In advance of the April 6 Anchorage municipal election, the Anchorage Daily News asked candidates running for Anchorage mayor a series of issue questions. These include questions suggested by readers. Read all the mayor and school board candidates’ responses here.
Q: Describe, with specifics, how you would expand and diversify Anchorage’s economy.
I would leave it alone. Remove all possible barriers to entry.
First, I will end the shutdowns on my first day in office. In doing so, we will allow all our entrepreneurs to do what they need to become prosperous. Then I will work ceaselessly to end our vagrancy crisis making Anchorage, especially downtown, an attractive development opportunity for developers. They will invest once they realize we have made our streets safe and vagrant free. Investment in development is the key to economic diversification.
I would work to develop Anchorage’s global cargo position at the Anchorage airport, and showcase its duty-free status for items to assemble products for sale domestically. Public-private partnerships and work groups will be needed to identify products that can be made in Anchorage, and Alaska, with the highest profit margins, and lowest costs to market should be researched so that local and state government and the private sector can develop strategies and financing to develop new industries and plan for energy solutions to power those industries.
Even as we recover from this pandemic, we’ll face economic headwinds from the state’s unresolved fiscal crisis. As mayor, I will provide certainty for businesses by delivering reliable services with a balanced budget, protecting the m municipality’s AAA bond rating and completing vital infrastructure projects such as rebuilding the Port of Alaska. Ultimately our growth will be driven by the individuals and businesses who choose to invest in Anchorage. As we compete with the rest of the country for a workforce that can work from anywhere, we need to make Anchorage the obvious choice. That means incentivizing and removing barriers to affordable housing development, investing in and marketing our world-class trail and parks system, cultivating the independent visitor economy, revitalizing our downtown, fostering a sense of Indigenous place, partnering with the university and proactively going to bat for every opportunity that will bring the jobs of the future to Anchorage.
One of the mistakes that governments often make is trying to identify specific industries or opportunities to bring into their city. Municipal government should not be in the position of deciding which businesses to attract but instead should be focused on ensuring that an atmosphere that is conducive to investment and development exists in Anchorage. To do this, Anchorage needs to reduce the bureaucratic friction caused by its own internal building and permitting processes. It also needs to change its requirement of saddling new developments with the full cost of all needed infrastructure upgrades and improvements. We have to become a partner in development. We also need to work with the state Legislature to reform certain laws that will make it easier for Anchorage to offer options such as tax increment financing to help reduce the upfront costs of development.
In my view, government does best, not when it makes direct investments in seafood processing plants or experimental barley farms, but when it ensures that the baseline conditions for economic growth are in place. Locally, that means: first, ensuring that local taxation and utility rates are reasonable; second, providing quality, reliable local infrastructure, such as roads and the Port of Alaska; third, supporting a strong housing market; fourth, maintaining quality public schools; fifth, investing in items, like parks, trails and the arts, that improve local quality-of-life; sixth, ensuring adequate public safety; and seventh, supporting state investments in our university system, which provides high economic returns and helps build a culture of innovation and entrepreneurialism. Anchorage can also help foster new industries by, for example, investing in new energy technologies at city buildings, marketing to new tourism segments, and supporting local startups though the 49th State Angel fund.
I have a seven-point plan to expand and diversify the economy.
1) Open for Business.
2) Ready to Build – Getting to Yes, Responsibly and Efficiently.
3) Destination Anchorage – For Us and Our Visitors.
4) Creative Economy and Innovation Industries.
5) Workforce Development.
6) Regional Development.
7) Attract New Global Investments
We will expand the economy by finding ways to attract new industry, by taking on and promoting infrastructure projects, using federal dollars to pay for them. We will expand the economy by helping our school district to graduate better-educated kids who will be needed by the industries and companies that will be attracted to our city. We will expand the economy by cleaning up crime and our homeless problem so that new businesses want to open here. Finally we will expand our economy by having a vision that will allow us to look past the problems of the day and into the opportunities of tomorrow.
The downtown and other areas have historically been hindered in new development or re-development of both commercial and residential units. The existing zoning unit densities have not been increased in over 100 years for the downtown area, and height restrictions have not been increased as well. The Title 21, Municipality of Anchorage planning, zoning and building permits process and costs are not meeting the needs of this city for proper growth. I have new industries that could be based and expanded in the city as well that I would assist with property and business tax delays as well as other economic advantages.
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