McDowell Group representatives presented its economic baseline data report to Haines residents in the Chilkat Center Monday evening—with the research group’s principal Jim McDowell citing Haines’ economic resilience.

McDowell said population is a good indicator of economic stability and that Haines’ population has stayed relatively flat over time, despite variables in the job market such as when the timber industry faltered.

“I think the real take-home point about the Haines population is its just sort of steady as she goes,” McDowell said. “It’s really remarkable how steady the population is and I think that suggests there’s a fair degree of resilience in the population [and]in the economy.”

Some trends show that Haines is weathering the statewide recession better than other communities in Alaska. From 2007 to 2016, personal income in Haines grew by 18 percent, slightly ahead of personal income growth in Alaska overall. “Part of what’s driving this uptick is not more wages, it’s more investment income into your community,” McDowell said.

Haines has the highest median age—49 years old—in the state. The statewide median age is 34.9. Part of what’s driving personal income increases is a higher than average income coming from dividends, investment and rent—which includes retirement benefits. In Haines, 29 percent of personal income comes from that category compared to 18 percent statewide.

“Only one in five new dollars into the economy over the last 10 years are from on the job earnings,” McDowell said. “That’s a really remarkable trend.”

Resident employment has decreased by 20 percent from 2008 to 2017. Unemployment in Haines, at a rate of 9.1 percent in 2017, is higher than the 7.2 percent state average. Petersburg’s unemployment rate was 9.3 percent and Wrangell’s was 7.7 percent, according to the report. Unemployment in the U.S. is 4.4 percent.

In Haines during 2016, 5.3 percent of residents earned income below the poverty level—well below the statewide average of 10.1 percent and below Petersburg, 9.3 percent, and Wrangell, 9.9 percent.

Across the state, about 12,000 jobs and about $100 billion in wages have been lost during the past several years. “Haines is actually riding that out quite well compared to places like Anchorage,” McDowell said.

The baseline report also breaks down industries and the economic impacts they have on the borough. The report overstated and inaccurately portrayed some facts about proposed timber sale. It states the sale would create 55 to 60 jobs and that the University requested $7.4 million from the legislature to repair the Chilkoot Dock. University of Alaska Chief Statewide Lands Officer Christin Klein said the university never requested that funding. The McDowell group used a draft document in its research that was never published by the University, Klein said.

“It appears the McDowell group utilized a draft site scenario which my department develops when looking at projects,” Klein said. “Unfortunately, that is only an ‘option’ scenario. It was not finalized or pursued and UA did not end up requesting capital funding from the legislature for it.”

Klein said the McDowell Group’s mid-range estimations for timber stumpage rates are correct. The University anticipates the sale would generate 40-45 new jobs, not 55-60 as stated in the baseline economic data report.  

The report also listed results from a phone survey of 205 Haines residents about their outlook on the economy and what industries they support or oppose. People rated their own economic well-being higher than the economy overall. The starkest contrast in support and opposition was in results for development in the mining, timber and cruise ship industries.

When asked if they supported or opposed growth in the mining industry, 54 percent of respondents said they either supported or strongly supported the industry while 35 percent opposed or strongly opposed mining. Ten percent said they were neutral. When asked about Constantine Metal Resources’ Palmer Project, 48 percent either supported or strongly supported the project as a development strategy while 34 percent opposed or strongly opposed the project. Fourteen percent of respondents were neutral on the issue.

In the timber industry, 65 percent either supported or strongly supported growth and 15 percent were neutral.

More than 330 people took an online survey but those results aren’t released yet. McDowell Group’s Susan Bell said the results of the online survey are similar but are subject to self-selective bias. The surveys will be broken down into various categories of respondents including age, income level and other demographic information.

The McDowell Group and the Haines Economic Development Corporation will use the report as a foundation for creating a five-year economic development plan, a task the assembly assigned the HEDC before funding it last year. The report consisted of a collection of data sourced from the Bureau of Economic Analysis, U.S. Census Bureau, various agencies of the State of Alaska, Bureau of Transportation Statistics, Cruise Line Agencies of Alaska, IRS and other agencies.

The report is a draft document and is subject to change. It can be viewed at where individuals can also take the online survey, which will be open until April 30.