Juneau needs to grow to thrive

Posted: Thursday, December 10, 2009

Juneau is by far one of the most beautiful areas I have lived in. During what seems like a long 23 years, I have had the privilege of living around the world in areas such as Indonesia and across the United States. I even called Iraq home for a year while I was deployed with the U.S. Army.

As I have been here for several years now, I can't help but feel dismay at the ever-present resistance to growth and development. There are people among us who would much rather squander our precious resources here by letting it go to waste in an effort to keep it to themselves rather than share it with the outside world. We know that growth and development are key and essential to a healthy economy and, my fellow residents, we are all well aware that the economy in Juneau is sick.

If you haven't done so yet, take a look at the Juneau Economic Development Committee report that came out last month, showing that the cost of living in Juneau is 11 percent higher than the average cost of living in Alaska. In addition to that, the staunch opposition to big box retailers, mining and any sort of land use has all but started to hammer that last nail into the coffin for Juneau. A very vocal, very loud minority within our community has found a way to speak directly into the ears of our decision makers, with poisonous words against progress. As a community, we need to put a stop to it.

We need to grow. We need to open our arms to a road that would connect us with the rest of the world. As we increase the accessibility to Juneau, we need to increase our tolerance level for those "outsiders" that inevitably will want in. As businesses find their footing in Juneau, and as we allow tour operators to begin new tours in the summer, we will see the cost of living in Juneau go down. We will see the addition of desirable shopping venues and a greater expansion of culture.

The launching of operations at Kensington gold mine is a good first step, but we cannot let it end there. We need to rally behind new residential and commercial zoning on North Douglas, and with that a North Douglas access project. We need to stand up and voice support for food chains, clothing chains and big box retailers that will drive the economy of Juneau forward.

Our current isolationist mindset will kill Juneau, and blind ignorance will drive the capital to Anchorage. So I ask you, when tours stop happening in the summer, and the capital moves to Anchorage, what do you think will happen? The small businesses you love will shutter. The cost of living will skyrocket. The city will run a higher deficit than ever before, all while cutting services. Juneau will become the latest casualty in a negligent war on prosperity.

So please, get out of the way, let us grow and become the city that we have the potential to be.

Nick Henderson


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