Haines needs to attract more industry in the face of a decline in North Slope oil production and potential cuts to federal entitlement programs that could deliver a double blow to the local economy, according to the Haines Chamber of Commerce’s economic development committee.

In a five-page October report to the Haines Borough Assembly on the group’s findings, committee chair Joe Poor writes that the cost of electricity inhibits potential for growth and that the local government should be more friendly to the helicopter-skiing industry.

“We strongly recommend that you work to encourage the development of this industry and not attack and highly regulate as you have been doing. We acknowledge that some reasonable regulation may be necessary, but to tightly control with restrictive policies and penalties may discourage development of this economic opportunity,” Poor wrote.

The report said economic opportunities unique to Haines in Southeast include “perhaps the best winter snow conditions in Alaska,” little congestion from cruise traffic, a connecting road, and a state forest outside of federal management.

The report found that homes for retirees provide a “significant contribution” to the economy, that the state fair and festivals are well-attended, and that local tours were holding their own, although that business shrank the past two years due to the recession and fuel costs.

Heli-skiing and the cost of power dominate the report.

“Our power rates are double rates found in Ketchikan, Sitka, Petersburg, Wrangell and Juneau… We need additional and lower cost power to encourage new industrial or commercial development within our community… We are concerned that any additional demand will raise the price of power to all residents.”

The report also says the price of fuel here is 15 percent higher than in Juneau, that a plan for planting apple trees awaits approval for use of borough property and festivals aren’t enough to sustain the local economy long-term.

The chamber committee met 10 times over five months, and reviewed and discussed a half-dozen documents including the borough’s 2004 comprehensive plan and local and regional economic development plans, Poor said.

Members included Annette Smith, Bill Rostad, Doug Olerud, Jim Carnahan, Joan Carlson, Judith McDermaid, Ken Waldo, Lenise Henderson-Fontenot, Randa Szymanski, Robert Venables, Roger Maynard and Royal Henderson. Poor is a retiree who served four years as executive director of Juneau’s Chamber of Commerce, a paid position, and worked in the Lower 48 in electronics manufacturing.

In an interview last week, Poor said he’s hoping the report at least generates a discussion of the economy here.

“We’re a service sector. We don’t have an industry in Haines, period,” Poor said. “We’re worried if we don’t have something real to fall back on, what’s going to happen? If you keep your head in the sand too long, somebody’s going to kick you in the rear end.”

Poor said the local economy may not always be buoyed by pots of money like federal funds that replaced timber revenues, or booms like the rising real estate and housing markets of the late 1990s and early 2000s. “When we’ve had these other shortfalls, we’ve had these other sources. If continued (government funding) is jeopardized, we don’t have anything to fall back on.”

Poor said he doesn’t think the borough government is doing enough to address the economy, and said the borough’s treasury is the only funding source for addressing economic development. “The assembly is burying its head by not having these discussions.”

Poor said he has also approached the borough about taking sales tax it collects for economic development and contracting out those services to the Chamber of Commerce.

Poor said he is open to a criticism of his committee’s findings. “If our committee has missed things, we need to bring it to the forefront. If we find these (findings) are true, we need to address it and move forwards,” he said.

Needs cited in the chamber report included a single, community calendar to avoid scheduling conflicts and a training session for local businesses on website marketing. Poor said he’s continuing work on an informal survey of local businesses “to determine our community’s economic health and business trends.”