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Planning Juneau's economic development

Posted: July 10, 2012 - 11:02pm

The City and Borough of Juneau Planning Commission heard changes and additions to the economic development portion of Juneau’s Comprehensive Plan.

The plan is a living document that the CBJ continuously updates over the course of one or two years. Economic development is covered in Chapter 5 of the plan.

Chapter 5 broadly covers economic development issues such as the importance of Juneau’s role as the state capital, the impact of Southeast regional communities on Juneau and vice versa, advantages and promotion of Juneau’s winter sports including Eaglecrest, Ski Area tourism and visitors, port facilities and the University of Alaska Southeast, among many other topics.

Under the heading titled Outlook for Economic Growth, the plan was amended to include a statement of “significant” growth potential in Juneau’s non-government industries such as mining, fishing, seafood processing, forest products, tourism, small manufacturing, university education and research and regional services. Juneau can also replace many services it currently imports with ones that are home-grown. The sustainability of Juneau’s economy will improve as its economy diversifies, according to CBJ’s draft changes.

CBJ staff, or the Juneau Economic Development Council will be responsible for implementation of the policies in the Plan’s economic development section, according to the plan.

CBJ planner Ben Lyman recommended that when recommending edits to the plan, Commissioners keep in mind the purpose of a comprehensive plan.

“I am concerned that Juneau’s comprehensive plan is a little weightier than it should” be, Lyman said.

“The Comprehensive Plan’s mission is not to describe a wheel,” Lyman said. The plan can give a broad look at issues, Lyman said, but should be light on details that could become out of date quickly.

Many economic development activities within a municipality will reference the Comprehensive Plan to make sure the projects meet community wants and needs. Aligning a project with a comprehensive plan could help developers find funding.

Adding too much detail to a comprehensive plan “ends up diluting things,” Lyman said.

Commissioner Nathan Bishop asked for additional guidance for the Commission in connecting the CBJ Community Improvement Plan and local economic development.

“As budgets get tighter it will become more and more critical to spend money where it is most needed,” Bishop said.

Commissioner Nicole Grewe requested adding a sentence to Chapter 5 about changing times.

“I have a sense of a little bit of a turning point here,” Grewe said. She referenced the ascending economic and political power of interior Alaska, namely Anchorage. “Current times seem different than past times and our future isn’t certain,” Grewe said. “We are in an era to really promote our regional relationships,” Grewe said.

Of the 32 communities in the region, “most are in decline,” Grewe said. “Juneau rises and falls with the region. Other communities rise and fall with Juneau.”

The Planning Commission had not made a decision on the changes to CBJ’s Comprehensive Plan by press time.

• Contact reporter Russell Stigall at 523-2276 or at russell.stigall@juneauempire.com.

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