This week Juneau business leaders will have a chance to hear and chat with other Alaska executives, as well as the state's congressional delegation and a variety of other company representatives interested in the state's economy.
Transportation routes through Canada and the state's fiscal responsibility are topics of discussion at the annual Alaska State Chamber of Commerce Convention and Trade Show that begins today and runs through Thursday in Valdez.
Several Juneau businessmen who are attending this year or have gone before said the convention is significant to Juneau and Southeast Alaska in many ways.
"It's a good opportunity to rub elbows with those people," said Todd Saunders, president of Alaska Employment Group in Juneau and former executive director of the Juneau Chamber of Commerce.
For business leaders in Anchorage, it may not be a big deal to meet with executive officers from major companies in the oil and tourism industries and politicians under the same roof, Saunders said.
But for himself and other Southeast Alaskans who may not travel the state often, the opportunity is rare, Saunders said.
If anything, Juneau attendees can see what the rest of the state is doing and have a chance to discuss local issues and ideas, said Chris Wyatt, executive director of the Juneau Chamber of Commerce.
"It doesn't matter if you are a little business person or a big business person, all have the chance to sit at the table and jam on the issues," said Ted Quinn, owner of Juneau's Capital Office Supply and former chairman the of Alaska State Chamber of Commerce.
In an Anchorage meeting last year, Southeast Alaskans used the state chamber to pass a resolution in favor of building a road from Juneau to Skagway.
This year, state chamber President Wayne Stevens said one of the highlights will be a speech from a guest scholar discussing government accountability.
"Now that we have high oil revenues coming in, we need to look at how we can maintain what we need without overspending," said Stevens, adding that the chamber may make recommendations to the Alaska Legislature on forming a fiscal plan.
The speaker is Maurice McTigue, director of the Government Accountability Project at the Mercatus Center.
Prince Rupert, British Columbia Mayor Herb Pond will talk about forming partnerships with his community and companies interested in getting cargo faster to Asia and the Lower 48.
Pond is promoting the city's container port and rail link for shipping Alaska seafood and other products.
"The rail to Chicago has a favorable grade and is not as congested," Pond said.
Quinn said local businesses can use this convention to find ways to expand. He grew his business from Juneau and started branches in Anchorage and Fairbanks.
Last year, a team from Vancouver was making the rounds to drum up support for its hosting of the 2010 Winter Olympic Games. Quinn said it wanted to partner with Alaska as it will use the event to promote travel all over Northwestern North America.
The theme of the convention is "Providing the Tools for Alaska's Future." Sessions will be offered to help small businesses develop Web pages and use other technology, plus learning lobbying techniques and community involvement.
Other topics will address lowering health insurance costs and how to deal with the media.
Andrew Petty can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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