The following editorial first appeared in the Voice of the Times:
We're pretty confident that U.S. Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez would not describe his recent trip to Alaska as a junket. That would be bad form back in Washington, D.C., and would subject him - and probably the Bush administration - to searing criticism from the liberal media pundits.
And, in truth, he did a good bit of business while in Anchorage - with a couple of days, also, to relax and fish a bit with Sen. Ted Stevens and others on the Kenai River.
From our viewpoint, however, we welcome any kind of visits to Alaska by top government officials. If such trips can be described as junkets, so be it. We like junkets. They are opportunities for Cabinet members and others to see Alaska first-hand - and, in the process, learn things about this state that are impossible to comprehend by those who have never set foot in the 49th state.
In this particular case, shortly after returning to Washington, Secretary Gutierrez announced $6.6 million in Economic Development Administration investments in Alaska, investments he said will help create more than 300 jobs in various communities across the state.
There may be no direct relationship between the secretary's visit and the approval of the EDA grants. But having been here, Gutierrez certainly had a greater appreciation of what these funds will mean.
The city of Kodiak, for example, is receiving $2.3 million to help build a pier that will hold a 600-metric-ton travel lift. The Commerce Departments says that will create 44 jobs and generate $60 million in private investments.
The Metlakatla Indian Community on Annette Island will receive $2.3 million to help modernize its fish processing plant. The result: 270 jobs and $15 million in private investments.
The Aleutian Pribilof Island Community Development Association is receiving $2 million to build a multi-species seafood processing plant at St. George - creating 30 jobs and generating more than $30 million in investments from the private sector.
Those are a lot of jobs, and a lot of economic development opportunities, in three communities where such an influx of dollars is hugely important.
Was the visit by Gutierrez responsible for these grants? Probably not. But his journey here didn't hurt, and certainly will increase the opportunity for more to come in future days.
A junket? Well, call it what you will.
For us, junkets are good for Alaska. The more the merrier.
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