Chilkat Valley News - Serving Haines and Klukwan, Alaska since 1966


Summit to provide business outlook


More than 50 speakers representing 19 segments of the Haines economy are slated to present at the Haines Chamber of Commerce’s Economic Development Summit Saturday, March 8, with topics ranging from fishing and mining to restaurants and retail.

The five-hour summit will run from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Chilkat Center, with each panel allotted 15 minutes to speak on the past, present and future of their industry.

Chamber president Barbara Mulford said the idea to put together the first large-scale economic summit came when the Haines Borough and chamber put their heads together to figure out how to disseminate a large amount of diverse information while encouraging public and private sectors to work together.

Different sectors of the business community sometimes operate like they exist in a vacuum, unaware of how developments in other industries are impacting them, Mulford said.

“Oftentimes, things are kind of in the works and we’re not really sure where they are,” she said.

The summit is an attempt to get everyone on the same page and present a “quick, down-and-dirty snapshot” of what is going on, Mulford said.

The chamber held a series of “community conferences” in the mid-1980s after the local sawmill closed, though Mulford said she is hoping the summit will move beyond those kind of meetings.

“Oftentimes, those types of gatherings are more in the way of ideas, and work on it at a later date, and I am really hoping this is a later date. This should be saying, ‘Okay, here are all of our efforts and where they are going,’” she said.

From 10 to 11 a.m ., panels will discuss health, services (taxis, home cleaning, hair salons), real estate and schools. From 11 a.m. to noon, panels will discuss retail, art, tribal government and fishing. From noon to 1 p.m ., panels will discuss mining, the Yukon Territory, energy and local government. From 1 to 2 p.m ., panels will discuss tourism/winter recreation, construction/industrial development, nonprofits and natural resources. From 2 to 3 p.m ., panels will discuss the Department of Transportation, restaurants and location-neutrality enterprises.

Though the panels will only involve presentations and not question-and-answer sessions, attendees are encouraged to mingle in the lobby, where there will be food and refreshments, if they have questions for any of the panelists.

Each chamber member took responsibility for organizing several of the panels, though the details and speakers are still being finalized.

Chamber member Kyle Gray is setting up the real estate, fishing and restaurants sessions. So far, real estate agents Glenda Gilbert and Debbie White have signed on to discuss the state of selling, owning and buying property in Haines, while fish processor Harry Rietze and gillnetter Jason Shull have agreed to talk about the direction the fishing industry is headed.

Bamboo Room and Pioneer Bar owner Christy Tengs Fowler was originally slated to present on the difficulties facing restaurants – particularly year-round restaurants – in Haines, though a scheduling conflict caused her to pull out.

Still, Fowler said she is hopeful people will attend and that this summit will be different than past, similar meetings, where “nothing ever seemed to get done.” “I hope something actually comes out of it,” she said.

Chilkat Restaurant and Bakery owner Miki Adkins will speak on the restaurant panel, and 33 Mile Roadhouse owner Robert Harris will also likely present.

Other confirmed panelists include Southeast Alaska Backcountry Adventures owner Scott Sundberg (winter recreation), Chilkat River Adventures owner Karen Hess (tourism), Constantine Metal Resources vice president of exploration Darwin Green (mining), Whitehorse city council member Kirk Cameron (Yukon Territory), and residents Rosalie Loewen and James Alborough (location neutrality).

Mayor Stephanie Scott, executive assistant to the manager Darsie Culbeck and assembly member Debra Schnabel will be presenting on the local government panel.

Though Culbeck said he won’t be sitting on the location neutrality panel, he explained the concept, which he thinks could lead to an influx of people moving to Haines. It involves promoting Haines as a home to people who can work anywhere.

Alborough, who owns Bear Star Web Design, could do his job from New York or California, but he chooses to live here.

“Why do people choose to come here, when they can move anywhere?” Culbeck said. Answering that question, and promoting those aspects of the town, could attract more “location neutral” residents, Culbeck said.

Scott said she will give an update on borough projects, including installation of pellet boilers in public buildings and repair of Third Avenue, as well as other priorities, including upgrades to the sewer treatment plant.

“It will put everybody in the same room who is interested in this topic and we’ll be able to share information. It’s just an information summit; it’s not a decision-making summit, so everyone knows at least what the perception is of the various states people find themselves in,” Scott said.