Fact-based perception is good news for Alaskans

Posted: Thursday, January 11, 2001

With perception often serving as reality, those in positions of influence should be vigilant in their efforts to keep perceptions in the same neighborhood as facts. Thanks to Gov. Tony Knowles for dealing with facts in his State of the State speech, and thereby giving perception a fact-based foundation rather than one propped up by fear or hype.

One of the growing national perceptions is that the economy is on the verge of free fall. As concerns are repeated by the news media, they can become a self-fulfilling prophesy. In any economy as diverse as that of the United States, there will be bright spots in some areas at the same time other segments are struggling. Alaska appears to be a bright spot. Our fact-supported story should be told. We and those in the Lower 48 should take note.

On Wednesday evening, Gov. Knowles helped lead the way.

As the governor told us:

2001 begins with more Alaskans working than ever before - nearly 282,000 - earning a record $9.5 billion.

More than 22,000 new jobs have been created.

Alaska enjoys the lowest unemployment rates in a generation.

The state's economy is more diversified than ever.

Average annual earnings are increasing.

Home ownership among Alaskans exceeds the national rate.

The Alaska Permanent Fund stands at a record $28 billion.

The latest permanent fund dividend injected nearly $1.2 billion into the economy.

Alaskans still enjoy America's lowest tax burden.

Welfare rolls are at their lowest levels in a decade.

Economic opportunities have contributed to a reduction in crime.

Winter tourism has grown by 17 percent.

Alaska seafood products comprised nearly half of America's overall seafood production last year.

Alaska's geographic location and its information technology are expected to contribute to development of new jobs in air cargo, telecommunications, transportation, health care and applied research.

The value of mining exceeded $1 billion for the fifth successive year last year.

Alaska has by no means exhausted its natural resources. As Knowles emphasized, we soon may be marketing our abundance of North Slope natural gas and supplying it to Alaska communities and the Lower 48.

"After two decades of false starts and broken dreams, the economic and political stars are finally aligned in our favor. Natural gas is the fuel of the 21st century," Knowles said.

Extracting oil and gas must be done right, the governor said. That means taking an environmentally responsible approach on the North Slope and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Today, Alaska is an enviable success story but challenges remain in the economy and beyond - specifically in education and, even more specifically, in funding education. The state also must bridge the urban-rural gap, including the need to provide accessible and affordable health care. And Alaska must continue to respond to the transportation needs of its residents.

Knowles provided enough facts to shape a generally positive perception. It seems fair to spread the word.

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