What, if anything, can be as financially impactful as the oil and gas industry in Alaska?

Published: Jul. 9, 2019 at 4:22 PM AKDT
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Andres Guarderas blasted country music from his iPhone while reindeer dogs sizzled in front of him.

"You want two spicy ones?" he asked a regular customer who got in line at his hot dog stand on 4th Avenue.

Up next, a woman from China ordered a regular hot dog--plain.

Businesses like Guarderas', which rely heavily on tourism, are part of an exploding spike in visitors to the state.

According to the Resource Development Council, more than $1.4 billion in payroll was created by tourism employment with an economic impact of $4.5 billion last year. Additionally, one in 10 jobs in Alaska are in the tourism industry, with about $2.2 billion in visitor spending in the state.

"Tourism has been showing an amazing run of success over the last several years with a big surge in the population numbers coming up from the Lower 48," Bill Popp, the president and CEO of the Anchorage Economic Development Corporation, said.

Still, it doesn't come close to how much oil and gas contributes to the state, both in high-paying jobs and in contributions to state revenue.

That's created an issue as state lawmakers debate the PFD and fight over budget cuts.

It begs the question: Can anything replace or replicate the impacts of a shrinking oil and gas industry?

"The oil industry accounts for about one-third of all jobs in Alaska and contributes to about half of our economy overall," said Marleanna Hall, the executive director for RDC. "But other jobs, for example, the mining industry, the average mining industry job (pays) over $110,000 a year. So these are real family wage jobs, something that provides for a healthy lifestyle."

RDC says the production value of Alaska's mining industry was approximately $2.2 billion in 2018, divided between exploration and development investments, and the gross value of the mineral products.

It says there were about 9,200 mining jobs, either direct or because of the industry, last year with a payroll of $715 million.

Hall and Popp both say don't count oil and gas out, or expect a rising industry to eclipse it.

"We're actually expecting an increase in production in 2019. They've said there's more drilling on the North Slope than in the past 20 years, so that's an exciting factor," Hall said.

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