Alaska has always been a land of possibilities — a place where innovation meets ambition. Our history, with fishing, resource development and tourism at its core, shows our ability to forge ahead through booms so that we can sustain ourselves through the inevitable slow times.
We’ve taken advantage of these booms to build a commendable balance in our state’s Permanent Fund, and last month, Alaska received a new, higher credit rating, signaling economic upside in our future. Despite these positive indicators, we remain far from the front of the pack. In short, we have opportunities, but we need to work on both our fiscal issues and a broader vision for our state to pull ahead.
The guiding vision for our future could look like this: We are an increasingly strategic and commercially powerful trading and transportation center. We are creatively leveraging our position as both a strategic frontier and a landscape of opportunity. We welcome smart new developments that will not harm Alaska or the Alaskan way of life. Our economy is growing rapidly because we have combined the best of geographic opportunity with economic and recreational opportunity.
How do we get there? Expanding economic opportunities, harnessing new technologies, building cheap and clean energy alternatives, expanding infrastructure, nurturing industries that harness our abundant natural resources, and welcoming global adventurers who want to discover the untamed beauty of our state. These are all a start.
As we strengthen and expand our economy, we also need to expand the lifestyles that Alaska can offer to these pioneers, adventurers, and dreamers. This means offering choices of tight-knit, walkable communities or pioneer living; a vibrant urban atmosphere, a suburban dream, cozy country living, or suitable rural living. I believe all of this can be done within the incredible Alaska culture that currently exists.
To make this happen, we need a plan — a plan that captures Alaska’s essence and tells our story. But, as with any good plan, this journey requires more than words; it demands action. Repetitive planning without implementation has been a weak point for us as a state in the past. We must build better communities, promote cultural heritage, and invest in infrastructure that knits them together. We need cheap, reliable energy solutions. We should simplify regulations for startups and established businesses alike, cultivating an environment where they can grow. And let’s not forget the heart of our progress — our people.
We must nurture our skilled workers, ensuring they have every chance to shine. We need to say to entrepreneurs and startups, “We’re here to support you with the skills you need.” We need to improve the performance and focus of our educational system, from beginning to end. By doing so, we’ll attract and retain parents who want safe, quality education for their kids, university students who love the outdoors, and prospective skilled laborers who can roll right from training into ongoing projects in the state.
Streamlining permitting can clear hurdles for new housing construction, investment activity, and small businesses. We need to roll out the red carpet for small businesses, startups, families, individuals and anyone ready to commit to making Alaska their home.
Alaska’s story is a blend of adventure and promise. Our commitment to renewable energy, technological advancement, and sustainable practices will enhance our state, while industries grounded in responsible natural resource development will continue to build prosperity. The great adventure isn’t exclusive — it welcomes businesspeople, students, explorers, investors, and urbanites — which is what it takes to build an economy that’s as diverse and exciting as our state itself.
So, let’s roll up our sleeves and make this happen. We can define the vision for our state and set our goals so we can all start working toward them. Legislation like mine is a start — Senate Bill 21 would create a statewide planning and performance management framework using defined statewide priorities and strategic action plans.
We will see progress if we clearly define where we want to go and plan the route to make it happen. It’s up to us to turn this shared vision into reality, and by doing so, we can write the next and perhaps the greatest chapter of Alaska’s story.
Sen. James Kaufman represents District F, including parts of South Anchorage and the Hillside, in the Alaska Senate.
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