Candidates discuss the economy at Chamber of Commerce forum


September 23, 2021

The Haines Chamber of Commerce organized a forum Sept. 21 at the Aspen Hotel where candidates had one minute to answer 10 questions such as whether they’d support adding a fourth heliski permit, what’s hindering business growth and whether they’re supported by special interests or “by people who expect you to push their agenda.”

Brenda Josephson said business owners need a reliable regulatory framework and she’s not in favor of adding a fourth heliski permit. “I would not be supportive of making a change to the heliski code unless there’s a strong, compelling reason that’s broadly supported by the other operators.”

Tyler Huling said she leans toward not supporting an additional permit, but said she wants to learn more about the issue. “Tourism is important, but there are other factors to consider, like safety. Until I learn more about it, I think that’s where I stand.”

Debra Schnabel said she opposed adding a fourth permit, based largely on her discussions with local operators.

Richard Clement said he needs to better study the issue before making a statement.

When asked what are the top three things that hinder business growth, Huling said Haines’ remoteness, the community’s small size and the high cost of goods as a result of those factors.

Josephson agreed that Haines’ high shipping and energy costs contribute as barriers along with the lack of effective public discourse. “People get concerned and nervous and positional and fearful. We have to push past the fear and we’ve got to have effective public discourse to promote all industries effectively.”

Schnabel agreed and said residents should work to overcome “the biases we carry against each other.”

Clement said the COVID-19 pandemic and the need for more residents to get vaccinated present barriers to business.

“We all enjoy each other. We should show it by getting vaccinated,” Clement said. “There are businesses that have a lot of close contact. We need to educate those people and educate them about wearing a mask and doing these things and also stop the shaming. It’s a medical issue. It is not political.”

When asked how to promote a year-round economy, Huling said bolstering winter tourism and focusing on value-added production.

“We have a lot of abundance here and a lot of natural resources and there are ways we can create supply chains that start and ultimately end here and therefore contribute a lot to the economy,” Huling said.

Clement said inviting more remote workers to live and work in Haines and promoting a mining industry would add year-round, high-paying jobs.

Schnabel said opportunities to support a year-round winter economy would be to support growth in already established businesses, including sawmills and other manufacturing businesses. “One of our things our community doesn’t do enough of is celebrate people who are already here,” Schnabel said.

Josephson also said value-added production should be tapped. She pointed to Haines’ former timber industry as a time when the community was thriving and said the Haines States Forest could be better utilized.

When asked how they would respond to concerns that they were supported by special interests or by people who expect them to push their agenda while they’re on assembly, all the candidates said they did not serve special interests.

Audience member Diana Lapham pressed Huling about a comment she made at last week’s KHNS and CVN debate when Huling said that she thinks Haines is thriving.

“I’m curious to know why you made that statement,” Lapham said. “What makes Haines thriving by your definition?”

“It’s impossible to answer in 30 seconds,” Huling said. “(I) would love to have a conversation about it with you. If endless growth is always the goal in all metrics, maybe we’re not thriving, but I think we’re moving into a reality on the planet where endless growth cannot be the goal and by that metric I think Haines is thriving.”


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