Report shows area economy is improving, but still work to do to boost Southeast

I had the opportunity last week to attend my 10th Southeast Conference, hosted this year by Sitka. Attending the conference has always been a very efficient and effective way for me to communicate with a large cross-section of business and government leaders from the communities of House District 1, which I represent.

One of the regular presenters is Meilani Schijvens of Rain Coast Data, who provides an economic report on the state of the Southeast economy. Her report highlights how the region continues to build upon economic gains made in 2022.

“Regional business leaders continue to report tremendous optimism moving forward,” the report said. “In the first half of 2023, more than 600 jobs have been added to the region, and 42% of the region’s business leaders expect their prospects to be even better over the next year. … Preliminary figures show that jobs are expected to be up (or flat) in every single sector, except for state government, in 2023.”

Fishermen are on track “for a solid seafood harvest but struggle with low salmon prices,” the report noted. “Tourism is booming. … Tourism jobs were up by 7% in the first half of the year. Juneau was named the third-best city in the U.S. for summer jobs due to the prevalence and quality of jobs for 16- to 24-year-olds. Many of those types of jobs have also been available in Southeast towns like Ketchikan, Sitka, and Skagway.”

The report cautioned, however, “Continued long-term growth is dependent on the region’s ability to respond to housing and child care shortages that threaten workforce attraction and retention. Leaders must establish sustainable strategies to ensure that the federal investments currently bolstering our economy will continue to have long-lasting impacts on the region.”

As indicated by the data, economic progress is slowly making its way out of the darkness of the pandemic, some sectors more rapidly than others. State jobs and social services are still down, and the glut in salmon supply worldwide continues to devastate prices. As we transition from 2023 to 2024, I look forward to working with the people of District 1 to continue improving our region’s outlook.

-- Rep. Dan Ortiz


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