I moved to Alaska when I was a boy, and 50 years later my family still calls it home. As I watch my eight grandchildren grow up here, my concern for the future well-being of this state we love grows with every new year. What economic opportunities will there be in Alaska for these children when they become adults that will keep them invested here? What can be done now by our state to set this next generation up for success?
As a business owner, I have seen how the state’s economy directly impacts not just businesses like mine, but the long-term prospects for job and wealth creation for all Alaskans. Just like the state as a whole, when the oil business suffers, my business suffers. This is why we need our elected officials to be smart about how they think about long-term economic success for Alaska.
I’m not an economist, but I do know that things happening at the macro level apply at the micro level. The decisions made about how the state spends, saves and taxes have direct impacts on our households and businesses. I can’t look at my business and say “Wow, we’re struggling, so I’m going to keep buying new equipment and increase salaries.” I don’t have those options. There is no option for me to extract money from someone else to solve my income problems like the government can do through taxes. If we have to make those tough financial choices as a business or as a family, the government should too.
I commend Gov. Mike Dunleavy for working with the Legislature to get our state’s budget under control. While Alaskans might have different ideas about where cuts in spending should happen, what we need most is for a viable solution to be reached that gets our state back on track. For example, a number of government agencies in the state provide critical functions and are doing a good job. We need them – but there is likely spending on some agencies that should be considered for reduction. No spending cut will be painless, but as we can all attest in our own homes, sometimes they’re simply necessary. Cutting some of the luxuries but not the vital necessities seems like a good place to start.
The other focus our state government leaders must consider is attracting long-term business investments to the state. We must create an economic environment that supports a sustainable financial future for current businesses, entrepreneurs, and large corporations who might consider bringing their business to Alaska. Whether it means improving infrastructure and access to different areas of the state or re-evaluating laws that would attract businesses from other states to choose Alaska as their home, Alaska needs economic engines outside of the oil industry that will create jobs and financial stability for more Alaskans.
By controlling spending and building more industry and investment opportunities, Alaska can make strides in setting itself up to succeed for the long term so that my grandchildren can be a part of working to maintain a thriving Alaska future.
Jeffrey A. Garness, P.E., M.S. has lived in Alaska since 1969, is the founder and president of Garness Engineering in Anchorage, and is a tribal member of the Samish Indian Nation.
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