Saturday, February 7, 2015

Funding questions for state Arctic policy

Alaska Contract Staffing
Allen Bailey

During a Feb. 2 press conference announcing the publication of the final report from the Alaska Arctic Policy Commission, questions were asked about the state’s ability to fund some of the policy actions recommended in the report, given the current severe constraints on the state’s budget. For example, the report recommends state involvement in actions that encourage resource development.

Sen. Cathy Giessel, the commission member who had worked on the economic development aspects of the commission’s report, said that the current budget situation presents challenges and will require reconsideration of some actions. However, it is still possible to aim at the target that the policy presents, she said.

“The resource is still there and the opportunity is still there,” Giessel said.

Commission co-Chair Lesil McGuire emphasized that much resource development has in the past happened through private investment. McGuire said that an assessment of investment potential had indicated that there is about $100 billion in private capital available for investment across the entire Arctic region. Alaska needs to make sure that it is placed to benefit from some of that investment money, she said.

McGuire also commented that the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority has funds available for low interest loans, to encourage private investment in Arctic infrastructure. There are also opportunities for research grant funding through the University of Alaska, she said.

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