In 2009, the Juneau Economic Development Council, in collaboration with the Forest Service began developing a strategic plan for Southeast Alaska; the Cluster Initiative is comprised of four groups that support sustainable economic growth in the region: Oceans, forests, tourism, and renewable energy.
While the groups have been developing initiatives to present to the Forest Service, Wrangell has been working on its own draft transition plan of what products it has to offer to the region’s economy.
“As far as I know we’re the first community that has actually started this.” That’s Wrangell’s Economic Development Director Carol Rushmore. She held a meeting Tuesday, November 29th to present the City and Borough’s most recent draft plan, and gather further input on potential products community members would like to see highlighted. Rushmore says it’s important to have a concise and well thought-out long-term plan when it comes to getting support from the Forest Service.
“We’re just trying to be proactive in our stance and say here’s what we need. So when they figure how they are going to implement the cluster initiative outcomes, we will be ready to go and say ‘here are our priorities, here are our needs, and how it fits in with those initiatives,” she says.
Topics covered at Tuesday’s meeting included expanding maritime industry technology such as purchasing a larger travel lift. Other ideas were the sale and branding of old-growth timber and using fish byproducts. Wrangell resident Julie Decker was at the meeting.
“I think about not only what the needs of the seafood industry are in the region, but also what our needs are locally,” she says.
Decker is on the regional ocean products cluster group, which focuses on the needs of the seafood industry in Southeast Alaska. She says it’s key to look at what Wrangell already has and how it can expand.
“A couple that struck me was the maritime industry and building off of that, and the conversion of fish waste, and conversion of wood waste. There are a number of them that strike me as being very viable and needed. And they fall into the region wide priorities, so I think Wrangell getting its foot in the door is a really good idea,” she says.
Mayor Jeremy Maxand who helped facilitate the meeting says once the Forest Service decides what initiatives will get priority; Wrangell can refine its plans.
“What we want to do is identify the assets in this community that are successful and build on them we want to make them stronger and expand them. In doing so we want to create more wealth and jobs and more economic security,” he says.
The next Southeast Alaska Cluster Summit is Tuesday, December 13th in Juneau. For more information you can visit jedc.org, and search southeast cluster initiative.