It’s the economy.

It used to be infrastructure, and infrastructure isn’t to be  disregarded. But, since the novel coronavirus pandemic, and the response to it that devastated the economy, it’s all about opening businesses and creating or returning jobs.

Sen. Bert Stedman, District R’s state senator, and City of Ketchikan Mayor Bob Sivertsen discussed the change in focus during the former’s Fourth of July visit to the First City.

Stedman has represented the district since the 2003 general election. In that time, he has become highly respected by both elected and appointed officials throughout the state, as well as the Alaska public, for his budgetary acumen. Not to mention, his ability to acquire the means to build infrastructure, particularly in Ketchikan.

While Stedman has been senator, the community has realized a new library, a new fire station, a hospital annex, harbor improvements, and new and expanded berths at the port to accommodate its tourism industry — at least the part that arrives via cruise ship. Plus, the community has had airport and road improvements, along with other infrastructure, including the Ward Cove Dock Group’s project of late.

Most of this came at the right time — before the state started recording billion-dollar operating budget deficits as its largest revenue source (oil) started to decline in terms of production and prices. Still, other aspects of this infrastructure arrived before 2020.

“We were trying to do that intentionally (to) get the infrastructure in place in time for the hard times that were coming,” Stedman says, referring to the anticipated changes in oil-related revenue.

“But we didn’t think it would be this bad, anywhere close,” he adds, pointing to the unexpected COVID-19 pandemic and its effects.

Even as Stedman and local officials expected the oil changes, COVID came as a surprise to one and all.

Despite that — even in these economically challenging times — it is edifying to know that Ketchikan prepared as well as it did. It has infrastructure with which to rebuild the economy.