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I am writing this letter to remind the government and residents of Juneau of the economic value of senior citizens in this community. Retired persons should be counted in this economy as jobs. Retired persons who settle in Juneau spend their retirement "paychecks" to live as any other worker would spend their paychecks. Most retirement income originates outside of the community, classifying this group as a basic industry.
Retirement is a clean and quiet industry, creating less pollution than most business sectors in the community. It is an industry that heavily supports our health care and social services sectors. In addition, Juneau benefits because senior citizens tend to give to the community through volunteerism, and families whose elders stay here to retire are happier.
There were 1,821 senior citizens in Juneau in 1998, making this industry larger than the local government sector, which employed 1,709 people in 1998. Senior citizens brought over $22 million in retirement benefits and nearly $10 million in Medicare payments to Juneau in 1998. In addition, they have income from Social Security and Longevity Bonus payments, investments and savings, private annuities and insurances, and other sources that they spend in Juneau.
Many communities go to great lengths to attract and retain retired persons (locations in Florida and Arizona come to mind). Juneau community leaders seem to be rebuffing this sector. At the same time the borough government is considering economic incentives for some local industries, they are considering actions that will discourage the retirement industry in Juneau. Our economy is not that strong. We cannot afford to chase a clean basic industry out of town, and further our dependence on resource extraction and tourism.
Linda J. Snow