Good timing: Some of the world's savviest economic developers are in Anchorage this week

At a time when economic uncertainty is front and center in our community, a visit from the International Economic Development Council is an opportune event. Today, the four-day IEDC Annual Conference, the largest gathering of economic developers in the world, is kicking off in downtown Anchorage at the Dena'ina Center.

Economic development practitioners from around the globe are in town to share best practices with one another, explore trends in the profession and experience Anchorage and Alaska firsthand. Now more than ever, when our economy is in the crosshairs of low oil prices and diminished federal spending, it is advantageous for government, community and business leaders from around Alaska to learn from the successes and failures of other communities, many of whom face similar challenges in their own economies.

In addition to the educational opportunities, this is our chance as a community to show our visitors the advantages our city and state afford. Anchorage boasts unparalleled quality of life that attracts a smart, talented and adventurous workforce. Our city is strategically located for air cargo. In fact, Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport is No. 2 in the United States for landed cargo throughput. We have a bubbling startup community with eager and motivated entrepreneurs. These assets are the tip of the iceberg.

While the conference is in full swing, a group of site selectors will be doing a private tour of Anchorage with AEDC. As regular attendees at the IEDC Annual Conference, site selectors advise companies on business locations, be it a new business venture, expansion or relocation. They analyze the workforce, cost of living and infrastructure available in communities as it relates to their client. With more than 100 site selectors expected to attend the conference this week, several will join AEDC to tour the area. They will be visiting the Port of Anchorage, the Chugiak-Eagle River area and Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport to get a sense of what opportunities may be present in Anchorage for their clients.

The IEDC Annual Conference provides an opportunity Anchorage has never had before. Three years ago, in partnership with Visit Anchorage, AEDC pitched Anchorage as a destination for the IEDC Annual Conference. To our surprise and delight, in 2012, they announced Anchorage as the 2015 annual conference location. Since then, AEDC, Visit Anchorage and economic development groups from around Alaska have come together as a host committee to prepare for this event. The host committee worked tirelessly to find speakers and promote the event. As a thank you to Alaska, IEDC generously offered 100 discounted registrations to Alaska Native Corporations and tribal organizations. No small rebate either; IEDC offered a $600 discount to be used by employees or shareholders.

All together, the conference is estimated to have an economic impact of more than $2 million with conference attendees filling three downtown hotels. You will see downtown restaurants and night spots at capacity this week. Several tourism partners have extended their season to accommodate the eager IEDC visitors.

We face many challenges in our economic future in Alaska and Anchorage. We are watching closely as our governor and legislators work to find a way to create a sustainable future for the state. The long-standing challenges of developing and diversifying our economy have become even more difficult in the face of low oil prices, a $3 billion state budget gap and the looming troop losses at JBER. It could not be a better time to put on our thinking caps and consider how to diversify the Anchorage economy. We have more than 1,000 economic and community development experts from around the world in Anchorage right now. Let's pick their brains, learn from their experiences, look for opportunities and new ideas and set a new course for the future of our community.


Bill Popp is president and CEO of the Anchorage Economic Development Corp.

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Bill Popp

Bill Popp is the president and CEO of Anchorage Economic Development Corp. He has spent more than 40 years in the private and public sectors.