Areawide Assembly seat: Difficulty in expanding business spurs candidate

Posted: Friday, October 03, 2008

Economic conditions that drove a failed attempt to open a restaurant in town prompted Wade Bryson to run for a seat on the Juneau Assembly.

The owner of two Subways is challenging incumbent Bob Doll in the race.

"We were waiting for positive economic change, better cash flow," he said of his plans to open a third location in the hospital area. "We watched the economic conditions crawl down. When the avalanche happened, I saw the economic effect. Downtown Subway sales were cut in half; people were conserving their money for electricity. If the cruise ship business hadn't started, we would have gone out of business."

The situation drew a concern for the overall economy as he noticed other restaurants closing around the city, he said.

"If (customers) are cutting me out, I can't imagine what else is happening with other restaurants," he said.

In his view, the energy crisis - along with skyrocketing food and fuel prices and housing costs - helped create a snowball effect for the slumping economy.

"There has not been one positive bit of economic news to come to town for five years," he said.

The economy also is to blame for a slow population decline as young people leave town and don't come back, he said.

"I want to make it easier to live in Juneau," he has said at several forums throughout the campaign. In an interview, Bryson said opening projects such as the Juneau access road and the Kensington Mine would do that.

There may be little a single Assembly member can do to get the road or the mine open, since outside factors have stalled both projects for decades. Bryson's more specific ideas involve helping Juneau's small businesses.

He suggested incremental funding increases to the Juneau Economic Development Council for micro-loans to get more small businesses started.

"Give opportunities to younger and newer entrepreneurs to get their foot in the door," he said. "If you create an environment where businesses can grow, it will increase sales taxes and maybe alleviate the burden we have now."

The city recently approved an increase in sales tax exemptions for business owners, but Bryson said that should be followed by less complicated forms to make it easier for owners to track and log sales tax.

The city needs to "stay out of the way" of small business, he said.

Byrson also said the city's list of capital projects should be better coordinated so that local labor can be used on each project.

"We might have overburdened the city," he said, referring to large ongoing projects at the new high school, hospital and elsewhere throughout the city.

While his opponent argues that Juneau's population is steady, Bryson said the turn-over rate is problematic.

"We're constantly replacing one family with another family," he said, adding that the high cost of housing is a "crisis."

When asked what could be done to provide affordable housing, he said, "It's going to take every solution to create those levels of housing."

The 34-year-old father of five children, ages 1 to 12, moved to Juneau in 1995. He worked in the tourism industry as a guide for various outfitters before buying the two restaurants in 2004.

• Contact reporter Kim Marquis at 523-2279 or kim.marquis@juneauempire.com.



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