisy Girl Scouts arrived and their enthusiasm was infectious and charming. Ever seen a team effort in planting a tree?, this was a wonderful example and understand they will receive a “Girl Scout Patch’s” for their efforts.

KC also selected #3 for her daughter Sadie Anderson and the Haines “Class of 2022”.

Wayne (Lucy) Hirsch and Ron (Marlys) Miner each planted their family trees and helped others.
Luke – Taylor and? (nice young men) showed up to offer their assistance to those wanting to plant a tree and Luke planted one of his own.

Stephanie Scott and Nichole Studley planted their tree on Monday and Stephanie will provide a braille label so Nichole will know that this is for her!

John and Teri Derosa made their contribution at the new school and discovered solid “blue clay” at that location.

Edie Ordonez representing Mosquito Lake School selected her special spots near the police department. However a time conflict prevented their “adoption” efforts and a tree was delivered to the Mosquito Lake School on Tuesday. The school children to plant their tree in the school yard.

Kathleen Menke selected 3 trees by the Fort Seward Sign for her tribute to her dog And 2 folks she thought deserved recognition. What a wonderful effort and certainly appreciated.

Steve Scarrot of KHNS had his Mother and Father visiting and they took special pride in seeing their son plant his tree.

Have come to believe the potential memories this project provided, will be lifelong.

All of these “memory trees” will be special to these folks which is a testimony of their special relationship for years to come and additional memories will be reignited by just visiting their tree.

Special thanks to the following that responded to make Haines a prettier place to visit:
Annette Smith – Fort Seward area
AP-T – Locator service to prevent damage to utilities
JB Axsom – planting & caring trees on arrival
Jim Shook – planting and digging holes for planting
Jack Smith – digging holes for planting
KHNS – Promoting our event
Toni Smith – White Rock Nursery – guidance on caring for our trees
The Eagle Foundation – providing a home for trees
Post Office - 
Lutak Lumber -
Pizza House -
Turner Construction – providing top soil and time to heal our stressed trees

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Why Do I Keep Mentioning Leavenworth, Washington as a good model for     
Haines? Read the following story and does this not sound familiar? 

Substitute their loss of railroad with our loss of cruise ships and I think you 
will see the connection.

Part of our answer is ski/trail development and a unique downtown theme
 plus year round events for our visitors!

Leavenworth gets consistent repeat visitors from nearby communities!
(Think Juneau and Whitehorse)

Mid 1800's

The first people to roam Icicle Valley were the P'squosa, or the Wenatchi. as the settlers called them. They survived by fish­ing, hunting, picking berries, digging camas roots and other native plants. The salmon runs brought thousands of American Indi­ans from all around the inland Northwest to harvest these great fish all along the Wenatchee River and Icicle River. The gatherings lasted weeks and included ritual dancing, trade, stories and contests.
Mining brought an influx of people to after gold was discovered in what is now known as the Blewett Pass area in 1860. Of the hundreds of mines "The Hummingbird" continued production until 1975. The min­ing camps housed miners of all nationali­ties including Irish, Scandinavian, Chinese, German and English. Those in the camps depended on a small settlement in the val­ley, present-day Leavenworth, for shipping, supplies and liquor.
The settlement was named Icicle. from the American Indian word "nasikelt" or "narrow-bottom canyon."
Railroad, lumber boom,

The first route across Stevens Pass was built by The Great Northern Railway Com­pany (GNRC) in 1892. The townsite was across the river from Icicle and was named Leavenworth the same year rail construc­tion began. Captain Charles Leavenworth, president of the Okanogan Investment Company, purchased the land in present- day downtown and laid streets parallel to the new tracks.
The railroad was completed in the dead of winter 1893. It was the valley's first con­nection to the west coast and everything east. Leavenworth became railroad central. Seven sets of tracks were laid downtown where Highway 2 is now. GNRC also built a roundhouse for turning engines where the present-day Enzian Inn is located.
The riverfront at the present-day En­chantment Park was the staging point for the area's second biggest industry, timber. LaFayette and Chauncery Lamb, brothers from Iowa, arrived in 1903 to build the state's second largest sawmill. The Lamb- Davis Lumber Company brought in a $2 million fortune after two years of business. At one point the company employed more than 1,000 men.

Leavenworth's streets were abuzz with saloons, brothels. a general store, a school and an opera house. The town was lawless until 1906 when an official city government and sheriff's office were established. The area's population exploded to eight times its original number, from 300 in 1900 to 2,500 in 1915, which is approximately the population in Leavenworth today. Between 1910 and 1920, the first hospital, library, cemetery, orchard, modern water system and irrigation district were created.

Industry leaves, depression
sets in, 1920s-1960s

In 1925 the GNRC announced its plans to relocate its headquarters to Wenatchee and move its tracks away from Tumwater Canyon's dangerous avalanches through"` Chumstick Canyon instead. The pullout was a heavy blow to the town's economy.

The sawmill closed a year later. Most /of the river-accessible logs had been harvested and shipping was difficult with the loss of the railroad. The sudden loss of Leavenworth's two driving industries, in addition to the first and second world wars, caused a mass exodus. Those who were able to find work depended on the U.S. Forest Service, schools, the hospital, small businesses or logging operations.

Life remained slow for 30 years. Leavenworth area residents enjoyed light­ing the Christmas tree in the City Park and also baseball leagues, town dances and church events.

A world-famous ski hill shook up the quiet times. A group of Norwegian settlers built a toboggan run and a ski jump in the late '20s. Skiing became the new buzz in town, bolstered by the Leavenworth Winter Sports Club established in 029. Spectators in waves of 10,000 a weekend came to watch the international jumping competition, which several locals won. The events stopped when international ski jumping standards changed in the mid-1970s.

Project. LIFE Rescues town

By the '50s it was clear that outdoor recreation was not enough for the town to make a living. Businesses were failing. Leavenworth was dubbed a welfare town and jobs were hard to come by. A group of residents banded together to find a way to end the 30-year depression. They were determined not to let their Leavenworth die with the ages.

Or wait for the next edition of this Blog

Cheers and Happy New Year