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’Tis the season to travel.

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Step by step, Alaska draws closer to increased oil production.

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11/4/2017
The outlook

Ketchikan is on an island, but it isn’t one when it comes to the economy.

The community is linked to what happens with industry and jobs throughout the state, the nation and the world.

If those places do well, then Ketchikan does, too — eventually.

The signs are hopeful. Here’s about a dozen examples illustrating reasons for that hope.

 • Ketchikan is a cruise ship passenger attraction in great demand. The community welcomed its one-millionth passenger near the close of the season in September. Passenger projections continue to be high for the upcoming season.

• The Lower 48 economy is integral to the cruise ship passenger numbers for Ketchikan. The economy has expanded over the past six months. Unemployment is at a 16-year low, and the following show increases — business investment and profits, stock prices and consumer confidence, given a spending willingness.

• Alaska is wealthy in its natural resources from the sea. Fisheries, in particular salmon, are well managed, and, as a result, Ketchikan is one of the communities that benefits. This time of year, the seasons opened for sea urchin, pot shrimp, sea cucumber, geoduck and winter king salmon.

• The State of Alaska and U.S. Forest Service cooperated on a $2.6 million timber sale on Kosciusko Island near Edna Bay recently. The sale involves 29 million board feet of timber.

• The City of Ketchikan is beginning the design process for expanding berths 1 and 2 at the port. The city also is joining with the owners of Berth 4, Ketchikan Dock Company, toward enlarging that berth. The expansions will allow higher-volume cruise ships to dock.

• The City of Ketchikan has a trestle construction project underway on Water Street; the state has a street/sidewalk upgrade along Front, Mill and Stedman streets coming along. Plus, state officials presented a Gravina Access project update to the Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly in September.

• Construction of the first of two new vessels planned for the Alaska Marine Highway System continues at Ketchikan Shipyard. The Tazlina is scheduled for completion in 2018. The state signed a $100 million contract with shipyard operator Vigor Alaska for the two vessels.

• Alaska Permanent Fund dividend payouts came out this month as they have for 35 years. As a result, sellers of goods and services enjoyed increased revenue and the local government increased tax revenue in October as a result. The payouts amounted to $1,100 per qualified recipient, of which Ketchikan may claim in the neighborhood of 13,000 and receives the economic effect of those distributed in Metlakatla and other nearby communities and spent, at least in part, at Ketchikan businesses.

(The Alaska Permanent Fund is worth $55.4 billion.)

• Oil exploration and production is increasing in Alaska. The U.S. Bureau of Land Management has decided to offer the largest lease sale ever on the Northern Alaska Petroleum Reserve. Compared to last year’s 145 tracts, 900 are up for bid. Plus, the state’s preliminary oil production forecast has numbers higher than anticipated; the final forecast will be available by year’s end.

• The Republican-controlled U.S. Senate has started taking steps toward opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to extracting and selling oil. Senate Republicans hold a two-member advantage, and the House of Representatives is currently owned by Republicans. President Trump, who would sign any measure passed by Congress, is a businessman with a keen interest in building industry.

Despite Ketchikan’s distance from the oilfields, as an Alaska community it benefits from oil development, as well as from tourism, fishing, timber, construction and ship building.

And it will continue to; in these industries, there is hope for the economy.