My turn: Juneau's economy needs road and mine

Posted: Sunday, December 07, 2008

This is in response to Amy Skilbred's "beyond the road" editorial. I agree with her list of problems and her vision of a bright Juneau future. But she forgot to tell her readers that the things she wants for Juneau will cost millions of dollars.

What I don't understand is why she or anyone who wants the best for our community would think that stopping the mine and the road will help. You don't have to be an economist to know what a boon those projects would be to Juneau and the rest of Southeast Alaska. To solve our current problems and to improve our community costs money, and that money comes from us, the citizens of Juneau, by way of the taxes we pay on our homes, businesses and on every purchase we make.

Both opportunities, the mine and the road, would create hundreds of family-wage jobs during the most economically challenged period I have encountered in my lifetime. The more people paying into the kitty, the less we all have to pay. Opening the mine would be the equivalent of bringing 200 first-year doctors to town all at once, payroll-wise. Or, just think of the mine jobs as the ones that replace the jobs our Gov. Sarah Palin moved north.

The road would also add hundreds of family wage jobs. The $400 million state and federally funded project means more than $40 million a year in direct labor, rentals and goods and services injected into our local economy for the short term. The long-term effects of growth and prosperity for Juneau and Southeast are too great to be known. They do, however, include all those mentioned in Skilbred's vision for a brighter Juneau future.

By not building the road and sticking with the outdated ferry model, we give $200 million or more to a ship builder on the East Coast. Shouldn't we place the priority on creating jobs and local purchases for our friends and neighbors in Juneau, Haines and Skagway? Both the mine and the road are direct investments into our economy, as any realistic economist will tell you.

Opposition to the projects has come in the form of opinion only. Yet those who are against the projects never offer a concrete suggestion for what we can be allowed to do to shore up the economy. The road, which has all the permits required, will allow access to even more wilderness opportunities and will free up mainline ferries to better service all Southeast, at less cost. The mine would use a crusher, water and air to extract gold from the mountain. The tailings would then be put into what is now a pit and turn it into a beautiful fish-stocked lake. The mine developer will literally leave the land and the water better than it found it.

I see the arguments and tactics to halt the road and mine no different than if I had a new restaurant ready to open and vegetarians tried to stop me because I serve meat. Just like no one can force you to eat meat, no one will be forced to buy gold or drive on the road. But having the mine and the road as part of Juneau's economic mix will make it more likely that Skilbred's wish list can someday come true.

• Wade Bryson is a small-business owner in Juneau.

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